Weekly Energy Recap: Too early to gauge trade tension fallout on oil markets

Weekly Energy Recap: Too early to gauge trade tension fallout on oil markets
Trade and geopolitical tensions are competing to influence the price of oil. (Reuters)
Updated 19 August 2018

Weekly Energy Recap: Too early to gauge trade tension fallout on oil markets

Weekly Energy Recap: Too early to gauge trade tension fallout on oil markets
  • Oil prices have moved in narrow band since June
  • Brent/WTI spread widens over week

Brent crude finished the week at $71.83 per barrel while WTI dropped to $65.91 as the Brent/WTI spread widened to $5.92 per barrel.
Oil prices fell as a result of market sentiment impacted by hypothetical fears over lower global economic growth.
Brent crude price fell below $72 for the first time since mid-April 2018.
Oil prices have moved in a narrow band since early June 2018.
The Brent price had been hovering between $73 and $78, until it dropped to nearly a four-month low at the middle of the week, then recovered by the week’s closing.
Oil fell after both OPEC and the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) monthly oil market reports forecasted lower growth in oil demand.
This was claimed to be a result of the major downside risk on economic growth amid US-China trade tensions.
These are reportedly impacting emerging economies across Asia as a strengthening dollar weakens their local currencies, and thus reduces purchasing power for transport fuel.
On the other hand, the IEA reported that oil consumption for plastics and other petrochemicals will keep demand growing and elevated for decades as this is driven by population growth and urbanization.
After oil inventories in the US fell to the lowest level since February 2015, last week, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported an unexpected significant build up in US commercial crude oil inventories of 6.8 million barrels. This brought oil inventories slightly back above the five-year average.
The drawdown in US refined products inventories came on the back of US refineries running at a record capacity. On average they refined 18 million barrels per day for the first time, in order to meet high gasoline demand for the summer season.
This was an increase of 383,000 barrels per day on the previous week’s average.
Analysts are also making much about Saudi Arabia’s output cuts for July 2018. Last month the Kingdom lowered output by 200,000 barrels per day to 10.288 million bpd. My perspective on this is that it has nothing to do with potentially lower economic growth as a result of trade disputes between the US and China, nor emerging market turmoil.
Instead, as the world’s swing producer, the Kingdom must track the output of other OPEC nations and adjust its production accordingly. This is exactly what happened after Libyan oil output recovered and exceeded one million barrels per day for the first time since last June. Consequently, Saudi Arabia reduced production.
Saudi Arabia, as the only swing producer, changes its crude oil production to meet fluctuations in market demand. In reality, it’s far too early to know what influence trade tensions will have on economic growth. It will take time for such impacts to materialize and weigh on the market fundamentals.


Global shares, oil prices falter as US stimulus buzz fades

Global shares, oil prices falter as US stimulus buzz fades
Updated 5 min 21 sec ago

Global shares, oil prices falter as US stimulus buzz fades

Global shares, oil prices falter as US stimulus buzz fades

LONDON: Global shares stumbled on Friday as hopes of a fiscal boost from a $1.9 trillion US stimulus plan were smothered by the prospect of stricter lockdowns in France and Germany and a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in China.
European stocks followed Asian markets lower, with the pan-European STOXX 600 down 0.8 percent and London’s FTSE 100 0.8 percent weaker, with the latter clobbered by data showing Britain’s economy shrank in November for the first time since the initial COVID-19 lockdown last spring.
The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 49 countries, was 0.3 percent lower. S&P 500 e-mini futures shed 0.3 percent to 3,779.
Oil prices, which had risen on a weak dollar and strong Chinese import data, dropped as COVID-19 concerns in China hit sentiment.
Brent was down $1.33, or 2.3 percent, after gaining 0.6 percent on Thursday. US West Texas Intermediate crude was down $1.17, or 2.1 percent at $52.44 a barrel, having risen more than 1 percent the previous session.
Brent and US crude were heading for their first weekly declines in three weeks.
Spot gold rose 0.1 percent to $1,847.00 per ounce.
While oil producers are facing unparalleled challenges balancing supply and demand equations with calculus involving vaccine rollouts versus lockdowns, financial contracts have been boosted by strong equities and a weaker dollar, which makes crude cheaper, along with strong Chinese demand.
“The recent resurgence in coronavirus infections, appearance of new variants, delayed vaccine rollouts and renewed lockdown measures in most major OECD economies has clouded the economic and demand recovery,” said Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.
“Simply put, near-term demand expectations aren’t too promising.”
Earlier on Friday, an Asian regional share index had edged near record highs after US President-elect Joe Biden proposed a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan to jump-start the world’s largest economy and accelerate its response to the coronavirus.
In prime time remarks on Thursday, Biden outlined a proposal that includes $415 billion aimed at the COVID-19 response, some $1 trillion in direct relief to households, and roughly $440 billion for small businesses and communities hard hit by the pandemic.
But that initial boost later faded as risk appetite waned, lifting bond prices and the dollar, and hitting equities.
“People are saying it’s a big number but markets are almost acting like its a disappointment,” said James Athey, investment director at Aberdeen Standard Investments.
“I think maybe the market was pricing an additional $2,000 cheque going to the US population, but what’s being proposed is a top-up of $1,400 to take the total to $2,000 because $600 has already been agreed.”
Investors also digested the prospect of rising taxes to pay for the plan.
“The concern is what it’s going to mean from a tax stand point,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment strategist at Inverness Counsel in New York.
“Spending is easy to do but the question is how are you going to pay for it? Markets often ignore politics but they don’t often ignore taxes.”
Biden’s comments came after US Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell struck a dovish tone in comments at a virtual symposium with Princeton University.
Powell said the US central bank is not raising interest rates anytime soon and rejected suggestions the Fed might start reducing its bond purchases in the near term.
Investor concerns over the prospects for a global economic recovery were raised after France strengthened its border controls and brought forward its night curfew by two hours to 6 p.m. for at least two weeks to try to slow the spread of infections.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for “very fast action” to counter the spread of variants of the coronavirus.
Chinese blue chips eased 0.2 percent, snapping a four-week winning streak, after the country on Friday reported the highest number of new COVID-19 cases in more than 10 months.
US earnings season kicked into full swing with results from JPMorgan, Citigroup and Wells Fargo.
JPMorgan Chase reported a much better-than-expected 42 percent jump in fourth-quarter profit on Friday, driven by the release of some of the reserves it had built up against coronavirus-driven loan losses.
Investors will be looking to see if banks are starting to take down credit reserves, resume buybacks, and provide guidance that shows the economy is improving, said Thomas Hayes, chairman of Great Hill Capital in New York.
In the currency market, the US dollar rose.
The dollar index was at 90.407 versus a basket of currencies, up 0.2 percent on the day.
It was on track for a weekly gain of around 0.4 percent, making this its strongest week since November.
Against the stronger dollar, the euro was down 0.2 percent at $1.21325.
US yields stepped back as risk appetite waned. Benchmark 10-year Treasury notes yielded 1.1039 percent, down from a US close of 1.129 percent on Thursday, while the 30-year yield dipped to 1.8451 percent from 1.874 percent.
In Europe, Italy’s bond market was poised to end the week calmer, as 10-year bond yields were down 2 basis points at 0.59 percent.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resisted calls to resign on Thursday after a junior coalition party led by former premier Matteo Renzi pulled out of the government on Wednesday and stripped it of its majority.