“Crude action this week reminded many of how quickly the commodity can be decimated by macro economic events,” said Rebecca Babin, senior energy trader at CIBC Private Wealth. “The commodity broke a significant level of support as the market tries to quantify the economic ramifications of banking turmoil.”
Traders had been waiting for a catalyst to break prices out of the relatively narrow trading range that has dominated the market as expectations for rebounding Chinese demand compete with weaker economic outlook in the West.
This week’s banking crisis provided the spark, driving oil prices to a 15-month low. That plunge triggered another: Prices went so low that 43,000 options contracts totaling more than 40 million barrels of crude came “into the money,” resulting in a tidy payday for some while at the same time further deepening the downturn.
WTI for April delivery dropped $1.61 to settle at $66.74 a barrel
Brent for May fell $1.73 to settle at $72.97
Oil’s next leg may depend on decisions by the US Federal Reserve and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The Fed will decide next week whether to raise rates again, a move that has implications for oil demand. Meanwhile, OPEC and its allies will convene April 3 to revisit the group’s production policy. Several technical measures suggest that the recent plunge has pushed the commodity into oversold territory.