LONDON: Oil prices plunged on Monday (Mar 30) to an 18-year low as the number of novel coronavirus cases worldwide surged past 700,000, reinforcing worries about the impact of the pandemic on the global economy.
US and European stock markets moved higher despite the prospect of much of the world remaining in confinement for weeks to come.
Crude oil struck the lowest levels since 2002, with Brent North Sea tumbling to US$21.65 per barrel at one point. The benchmark US contract, WTI, briefly fell below US$20.00.
"Estimates for the (oil) demand side are being revised downwards on an almost daily basis, while on the supply side there is still no sign of any reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Russia" regarding their price war, Commerzbank said in a client note.
There are warnings that oil could sink even further as storage tanks around the world approach full capacity.
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, announced it would raise exports by 600,000 barrels per day to a record 10.6 million barrels per day in May.
However US President Donald Trump held a phone call with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin where they discussed oil prices as US producers are reeling.
"If nothing comes out of Trump's call to Putin, oil prices could easily drop a couple dollars," said OANDA market analyst Edward Moya.
The Kremlin said that Russian and US energy officials would hold consultations on the global oil market, but the news failed to lift WTI considerably and Brent fell further.
In Asia, stock markets mostly fell following the steep drop on Wall Street and in Europe on Friday.
Australia was out on its own - its stock market surging 7.0 per cent as the country's virus infections slowed, while after the close of trade in Sydney, the government unveiled an income-support plan worth US$80 billion.
European stocks spent much of the day in the red on indications of the economic cost of the crisis.
The EU's economic confidence index suffered its sharpest monthly fall ever in March, while experts said Germany's economy could contract by over five percent.
However European stocks rose into positive territory as Wall Street pushed higher, even though jubilation over last week's enormous US stimulus package has largely faded.
US President Donald Trump on Friday signed off Washington's stimulus measures worth more than US$2 trillion.
However, over the weekend, Trump extended social distancing measures until the end of April, after days of indicating he would like to lift restrictions that have been crimping businesses within two weeks.
He said he now expected the country to "be well on our way to recovery" by Jun 1 - dropping his previous target of mid-April.
While the extension of the social distancing guidelines means that many non-essential businesses are likely to remain closed longer than previously expected, markets may be welcoming strong government action against the spread of the coronavirus.
"The upshot - and we think this might be resonating for the market - is that the extension of this guideline will help in the effort to curtail the spread of the coronavirus, which is what everyone needs and wants as a flattening of the caseload curve will be an important signpost for relaxing some of the economic shutdown measures," said Briefing.com analyst Patrick O'Hare.
While the disease ravages populations and the global economy grinds to a halt with 40 per cent of the planet in lockdown, experts are struggling to get a grip on the scale of the crisis that is forecast to cause a worldwide recession.
Governments and central banks have acted to shore up the global economy, pledging around US$5 trillion in stimulus support, with China on Monday joining the party by lowering bank borrowing costs and pumping billions of dollars into financial markets, while Singapore also eased rates.
Key figures around 1430 GMT:
London - FTSE 100: UP 1.0 per cent at 5,563.74 points (close)
Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 1.9 per cent at 9,815.97 (close)
Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.6 per cent at 4,378.51 (close)
Milan - FTSE MIB: UP 0.3 per cent at 16,872.41 (close)
Madrid - IBEX 35: DOWN 1.7 per cent at 6,659.90 (close)
EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.7 per cent at 2,747.69
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 1.6 per cent at 19,084.97 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 1.3 per cent at 23,175.11 (close)
Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.9 per cent at 2,747.21 (close)
Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 11.5 per cent at US$22.06 per barrel
West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 6.4 per cent at US$20.14 per barrel
Euro/dollar: DOWN at US$1.1040 from US$1.1148 at 2100 GMT
Dollar/yen: UP at 108.03 yen from 107.88
Pound/dollar: DOWN at US$1.2406 from US$1.2450
Euro/pound: DOWN at 88.05 pence from 89.46 pence