Oil Posts Worst Quarter Ever With 66% Drop

By Glenn Dyer | More Articles by Glenn Dyer

The OPEC+ supply war and COVID-19 flattened oil prices in March and the first quarter left gold higher, silver lower and left copper a loser.

In fact, oil was double whacked and slumped in the biggest ever quarterly loss on record of 66.5%.

While oil futures enjoyed a small rise on Tuesday after their dip under $US20 a barrel, they still lost more than half of their value in March.

The drivers were worries about energy demand amid restrictions set in place to avoid the spread of COVID-19, overlaid by the price and volume war between Russia, Saudi Arabia and the US fracking sector in the wake of the collapse of the OPEC+ production cap agreement that expired on March 31.

May West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI) rose 39 cents, or 1.9%, to settle $US20.48 a barrel in New York.

WTI prices fell more than 54% for the month and 66.5% for the quarter.

Brent crude in Europe fell 2 cents, or 0.09%, to settle at $US22.74 a barrel on the contract’s expiration day. For the month, prices fell 55% and 65.6% for the quarter—the largest quarterly decline based on records dating to June 1988.

The new front-month June Brent lost 7 cents, or 0.3%, to $US26.35 for Tuesday’s session.

On Monday, WTI marked its lowest finish since February 2002, while Brent saw its lowest settlement since November of that year.

Gold futures fell sharply on Tuesday but prices for the metal still ended higher for the month and quarter

The COVID-19 pandemic remains the biggest driver of gold’s moves, especially its growing impact on life and business in the US.

The final reading for the month in the Conference Board survey of consumer confidence fell to a 32 month low of 120 in March, from a revised 132.6 in February, but because some forecasts called for a fall to 115, it was construed as being a ‘good result’ and sent gold and silver lower.

The monthly survey of American manufacturing on Wednesday, as well as US data for car sales for last month, will provide another test for the markets – especially those ‘optimists’ who thought a 32 month low for consumer confidence was good news.

And while the first surveys of Chinese manufacturing and service sector activity showed big rises (there’s another manufacturing survey out today), economists point out the flaws in these surveys obscure the reality of whether Chinese plants are open and producing goods in response to orders and employing staff.

So Comex June gold plunged $46.60, or 2.8%, to settle at $US1,596.60 an ounce—the lowest finish in just over a week.

That was a gain of 1.9% for the month and a solid 4.6% for the quarter.

Comex May silver added 2.4 cents, or 0.2%, at $US14.156 an ounce, after Monday’s 2.8% fall. Silver lost about 14% for the month and saw a quarterly decline of 21% as it is now more an industrial metal rather than a precious one.

Copper followed suit with the Comex May copper rising 3.4% to $US2.228 a pound on Tuesday.

But that was still down more than 12% lower for the month and over 20% for the quarter.

Global iron ore prices ended March with a small rise on Tuesday of 34 cents to $US83.32 a tonne for 62% Fe fines delivered to northern China, thanks to the rebound in the official Chinese surveys of manufacturing and services.

That was after the $US3 plus a tonne (4%) loss the day before.

Iron ore fell just on $US10 a tonne in the quarter from the $US93.13 a tonne at the end of 2019. It was $US83.96 at the end of March.

Glenn Dyer

About Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer has been a finance journalist and TV producer for more than 40 years. He has worked at Maxwell Newton Publications, Queensland Newspapers, AAP, The Australian Financial Review, The Nine Network and Crikey.

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