London: A sharp slowdown in economic growth, particularly in the United States, is hitting consumers and companies and forcing economic forecasters and analysts to slash estimates for global oil demand.
In a report to be published in the next few days, Barclays Capital has cut its estimates of world oil demand growth for this year and 2012 to reflect the dramatic slowdown in the United States and elsewhere.
The investment bank, which has been one of the most bullish forecasters of oil prices this year, now sees global oil demand increasing by 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd) this year to 88.68 million bpd.
Barclays Capital previously forecast a rise in oil demand this year of 1.56 million bpd and two months ago expected the increase to be as much as 1.7 million.
Analysts say they expect other investment banks to follow Barclays Capital and cut their own estimates further.
Barclays Capital has also cut its forecast for oil demand growth next year, expecting an increase of 1.34 million bpd in 2012, compared with its previous forecast of 1.4 million bpd.
“Given the general state of the macro-economy, the state of oil demand does not seem particularly healthy,” Barclays Capital oil analyst Amrita Sen said.
“Moreover, US GDP is 2% lower than what everyone expected (or) knew of due to the revisions issued last week and our economists have reduced a cumulative 1.8% of US growth over this year and next. Hence the revision.”
Washington has cut sharply its estimates of growth this year and now says the US economy stumbled badly in the first half, coming dangerously close to contracting at one point.
The commerce department said last week that the US economy expanded by just 0.4% in the first quarter, a sharp downward revision from the previously reported 1.9% gain, and grew at only a 1.3% annual pace in the second quarter as consumer spending barely rose.
US consumer spending, which accounts for about 70% of US economic activity, decelerated sharply in the second quarter, advancing at only a 0.1% rate. In June, US consumer spending dropped for the first time in nearly two years.
Barclays Capital said it now expects real US gross domestic product (GDP) to increase by an average of 1.7% in 2011 and global economic growth to average 3.8%.
Barclays Capital’s projections for oil demand growth this year are now below estimates from the world’s top oil market forecasters, the International Energy Agency (IEA), the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) and the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Both the IEA and EIA last month cut their oil demand growth forecasts for 2011, to 1.2 million bpd and 1.43 million bpd respectively, and analysts expect further revisions when they publish their latest estimates this month.
Christophe Barret, global oil analyst at Credit Agricole, has already cut his estimate of global oil demand growth to 1.0 million bpd from 1.25 million bpd and says high oil prices are eating into fuel consumption across the world.
“Our estimates may still be too optimistic,” Barret said.
Olivier Jacob at oil consultants Petromatrix said lower economic growth and consumption were likely to lead eventually to lower oil prices.
North Sea Brent crude oil futures hit a two-and-a-half-year high of more than $127 per barrel in April, but have since slipped back to near $112.
“Even Barclays, a perma-bull, is forced into revising down its forecast for oil demand growth for 2011,” Jakob said. “High oil prices do have an impact on the global economy.”