Lockdown Diaries – negative oil! And how long will lockdown last?

Holy smokes – two weeks since my last update. A bit of a fail trying to maintain things weekly! This will be a very short update – mainly because I’ve adjusted to my daily regime (which isn’t exciting) and there is no real point in my regurgitating stuff which has more than adequately been covered by news outlets. And frankly I don’t have too much additional thoughts to add.

I’ll start with oil, WTI plunged yesterday into negative territory for the first time ever. Wow. Long story short, May futures was ending and there is a glut of WTI and not a lot of storage left (it also has to go via Cushing which is a bottleneck).

June and July futures look only slightly better with oil sitting at around $21- we may go negative again very soon. It’s a remarkable turnaround from when I first started working in the oil industry over a decade ago and the cost of a barrel was at over $100. I’ll definitely be monitoring over the coming weeks! On a more somber note, 20th April also marks the 10 year anniversary of Deepwater Horizon, a tragedy on both a human and environmental level. The industry I hope has learnt the lessons and hopefully we do not seen another Deepwater Horizon anytime soon.

On to Covid-19 – most European countries look as if they’ve hit some sort of peak in cases and deaths. The lockdown has worked in ‘flattening the curve’ – hospitals are coping. However in the UK at least, testing levels is still poor (bad initial planning) and PPE is still woefully under the levels the NHS requires. Plus we had the controversy of the reported death numbers being hospital deaths only and not taking into account the large number of Covid-19 deaths in care and elderly homes. It is clear the UK Government could have initially prepared a lot better. On the plus side, Boris Johnson isn’t going to die and is out of hospital recovering. National morale lifted.

However we are not out of this. There are a few key things to assess. Firstly is the speed we reopen the economy. I’ve mentioned in previous posts, there is a fine balance between the woes of being unable to earn an income due to the economy being halted and enduring the lockdown over fears of a second wave/peak. However, a proper exit strategy requires a sophisticated contact tracing initiative set up – which most larger countries don’t have yet. And I’m not sure about the privacy risks that will arise if we make people install certain apps on their phones for tracking purposes.

The stock markets in general have been pretty strong – there is a lot of hope built in that we open up in May and have a ‘V shape’ recovery. Indeed Trump wants to open the country back up by May 1st (note – not his decision, but the Governors) and Germany has begun doing so in a very limited capacity as certain high street shops are allowed to open up this week. Germany is relying on people keeping up social distancing discipline. No doubt if not observed, everything will close back just as quick. Incidentally poorer countries have it harder because they cannot endure a long lockdown. The consequence will be people not having enough food and starving. Many experiments being run across the world, some out of necessity – the rest of the world watches and hopefully can learn.

Secondly, we’re approaching Ramadan. Fasting may be the major component, but the breaking of the fast and evening prayers are huge aspects of the month and crucially ‘social’ affairs. You cannot ‘cancel’ Ramadan as people will still fast anyway. Governments across Arab and Muslim countries will have to be firm in ensuring people continue with lockdown. Pakistan is a cautionary tale waiting to happen – mosques will be allowed to open for evening prayers if they adhere to a set of rules for cleaning and social distancing. I simply cannot see them being followed and hope other countries do not follow their example. I sincerely hope the month doesn’t turn into a deadly one.

Ok, time to wrap up – my attempts for a short update seem to have failed! Onto myself – a few more books have been read and I’ve been pretty good and disciplined with daily workout and a relatively healthy diet. Sadly my ‘power’ laptop has died – which puts to bed the plans I had for editing my backlog of photography albums. An excuse to treat myself to a new laptop perhaps…..stay safe folks!

J

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