When West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil plummeted to a closing price of –US $37.63 on 20 April 2020, the spot price of Brent crude oil only fell to US $17.36. This striking price difference between these two rival crude oil benchmarks highlights important dynamics that pertain to not only the supply and demand of oil, but also the social construction of futures markets.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, demand for crude oil fell suddenly. The pandemic exposed the logistics and storage constraints of the US landlocked oil infrastructure that was oversupplied by domestic and imported crude. But it also raised fundamental questions about the role and importance of financial trading on the futures market.