Global oil prices looked tired and ready for an early summer break during the second quarter of 2019 as global growth fears overshadowed supply disruptions and ongoing OPEC supply cuts.
At the time of writing, oil prices remain shaky and vulnerable despite OPEC’s latest decision to extend production cuts until March 2020.
The crucial question is whether oil prices will ever recover and trade back towards the $70+ levels. That depends less on geopolitical tensions in the Middle East and more on whether the US and China can reach a trade deal, settling disputes over tariffs and opening the door to continued global growth.
In this case, it’s likely that oil prices will be injected with a renewed sense of confidence on the back of boosted global growth expectations and demand for oil. But what if the current circumstances persist and the US-China trade disputes continue throughout the second half of 2019?
Taking each scenario one-by-one, starting with the upside for oil prices, Nigeria’s economy could benefit considerably if a US-China trade deal is reached and global growth expectations become brighter. The manufacturing sectors in the US and China are the oil-gobbling engines which drive demand for international oil suppliers.
China is the world’s top crude oil consumer, importing more than 50% of its consumption, part of which comes from Nigeria. In the fourth quarter of 2018, Nigeria exported N23.5 billion worth of crude oil to China and remains a major trading partner to the Asian giant. It’s likely that if China’s economy roars back to life, Nigeria’s growth would see more long-term support, benefiting foreign exchange reserves and the naira.
Although unlikely, if a trade deal were to be announced early in the quarter, it’s possible the nation’s 2019 budget would also see ample support from increased oil revenues from China. This argument doesn’t apply to the US which has considerably reduced its crude oil imports from Nigeria as it heads towards energy independence, relying instead on domestic production to meet its own needs.
In the unfavourable scenario that the world’s two largest economies do not reach a trade deal in the third quarter and aggregate demand for oil continues falling as it tracks economic weaknesses in China and the US. As demand for oil is whittled away, Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves may be negatively impacted, along with the Naira, the 2019 budget and most importantly GDP growth. In terms of the national budget sheet, expenses like the petrol subsidy may take the limelight as they drag on revenues, overshadowing growth and threatening fiscal stability.
There’s another factor we haven’t talked about so far but it’s significant in terms of oil market economics. Oil sales are denominated in US Dollars.
Recently, the currency has weakened against its rivals, meaning that oil is more affordable and possibly giving traders an incentive to snap up contracts at current levels before they rise further. If the dollar bears have their way and the currency keeps declining, oil price benchmarks could see further support in the third quarter.
The impact of a weaker USD might not be as strong as a US-China trade deal, but it could feed positively into Nigeria’s oil revenues and go some way to counter possible losses from ongoing global recession fears.
To sum up, Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves, currency, growth and budget will face headwinds should trade disputes persist. However, provided the USD keeps weakening there’s scope for support from higher oil prices based on bargain hunting. There’s always the possibility that the US and China could decide on a trade deal.
If this happens sooner than later, Nigeria’s economy would benefit accordingly.