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U.K. Retail Sales Post Biggest Quarterly Drop Since Early 2010

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UK retail sales
  • U.K. Retail Sales Post Biggest Quarterly Drop Since Early 2010

U.K. retail sales recorded their largest decline in seven years in the first quarter as consumers felt the pinch from accelerating inflation.

The volume of goods sold in stores and online fell 1.4 percent from the previous three months, the most since early 2010, the Office for National Statistics said on Friday. In March alone, sales dropped 1.8 percent, far exceeding the 0.5 percent decline forecast by economists.

The figures bode ill for an economy that relies heavily on consumer spending. Growth almost certainly cooled in the first quarter and is expected to slow further this year, putting pressure on the Bank of England to keep interest rates at a record low. Retail sales last declined during a quarter in 2013.

The sales weakness “seems to be a consequence of price increases across a whole range of sectors,” ONS statistician Kate Davies said.

Consumers also face a period of heightened political uncertainty after Prime Minister Theresa May this week called a surprise general election in a bid to strengthen her hand in the coming Brexit talks.

Households are being squeezed by rising food and fuel costs, the result of the pound’s 14 percent drop since the June vote to leave the European Union. The price of retail goods sold in March increased an annual 3.3 percent, the most since March 2012.

GDP Effect

Sales fell across the board on the month, with only department stores seeing an increase. Clothing and footwear fell 0.9 percent, sales of household goods were unchanged and a category that includes everything from floor coverings to jewelry plunged 7.7 percent. Food sales fell 0.5 percent. Overall sales excluding auto fuel dropped 1.5 percent on the month.

The drop over the quarter knocks 0.08 percentage point off growth, the ONS said. Compared with a year earlier sales growth slowed to 1.7 percent from 3.7 percent. The seasonal-adjustment process removes the effect of the Easter holiday, which fell in March last year but in April this year.

Retailers were already facing pressure on margins from rising import costs and a higher minimum wage. Next Plc, which has warned of a challenging 2017, has fallen 14 percent this year, underperforming the FTSE 350 Index as a whole.

An initial estimate of growth in the first quarter will be published on April 28, with economists predicting a slowdown to as little as 0.4 percent, the least in a year. Growth has been driven by households borrowing more and saving a smaller share of their income than ever before, a situation analysts say is unsustainable.

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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