Crude prices settled at a four-year low with brent crude settling at $30 a barrel for below the 2020 Nigeria’s budget bench mark of $57 per barrel. This has a far reaching implication for the Nigerian economy. The U.S. crude oil price was below $30 a barrel, moving in step with plunging global equities after an emergency Federal Reserve interest rate cut did nothing to stem the panic among investors triggered by the rapidly spreading coronavirus. “The additional quarantine measures imposed in France, Spain and elsewhere over the weekend has spurred a ‘world championship’ in demand loss forecasting,” said Bjoernar Tonhaugen, head of oil markets at Rystad Energy, in emailed commentary.
“Oil prices have reacted extremely negatively and we believe, unfortunately for oil producers but to the benefit of the global economy, that we have not seen the bottom of the oil price just yet.” West Texas Intermediate crude for April delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell $3.03, or 9.6%, to settle at $28.70 a barrel after trading as low as $28.03. The settlement was the lowest for a front-month contract since February 2016, according to Dow Jones Market Data. May Brent dropped $3.80, or more than 11%, to $30.05 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe—the lowest finish since January 2016. Oil cratered last week after Russia and Saudi Arabia began a global crude price war following the breakdown of talks on production cuts early this month.
“Clearly the oil market has ignored the emergency rate cut from the U.S. Fed over the weekend. The breakdown in the OPEC+ deal could not have come at a worse time, with the market already having to deal with a demand shock,” said Warren Patterson, head of commodities strategy at ING, in a note. “The surge in supply expected from April, along with the demand hit, does mean that the global oil market is set to see a significant surplus over 2Q20, suggesting that this current weakness is likely to persist through 2Q20.” The Federal Reserve on Sunday slashed its benchmark interest rate to zero and implemented a bond-buying program, known as quantitative easing, of at least $700 billion in an effort to lessen the expected blow to the U.S. economy from the coronavirus.
However, “markets are suffering from a ‘demand trap,’ and one of the biggest is in the oil market,” independent energy expert Anas Alhajji told MarketWatch. “Stimulus does not increase oil demand.” Monday’s oil-price drop is “significant because it came on the heels of a major stimulus,” which includes lower interest rates, an increase in money supply, and major fill up of the U.S, Strategic Petroleum Reserve, Alhajji said. He expects the declines in oil prices to “last for a few months.” Last week, WTI fell 23%, while Brent lost 25%—with both marking their biggest weekly percentage declines, based on the front-month contracts, since December 2008, according to Dow Jones Market Data. Italy’s COVID-19 cases surged as the U.S. expanded a travel ban to the U.K. and Ireland, Germany partially shut borders, while France went into partial lockdown. Also stressing oil prices were some bleak numbers out of China. “Analysts had been expecting a 3% fall in industrial production, a 2% drop in fixed asset investment and a 4% contraction in retail sales. Instead the readings came in at -13.5%, -24.5% and -20.5% respectively,” said Connor Campbell, financial analyst at SpreadEx.
In the U.S., the New York Fed’s Empire State business conditions index plunged a record 34.4 points to -21.5 in March. Energy stocks also dropped in the wake of the steep decline in oil prices, with shares of Exxon Mobil down nearly 7% in Monday dealings after RBC downgraded the oil major to underperform from sector perform. Among the petroleum products traded on Nymex, reformulated gasoline took the biggest hit, with the April contract down more than 23% to settle at 68.99 cents a gallon—that was the largest daily percentage drop since the reformulated gasoline contract started trading in October 2005. Prices haven’t settled at a level that low since 2002, according to FactSet data, based on the most-active contracts. Prices on Thursday had settled at their lowest in more than 11 years and on Friday, prices for the most-active gasoline futures contract posted a weekly loss of 35%, the largest since trading began, according to Dow Jones Market Data. April heating oil also fell 8% to $1.0466 a gallon, the lowest finish since February 2016, and April natural gas settled at $1.815 per million British thermal units, down 2.9%.