Oil Goes Berserk In Electronic Trading As WTI Passes $98

As Zero Hedge advised in early January when the severity of the Maghreb revolution was made all too clear to anyone not willing to stick their head in the CNBC sand, oil could well be the buy of a lifetime ahead of a downward spiral of unprecedented geopolitical proportions. Sure enough, today alone, WTI (April) has surged from $90 yesterday to over $98 in electronic trading (see below). Either this is some computer gone haywire in the closed session, or when America wakes up tomorrow we may be on the verge of another flash crash. As for Brent, it passed $108.50. As a reminder, and people forget this all too readily, each dollar jump in crude wipes out $100 billion in US GDP. That means that at face value, today's move in the commodity complex, may have taken out as much as 5% of annualized GDP when fully processed through the economy!

WTI (per netdania):


And some crude observations from an otherwise calm Reuters:

Brent crude oil prices hit $108 a barrel for the first time since 2008 on Monday on fears that spiraling violence in Libya could lead to wider supply disruptions from the OPEC member.

U.S. oil prices led the rally to jump by more than $5, the most in over two years, as traders also rushed to cover short positions in the key Brent/WTI spread, which had blown out to a record $16 a barrel. The April spread narrowed to $10 during the day, but widened to over $12 in after-hours trade.

The focus was on deadly clashes in Libya, where one oil firm was shutting down some 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) of production and others evacuated staff. The leader of the Al-Zuwayya tribe threatened oil exports to the West would be cut off unless authorities stopped violence.

"The market is on edge about the potential for Middle East and North Africa supply disruptions," said Mike Wittner, head of commodities research, Americas, at Societe Generale.

"If you've got reports that actual disruptions are starting to occur, it's going to have a supportive impact. A lot of it is high-quality crude and that is important as well."

The increasingly violent protests that appeared to put Muammar Gaddafi's four decades of rule in jeopardy were the realization of weeks of mounting concerns that Egypt-inspired unrest would seep into nearby oil producers.

Brent oil futures, which have climbed more than $10 this year largely due to the increasing geopolitical risk premium, jumped $3.22 a barrel, or 3.2 percent, to settle at $105.74 a barrel. They jumped another $2 to trade as high as $108 in after-hours dealing, the highest since September 4, 2008.

The March U.S. crude oil contract, which expires on Tuesday, surged $5.22 a barrel to trade at $91.42 a barrel in late-afternoon activity -- the highest in two weeks.

Overall trading volume was less than one-third the 30-day average due to the U.S. Presidents Day holiday, and the U.S. market won't issue an official settlement until Tuesday.

The more-active April contract jumped as much as $5.75 to a high of $95.47 a barrel, at one point narrowing the Brent/WTI contract by nearly $3 to $10 a barrel as traders covered short positions built up as the spread ballooned from about $3 in January to a low of $16 last week.

Brent's after-hours rally forced the spread back out to $12.40 a barrel.


In Libya, scores were killed in anti-government protests as one of the region's bloodiest revolts hit Tripoli for the first time, while army units defected to the opposition and Gaddafi's son vowed to fight to the last man standing.

On Sunday, Shaikh Faraj al Zuway, the leader of the Al-Zuwayya tribe in eastern Libya, told Al Jazeera: "We will stop oil exports to Western countries within 24 hours" should the violence not stop.

Ninety percent of Libyan oil exports come from the eastern region of Cyrenaica, epicenter of the revolt, and unrest there could pose a graver threat to oil supplies than in other nations if separatists target infrastructure and look for a bigger slice of revenues, analysts say.

"Libya is a significant producer and exporter of good quality crude oil, and threats by the tribal leader to stop production are worrisome," said Christophe Barret, an oil analyst at Credit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank.