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Business Maverick

Oil’s Sizzling Rally Takes a Breather After Tumultuous Week

Oil storage tanks stand at the RN-Tuapsinsky refinery, operated by Rosneft Oil, as tankers sail beyond in Tuapse, Russia, on Monday, 23 March 2020. (Photo: Andrey Rudakov / Bloomberg)

Oil is heading for the biggest weekly decline since November, taking a breather after a period of wild trading and a surge in prices that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Futures in New York fell below $106 a barrel on Friday and are down almost 9% this week after the market was rocked by news of the U.S. ban on Russian crude imports and what looked to be the first signs of OPEC+ disunity. In two of the four trading sessions this week, Brent oil has swung by the most on record — with intraday swings eclipsing $20 a barrel.

The fallout from the war has rippled through commodity markets from wheat to key fuels such as gasoline and diesel, increasing inflationary pressure around the world. Rystad Energy predicted Brent could soar to an eye-watering $240 a barrel this summer if countries continue to sanction Russian oil imports.

WTI oil set for widest weekly trading range since sub-zero meltdown

Mounting sanctions on Russia for its war in Ukraine has prompted fears that an already tight market may be stretched further, though OPEC and Chevron Corp. stressed this week that there is no shortage of barrels. Banks such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. say that only demand destruction can halt the price rally.

Open interest in the main oil contracts has plunged to a six-year low in recent days as traders retreat from risk. Volatility has rocketed, and exchanges have been boosting margins, effectively raising the cost of buying and selling. Brent has been as high as $139 a barrel and as low as $105 this week.

“Uncertain times mean that the prices will likely continue to behave in a volatile manner, particularly given the tightness in the market,” said Warren Patterson, Singapore-based head of commodity strategy at ING Groep NV.

  • West Texas Intermediate for April delivery fell 0.3% to $105.71 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 10:23 a.m. in Singapore after losing 2.5% on Thursday.
  • Brent for May settlement slid 0.8% to $108.47 on the ICE Futures Europe exchange after dropping 1.6% on Thursday.
    • Futures are down 8% this week.

Brent remains deep in a bullish backwardation structure, where near-dated contracts are more expensive than later-day ones, indicating concerns about tight supply. The global benchmark’s prompt spread was at $3.99 a barrel, compared with $1.39 at the start of last month.

The United Arab Emirates on Wednesday called on OPEC+ to boost output faster, though the nation’s energy minister appeared to later temper that message. The cartel, which counts Russia as a key member, has resisted calls from consumers to pump more, arguing that the surge in prices is driven by geopolitical tensions rather than a supply shortage.

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