Oil prices rise amid prospects of tighter crude supplies

China has cut its one-year benchmark lending rate to stimulate credit demand

Drilling rigs operate at sunset in Midland, Texas. Reuters
Powered by automated translation

Oil prices rose on Monday after recording their first weekly loss in two months as investors focused on tightening crude supplies.

Brent, the benchmark for two thirds of the world’s oil, was trading 1.11 per cent higher at $85.74 a barrel at 4.02pm UAE time, while West Texas Intermediate, the gauge that tracks US crude, was up 1.35 per cent at $82.35.

Both benchmarks fell more than 2 per cent last week amid concerns about China’s economic growth and fears of further monetary tightening.

Opec+ oil exports are expected to fall again this month, with top crude exporter Saudi Arabia and Russia extending their additional output cuts until September.

Opec production fell by 836,000 barrels per day in July, compared with June, to 27.31 million bpd, according to the group’s latest monthly oil market report.

At the June 4 meeting, the Opec+ alliance of 23 oil-producing countries agreed to keep its production curbs of 3.66 million bpd in place until the end of 2024.

On Monday, China cut its one-year benchmark lending rate to stimulate credit demand but kept the five-year rate unchanged.

The one-year loan prime rate was reduced by 10 basis points to 3.45 per cent, while the five-year LPR was left at 4.20 per cent.

“Chinese banks’ decision to keep the five-year rate steady is confusing for investors, in the middle of a property crisis,” said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at Swissquote Bank.

“The Hang Seng index sank further into bear market, and the global risk sentiment is less than ideal as healthy economic data from the US, and darker clouds over China cast shadow on both stock and bond markets,” Ms Ozkardeskaya said.

The world’s second-largest economy’s recovery has lost momentum amid a deepening property slump and weak consumer spending.

Last week, China’s central bank cut key policy rates for the second time in three months as industrial output and retail sales recorded slower growth in July.

Meanwhile, the country has officially fallen into deflation, with both consumer and producer prices declining last month compared with a year ago.

On Monday, Goldman Sachs cut its full-year earnings-per-share growth estimate for the MSCI China Index to 11 per cent from 14 per cent and lowered the 12-month index target to 67 from 70, according to a Bloomberg report.

“The post-July Politburo excitement was short-lived,” the investment bank’s strategists said in a research note.

“The ailing housing market and its potential contagion to the real and financial economies are the widely cited reasons for the correction,” they said.

US Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell is expected to speak later this week at the central bank’s annual symposium at Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

“Market observers [are] likely to pore over his commentary for any indication on what will trigger a move from the Fed, either to keep pushing rates higher or when they will shift to a more accommodative stance,” said Edward Bell, senior director of market economics at Emirates NBD.

“Beyond the central bank chatter, the other main focus for the week will remain on China where the seeming slow motion unravelling of debt at major property developers will hang over the economic outlook,” Mr Bell said.

Despite the country's slowing economy, China’s refineries processed about 14.9 million bpd of crude in July, up more than 31 per cent from the same period a year earlier, MUFG, Japan’s largest lender, said in a research note last week.

Updated: August 21, 2023, 12:12 PM