Oil Prices Drop as U.S. Fed Signals Interest Rate Hike, But China’s Oil Imports and Travel Boom Provide Hope
Oil prices have extended their losses amid growing concerns that the U.S. Federal Reserve will indicate further interest rate hikes in the coming months, thereby lowering global economic growth and fuel demand. However, the recent surge in China’s tourism industry could help offset some of these losses.
Brent crude oil, the international benchmark for Nigerian oil, fell by 23 cents to $82.82 a barrel, while West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil declined 21 cents to $76.15 a barrel.
The U.S. Fed’s announcement on its latest meeting is expected to project interest rates going higher, raising concerns of a global recession and further dampening fuel demand.
But, the booming Chinese travel industry could provide a silver lining. According to reports, China expects its tourism market to flourish this year, with a busy and robust summer travel season as travellers flock to vacation destinations.
This comes after the Chinese government ended its strict zero-COVID policy, which kept people home for almost three years.
The rise in travel demand in China could also translate into an increase in oil demand. Analysts predict that China’s oil imports will hit a record high in 2023, primarily to meet the increased demand for transportation fuel, as new refineries come on stream.
In a recent note, Daniel Hynes, senior commodity strategist at ANZ Bank, pointed to state-owned PetroChina and Unipec booking 10 supertankers to import oil from the U.S. next month, equivalent to about 20 million barrels of crude, as a sign of China’s rising demand for oil.
Moreover, Vortexa’s head of APAC analysis, Serena Huang, noted that China’s demand for gasoline and jet fuel is expected to recover, which could provide a much-needed boost to the global oil industry.
Despite concerns of an economic downturn and fuel demand loss due to the anticipated rise in U.S. interest rates, China’s booming travel industry and rising oil demand could help cushion the overall price weakness in the global oil market.
Oil Prices Rise Amid Supply Disruption and Optimism in Banking Sector
Crude oil prices continued their upward trend on Tuesday following significant gains recorded the previous day.
The increase was driven by concerns over supply disruption in Iraqi Kurdistan, as well as hopes that turmoil in the banking sector is being contained.
Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is priced, rose by 0.4% to $78.44 a barrel while the West Texas Intermediate U.S. crude oil was up 0.4% to $73.07 per barrel.
These gains were recorded after prices surged more than $3 on Monday, largely because of the reports that Iraq halted exports of about 450,000 barrels per day from its northern Kurdistan region through Turkey.
According to Barclays, the Iraqis issue could last unit the end of the year. The bank, therefore, revised upward its prediction by $3 to $92 a barrel for Brent for 2023.
The announcement that First Citizens BancShares Inc will acquire deposits and loans of Silicon Valley Bank also contributed to the positive sentiment, sending European bank shares higher.
However, PVM Oil analyst Tamas Varga warned that concerns about financial stability could still trigger a flight out of risk, saying, “At the moment, concerns about the risk to financial stability have been relegated to the back of investors’ minds, but another bank run could trigger a flight out of risk again.”
China’s crude oil imports are expected to rise by 6.2% in 2023 to 540 million tonnes, according to a forecast by a research unit of China National Petroleum Corp. This is expected to further support oil prices, as is Russia’s focus on boosting energy exports to friendly countries.
Meanwhile, U.S. crude oil stockpiles were seen rising by about 200,000 barrels last week, according to a preliminary Reuters poll. The American Petroleum Institute will publish its inventory data later on Tuesday, followed by the U.S. Energy Information Administration on Wednesday.
Oil Prices Rise Amidst Global Banking Concerns and Russian Nuclear Tensions
Oil prices rose on Monday as investors evaluated efforts by authorities to address concerns about the global banking system.
Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is priced increased by 1.03% or 77 cents, reaching $75.76 a barrel at 9:00 am, while the US West Texas Intermediate crude rose by 1.03% or 74 cents to $70 a barrel. This follows a 2.8% increase in Brent and a 3.8% rebound in WTI as concerns in the banking sector decreased.
Despite the oil fundamentals remaining on the sidelines, crude markets are observing the sentiment in the financial market, according to Vandana Hari, the founder of oil market analysis provider Vanda Insights.
Hari stated, “Expect most price action in Brent and WTI futures to occur during the Europe and US trading hours, marked by plenty of intraday volatility.” Hari added that a strong rebound is not expected until the banking crisis is fully resolved, which may take days or weeks.
In other news, First Citizens BancShares Inc announced that it will acquire the deposits and loans of Silicon Valley Bank, closing one chapter in the financial market crisis. Furthermore, the US authorities are reportedly discussing expanding emergency lending facilities, which has given hopes for additional support for bank funding.
Oil prices have also gained support from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement to place tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, which has escalated tensions in Europe. It is one of Russia’s most significant nuclear signals yet, and it serves as a warning to NATO over its military support for Ukraine.
In response, Ukraine has called for a meeting of the United Nations Security Council, and NATO criticized Putin’s “dangerous and irresponsible” nuclear rhetoric.
Despite the rise in oil prices, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak has reported that Moscow is on the verge of achieving its target of reducing crude output by 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) to around 9.5 million bpd.
However, according to industry sources and Reuters calculations, Russia’s crude exports are expected to remain steady as it cuts refinery output in April. Since September 2022, Russian crude stocks have been increasing, and experts suggest that if Russia wants to draw down the inventories it has built, output cuts may need to be extended beyond June.
Meanwhile, in France, industrial action is affecting refineries, reducing crude demand and fuel production. Investors are awaiting China’s manufacturing and services purchasing managers’ indexes for cues on demand from the world’s leading crude oil importer.
According to Baker Hughes Co, oil rigs rose by four to 593 last week in the US, up for the first time in six weeks, while gas rigs held steady at 162.
Oil Prices Slide on Soft Demand and Pending Fed Interest Rate Decision
Oil prices saw a slight decrease on Wednesday following indications of weak demand and the anticipation of a crucial interest rate decision by the U.S. Federal Reserve.
Brent crude oil, which had risen almost 3% earlier in the week, fell by 0.40% to $75.02 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil was down 0.42% at $69.38.
Data from the American Petroleum Institute released on Tuesday put the demand for oil into question after revealing an unexpected increase in U.S. crude inventories, contradicting analyst predictions of a decline.
Oil prices were also impacted by an unexpected rise in UK inflation in February, raising concerns of more interest rate hikes a day before the Bank of England’s latest interest rate decision.
The global market is waiting to assess the decision of the U.S. Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) on interest rates later today to decipher the future direction of price action.
While the expected 25 basis point rate hike was a turnaround from the previously anticipated 50 basis point rate rise, analysts predict that it won’t have a significant impact on oil prices.
Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA, said, “It would be a big shock if the Fed reverted back to larger rate hikes now considering everything that’s happened this past couple of weeks.”
Last week, Brent prices hit their lowest levels since 2021 on concerns that the drop in bank shares could lead to a global recession and reduced fuel demand.
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