Oil prices plummet below $100 as recession risks gain focus

(WO) Oil headed for its worst trading day in almost three months as recession fears iced markets, outweighing a fundamentally tight supply market. 

West Texas Intermediate crude futures dropped as much as 10%, the most since March 9. Risk off sentiment spread throughout markets on escalating concerns that a global economic slowdown will ultimately hobble demand. Crude has been prone to violent swings as traders fled to the exits after Russia invaded Ukraine, drying up liquidity. The latest plunge came as equities fell and the dollar surged. Citigroup Inc. said that crude could fall to $65 this year in the event of a recession.

Oil prices have tumbled in the past month amid escalating fears over an economic slowdown as central banks aggressively raise interest rates. Still, physical barrels are fetching enormous premiums. The kingdom hiked its official selling prices to Asia on Tuesday. Its flagship Arab Light crude price will be $9.30 above its regional benchmark in August, an increase of $2.80. 

“Crude oil prices have slumped as weakening demand concerns are starting to outweigh fears about tight supply,” said Fawad Razaqzada, market analyst at City Index. “A growing number of analysts are expecting that many of the world’s leading economies will suffer negative growth in the next few months, and this will drag the US into a recession.”

Adding to recessionary fears, Shanghai launched mass testing for Covid in nine districts after detecting cases the past two days, calling into question the demand recovery in one of the world’s biggest oil-consuming countries. The additional testing brings concerns that more lock downs could be implemented as the city reported several infections Sunday and Monday. 

While futures have been pressured by the threat of a global economic slowdown, key market timespreads remain robust, indicating that there’s solid demand for near-term supplies. A strike in Norway and supply disruption in Libya have exacerbated that strength of late.

WTI for August delivery fell $10.22 to $98.21 a barrel at 1:37 p.m. in New York
There was no settle on Monday due to the July 4 holiday
Brent for September settlement dropped $11.64 to $101.86 a barrel
Brent is trading in a range over $10, the widest since late March

In welcome news for Biden, retail gasoline prices in the US have eased from a record above $5 a gallon in mid-June. Pump prices were near $4.80 on Sunday, according to figures from auto club AAA, after slipping for 21 consecutive days in the longest losing run in more than two years.

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