The front-month WTI crude contract crashed by 37 percent early on Monday as the May contract expires on Tuesday and the market fears there is not much storage left in the United States amid collapsing demand in the coronavirus pandemic.
At 8:54 a.m. EDT on Monday, the front-month WTI Crude price was plummeting by 37.22 percent at $11.47. The Brent Crude front-month contract was also under pressure, trading down 6.02 percent at $26.39.
The U.S. oil prices are now at their lowest levels since early 1999. Analysts warn that investors and speculators have already moved to the June contract with the May contract expiring on Tuesday, but they are also cautioning that the weakness in the May contract is indicative of the shrinking storage across the U.S. threatening to be filled up within weeks.
“The expiring contract is now mostly in the hands of physical oil traders and the behavior of the contract confirms what we already feared: That the U.S. is running out of storage at Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery hub for WTI crude oil futures traded in New York,” said Ole Hansen, Head of Commodity Strategy at Saxo Bank.
“Speculators having bought the June contract now risks that it could get pulled lower over the coming weeks towards where the May is currently trading. Only a major change in the fundamental outlook through lower production, due to producers being forced out of business or leave wells idle, or improved demand for fuel can prevent,” Hansen noted.
The new OPEC+ production cut deal is not expected to alleviate the glut in the coming weeks, as global demand is falling by 30 million bpd these days—down 30 percent from the typical consumption of oil in the world.
Storage, therefore, is filling fast everywhere around the world. In the United States, the prices of some grades in Texas were nearing negative territory as early as last week, with customers bidding to pay only $2 per barrel for South Texas Sour and $4.12 a barrel Upper Texas Gulf Coast last week, Bloomberg reported, citing pricing bulletins.