The US-China trade war took a turn for the worse this week and could fester for months, potentially denting Chinese economic growth and oil demand well into 2019. That spectre controlled oil market sentiment almost to the exclusion of all other influences this week and had forced Brent to re-test recent support levels around $71/barrel on Friday.
Decisions by Washington and Beijing on August 7 and 8, to proceed with a second round of bilateral tariffs on $16 billion worth of annual imports starting from August 23, squashed any hopes of a return to negotiations. The Trump administration wants to narrow the $375-billion trade gap the US had with China as of 2017 and has threatened to impose duties on all $500 billion worth of its imports from the Asian giant. China is expected to run out of ammunition in its reciprocal retaliation much before that finish line, and yet, it is hard to see it backing off.
Chinese oil consumption is still centered around manufacturing despite the economy’s ongoing pivot to a services-led growth model, and there have been other signs of a demand slowdown, especially after the independent refiners or “teapots”, were hit hard by tightened tax regulations in March that had nothing to do with the tariffs dispute.
Crude imports by China, the largest in the world and a closely monitored proxy for its appetite, slipped two months in a row over May and June. Though there was a slight uptick in July imports to around 8.52 million b/d from a six-month nadir of 8.39 million b/d in June, market confidence in the country’s growth has been shaken.
Consensus expectations on US economic growth remain sanguine but it may be worth paying closer attention to its oil consumption data. Refined products supplied across the US, a proxy for consumption, averaged around 20.93 million b/d in the week to August 3, a slump of 1 million b/d from the corresponding week of 2017, according to the Energy Information Administration. Gasoline use, which accounts for nearly 45% of US oil demand, slid by 540,000 b/d from a week ago to around 9.35 million b/d, in the midst of the country’s peak summer driving demand season. However, four-week average figures, which smooths out volatility that may be more noise than signal, do not indicate any major downtrends.
In a curious last-minute twist in the trade war, China dropped US crude from its list of items that will attract 25% import duty from August 23 and included diesel, jet fuel, naphtha and propane, alongside a host of petrochemical products. The about-turn on crude could be aimed at alleviating pressure on Chinese refiners and holding it as a trump card for later use when Beijing’s leverage in terms of the value of remaining goods to tax withers.
China was the largest overseas buyer of US crude in May, averaging 427,000 b/d of imports, according to the latest monthly data from the EIA. Imports spiked to a record 553,000 b/d in June, according to Reuters. However, Chinese refiners began shunning US crude from July and may not risk resuming imports despite the commodity having been left off the latest tariff list, for fear that it may be reinstated any time. US LNG, which China had left alone but decided to threaten with a 25% import tariff on August 3, is a case in point.
The broader global economic fallout of a bitter fight between the world’s two largest economies defies prediction, but appears to have invited a general sense of gloom as far as oil demand is concerned. That may have been helped by bearishness closing in from the supply side as well. Growing flows from some of the OPEC/non-OPEC producers who have been ramping up in line with the ministerial agreement in Vienna on June 23 to boost collective output by up 1 million b/d have hit progressively the market since June (the Saudis had likely started ramping up that month, even before the Vienna deal).
A moderate-sized contango has entrenched itself at the front end of the Brent forward curve since mid-July, a market state that typically signals supply overshadowing demand. However, WTI, Dubai and Oman time spreads are in backwardation.
What's next for oil? We see no escape from the vortex of bearishness for the next few weeks, though we expect the OPEC/non-OPEC leadership to regroup to shore up prices if Brent breaches the key psychological level of $70/barrel. Looking beyond the next few weeks, the combination of Iran sanctions, moderating US oil production growth, and an exhausted OPEC/non-OPEC spare production capacity could hit the market with a perfect storm in Q4.
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Already, lubricant players have established their footholds here in Bangladesh, with international brands.
However, the situation is being tough as too many brands entered in this market. So, it is clear, the lubricants brands are struggling to sustain their market shares.
For this reason, we recommend an impression of “Lubricants shelf” to evaluate your brand visibility, which can a key indicator of the market shares of the existing brands.
Every retailer shop has different display shelves and the sellers place different product cans for the end-users. By nature, the sellers have the sole control of those shelves for the preferred product cans.The idea of “Lubricants shelf” may give the marketer an impression, how to penetrate in this competitive market.
The well-known lubricants brands automatically seized the product shelves because of the user demand. But for the struggling brands, this idea can be a key identifier of the business strategy to take over other brands.
The key objective of this impression of “Lubricants shelf” is to create an overview of your brand positioning in this competitive market.
A discussion on Lubricants Shelves; from the evaluation perspective, a discussion ground has been created to solely represent this trade, as well as its other stakeholders.Why “Lubricants shelf” is key to monitor engine oil market?
The lubricants shelves of the overall market have already placed more than 100 brands altogether and the number of brands is increasing day by day.
And the situation is being worsened while so many by name products are taking the different shelves of different clusters. This market has become more overstated in terms of brand names and local products.
You may argue with us; lubricants shelves have no more space to place your new brands. You might get surprised by hearing such a statement. For your information, it’s not a surprising one.
Regularly, lubricants retailers have to welcome the representatives of newly entered brands.
And, business Insiders has depicted this lubricants market as a silent trade with a lot of floating traders.
On an assumption, the annual domestic demand for lubricants oils is around 100 million litres, whereas base oil demand around 140 million litres.
However, the lack of market monitoring and the least reporting makes the lubricants trade unnoticeable to the public.
Headline crude prices for the week beginning 11 February 2019 – Brent: US$61/b; WTI: US$52/b
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