History made as oil prices hit negative value due to zero demand

The price of US oil has turned negative for the first time in history.

That means oil producers are paying buyers to take the commodity off their hands over fears that storage capacity could run out in May.

Demand for oil has all but dried up as lockdowns across the world have kept people inside.

As a result, oil firms have resorted to renting tankers to store the surplus supply and that has forced the price of US oil into negative territory.

The price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the benchmark for US oil, fell as low as minus $37.63 a barrel.

The severe drop on Monday was driven in part by a technicality of the global oil market. Oil is traded on its future price and May futures contracts are due to expire on Tuesday. Traders were keen to offload those holdings to avoid having to take delivery of the oil and incur storage costs.

June prices for WTI were also down, but trading at above $20 per barrel. Meanwhile, Brent Crude – the benchmark used by Europe and the rest of the world – was also weaker, down more than 7% at about $26 a barrel.

The oil industry has been struggling with both tumbling demand and in-fighting among producers about reducing output.

Earlier this month, Opec members and its allies finally agreed a record deal to slash global output by about 10%. The deal was the largest cut in oil production ever to have been agreed.

But some analysts said the cuts were not big enough to make a difference.

“It hasn’t taken long for the market to recognise that the Opec deal will not, in its present form, be enough to balance oil markets,” said Stephen Innes, chief global market strategist at Axicorp.

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