Oil Gains on Solid Economic Data, but Analysts Still Predict Gloom Ahead

Friday July 26, 2019

For all the analytical hand-wringing and media-generated worry over the past month about a slowing global economy that would impact crude demand, U.S. economic growth slowed less than expected in the second quarter of this year, with a boom in consumer spending, according to news reports on Friday.

John Kilduff, founding partner at Again Capital Management, remarked, "The data was net positive: GDP beat expectations... consumer spending was just off the charts, but business spending was nearly as bad as consumer spending was good."

But that doesn't mean fundamental opinions about the crude market have been swayed to any lasting degree: "There's a battle in the market right now between those who think we're going to see slowing economic conditions that will hit demand... and others [focused on] what's going on in the Persian Gulf as well as lowered output from the producers," said Gene McGillian, vice president of market research at Tradition Energy.

Still, Friday's disclosure that the sky may not be falling as so many experts feared caused Brent to settle at $63.46 per barrel, up a very modest 7 cents and enough for a weekly rise of about 1.7 percent; West Texas Intermediate settled at $56.20 per barrel, rising 18 cents for a 1.2 percent gain on the week.

There's a chance crude prices could further strengthen next week, when U.S. and China negotiators meet for the first time since trade discussions between the two countries broke down in May after nearing agreement.

Geopolitics aside, there's plenty of indication that crude demand is robust, and the latest example was disclosed on Friday in the form of reports that India's oil imports from Venezuela surged to about 475,200 barrels per day (bpd) in June, more than double the previous month and highest in 21 months.

But in a market whose pundits seem to perpetually emanate gloom, Friday also saw the argument that it will be difficult to be very bullish on oil in the long term.

That was the opinion expressed by Richard Gorry, managing director of JBC Energy Asia: he told CNBC television that "Ten years back, all of this geopolitical risk would be sending oil prices....to $200; today, yes, from time to time we have little bounces higher, but generally they're not being held onto."

He added that fundamentals are weak and only geopolitics are keeping the market healthy; further, in the long term demand will be significantly impacted by the rise of electric vehicles.