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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/29/20

Historic Changes In Energy Markets Pressure Global Economy

Message Richard Cox

Last month's negative trends in energy markets have unfolded in very surprising ways, as prices for U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude oil have fallen to record lows and threatened to impact the stability of the global economy in the process. In order to make projections about where energy markets are likely headed in the future, it is critical for us to understand what led up to these events in the first place so that investors and industrial workers might be able to better identify these types of circumstances while they are still in the earliest phases. Undeniably, these are historic events that will continue to be researched by financial analysts for many years to come and this is the reason global regulators must develop strategies to react more appropriately in order to limit the potential for economic disruptions further down the line.

On April 20th, crude oil futures for May 2020 delivery actually plummeted below the zero level for the first time in history and the June WTI contract closed below $12 per barrel before the end of the trading session. Analysts and traders are viewing a massive glut in market supply as the main reason behind the collapse, as the early ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to diminish the outlook for consumer demand while a shortage of global storage space has triggered significant selling pressures in the market. Ultimately, these events shifted the crude oil market's entire forward curve, and so it is not yet clear that global regulators are sufficiently prepared to deal with the long term ramifications of these types of disruptions.

Of course, a lot of this activity is financial in nature and this is why it isn't surprising to see that negative price trends have damaged sentiment amongst commodities investors while driving some of the energy market's worst single-day performances on record. As this economic meltdown continues to span across energy markets, it's likely that extreme freezes in capital spending have already put a significant number of energy industry jobs at risk in most global regions. For these reasons, it is still too early to tell how deeply these unexpected developments will eventually hurt the broader economy over the long term. Crude oil markets share deep correlations with valuation trends in global equity markets but many financial analysts have already become bearish on the prospects for sustainable corporate earnings results over the next two quarters.

Additionally, the deflationary impact of these types of events can have dramatic consequences from a macroeconomic perspective, so it is clear that the effects of extended consumer lockdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic have already extended far into areas that most financial analysts had not initially anticipated. Regardless of our individual opinions on whether or not crude oil should be used to the extent that it is within the world economy, it's clear that most central governments are not yet prepared for the massive disruptions to the system that are likely to unfold if these trends continue near term.

As long as these unprecedented changes in the market lead to changes in analyst estimates for global energy demand, pipelines and storage tanks should continue to show signs of being overwhelmed by unexpected changes in consumer activity. If these factors were not detrimental enough on their own, we must remember that the real consequences of these events will be seen in the substantial number of workers that will be forced to leave their prior positions in what is still a highly evolving industry. In many cases, these workers might be forced to enter completely new industries and so it is still too early to tell the extent to which energy prices will be impacted by this new potential for disruption within this context.

As a result of this recent activity in the market, various WTI crude oil instruments have shown the largest spreads on record when we evaluate the differences between spot prices and futures contracts. Ultimately, these are problematic valuation trends that might give us clues about the underlying dynamics of the current market and this is why it will be important to watch for any evidence which suggests that these trends might be reversing over the next several weeks.

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Historic Changes In Energy Markets Pressure Global Economy

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