Oil rises more than 1% as US recession fears recede

US retail sales rose 0.7 percent in July as consumers bought a range of goods even as they cut back on motor vehicle purchases. (Reuters)
Updated 16 August 2019

Oil rises more than 1% as US recession fears recede

  • US retail sales rose 0.7 percent in July as consumers bought a range of goods even as they cut back on motor vehicle purchases
  • The price of Brent is still up nearly 10 percent this year

TOKYO: Crude oil prices rose more than 1 percent on Friday following two days of declines, buoyed after data showing an increase in retail sales in the United States helped dampen concerns about a recession in the world’s biggest economy.
Brent crude was up 68 cents, or 1.2 percent, at $58.91 a barrel at 0650 GMT, after falling 2.1 percent on Thursday and 3 percent the previous day.
US crude was up 63 cents, or 1.2 percent, at $55.10 a barrel, having dropped 1.4 percent the previous session and 3.3 percent on Wednesday.
US retail sales rose 0.7 percent in July as consumers bought a range of goods even as they cut back on motor vehicle purchases, according to data that came a day after a key part of the US Treasury yield curve inverted for the first time since June 2007, prompting a sell-off in stocks and crude oil.
An inverted Treasury yield curve is historically a reliable predictor of looming recessions.
“The rebound has a corrective look about it on thin volumes, rather than a beachhead for an impending rebound,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA. “Overall, US data continues to be a bright spot in a dark economic universe.”
Gains are likely to be capped after a week of data releases including a surprise drop in industrial output growth in China to a more than 17-year low, along with a fall in exports that sent Germany’s economy into reverse in the second quarter.
“The broader story around global economic growth has been a weak one, or a weakening one and expectations (are for) further weakening,” Phin Ziebell, senior economist at National Australia Bank, said by phone.
The price of Brent is still up nearly 10 percent this year thanks to supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies such as Russia, a group known as OPEC+. In July, OPEC+ agreed to extend oil output cuts until March 2020 to prop up prices.
“At what point will further output cuts be needed at the back end of this year from OPEC and Russia to keep things going the way they are?” Zeibell said, pointing to the broader economic outlook.
A Saudi official on Aug. 8 indicated more steps may be coming, saying: “Saudi Arabia is committed to do whatever it takes to keep the market balanced next year.”
But the efforts of OPEC+ have been outweighed by worries about the global economy amid the US-China trade dispute and uncertainty over Brexit, as well as rising US stockpiles of crude and higher output of US shale oil.


Japan lower house passes US trade deal to cut tariffs

Updated 51 sec ago

Japan lower house passes US trade deal to cut tariffs

  • Doubts remain over elimination of car import levies under prime minister’s ‘win-win’ agreement

TOKYO: Japan’s lower house of Parliament approved on Tuesday a limited trade deal Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed with the US, clearing the way for tariff cuts next year on items, including US farm goods and Japanese machine tools.

But there is uncertainty over how much progress Japan can make in negotiating the elimination of US tariffs on its cars and car parts, casting doubt on Abe’s assurances the deal he signed with US President Donald Trump was “win-win.”

Japan and the US last month formally signed the limited trade deal to cut tariffs on US farm goods, Japanese machine tools and other products while staving off the threat of higher US car duties.

The government’s proposal to ratify the trade deal will next be brought to the upper house for a vote, but its passage in the powerful lower house increases the chances it will come into force in January.

FASTFACT

Japan and the US last month signed a limited trade deal to cut tariffs on US farm goods, Japanese machine tools and other products .

The deal will give Trump a success he can trumpet to voters, but Abe has said it will bring as much benefit to Japan as to the US.

Japan has estimated the initial deal will boost its economy by about 0.8 percent over the next 10-20 years, when the benefits fully kick in. It also estimated 212.8 billion yen of overall tariffs on Japan’s exports to the US will be reduced.

But the figures were based on the assumption the US would eliminate its tariffs on Japanese autos and auto parts — a major sticking point.

Without those tariff cuts, the reduction in overall US tariffs on Japanese goods would be a little over 10 percent of the government’s projection, according to Japan’s Asahi newspaper and Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting.

After the deal is ratified, Japan and the US have four months to consult on further talks, and Trump has said he wants more trade talks with Japan after the initial deal.

But Japanese government sources familiar with the talks say the momentum to negotiate a deeper deal appears to have waned for now with Washington preoccupied with talks
with Beijing.

“It is unclear whether Washington seriously wants to continue trade talks,” one of the sources said.

“The question is how much time the US can allocate for talks with Japan, even if we start negotiations. There is limited time to conclude talks before the presidential elections.”

Japan and the US already appear to have different interpretations of what was agreed on car tariffs.

Japan has said it has received US assurance that it would scrap tariffs on Japanese cars and car parts, and that the only remaining issue was the timing.

But Washington has not confirmed that.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has said cars were not included in the agreement, and that it was only Japan’s ambition to discuss car tariffs in the future.

A US document only said customs duties on autos and auto parts “will be subject to further negotiations with respect to the elimination of customs duties.”

“The deal was left vague on the issue of tariff cuts on Japanese auto and auto parts. Otherwise, we couldn’t have reached the agreement,” another source said.

There is also uncertainty on whether Trump will drop threats to impose steep tariffs on Japanese car imports under “Section 232” that gives him authority to do so on national security grounds.

Abe said he had received an assurance from Trump that he would not do that, though analysts say the president could always change his mind, or at least keep Japan guessing.

Opposition parties have attacked Abe for a deal they say is unfair. Critics say Trump could drag
his feet on further negotiations unless he is sure he can win more concessions.

“There is a chance Trump will put pressure on Japan on trade to appeal to his voters,” said Junichi Sugawara, senior research officer at Mizuho Research Institute. “There’s a possibility he could
renew his threat over auto tariffs.”