Home >Markets >Stock Markets >Oil drops in volatile week while Suez Canal mishap persists

Oil slid amid broader market weakness after two wild sessions that saw prices whipsaw around 6% in both directions, while traders continued to monitor a container ship that’s blocking the Suez Canal.

Futures fell as much as 4.1% in New York on Thursday in the wake of declining equities and a stronger US dollar, which reduces the appeal of commodities priced in the currency. Meanwhile, work to re-float the massive ship that’s stuck in the canal -- a key trade route for crude flows -- continued without success on Thursday in Egypt.

“The move lower in crude oil prices is being driven by a slowdown in commodity index inflows, a stronger US dollar and weaker global equity markets," said Ryan Fitzmaurice, commodities strategist at Rabobank. “Modestly lower crude oil prices" will likely persist in the near-term ahead of a seasonal demand pick-up.

Despite the recent sell-off, oil is still up more than 20% this year and there is confidence in the longer-term outlook for demand as coronavirus vaccinations accelerate worldwide and OPEC+ continues to hold back supply. The alliance is scheduled to meet next week to decide production policy for May.

“It all got a bit too excited earlier with talk about supercycles and massive stock draws in the first quarter," said Paul Horsnell, head of commodities research at Standard Chartered. That was “never on the cards, the big stock draws come later."

The prompt timespread for Brent has resumed trading in a bullish backwardation after briefly flipping to a bearish contango on Tuesday for the first time since January. The spread was 17 cents in backwardation on Thursday, compared with 67 cents at the start of the month.

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Tugs and diggers have so far failed to dislodge the container ship in the Suez Canal, which has led to a gridlock of vessels waiting to pass. Some experts say the crisis could drag on for several days.

The spring tide on Sunday or Monday will add extra depth and allow for more maneuvering, said Nick Sloane, the salvage master responsible for refloating the Costa Concordia.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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