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  • Oil price wars in full effect, WTI anchored in the $30-20s ranges.
  • The Saudis slash their discount to Asian refiners by $6/bbl from March levels.
  • Oil markets are now being battered on the supply-side as well as demand-side (COVID-19).

The price of a barrel of oil is in the hands of the cartel and depends on whether the Russians will take the bait in the latest chess move by the Saudis who, over the weekend, shocked the market by announcing a drastic discount to OSPs, or “Official Selling Prices”, to Asian refiners for April barrels in the face of failed OPEC+ meetings to agree on a production cut. 

The price of oil has been under pressure due to the demand side concerns pertaining to the COVID-19 global outbreak. We have seen West Texas Intermediate crude crumble from the $65 handle this year into the low $40s on the virus implications and then plummet a the start of this week as the Saudis announced their extreme measures to a low of $27.40 in response to Russia’s unwillingness to participate in deeper supply cut. 

Saudi and other OPEC members had pushed for a 1.5m bpd cut to combat the virus demand shock, but Russia refused to cut further. In retaliation, the Saudis slashed their discount to Asian refiners by $6/bbl from March levels, the biggest month-on-month change in history.

How long before Russia comes back tot he OPEC+ table?

However, such a move has the market puzzled, as the Saudis have long been claiming to require prices to be no less than f $80/bbl to balance their budget despite having extremely low “lifting” costs for oil production. This leads some to presume that the move was an attempt to force Russia back to the negotiating table as Russia needs prices at $45/bbl. 

The supply-side shock will keep prices low until OPEC+ get an act together to support them. Analysts at TD Securities argued that $20/bbl oil is not out of the question as both supply and demand factors weigh heavily on markets.

“In terms of CTAs, we do not expect any material moves as funds were already positioned extremely short in the complex, and elevated volatility will keep excess positioning in check for now.”

WTI levels