Trump Bluster Causes Crude Prices to Tumble

Friday April 26, 2019

U.S. president Donald Trump's belligerence was the latest driver of crude prices on Friday, with the brash billionaire's remark to media that he told the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to temper fuel costs prompting oil prices to tumble as much as 3 percent.

Brent fell $2.20, or 3 percent, to $72.15 per barrel, but still enough to achieve a fifth weekly price gain and the longest winning streak in a year; West Texas Intermediate settled $1.91 lower at $63.30 per barrel, plunging 2.9 percent on the day and ending the week down 1.1 percent.

Trump told reporters, "The gasoline prices are coming down: I called up OPEC. I said, 'You've got to bring them down, you've got to bring them down,' and gasoline's coming down."

After the Wall Street Journal cited sources who denied that Trump discussed the matter, the president tweeted, "Spoke to Saudi Arabia and others about increasing oil flow; all are in agreement"; for its part the kingdom has stated that it will hike output only after customers ask for more supplies.

If Capital Economics is anything to go by, it may be that Trump need only wait to get his wish: the economic research consultancy on Friday stated that the rise in the S&P GSCI Energy Index - an energy commodity market benchmark - will fall away in the coming months as sluggish economic growth weighs on oil demand and prices.

The consultancy further stated that "we expect rising U.S. output and a gradual return of some OPEC supply, combined with greater investor risk aversion, to drag down prices."

However, many others still fear that the market will tighten and prices will escalate yet further, with one advocate of this position being, predictably, Iran, whose capacity for fiery rhetoric went into overdrive since the imposition of the U.S. sanctions and the more recent ending of waivers against Iranian exports.

Bijan Zanganeh, oil minister for the Islamic republic, on Friday told media that the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates have overstated their oil capacities, insinuating that these capacities aren't large enough to offset the loss of Iranian oil on the global market.