OPEC cautious on economy, sees lower demand for its oil

Updated 10 April 2014

OPEC cautious on economy, sees lower demand for its oil

LONDON: OPEC lowered the expected demand for its crude oil in 2014 and ended a run of upward revisions to global consumption growth, highlighting concerns over the economy and pressure on its market share from rival producers.
In a monthly report on Thursday, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries forecast demand for its crude oil in 2014 would average 29.65 million barrels per day (bpd), down 50,000 bpd from the previous estimate.
The report points to a slightly more challenging year for OPEC due to slowing economies and rising supplies outside the group, such as from the shale energy boom in the US.
OPEC, which pumps more than a third of the world’s oil, still expects world economic growth to be faster this year than in 2013, but it trimmed its projected expansion by 0.1 percentage points to 3.4 percent.
The cutback was “due to a continued deceleration in the emerging economies and some softening in Japan,” said the report issued by OPEC’s headquarters in Vienna. Russia’s economy had the largest downward revision.
OPEC said the impact of the Crimea crisis was “sensitive” for energy markets and had helped to support oil prices, although it had not led to any immediate supply losses.
The group left its projection for growth in global oil demand this year unchanged at 1.14 million bpd. In reports it issued in February and March, OPEC had nudged the forecast up.
While demand was unchanged, OPEC expects higher supply from the US and countries outside the group. Non-OPEC supply overall in 2014 is expected to be 60,000 bpd higher than previously thought.
The report showed OPEC’s crude oil output in March fell close to this year’s lowered global requirement, largely as a result of supply outages rather than voluntary cutbacks.
According to secondary sources cited by the report, output fell by 626,000 bpd to 29.61 million bpd due to a drop in Iraqi exports, maintenance in Angola, unrest in Libya and a cutback by Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia pumped less because of lower crude demand from customers carrying out refinery maintenance, an industry source familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.
OPEC’s view on global demand contrasts with that of the US government’s Energy Information Administration, which on Tuesday raised its 2014 world oil demand growth forecast by 10,000 bpd to 1.23 million bpd.

Merkel seeks united front with China amid Trump trade fears

Updated 22 May 2018

Merkel seeks united front with China amid Trump trade fears

  • Merkel seeks common ground to ward off trade war
  • Plans complicated by US policy moves

Chancellor Angela Merkel visits China on Thursday, seeking to close ranks with the world’s biggest exporting nation as US President Donald Trump shakes up explosive issues from trade to Iran’s nuclear deal.

Finding a common strategy to ward off a trade war and keep markets open will be Merkel’s priority when she meets with President Xi Jinping, as Washington brandishes the threat of imposing punitive tariffs on aluminum and steel imports.

“Both countries are in agreement that open markets and rules-based world trade are necessary. That’s the main focus of this trip,” Merkel’s spokeswoman Martina Fietz said in Berlin on Friday.

But closing ranks with Beijing against Washington risks being complicated by Saturday’s deal between China and the US to hold off tit-for-tat trade measures.

China’s economic health can only benefit Germany as the Asian giant is a big buyer of Made in Germany. But a deal between the US and China effectively leaves Berlin as the main target of Trump’s campaign against foreign imports that he claims harm US national security.

The US leader had already singled Germany out for criticism, saying it had “taken advantage” of the US by spending less than Washington on NATO.

Underlining what is at stake, French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire warned the US-China deal may come “at the expense of Europe if Europe is not capable of showing a firm hand.”

Nevertheless, Merkel can look to her carefully nurtured relationship with China over her 12 years as chancellor.

No Western leader has visited Beijing as often as Merkel, who will be undertaking her eleventh trip to the country.

In China, she is viewed not only as the main point of contact for Europe, but, crucially, also as a reliable interlocutor — an antithesis of the mercurial Trump.

Devoting her weekly podcast to her visit, Merkel stressed that Beijing and Berlin “are both committed to the rules of the WTO” (World Trade Organization) and want to “strengthen multilateralism.”

But she also underlined that she will press home Germany’s longstanding quest for reciprocity in market access as well as the respect of intellectual property.

Ahead of her visit, Beijing fired off a rare salvo of criticism.

China’s envoy to Germany, Shi Mingde, pointed to a “protectionist trend in Germany,” as he complained about toughened rules protecting German companies from foreign takeovers.

Only 0.3 percent of foreign investors in Germany stem from China while German firms have put in €80 billion in the Asian giant over the last three decades, he told Stuttgarter Nachrichten.

“Economic exchange cannot work as a one-way street,” he warned.

Meanwhile, looming over the battle on the trade front is another equally thorny issue — the historic Iran nuclear deal, which risks falling apart after Trump pulled the US out.

Tehran has demanded that Europe keeps the deal going by continuing economic cooperation, but the US has warned European firms of sanctions if they fail to pull out of Iran.

Merkel “hopes that China can help save the atomic deal that the US has unilaterally ditched,” said Die Welt daily.

“Because only the giant emerging economy can buy enough raw materials from Iran to give the Mullah regime an incentive to at least officially continue to not build a nuclear weapon.”