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All About the 30% Crash in Crude Oil - 10 Points

Mar 11, 2020

Crude oil prices crashed more than 30% on Monday.

In fact, this was the worst price dip since the 1991 Gulf War as Brent prices plunged to US$ 31 per barrel.

Here are 10 key things you need to know about the economics of falling crude oil prices:

  1. Oil prices have collapsed thrice because of demand destruction: in 1979, 2008, and 2014.

    1979: The trigger for oil price increase was the Iranian Revolution and the Iran-Iraq war. Due to this, oil prices rose from US$ 50/barrel to above US$ 100/barrel between January 1979 and April 1981. Then, new production from the North Sea, Mexico, Alaska, and Siberia flooded the market. By March 1986, prices had fallen to US$ 27/barrel.

    2008: Oil touched US$ 150/barrel and was quickly followed by the financial crisis and recession which led to crash in crude oil prices as well.

    2011-2014: Oil was above of US$ 100/barrel, several years of triple-digit oil prices led to a near doubling of shale production in the US, a volume that helped trigger the crash in 2014.

  2. 2016: Saudi Arabia and Russia came together to form the so-called OPEC+ alliance after oil prices plunged to US$ 30 a barrel. Since then, the two leading exporters have orchestrated supply cuts of 2.1 million barrels per day.
  3. 2019: Prices went on to witness huge volatility in 2019 amid declines in US inventories and rising geopolitical tensions in the Middle East and the world's two biggest oil consumers - United States and China.
  4. July 2019: The OPEC and allies sat to discuss whether to extend a deal on cutting 1.2 million barrels per day of oil production. Owing to the above geopolitical tensions, weaker demand outlook, and oversupplied market, the OPEC and allies rolled over their production cuts into March 2020. Volatility intensified further in July after US oil producers in the Gulf of Mexico cut more than half their output in the face of a tropical storm and as tensions continued in the Middle East.
  5. March 2020: Saudi Arabia wants to increase the cuts to 3.6 million barrels per day through 2020 to check the weaker consumption. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin, refused to go along with the plan and his energy minister, Alexander Novak signaled a fierce battle to come for market share when he said countries could produce as much as they please from April 1.
  6. 9th March 2020: Crude oil prices fell 31% on Monday after Saudi Arabia launched an oil price war with Russia. Saudi Arabia slashed prices and said it is preparing for a big increase in crude oil production in April. Prices were cut by US$ 4-6 a barrel to Asia and US$ 7 to the United States for April delivery. Saudi Arabia reportedly prepares to increase its crude production above 10 million barrels per day (bpd) in April, after the current deal to curb production expires at the end of March. A major reason for these production cuts is also to arrest the swooning oil prices owing to the novel Coronavirus outbreak.
  7. Worse than the Previous Crashes: The current situation is more worse than the November 2014 crash, when such a price war was started, as it comes to a head with the significant collapse in oil demand due to the Coronavirus outbreak. It also reflects the deep underlying concern of a lack of consensus among the OPEC nations regarding production cuts.
  8. Impact on Indian Economy: The drop in crude oil price bodes well for India as it imports more than 80% of its oil requirements, with nearly 60% of them imported from the Middle East. Since oil imports form a large chunk of India's imports, it contributes to the country's trade deficit and a fall in prices will trim this deficit. Savings on oil imports could also arrest rising inflation and facilitate the next round of rate cuts by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  9. Industries to Benefit: On an industrial level, the price cut will have a beneficial impact on companies from synthetic fibre producers, tyre, paints, lubricants, plastic, and FMCG sectors that depend on crude oil as their primary raw material.
  10. On the consumer level, there could be a fall in retail prices of gasoline and diesel over the next few weeks as oil companies cut retail prices to pass on the decline in crude oil prices.

Going ahead, market participants are expecting crude oil prices to remain low until OPEC+ resets oil production again.

Vijay Bhambwani, editor of Weekly Cash Alerts at Equitymaster, states that at this point in time, short selling natural gas & crude oil at significantly higher levels for the coming summer are high conviction trades. To know more about his view and positions, you can check out his recent article here: Energy Markets Get Muddy (requires subscription).

He's also shared his views on the ongoing "coronavirus" situation where he talks what's around the corner for crude oil, and how one should position oneself for potential gains. You can check this special podcast episode from Investor Hour here:

Well, then...these are some major highlights crude oil markets witnessed in the past and present and how they have been impacting crude oil prices.

Monish Vora

Monish Vora is a keen student of the markets and shares his observations through his clear and concise commentary.


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