Oil drops more than 8%, breaking below $30

Oil drops more than 8%, breaking below $30

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Oil prices slid more than 8% on Monday as the acceleration in coronavirus cases worldwide, which is bringing travel and business to a standstill, further dents global demand for crude.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude dropped 8%,or $2.54, to trade at $29.19 per barrel. International benchmark Brent crude fell 10.4%, or $3.53, to trade at $30.37 per barrel.

“The demand drop unfolding is like nothing anyone has ever witnessed,” Simmons Energy analyst Pearce Hammond said in a note to clients Sunday.

Oil is coming off what Hammond called a “horrific week” for the energy market. Both contracts posted their worst week since the financial crisis after dropping more than 23%, although prices did get a temporary boost Friday evening following President Trump’s call to fill the U.S. strategic petroleum reserve.

Oil continues to be hit on both the demand and supply side. The coronavirus outbreak has led to softer demand for crude as people cut back on travel, for example, while a breakdown in OPEC talks means there could soon be a supply glut as Saudi Arabia gets set to ramp up production to a record 13 million barrels per day.

The move lower comes even after President Donald Trump said Friday that the Department of Energy would purchase crude oil for the SPR in a bid to prop up prices.

“Based on the price of oil, I’ve also instructed the Secretary of Energy to purchase at a very good price large quantities of crude oil for storage in the U.S. strategic reserve,” Trump said Friday from the Rose Garden as he also declared a state of emergency.

“We’re going to fill it right up to the top, saving the American taxpayer billions and billions of dollars, helping our oil industry [and furthering] that wonderful goal — which we’ve achieved, which nobody thought was possible — of energy independence,” he added.

Again Capital founder John Kilduff said the move to beef up the SPR is a “fantastic idea” and in prior instances has “served the country well.”

“Releases of supplies have served to short-circuit price rallies in the past, and this filling may well serve to ebb the current sell-off,” he said.

But not everyone is as optimistic. Goldman Sachs said Sunday that they don’t believe the administration’s actions will be enough to offset oil’s steep sell-off.

“Given the scale and strategic nature of the current global surplus, we believe that these SPR purchases will be insufficient to reverse the increasingly likely risk that prices fall below our 2Q-3Q20 $30/bbl Brent forecast to cash-costs,” the firm said. 

Last week the firm slashed its oil forecasts for the second quarter as tensions between Saudi Arabia and Russia escalated. The firm now sees U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude averaging $29 per barrel, with international benchmark Brent crude at $30 per barrel. Goldman’s prior estimates were $42.50 and $47, respectively.

– CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed reporting.

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