US crude oil prices fell below $ 20 a barrel shortly after Sunday’s reopening of trade, close to the lowest level in 18 years, as traders bet production will have to stop to cope the collapse in demand for the coronavirus pandemic.
The US benchmark, known as West Texas Intermediate or WTI, hit a low of $ 19.92 per barrel, losing more than 6%.
Brent, the international benchmark, lost 6% to reach a low of $ 23.03 per barrel, the lowest since 2002.
Oil prices have fallen by more than half in the past month as widespread bottlenecks in Europe and North America have significantly reduced demand for oil, analysts predicting up to a quarter of normal world consumption could be lost.
With supply boosted at the same time by the price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, traders believe the surplus could approach 25 million barrels a day next month, a level that could overwhelm storage capacity. worldwide in a few weeks.
Prices are expected to remain under pressure until the market adjusts, with producers likely being forced to close production on a scale never seen before in the modern petroleum industry.
The WTI was trading briefly below $ 20 a barrel earlier this month as the April contract expired, plunging violently into thin trading. But this is the first time that the WTI has traded less than $ 20 a barrel since 2002 under normal commercial conditions.