The Brent-WTI Spread is Mysteriously High

The two most widely traded oil benchmarks are West Texas Intermediate and Brent Crude. WTI is the benchmark for North American crude oil while Brent is the benchmark for Europe and the Middle East. The two grades are very close in quality, and historically have traded at very similar prices.

However, the spread between WTI and Brent started widening in 2017, and by early this year traders were largely united in suggesting that we’d reached a peak and it was time to become bearish on Brent. They were wrong:

The Brent-WTI spread did indeed start to narrow in March, but only for a short while. In May the spread took off like a rocket and currently stands at nearly 22 percent. This is a historical high aside from the period following the Arab Spring, when fears about Arab oil supply drove Brent prices well above WTI. Today, though, there’s nothing like the Arab Spring to explain what’s happening. There have been some vague notions floating around that Iran might try to close the Hormuz Strait, but nothing that seems very serious. And WTI inventories are up a bit, but not by enough to really explain anything.

So what’s going on? And does it mean anything serious?

THE TRUTH...

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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