Oil clawed back some losses as signs of a recovery in the Chinese economy bolstered hopes for a rebound in demand though prices are still headed for the worst quarter on record.
While New York futures rose for the first time in four sessions, adding 5.1% after stronger-than-anticipated China manufacturing data, oil is still down 65% since the end of December as demand vanishes and the market drowns in crude. U.S. President Donald Trump said he is concerned with prices and called Vladimir Putin on Monday to discuss Russia’s battle for market share with Saudi Arabia.
In another sign of recovery in China, the nation’s oil refiners are boosting crude processing rates to levels last seen before the outbreak, but the increase may be in vain. Worldwide demand is plunging as the pandemic has led to lockdowns across the globe, with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. predicting consumption will drop by 26 million barrels, or 25%, this week.
The slump in demand has shut refineries from South Africa to Canada, leading to a glut in the market, while Saudi Arabia is directing huge amounts of crude toward Egypt as the producer prepares to flood Europe with its barrels. The huge oversupply is collapsing the oil market’s structure, and there may be more weakness to come as the world quickly runs out of storage capacity.
“Any little bit of optimism is welcome even if it is little more than a false dawn,” said Stephen Innes, global chief market strategist at AxiCorp Ltd. “The demand devastation is the most aggravating factor these days, while the supply issues are exacerbating that pressure.”
West Texas Intermediate for May delivery added $1.02 to $21.11 a barrel on the the New York Mercantile Exchange as of 8:07 a.m. London time. The contract slumped 6.6% to $20.09 on Monday, the lowest since February 2002. Prices are also down 53% this month.
Brent for May settlement, which expires Tuesday, fell 3 cents to $22.73 a barrel on London’s ICE Futures Europe exchange. The contract is down 55% in March and about 66% this quarter. The more-active June contract added 32 cents to $26.74.
The Trump-Putin call came at the request of the U.S. and was prolonged, according to the Kremlin. Both leaders “agreed on the importance of stability in global energy markets,” the White House said in a statement.
Futures in the global Brent benchmark are suggesting a historic glut is emerging. The May contract is trading at a discount of more than $14 a barrel to November, a more bearish super-contango than the market saw even in the depths of the 2008-09 global financial crisis.
Crude prices are already far below those of futures benchmarks in the market for physical barrels. Oil from Canada touched a record low of $3.82, while many other key grades are trading below $10, with some as low as $3.
Pioneer Natural Resources Co. and Parsley Energy Inc. have asked Texas regulators to consider a cut to output and to call an emergency meeting no later than April 13. Ryan Sitton, one of three commissioners on the Texas Railroad Commission, said on Monday that the regulating body will discuss curbing production at its next meeting.