The West Texas Intermediate (WTI) May contract ended in negative territory on Monday, closing the day at minus $37 a barrel. This is a serious market dislocation. It reflects that the US is running out of storage space.
Such a drop is unprecedented - very much a day for the history books.
The negative price reflects a massive dislocation of the financial markets, which have a much higher volume than the physical market. This why the futures contract for June is above $21.37 a barrel. The June price is a better reflection of the “real price of oil.”
For this month, there is no demand.
The share price of big oil like Exxon and Shell was only down a few percentage points, trading well above their lows of a month ago. This reflects that they have sufficient cushion to ride out the storm.
The Trump administration is bound to fast track a program to pay companies to leave crude in the ground.
This will crush many smaller producers in the United States with big ramifications for the banking industry and for employment in the wider sector including oil field services.
Banks who have hedges out at higher oil prices will be caught out. Owners of tankers and storage facilities can name their price at this point.
It will also have ramifications for the industry in the US going forward. We can expect many bankruptcies obliterating shale space in particular.