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Exports Drive Japan’s Economy to Unexpectedly Strong Growth

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Japan’s economy grew more than forecast in the three months through September, as a rebound in exports compensated for continued weak spending at home by people and companies.

Key Points

  • Gross domestic product expanded by an annualized 2.2 percent, according to data released by the Cabinet Office on Monday (median estimate of economists +0.8 percent).
  • Private consumption rose 0.1 percent (estimate 0 percent).
  • Business spending was unchanged (estimate +0.2 percent).
  • Net exports, or shipments less imports, added 0.5 percentage point to GDP.
  • The GDP deflator fell 0.1 percent from a year earlier.

The surprisingly strong expansion, the biggest since early 2015, will likely provide some relief to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he faces the possible economic fallout from Donald Trump’s U.S. election victory. Trump has said he strongly opposed a trade pact at the center of Abe’s economic reform policies, and if his campaign rhetoric on trade becomes policy, Japanese companies could take a hit in one of their biggest markets.

Economists say another key question is whether demand among Japanese consumers can improve. Exports have compensated for weak domestic demand, with the value of shipments abroad growing in August and September, when adjusted for price changes, but stagnant wages have left most Japanese consumers reluctant to spend.

Economist Takeaways
  • “It would be a mistake to think Japan’s economy is gaining momentum given today’s GDP data,” said Norio Miyagawa, senior economist at Mizuho Securities Co. in Tokyo. “The worst is over but it’s not accelerating. I don’t think exports can continue to be a strong driver like today’s report suggested. If Trump boosts spending and raises U.S. growth, that would be a plus for Japan but there isn’t much momentum in the rest of global economy.”
  • Japan’s economy will continue to recover in the fourth quarter thanks to improving external demand lifting exports, but “domestic demand, such as private consumption and capital spending, isn’t that strong,” said Yoshiki Shinke, an economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute in Tokyo.
  • Combined with a recent weakening of the yen, the latest GDP figures reduce pressure on the Bank of Japan to introduce more monetary stimulus, Marcel Thieliant, senior Japan economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note.

The Details

  • Private inventories subtracted 0.1 percentage point from GDP in the third quarter.
  • Measured quarter on quarter, GDP grew 0.5 percent (estimate +0.2 percent).
  • Government consumption rose 0.4% from the previous quarter, adding 0.1 percentage point to quarterly growth.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Crude Oil

Oil Dips Below $62 in New York Though Banks Say Rally Can Extend

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Oil

Oil Dips Below $62 in New York Though Banks Say Rally Can Extend

Oil retreated from an earlier rally with investment banks and traders predicting the market can go significantly higher in the months to come.

Futures in New York pared much of an earlier increase to $63 a barrel as the dollar climbed and equities slipped. Bank of America said prices could reach $70 at some point this year, while Socar Trading SA sees global benchmark Brent hitting $80 a barrel before the end of the year as the glut of inventories built up during the Covid-19 pandemic is drained by the summer.

The loss of oil output after the big freeze in the U.S. should help the market firm as much of the world emerges from lockdowns, according to Trafigura Group. Inventory data due later Tuesday from the American Petroleum Institute and more from the Energy Department on Wednesday will shed more light on how the Texas freeze disrupted U.S. oil supply last week.

Oil has surged this year after Saudi Arabia pledged to unilaterally cut 1 million barrels a day in February and March, with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. predicting the rally will accelerate as demand outpaces global supply. Russia and Riyadh, however, will next week once again head into an OPEC+ meeting with differing opinions about adding more crude to the market.

“The freeze in the U.S. has proved supportive as production was cut,” said Hans van Cleef, senior energy economist at ABN Amro. “We still expect that Russia will push for a significant rise in production,” which could soon weigh on prices, he said.

PRICES

  • West Texas Intermediate for April fell 27 cents to $61.43 a barrel at 9:20 a.m. New York time
  • Brent for April settlement fell 8 cents to $65.16

Brent’s prompt timespread firmed in a bullish backwardation structure to the widest in more than a year. The gap rose above $1 a barrel on Tuesday before easing to 87 cents. That compares with 25 cents at the start of the month.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. and oil trader Vitol Group shot down talk of a new oil supercycle, though they said a lack of supply response will keep prices for crude prices firm in the short term.

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Crude Oil

Oil Prices Rise With Storm-hit U.S. Output Set for Slow Return

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Crude oil

Oil Prices Rise With Storm-hit U.S. Output Set for Slow Return

Oil prices rose on Monday as the slow return of U.S. crude output cut by frigid conditions served as a reminder of the tight supply situation, just as demand recovers from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brent crude was up $1.38, or 2.2%, at $64.29 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate gained $1.38, or 2.33%, to trade at $60.62 per barrel.

Abnormally cold weather in Texas and the Plains states forced the shutdown of up to 4 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude production along with 21 billion cubic feet of natural gas output, analysts estimated.

Shale oil producers in the region could take at least two weeks to restart the more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude output affected, sources said, as frozen pipes and power supply interruptions slow their recovery.

“With three-quarters of fracking crews standing down, the likelihood of a fast resumption is low,” ANZ Research said in a note.

For the first time since November, U.S. drilling companies cut the number of oil rigs operating due to the cold and snow enveloping Texas, New Mexico and other energy-producing centres.

OPEC+ oil producers are set to meet on March 4, with sources saying the group is likely to ease curbs on supply after April given a recovery in prices, although any increase in output will likely be modest given lingering uncertainty over the pandemic.

“Saudi Arabia is eager to pursue yet higher prices in order to cover its social break-even expenses at around $80 a barrel while Russia is strongly focused on unwinding current cuts and getting back to normal production,” said SEB chief commodity analyst Bjarne Schieldrop.

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Crude Oil

Crude Oil Rose Above $65 Per Barrel as US Production Drop Due to Texas Weather

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oil

Crude Oil Rose Above $65 Per Barrel as US Production Drop Due to Texas Weather

Oil prices rose to $65.47 per barrel on Thursday as crude oil production dropped in the US due to frigid Texas weather.

The unusual weather has left millions in the dark and forced oil producers to shut down production. According to reports, at least the winter blast has claimed 24 lives.

Brent crude oil gained $2 to $65.47 on Thursday morning before pulling back to $64.62 per barrel around 11:00 am Nigerian time.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 2.3 percent to settle at $61.74 per barrel.

“This has just sent us to the next level,” said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho in New York. “Crude oil WTI will probably max out somewhere pretty close to $65.65, refinery utilization rate will probably slide to somewhere around 76%,” Yawger said.

However, the report that Saudi Arabia plans to increase production in the coming months weighed on crude oil as it can be seen in the chart below.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Saudi Arabian Energy Minister, warned that it was too early to declare victory against the COVID-19 virus and that oil producers must remain “extremely cautious”.

“We are in a much better place than we were a year ago, but I must warn, once again, against complacency. The uncertainty is very high, and we have to be extremely cautious,” he told an energy industry event.

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