WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: Trapped between two viruses, oil market faces double trouble

WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: Trapped between two viruses, oil market faces double trouble
People wearing a protective facemasks walk on an overpass in Lujiazui financial district in Pudong in Shanghai on February 8, 2020. The new coronavirus that emerged in a Chinese market at the end of last year has killed more than 700 people and spread around the world. (AFP)
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Updated 09 February 2020

WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: Trapped between two viruses, oil market faces double trouble

WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: Trapped between two viruses, oil market faces double trouble
  • The deadly coronavirus outbreak in China has hurt short-term oil market demand

Oil prices continued to fall for a fifth week in a row and reached their lowest level in a year.

Brent crude dropped to $54.47 per barrel while WTI retreated to $50.32.

The global oil market now finds itself trapped between two viruses.

The deadly coronavirus outbreak in China has hurt short-term oil market demand and at the same time cyber-attack attempts on Saudi Aramco have also increased.

One threatens supply, the other demand.  However, the downward trend in oil prices is still ultimately about macroeconomics.

Despite such headwinds, the global oil market remains largely in balance as a result of the fourth year of efforts by OPEC+ to ensure it is so — even with a surge of oil supplies from unconventional resources.

Expectations of slowing growth in the global economy in the second half of 2020 should result in slightly lower crude oil demand. 

OPEC efforts to curb production still need to be unanimously extended, especially after Chinese oil demand dropped by about 3 million barrels a day, which is about a fifth of total Chinese refining capacity. Demand could fall further as storage capacity gradually fills, causing delays in discharging cargoes and leaving refiners, already under pressure from weak margins, facing hefty demurrage charges to compensate shipowners for delays.

The situation has also discounted crude oil barrels in the spot physical market.

For instance, the spot price premiums for Russian ESPO crude oil cargoes, the only barrels that arrive in China through pipeline, as the most popular crude grade for the independent Shandong “teapot” refineries have hit their lowest in five months.

The biggest impact was felt in China’s eastern Shandong province, which accounts for almost 20 percent of total Chinese crude oil imports. Here refining utilisation rates have fallen by half.

Such shrinking demand and weakening refining capacity from China has created fallout in the shipping industry as charterers are forced to pay penalty fees to ship owners for delays in unloading cargoes. This has caused tanker rates to tumble.


IMF chief sees ‘high degree of uncertainty’ in global outlook

IMF chief sees ‘high degree of uncertainty’ in global outlook
Updated 3 min 7 sec ago

IMF chief sees ‘high degree of uncertainty’ in global outlook

IMF chief sees ‘high degree of uncertainty’ in global outlook
  • IMF had rapidly increased concessional financing to emerging market and developing economies

WASHINGTON: The head of the International Monetary Fund on Monday said the global lender needed more resources to help heavily indebted countries, citing a highly uncertain global economic outlook and a growing divergence between rich and poor countries.
IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, who has long advocated a new allocation of the IMF’s own currency, Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), said doing so now would give more funds to use address both the health and economic crisis, and accelerate moves to a digital and green economy.
Under outgoing President Donald Trump, the United States, the IMF’s largest shareholder, has blocked such a new SDR allocation, a move akin to a central bank printing money, since it would provide more resources to richer countries since the allocation would be proportionate to their shareholding.
Swedish Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson, the new chair of the IMF’s steering committee speaking at an online news conference with Georgieva, said it was clear the need for liquidity remained great, and she would consult with member countries on options for expanding liquidity.
Andersson, the first European to head the International Monetary and Financial Committee in more than 12 years and the first women, started her three-year term in the role on Monday.
Georgieva said the IMF had rapidly increased concessional financing to emerging market and developing economies, including through donations by member countries of some $20 billion in existing SDRs. That would continue to play an important role, but further steps were needed, she said.
“It will continue to be so important, even more important, for us to be able to expand our capacity to support countries that have fallen behind,” Georgieva said.
She said a new SDR allocation had never been taken off the table by IMF members, she said, adding that some members continued to discuss it as a possible move. A possible sale of gold from the IMF’s reserves would have “some opportunity costs” for the IMF, but would be up to members, she said.
She said she expected the Group of 20 major economies to extend the current moratorium in official debt service payments by the poorest countries, now slated to end in June, but much would depend on the pace of vaccinations in coming months.