International oil benchmark Brent has fallen to its lowest level since December 2001. The plunge comes a day after US oil nosedived to negative $40 per barrel, as the coronavirus pandemic hammers global demand.
Brent futures crashed by 25 percent on Tuesday afternoon, reaching a low of $18 per barrel that evening. Such a price has not been seen since December 2001, when the 9/11 terrorist attacks and subsequent drop in air travel dented demand for the commodity.
In the US, the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) opened poorly on Tuesday, a day after prices reached a record low of -$37.63 per barrel. The negative price reflected a lack of storage space for extracted oil, with suppliers seeking to offload their product to buyers, even at a loss.
As of 9.30am GMT, the US benchmark was trading at -$3.43 a barrel.
The Brent price refers to contracts for the month of June. In the US, Monday’s unprecedented plunge came as the May contract closed, and traders rushed to offload their rapidly devaluing commodity. June trading, however, will likely usher in further losses. WTI futures for June fell by nearly 45 percent on Monday, reaching $9.09 per barrel.
The future of the oil industry will likely be guaranteed by state bailouts or financial assistance. US President Donald Trump ordered his secretaries of Energy and the Treasury to draw up a rescue plan for the American oil and gas industries on Tuesday. Across the Atlantic, the Russian government has cautioned against giving “some sort of apocalyptic coloring” to Monday’s massive fall in prices.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said the news should not be dramatized, as the trading of futures is “a paper market.”