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TALKING POINTS

Stories you may have missed from the world of business

ENERGY

Oil prices plunge as OPEC+ alliance falls apart, setting off a price war, and the coronavirus crisis cuts demand

Oil markets tumbled more than 30 percent after the disintegration of the OPEC+ alliance triggered an all-out price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia that’s likely to have sweeping political and economic consequences. Brent futures suffered the second-largest decline on record in the opening seconds of trading in Asia, behind only the plunge during the Gulf War in 1991. As the global oil benchmark plummeted to as low as $31.02 a barrel, Goldman Sachs warned prices could drop to near $20 a barrel. A cataclysmic collapse would resonate through the industry and hit the budgets of oil-dependent nations from Iraq to Nigeria and could reshape politics, eroding the influence of countries like Saudi Arabia. And the fight against climate change may suffer a setback as fossil fuels become more affordable. “It’s unbelievable, the market was overwhelmed by a wave of selling at the open,” said Andy Lipow, president of the Houston energy consultancy Lipow Oil Associates. Hammered by withering demand due to the coronavirus, the oil market is sinking into chaos on the prospect of a supply free-for-all. Saudi Arabia slashed its official prices by the most in at least 20 years and signaled to buyers it would ramp up output — an unambiguous declaration of intent to flood the market with crude. Russia said its companies were free to pump as much as they could. Brent for May settlement tumbled as much as $14.25 a barrel to $31.02 on the London ICE Futures Europe Exchange. West Texas Intermediate crude slumped 21 percent to $32.48 after sliding as much as 27 percent. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

Legislation

Bill would outlaw body size discrimination in state

Massachusetts lawmakers and advocates are planning to gather at the State House to push a ban body-size discrimination. The bill is sponsored by Democratic Senator Becca Rausch of Needham and Democratic Representative Tram Nguyen of Andover. On Tuesday, Rausch and Tram plan to join advocates and eating disorder experts to talk about the hidden impact of weight discrimination in employment, health care, and education. The bill aims to make discrimination on the basis of height and weight illegal. It would add to the state’s anti-discrimination laws the words “height or weight, unless for the purposes of compliance with any established state, federal, or industry safety standard” along with other factors including race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation. The House version has more than a dozen cosponsors, Democratic and Republican. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

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TAX REVENUE

Economy in Massachusetts is continuing to show strength

The economy in Massachusetts continued to show strength in the first months of 2020. In February, the state pulled in $1.53 billion in tax revenue — 4.7 percent more than had been estimated and $115 million or 8.1 percent more than actually collected in February 2019. So far this fiscal year through February, revenue collections have totaled nearly $18.43 billion. That’s $909 million or 5.2 percent more than in the same fiscal year-to-date period in 2019, and $176 million or 1 percent more than the estimate at this point in the current fiscal year, which began July 1. Acting Department of Revenue Commissioner Kevin Brown said most major categories performed as expected in February. He credited the above-benchmark performance for the month largely on the estate tax. “With approximately 60% of revenue collections in the door for Fiscal Year 2020, we continue to see overall steady, moderate growth above both prior year and benchmark on a fiscal year-to-date basis,’’ Brown said in a written statement. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

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