One hundred and fifty-seven years after Big Ben was started, and the oil market is counting down the clock to an onslaught of economic data from the ringing in of a new month, as well as the OPEC meeting on Thursday. With a feast of fun crammed into a shortened week, here are five things to consider in oil markets today:
1) We discussed last week how average fuel efficiency is stalling out in the U.S., encouraged by low gasoline prices. This is a trend being seen across the globe; monthly SUVs sales in China continue to rise ~50% year-on-year, while in Europe SUVs outsold all other types of passenger vehicles last year.
In the U.S., the share of light trucks, vans and SUVs has risen from as low as 43% in 2008 (think: $100 oil) to 60% now. As this share rises, and as low gasoline prices encourage people to drive more, gasoline demand this year is expected to reach a new record high, surpassing the record set in 2007.
2) On the economic data front, we have had a smattering of releases out of Japan in recent days; household spending was better than expected, as was retail sales and preliminary industrial production. French Q1 GDP out yesterday was better than expected at +0.6% QoQ, while German retail sales today fell -0.9% in April versus the month prior.
In good news, Germany's unemployment rate dropped to a record low of 6.1%. For the Eurozone on the whole, the unemployment rate remained at 10.2%, while preliminary inflation data for May (YoY) show it trudging through deflationary terrain - as it has done since January.
3) In terms of emerging markets, two data points starkly highlight the divergence of emerging economies across the globe. The Brazilian unemployment rate reached a new 12-year high at +11.2% as its economy remains derailed, while Q4 GDP for India underscored how robust its economy is, growing at 7.9%. This was much higher than consensus of 7.5%, and at its quickest pace of growth since Q3 2010.
While the resource-rich economy of Brazil has been crushed by the drop in commodity prices since mid-2014, India's economy has arguably experienced a huge benefit, given its status as growing consumer and importer.
4) Onto the U.S., and consumer spending increased by 1% in April versus the month prior - better than expected, and at the fastest pace in nearly seven years. Given consumer spending accounts for ~70% of U.S. economic output, a positive print here adds more fuel to the Fed's fire for an interest rate hike this month. Inflation data, via the PCE index, showed firming for inflation in April of +0.3% MoM - the strongest reading since May last year (pssst....rising oil prices).
5) Finally, the Chinese port of Qingdao is very much in the news at the moment, given teapot refiners have been pulling crude imports into the port at a rapid pace in recent months. While an article in the Wall Street Journal today highlights how 27 smaller 'teapot' refiners have an import license or are waiting to be approved for one, the EIA highlights how diesel exports have rapidly increased, as there is not enough domestic demand to mop up all the extra product being refined.
While PetroChina and Sinopec account for nearly three-quarters of China's total refining capacity, the rise of teapots in the Shandong region since mid-last year is driving on imports into the northwestern province. Our ClipperData show that crude imports into Qingdao have risen strongly in recent months, accounting for well over 15% of total waterborne crude imports: