FILE PHOTO: An oil pump jack pumps oil in a field near Calgary, Alberta, Canada on July 21, 2014. REUTERS/Todd Korol
(Reuters) – Crude oil futures fell in electronic trading on Sunday evening, with U.S. futures touching levels not seen since November 2001, extending last week’s weakness on the back of sliding demand because of the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 164,000 people worldwide.
The oil market has been under pressure due to a spate of reports on weak fuel consumption and grim forecasts from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and the International Energy Agency. OPEC, in conjunction with allies, agreed to cut production by 9.7 million bpd beginning in May to stem a growing supply glut as stay-at-home orders and business furloughs sap fuel demand.
The front-month May futures contract was down 5.8%, or $1.05, to $17.22 a barrel as of 7:23 p.m. EDT (2323 GMT). At one point, U.S. futures hit $17.14 a barrel, the lowest since November 2001.
That contract is expiring on Tuesday, and the June contract, which is becoming more actively traded, was down 57 cents, or 2.3%, to $24.45 a barrel. Brent was also weaker, falling 32 cents, or 1.1%, to $27.76 a barrel.
The oil industry has been swiftly reducing production in the face of an estimated 30% decline in fuel demand worldwide. Saudi Arabian officials have forecast that total global supply cuts from oil producers could amount to nearly 20 million bpd, but that includes voluntary cuts from nations like the United States and Canada, which cannot simply turn on or off production in the same way as most OPEC nations.
Numerous majors have announced supply reductions, including Chevron Corp, BP plc and Total SA. But economic growth is sagging swiftly, and physical crude markets suggest prices will keep falling.
North American exploration and production companies have cut their budgets by roughly 36% on a year-over-year basis, according to a Sunday note from James West, analyst at Evercore ISI, while international companies have cut budgets by 23%.
Reporting By David Gaffen; Editing by Peter Cooney and Richard Pullin