Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Oil prices edge higher as IEA’s Birol talks up China demand outlook

Oil prices inched up in early trade on Monday after falling around eight per cent last week to more than three-week lows as jitters over major economies outweighed signs of a demand recovery in China, the world’s top oil importer.

Brent crude futures crawled up 16 cents, or 0.2pc, to $80.10 a barrel at 0022 GMT, while US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 15 cents, also 0.2pc higher, to $73.54 a barrel.

Last Friday, WTI and Brent slid 3pc after strong US jobs data raised concerns that the Federal Reserve would keep raising interest rates, which in turn boosted the dollar.

While recession fears dominated the market last week, on Sunday International Energy Agency (IEA) Executive Director Fatih Birol highlighted that China’s recovery remains a key driver for oil prices.

The IEA expects half of global oil demand growth this year will come from China, where Birol said jet fuel demand was surging.

He said depending on how strong that recovery is, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) and allies, together called Opec+, may have to reassess their decision to cut output by two million barrels per day through 2023.

“If demand goes up very strongly, if the Chinese economy rebounds, then there will be a need, in my view, for the Opec+ countries to look at their (output) policies,” Birol told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in India.

Price caps on Russian products took effect on Sunday, with the Group of Seven (G7), the European Union and Australia agreeing on caps of $100 per barrel on diesel and other products that trade at a premium to crude, and $45 per barrel for products that trade at a discount, such as fuel oil.

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“For the moment, the market expects non-EU countries will increase imports of refined Russian crude, thus creating little disruption to overall supplies,” ANZ analysts said in a client note.

“Nevertheless, Opec’s continued constraint on supply should keep the market tight,” they said.

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