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A common refrain in 2020: Oil prices took a massive hit this year. Indeed, the US crude oil futures markets went haywire in April when WTI prices went negative—an anomaly owing to scarce storage. The spot price for Brent crude, the global benchmark, approached $10/barrel in April. This cratering followed a devastating one-two punch in early 2020. As for many other commodities, demand for hydrocarbons effectively halted amid COVID-19-induced economic shutdowns. But Saudi Arabia and Russia simultaneously ramped up production as they engaged in an ill-fated (ill-timed, certainly) oil price war. As the world slowly climbs out of economic malaise—particularly China, the world’s second-largest oil consumer—and OPEC relations return to something resembling normalcy, it seems logical to expect oil markets to also return to normal. As is often the case, reality is likely to prove slightly more complicated.
If ever a company’s president and most senior executive publicly expresses a hunch about something that company might well do, it’s notable. Even more so when the c-suite officer is Madame Lagarde of the European Central Bank (ECB), who coyly alluded to the adoption of a central bank digital currency (CBDC). Regarding a crypto coin for the euro zone, she said, “My hunch is that it will come.… If it’s cheaper, faster, more secure for the users then we should explore it. If it’s going to contribute to a better monetary sovereignty, a better autonomy for the euro area, I think we should explore it.” But is a CBDC faster, cheaper, more secure? Would it contribute to monetary sovereignty and euro-area autonomy? What are those things, anyway?
To date, deadlines around Brexit haven’t actually proven to be deadlines as such—they’ve been at best guidelines. But with December 31 around the corner, the risk the UK and EU will henceforth operate under the rather tariff-heavy World Trade Organization rules looms. Still at issue are three major sticking points.