Wed, Aug 07, 2019

When It Comes To Oil Prices Today, It's China, China, China

Today's oil market is being driven by China. More specifically, it is driven by perception of the trade dispute between China and the United States, prospects for China's economic future and forecasts for China's oil imports. The oil market moves today based on President Trump's tweets about trade negotiations and China's responses to U.S. actions. China has become a bigger issue for oil traders than any other geopolitical or economic event.

The oil market is moving these days based on China because,

1) China is a the world's largest oil importer. China imported 9.24 million barrels per day in 2018, and much of that is still sent to storage. If China's economy were to seriously falter, we could count on a serious decline in imports which would disrupt the oil market.

2) If the trade negotiations further deteriorate into an all-out trade war, we could see a serious recession in the U.S. The U.S. is the world's largest consumer of oil, mostly domestically-produced. A U.S. recession would decrease global demand.

3) A heightened trade war between the world's two largest economies also has the potential to create a global economic downturn, thus hurting oil demand across the globe. Last week, news that President Trump is considering a new 10% tariff on $300 billion of Chinese goods sent the price of WTI down by as much as 8%.

Oil demand is on every oil trader's mind right now, not supply. That is why the market seems to barely rise based on events in Iran and the Persian Gulf. Venezuela's economic instability, lack of production and sanctions don't push prices higher. OPEC decisions have been unable to keep prices up. Even contamination in Russian pipelines barely registers among traders. The question—the only question—today is how the China-U.S. trade negotiations will impact oil demand.

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