Oil prices in the United States plunged to below zero on April 20 as demand collapsed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A barrel of crude oil in New York dropped from US$18.27 on Friday evening to negative US$37.63 on Monday, according to Euronews.

At the start of the year, a barrel of oil was US$60 for comparison.

The international standard Brent Crude was still trading at US$26.

The price of US crude oil has never fallen below US$10 but several analysts say the situation should improve.

The decline was in part due to the end of trading for May delivery. Investors sought to get rid of barrels of crude oil left due to an unprecedented drop in demand.

“It is a bit misleading to focus on the May contract,” said Matt Smith, an oil market expert for ClipperData told AFP.  “There are many more exchanges on the barrel for delivery in June.” 

US oil barrels for June delivery reportedly also dropped, but not as dramatically, falling 18% on Monday to finish at US$20.43.

The oil market has been experiencing sharp decreases for weeks due to travel restrictions in many countries.  As governments have stopped economic activity in their countries, demand has dropped significantly.

The BBC says the oil industry has also been struggling with both tumbling demand and in-fighting among producers about reducing output.

Earlier this month, OPEC members and its allies finally agreed a record deal to slash global output by about 10%.  The deal was the largest cut in oil production ever to have been agreed.

But prices continued to plummet when it became clear that the promised reductions would not be enough to offset the collapse in demand.