Oil prices pressured by economic slowdown, but OPEC cuts support

OPEC member Iraq has cut its oil exports average to 3.5 million barrels per day in compliance with an ongoing production curb agreement. (Reuters)
Updated 20 March 2019
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Oil prices pressured by economic slowdown, but OPEC cuts support

  • Analysts said an economic slowdown could soon dent fuel consumption
  • OPEC has pledged to withhold around 1.2 million barrels per day of crude supply

SINGAPORE: Oil prices were on Wednesday weighed down by economic growth concerns that dampened the outlook for fuel consumption, but supported by voluntary supply cuts led by producer club OPEC and by US sanctions against Iran and Venezuela.
International Brent crude oil futures were at $67.55 a barrel at 0432 GMT, down 6 cents, or 0.1 percent, from their last close. Brent on Tuesday touched its highest since Nov. 16 at $68.20 a barrel.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $58.92 per barrel, down 11 cents, or 0.2 percent, from their previous settlement. WTI on Tuesday reached its strongest level since Nov. 12 at $59.57 a barrel.
Analysts said an economic slowdown could soon dent fuel consumption.
“Global growth concerns and ongoing oversupply fears (are) creating headwinds for the commodity,” said Lukman Otunuga, analyst at futures brokerage FXTM.
Asian business confidence held near three-year lows in the first quarter as a US-China trade dispute dragged on, pulling down a global economy that is already on a downward path, a Thomson Reuters/INSEAD survey found on Wednesday.
The dips come after crude prices rose by more than a quarter this year, pushed up by a pledge led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to withhold around 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) of supply as well as by US sanctions against oil exporters Iran and Venezuela.
“The shaky supply outlook with regard to Venezuela and Iran, as well as the petro-nations’ output restrictions are top of mind in the oil market,” said Norbert Ruecker, head of economics at Swiss bank Julius Baer.
Ruecker said oil prices were likely capped around $70 per barrel as fuel price inflation, as seen last year, would hit demand at that level.
At the same time, he said oil prices were supported above $50 per barrel as investment into US shale output growth would cease below that price.
Between those price levels, Ruecker said “the US shale boom almost fully meets global oil demand growth mirrored by the strongly expanding crude oil exports,” which hit a record 3.6 million bpd in February.
“We see ... roughly 1.2 million bpd of US shale oil growth over the coming year,” Ruecker said, which is in line with most global oil demand growth forecasts of 1 million to 1.3 million barrels per day for 2019.
The US Energy Information Administration is due to publish its weekly crude production and storage level report around 1700 GMT on Wednesday.


In nod to debt concerns, China Belt and Road summit to urge sustainable financing

Updated 21 April 2019
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In nod to debt concerns, China Belt and Road summit to urge sustainable financing

  • The Belt and Road Initiative envisions rebuilding the old Silk Road to connect China with Asia, Europe and beyond
  • But the initiative has proved controversial in many Western capitals, particularly Washington

SHANGHAI: World leaders meeting in Beijing this week for a summit on China’s Belt and Road initiative will agree to project financing that respects global debt goals and promotes green growth, according to a draft communique seen by Reuters.
The Belt and Road Initiative is a key policy of President Xi Jinping and envisions rebuilding the old Silk Road to connect China with Asia, Europe and beyond with massive infrastructure spending.
But it has proved controversial in many Western capitals, particularly Washington, which views it as merely a means to spread Chinese influence abroad and saddle countries with unsustainable debt through nontransparent projects.
The United States has been particularly critical of Italy’s decision to sign up to the plan last month, the first for a G7 nation.
In an apparent nod to these concerns, the communique reiterates promises reached at the last summit in 2017 for sustainable financing — but adds a line on debt, which was not included the last time.
“We support collaboration among national and international financial institutions to provide diversified and sustainable financial supports for projects,” the draft communique reads.
“We encourage local currency financing, mutual establishment of financial institutions, and a greater role of development finance in line with respective national priorities, laws, regulations and international commitments, and the agreed principles by the UNGA on debt sustainability,” it added, referring to the United Nations General Assembly.
The word “green” appears in the draft seven times. It was not mentioned once in the summit communique from two years ago.
“We underline the importance of promoting green development,” the draft reads. “We encourage the development of green finance including the issuance of green bonds as well as development of green technology.”
The Chinese government’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, said on Friday that the Belt and Road project is not a “geopolitical tool” or a debt crisis for participating nations, but Beijing welcomes constructive suggestions on how to address concerns over the initiative.
A total of 37 foreign leaders are due to attend the April 25-27 summit, though the United States is only sending lower-level representatives, reflecting its unease over the scheme.
The number of foreign leaders at the April 25-27 summit is up from 29 last time, mainly from China’s closest allies like Pakistan and Russia but also Italy, Switzerland and Austria.
China has repeatedly said Belt and Road is for the benefit of the whole world, and that it is committed to upholding globally accepted norms in ensuring projects are transparent and win-win for all parties.
“We emphasize the importance of the rule of law and equal opportunities for all,” the draft reads.