While OPEC and Russia are busy calibrating a possible extension to their production cuts, analysts and traders have turned their attention away from oil supply concerns and are focused again on faltering economic growth and a downbeat outlook on oil demand growth.
Over the past two weeks, several Wall Street investment banks have warned that the escalating U.S.-China trade war raises the odds of an economic slowdown and subsequent low oil demand growth. Some banks have already cut their oil demand growth estimates for this year, saying that oil demand could grow at its slowest pace in at least half a decade and that a darkening outlook on oil demand has been the key reason for the plunge in oil prices in May.
Last month, oil prices booked their worst monthly decline since November last year, as the protracted U.S.-China trade war and soaring U.S. oil production and inventories weighed heavily on the price of oil. The sharp correction followed a 45-percent rally in oil prices between January and April.
But last month, fears of a global economic slowdown, and even recession, overtook fears that oil supply could become too tight with the U.S. sanctions on Iran and Venezuela, a fragile security situation in Libya, and heightened tensions in the Middle East. Related: This Overlooked Canadian Oil Niche Is Making Traders Billions
According to a Goldman Sachs note from Wednesday, fears of slowing economy and oil demand growth were “the largest driver of the move lower over the past month.”
Earlier this week, Barclays cut its oil demand growth estimate for this year to 1 million bpd, down by 300,000 bpd from the previous forecast, and warned of the possibility of further downward pressure that could result in “the worst year for oil demand growth since 2011.”
Morgan Stanley has warned that oil demand has been weakening faster than expected, and lowered its 2019 oil demand growth projection from 1.2 million bpd to just 1.0 million bpd.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch continues to expect oil demand growth at 1.2 million bpd, but is also warning that “global oil demand growth is running at the weakest rate since 2012,” as carried by Reuters.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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