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Oil Prices Crash by 8% on Geopolitical Tensions, Recovery Woes

By Lou Whiteman - Mar 18, 2021 at 5:12PM

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Despite that steep plunge, though, crude oil is still up big for the year.

Crude oil's price plunged by nearly 8% on Thursday -- its largest daily percentage loss since last summer -- amid rising global tensions and new concerns about the pace of the global economic recovery.

West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell for the fifth straight session, dropping to below $60 per barrel and wiping out about two weeks of gains tied to the "recovery trade." With the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines accelerating in the U.S. and many oil-intensive industries including airlines ramping up, investors have been anticipating stronger demand for oil heading into the summer.

An oil rig in action.

Image source: Getty Images.

A tense back and forth between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin was likely responsible for some share of the price drop. The U.S. has threatened sanctions on Russia over the country's treatment of Putin's political critics. Should Russia either find itself needing to quickly raise money to prop up its economy or wish to retaliate against the U.S. in the event of sanctions, flooding the market with oil is a likely option.

The recovery rally was also under pressure as European authorities put holds on the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine made by AstraZeneca, potentially delaying a return to normal there. And Brazil is also in the midst of a surge in new COVID-19 cases.

Even with Thursday's declines, the price of crude oil is still up by 20% for the year and the long-term trends appear to be upward. However, this shift does call into question some economists' forecasts for $70 oil by summer.

A number of oil industry stocks including ExxonMobil (XOM 1.86%)Chevron (CVX 1.56%), and Phillips 66 (PSX 0.98%) were all down by more than 3% for the day.

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Stocks Mentioned

Exxon Mobil Corporation Stock Quote
Exxon Mobil Corporation
XOM
$93.57 (1.86%) $1.71
Chevron Corporation Stock Quote
Chevron Corporation
CVX
$170.44 (1.56%) $2.62
Phillips 66 Stock Quote
Phillips 66
PSX
$94.71 (0.98%) $0.92

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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