Oil prices recover from Covid-19 collapse

The oil price slumped last spring as major economies locked down. But is has now returned to its pre-pandemic level as it hits $60 a barrel.

Oil prices have returned to pre-pandemic levels. The price of the world’s favourite commodity slumped last spring as major economies locked down. US oil futures briefly turned negative as traders found themselves stuck with fuel that nobody wanted. Yet Brent crude prices have rocketed by 180% since their nadir to trade above $60 a barrel this week. Before Covid-19 took hold the contract was trading around $59 a barrel. 

Joe Biden’s announcement that he will not lift sanctions on Iran (see page 10) provided the “immediate catalyst” for the latest price bump, says Julia Horowitz on CNN. But the broader rally is all about the vaccines and hopes that big economies are well on the way to returning to normal. On the supply side, oil exporters’ cartel Opec and ally Russia have continued to limit output. Saudi Arabia’s announcement that it will cut output by a further one million barrels per day (mbpd) from this month has provided an extra fillip. Opec and its allies have “held back a cumulative 2.1 billion barrels of oil” since last April, says Justin Harper for the BBC. They didn’t have much choice: air passenger traffic is still down by 70% on last year.

US producers have done their bit too, says Joe Wallace in The Wall Street Journal. The country is “pumping 17% less crude” than it was on the eve of the pandemic as lower prices have forced the closure of less economical wells and halted new exploration. 

The medium-term outlook for oil is positive, but expect setbacks along the way. This rally is “overextended”, says David Sheppard in the Financial Times. Prices may be back at pre-pandemic levels, but demand, still six mbpd below 2019 levels, is not. There is “excessive... bullish exuberance” in oil markets, says Stephen Brennock of brokerage PVM. Traders are high on the promise of stimulus. 

Recommended

Bitcoin is down more than 50% since its all-time high. What is going on?
Bitcoin & crypto

Bitcoin is down more than 50% since its all-time high. What is going on?

Bitcoin, the world's most popular cryptocurrency, is trading more than 50% below its all-time high in November. Saloni Sardana explains why the digita…
24 Jan 2022
Which assets will benefit as the “jam tomorrow” bubble pops?
Investment strategy

Which assets will benefit as the “jam tomorrow” bubble pops?

With tech stocks, cryptocurrencies and many other “long duration” investments crashing hard, the “jam tomorrow” bubble looks to be bursting. John Step…
24 Jan 2022
Shareholder capitalism: why we must return power to listed companies’ ultimate owners
Investment strategy

Shareholder capitalism: why we must return power to listed companies’ ultimate owners

Under our system of shareholder capitalism it's not fund managers, it‘s the individual investors – the company's ultimate owners – who should be telli…
24 Jan 2022
Guillaume Pousaz of Checkout.com: the surfer dude catching the fintech wave
People

Guillaume Pousaz of Checkout.com: the surfer dude catching the fintech wave

Guillaume Pousaz moved to California to pursue his love of surfing, and landed in Silicon Valley. He then rode the fintech gold rush to a multi-billio…
23 Jan 2022

Most Popular

Shareholder capitalism: why we must return power to listed companies’ ultimate owners
Investment strategy

Shareholder capitalism: why we must return power to listed companies’ ultimate owners

Under our system of shareholder capitalism it's not fund managers, it‘s the individual investors – the company's ultimate owners – who should be telli…
24 Jan 2022
Ask for a pay rise – everyone else is
Inflation

Ask for a pay rise – everyone else is

As inflation bites and the labour market remains tight, many of the nation's employees are asking for a pay rise. Merryn Somerset Webb explains why yo…
17 Jan 2022
Three innovative Asian stocks to buy now
Share tips

Three innovative Asian stocks to buy now

Professional investor Fay Ren of the Cerno Pacific Fund highlights three of her favourite Asian stocks to buy now
24 Jan 2022