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.


Lebanon’s Hariri calls for cabinet solidarity in budget debate

Updated 18 June 2019
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Lebanon’s Hariri calls for cabinet solidarity in budget debate

  • The PM said cabinet ministers need to be united and responsible
  • Lebanon’s debt is almost 150% of its GDP

BEIRUT, June 18 : Lebanon Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri on Tuesday called for parliament to quickly approve the country’s 2019 budget and urged his coalition government to avoid internal disputes.
The cabinet this month agreed a budget plan that shrinks the projected fiscal deficit by 4 percentage points from last year to 7.6% by cutting spending and raising taxes and other fees.
“What I want during the debate is for us to be responsible and united, and not contradictory,” Hariri said in a statement, addressing cabinet ministers as to their comportment during the parliament debate.
Parliament’s finance committee is debating the draft budget and has suggested amendments, local newspapers reported. It will then put the budget to the full assembly to ratify it.
Parliament is mostly composed of parties that are also present in the coalition government and which supported the budget there.
Since the budget was agreed there have been fierce arguments between parties in the coalition over several subjects, though these have not targeted the budget.
Lebanon has one of the world’s heaviest debt burdens, equivalent to about 150% of GDP, and the International Monetary Fund has urged it to cut spending.
“We have held 19 cabinet meetings to agree on this draft budget and these sessions were not for fun, but for deep, detailed debate over every clause and every idea,” Hariri said.
“For this reason, I consider it the responsibility of each of us in government to have ministerial solidarity...to defend in parliament the decision that we have taken together,” he added.
After the 2019 budget is agreed, the cabinet must quickly start working on the 2020 budget and on approving the first phase of a program of investments toward which foreign donors have offered $11 billion in project financing. (Reporting by Angus McDowall, editing by Ed Osmond)