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Nick Cunningham

Nick Cunningham

Nick Cunningham is an independent journalist, covering oil and gas, energy and environmental policy, and international politics. He is based in Portland, Oregon. 

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Economic Turmoil Could Send Oil Even Lower


Global financial markets are once again throwing up some warning signs, as the selloff in equities entirely erased the gains made in U.S. stock markets for 2018. The economic and financial turmoil could bleed over into a broader slowdown, which raises pitfalls for oil prices.

The risks to financial markets have multiplied this year. The latest catalyst has been turmoil in tech stocks, which once helped drive up the value of equities, but is now dragging down the broader financial system. As the New York Times notes, Apple was worth $1 trillion in October, but is now only worth about $880 billion, a rather dramatic decline in just a month. The so-called FANG stocks – Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Alphabet (Google) – are not in a bear market.

The tech sector is getting hit on multiple fronts. A series of scandals at Facebook have heightened scrutiny and raised the odds of regulatory action. Profits for many tech companies are also not what they once were.

But the problem is not just with tech. Other corporate financials are spooking investors. Third quarter earnings from an array of top U.S. companies disappointed. Credit markets are also starting to sour. Bloomberg notes that both high-yield and investment-grade notes are set for losses this year in both euros and dollars, the first time that has occurred since 2008.

Goldman Sachs is telling investors to switch into cash, a sign that the bank is worried about the near-term future of global stocks. “Cash will represent a competitive asset class to stocks for the first time in many years,” Goldman analysts wrote in a note. Related: Why Aramco Abandoned The $40 Billion Bond Sale

With 2018 coming to a close, economists are increasingly worried that 2019 will see more economic turmoil. The Federal Reserve continues to ratchet up interest rates, which has increased the cost of borrowing, hit the housing market, and increased the trade deficit. The dollar has also strengthened significantly this year, which has battered emerging market currencies and led to volatility and capital flight.

The U.S.-China trade war also continues to rage. Over the weekend, Vice President Mike Pence and Chinese President Xi Jingping addressed the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, where both dug in and took hard lines on the trade dispute. The APEC summit failed to muster even a lukewarm joint statement, the first time that has occurred. China blamed the U.S. delegation. “It is mainly that individual economies insisted on imposing their own texts on other parties, excusing protectionism and unilateralism, and not accepting reasonable revisions from the Chinese and other parties,” China’s foreign ministry said.

The heightened tension has diminished hopes of a near-term resolution to the trade war. President Trump’s mercurial nature always leaves open the possibility of a surprise development, but as of now, the trade war seems set to continue. Related: Trump Thanks Saudis For Lower Oil Prices, Wants Even Cheaper Crude

That is bad news as it will only grow worse as time passes. The 10 percent U.S. tariff on $200 billion of Chinese goods jumps to 25 percent at the start of 2019. Moreover, if the highly-anticipated meeting between Trump and Xi Jingping in Buenos Aires later this month does not go well, the Trump administration could move forward on its threat to slap tariffs on an additional $260 billion of Chinese imports.

In fact, the outcome of this meeting could have global ramifications. A breakthrough in negotiations would provide a lift to global financials, but a deepening of the conflict could drag down the global economy further, already reeling from slow growth and the latest bout of volatility.

All of this is negative for oil demand, which has already been repeatedly revised down this year. The IEA sees demand growing by 1.3 million barrels per day (mb/d) in 2018 and 1.4 mb/d in 2019. Earlier this year, the agency thought demand would grow by 1.5 mb/d in 2018. “The outlook for the global economy has deteriorated since the last report,” the IEA said this month. The flip side is that lower oil prices will mitigate demand destruction. “While slower economic growth in some countries reduces the outlook for oil demand, a significant downward revision to our price assumption is supportive.”


By Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • moron on November 21 2018 said:
    Amazing! Like Global Warming causing snowstorms, droughts, monsoons, rain, erectile dysfunction,......
  • EHLipton on November 22 2018 said:
    Well Nick, having no idea your age and mine showing in my memory, there was a movie in the late 70's called, I think it was, "network". The jest of it boiled down to "oil" being the only currency in the world. The rest, according to the movie, was just paper, an illusion. I think some of the Big Cat's in the world must have bought into the idea that it be true. I was a young man then and my father bought into it,,,though to poor to invest, or to busy on the bar stools, too.
    I never did. Couldn't believe a few could control so many. But my hunch, instinct if you will, is proving to be right.
    I did not vote in the last Presidential election. I could not believe that out of over 350 mill, those two were not different sides of the same coin, we were FORCED into choosing the best of the worst. Bottom of the barrel scraping. I was right on both counts mentioned.
    Ya see Nick, you upon your birth, all of us, began as spirit made flesh, the odds of that even happening can't be calculated.There are things as intellectual beings, we want to believe we control, but we fool ourselves when we do. Though for avoiding conflict or confrontation we jump through hoops set up to keep us moving in unison, we have free will to do the opposite.
    People,, Nick. People make or break the economy not the Giants on wall Street or Dubai.
  • Dan on November 22 2018 said:
    3 degree F . I don't know if my car will warm up while driving for shopping. We need single digits for 3 months through out the North East U.S.and D.C. Producing energy at a profit is positive for the economy. In fact the old method of buying more and more consumer goods that you don't need might have been destroyed by the so called 2007 market crisis and the 10 year aftermath of pitiful growth for good. Energy however, like insurance is something you have to buy and should be looked at as the GDP growth engine rather than hindrance of GDP. Make those energy companies profitable because that's all ya got boss.

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