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US Oil Value Drops Below Zero

In a historic first, US oil has no value.

The two-pronged attack of the coronavirus and the price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia has dealt a deadly blow to the United States’ oil futures. At the end of trading on Monday, West Texas Intermediate oil futures traded at -$37.63, only recovering slightly by Tuesday morning to -$16.74. Oil contracts, at least the ones expiring next month, are currently completely worthless, and as storage fills up, oil producers quite literally have to pay buyers to take it away.

WTI’s future contracts for May are expiring at the end of the day today, which means anyone who holds one is obligated to take their agreed value in oil off the company’s hands. Never before has the value of oil dropped into the negatives and stayed there for an entire day, which speaks to the dire situation US currently finds itself in.

Financial analysts have been trying to make heads or tails of the situation. “Yesterday was a wake-up call and investors would be remiss to ignore that low oil means lower inflation, higher defaults, lower growth and more political instability as less petrodollars circulate in the system,” Gregory Perdon, a chief investment officer at Arbuthnot Latham told Business Insider.

“This is very reminiscent of a time in the mid-[19]80s when exactly the same situation happened — too much supply, too little demand and prices of oil stayed low for 17 years,” former BP chief John Browne explained to the BBC.

The current instability is not doing WTI any favors as it tries to offload future contracts for June. Prices plummeted by about 42% to $11.89 per barrel. Brent crude isn’t doing much better, dropping 29% to $18.10.

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