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CNN BUSINESS: Why oil prices are crashing and what it means

(KOSA)
Published: Mar. 9, 2020 at 4:06 PM CDT
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Oil prices have suffered their biggest fall since the day in 1991 when American forces launched air strikes on Iraqi troops following their invasion of Kuwait.

Monday's crash spooked markets that were already freaking out about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the global economy and demand for oil. Brent crude futures, the global oil benchmark, were down 22%, last trading at $35.45 per barrel. US oil is trading at $33.15 per barrel, a decline of nearly 20%.

Here are some things you need to know:

Why are oil prices crashing?

Saudi Arabia, the world's top exporter, launched a price war over the weekend. The move followed the implosion of an alliance between the OPEC cartel, led by Saudi Arabia, and Russia.

The kingdom and Russia came together to form the so-called OPEC+ alliance in 2016 after oil prices plunged to $30 a barrel. Since then, the two leading exporters have orchestrated supply cuts of 2.1 million barrels per day.

Saudi Arabia wanted to increase that number to 3.6 million barrels through 2020 to take account of weaker consumption.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin, worried about ceding too much ground to American oil producers, refused to go along with the plan and his energy minister, Alexander Novak on Friday signaled a fierce battle to come for market share when he said countries could produce as much as they please from April 1.

What does coronavirus have to do with all of this?

The coronavirus has undermined energy demand worldwide, but especially in China, which is now the number one importer of crude oil, guzzling roughly 10 million barrels a day.

Factories have been idled and thousands of flights canceled around the world as the coronavirus outbreak that began in Wuhan, China, has become a global pandemic.

The International Energy Agency said Monday that it expects demand will contract this year for the first time since the recession in 2009 that followed the global financial crisis.

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