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Oil prices plunge amid concerns over dispute among producers

by Paul
Oil prices

The price of oil was down 30 percent amid concerns that a dispute among producers could weaken the global economy which is already reeling under the impact of the coronavirus

Oil prices are plunging amid concern a dispute among producers could lead a global economy weakened by coronavirus to be awash in an oversupply of crude.

Overnight there was a point where oil was down 30 percent.

Currently, Brent crude, the international standard, was down $11.93, or 26.4 percent, to $33.34 per barrel in electronic trading in London. Benchmark U.S. crude fell $11.64, or 28 percent, to $29.67.

The dramatic losses follow a 10.1 percent drop for U.S. oil on Friday, which was its biggest loss in more than five years. Prices are falling as Saudi Arabia, Russia and other oil-producing countries argue how much to cut production in order to prop up prices.

The turmoil in the oil markets caused share prices to plunge in the Middle East and in Asia. While lower oil prices can be a boon for economies that rely heavily on imports to fuel their industries, such as South Korea, Japan and China, extreme uncertainty can wreak havoc.

Demand for energy is falling as people cut back on travel. The worry is that the new coronavirus will slow economies sharply, meaning even less demand.

The oil market has seen arguments like this before. In 2014, OPEC held off production cuts in order to hold onto market share in the face of a resurgent U.S. oil industry. That led to oil to tumble from over $100 a barrel to below $40 by 2015.

This most recent plummet for oil adds another punch to what’s already been a brutal and dizzying couple weeks for financial markets worldwide.

Treasury yields have plummeted to record lows as investors pile into anything that looks safe, almost regardless of how little it pays. The 10-year Treasury yield pierced below 1 percent for the first time on Tuesday, only to breach 0.70 percent Friday.

The virus usually leaves people with only mild to moderate symptoms, but because it’s new, experts can’t say for sure how far it will ultimately spread and how much damage it will do, both to health and to the economy. The number of cases has reached 109,000 globally, and Italy on Sunday tried to quarantine a region holding more than a quarter of its population in hopes of corralling it.

If the number of new infections slows in other parts of the world as it has in China, if the U.S. jobs market remains as solid as it’s been and if all the unease in markets ends up creating just a short-term dip in confidence among shoppers, all this may recede quickly. But those are a lot of potential pain points.

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