Oil mixed as Iran sanctions seen tightening market, trade spat weighs on trade

FILE PHOTO A worker inspects a pump jack at an oil field in Tacheng, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China June 27, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 10 August 2018
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Oil mixed as Iran sanctions seen tightening market, trade spat weighs on trade

  • Front-month Brent crude oil futures were at $72.12 per barrel at 0246 GMT, up 5 cents from their last close
  • Despite the possibility of a slowdown in economic growth due to escalating trade tensions, oil markets are for now relatively tight

SINGAPORE: Oil markets on Friday were torn between concerns that the US-China trade dispute would stall economic growth, while Washington’s sanctions against Iran were expected to tighten supplies.
Front-month Brent crude oil futures were at $72.12 per barrel at 0246 GMT, up 5 cents from their last close.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were flat at $66.81 a barrel.
Despite the possibility of a slowdown in economic growth due to escalating trade tensions, oil markets are for now relatively tight, analysts said, mostly because of sanctions on Iranian oil exports the United States plan to implement in November.
Although many other powers, including the European Union and major Asian buyers such as China and India oppose sanctions, many are expected to bow to American pressure.
“Iranian exports are set for a ‘cliff edge exit’ from the market in Q4 2018,” BMI Research said in a note.
“We do not believe that sanctions have been fully priced into Brent, leaving room for a significant run up in prices toward the end of the year,” it added.
Analysts expect the drop-off in Iranian crude exports to range between 500,000 barrels per day and 1.3 million bpd.
The reduction will largely depend on whether major buyers of Iranian oil in Asia, including India, South Korea and Japan, receive sanctions waivers that would still allow some imports.
It is also not clear whether China, the biggest buyer of Iranian crude, will bow to Washington’s pressure.

Trade dispute

Friday’s markets acted cautiously amid heightened trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.
“The market seems to be focused on fears of reduced demand from China, partially due to the effects of the trade wars between China and the United States,” said William O’Loughlin, investment analyst at Australia’s Rivkin Securities.
In the latest round, China said it would impose additional tariffs of 25 percent on $16 billion worth of US imports, which would include refined products, autos and medical equipment.
Crucially to oil markets, however, crude has been dropped off the list.
Kenneth Medlock of the Baker Institute for Public Policy said Beijing’s decision reflected China’s reliance on imports.
“The issue for the Chinese is that any tariff on US exports (including) oil will likely hurt their economy disproportionately because they have to import,” he said, noting that “US exports will find a home regardless of how the global supply deck is reshuffled.”
US crude exports to China, seen as a tool to reduce America’s trade deficit with Asia’s biggest economy, have soared in the last two years and by the middle of this year were worth around $1 billion per month.


Singapore woes ring trade alarm bells

Singapore has long been viewed as a barometer of the global demand for goods and services. (AFP)
Updated 22 July 2019
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Singapore woes ring trade alarm bells

  • Governments have slashed economic growth forecasts, and gauges in several countries measuring activity in the manufacturing and services sectors paint a bleak picture

SINGAPORE: A plunge in exports and the worst growth rates for a decade have fueled concerns about the outlook for Singapore’s economy, with analysts saying the figures offer a warning that Asia is heading for a slowdown as China-US tensions bite.
While it may be one of the smallest countries in the world, the export hub is highly sensitive to external shocks and has long been viewed as a barometer of the global demand for goods and services.
The affluent city-state is highly dependent on trade and has traditionally been one of the first places in Asia to be hit during global downturns — with ripples typically spreading out across the region. The latest signs are not good. In June, exports collapsed 17.3 percent from a year earlier, the fastest decline in more than six years, led by a fall in shipments of computer chips.
That followed a shock 3.4 percent quarter-on-quarter contraction in GDP in the second quarter. Year-on-year growth came in at just 0.1 percent, the slowest pace since 2009 during the global financial crisis.
“Singapore is the canary in the coal mine,” Song Seng Wun, a regional economist with CIMB Private Banking, told AFP. “And what it tells us is that it is a tough environment.”
To warn of danger, miners used to bring caged canaries underground with them as the birds would die in the presence of even a small amount of poisonous gas — signaling to workers that they should make a swift exit.

BACKGROUND

In June, exports in Singapore collapsed 17.3 percent from a year earlier, the fastest decline in more than six years, led by a fall in shipments of computer chips.

While steadily weakening growth in China is partly to blame for a slowdown in exports, analysts say the trade war between the US and China has dramatically worsened the situation.
While Singapore — a transit point for products heading to and from Western markets as well as the Asian base for manufacturers of some hi-tech goods — may be showing the strain most, negative data has emerged throughout the region.
Exports have been slipping across Asia. In India they plummeted 9.7 percent in June, in Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, they dropped 8.9 percent in the same month while in South Korea they slipped 10.7 percent in May.
Governments have slashed economic growth forecasts, and gauges in several countries measuring activity in the manufacturing and services sectors paint a bleak picture.
Central banks are moving to spur domestic consumption, with Indonesia and South Korea cutting interest rates Thursday, the latest in Asia to lower borrowing costs.
Singapore’s central bank is seen as likely to ease monetary policy at an October meeting, and some economists are predicting the country could fall into recession next year.
“There are no winners in this trade war. While most of the attention has focused on the trade conflict between China and the US, the damage has not been confined to these two economies,” business consultancy IHS Markit said in a commentary.