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Data: Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City; Chart: Axios Visuals

Oil prices can't seem to reach escape velocity, spelling more pain for producers as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to weigh on demand.

Why it matters: The chart above provides a glimpse at why prices remain too low to pull the U.S. sector — which is seeing rising bankruptcies — out of jeopardy.

  • It's from the Kansas City Fed's latest quarterly survey of producers in its district, which includes Wyoming, Oklahoma and Colorado.
  • It shows how the surveyed companies, on average, see prices staying below what they need for profitable new activity for a long time.
  • “District drilling and business activity rose slightly in Q3 from historic lows earlier this year, but revenues, employment, and capital expenditures continued to decline,” said Chad Wilkerson, an economist with the bank.

Driving the news: Prices have given up their modest gains last week and fell on Friday too.

As of this morning, WTI is trading slightly under $40-per-barrel, the range where it has basically been stuck since June, while the global benchmark Brent crude is off slightly to $42.22.

The big picture: Recent days have seen new supplies heading into the market, creating fresh downward pressure even as the pandemic rages, analysts say.

It's due to some Gulf of Mexico production coming back after Hurricane Delta, an industry strike ending in Norway, and production resuming in a key Libyan field.

The bottom line: CFRA equity analyst, quoted in the Financial Times, notes prices have only moved from "awful to mediocre,” which leaves many U.S. shale companies "simply skirting break-even."

Go deeper

Jan 14, 2021 - Health

Drug companies keep raising prices

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

More than 100 pharmaceutical companies raised prices on over 600 drugs at the beginning of the new year, according to a new report from the advocacy group Patients for Affordable Drugs.

The big picture: Millions of people have lost their health insurance because of the pandemic, and uninsured patients must often pay the full sticker price for prescription drugs.

Justice Department asks Supreme Court to block Texas abortion ban

Abortion rights activists rally at the Texas State Capitol on Sept. 11, 2021, in Austin, Texas. Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images

The Justice Department on Monday asked the Supreme Court to temporarily block Texas' near-total ban on abortions while federal courts consider its constitutionality.

The big picture: The court last month allowed the ban to take effect, rejecting an emergency application by abortion-rights groups. The law bars the procedure after cardiac activity is detected, as early as six weeks into pregnancy.

Updated 41 mins ago - Health

This arthritis drug cost $198 in 2008. Now it's more than $10,000

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In 2008, a box of 30 anti-inflammatory rectal suppositories that treats arthritis, called Indocin, had a price tag of $198. As of Oct. 1, the price of that same box was 52 times higher, totaling $10,350.

Why it matters: As federal lawmakers continue to waver on drug price reforms, Indocin is another example of how nothing prevents drug companies from hiking prices at will and selling them within a broken supply chain.