Brent crude climbed back above $62/barrel in intraday trade toward the end of October, before heading back down again, owing to concerns about weak Chinese industrial growth, following data showing Chinese industrial company profits had fallen for the second month in a row. Earlier data put India’s oil imports in September at three-year lows. India and China have over the past decade accounted for more than 50% of global oil demand growth.
Nonetheless, the earlier optimism suggests that given the right conditions, oil prices could shrug off the current weakness engendered by a slowing global economy, but it will be an uphill and uncertain struggle prone to reversal.
The US-China trade talks appear to be making progress, although the pattern of the recent past has been one of sudden breakdowns, followed by the US upping the ante and piling on more tariff pressure, resulting in tit-for-tat Chinese responses.
For the moment, the atmospherics appear better with the ‘Phase 1’ deal essentially parking harder-to-resolve issues in the hope that some positive momentum can be created by the postponement of new tariffs and potentially the removal of some existing ones.
However, splitting the deal into easy and hard phases puts all the tough nuts to crack into one basket, while a likely softening of tariffs may reduce the economic pressure on the Chinese side to make concessions in Phase 2. Nonetheless, on balance, the next few…