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Coronavirus set to drag oil down to $57 this year, suggests IIF

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RIYADH: The coronavirus outbreak may curb demand for oil in China and other Asian countries, depressing oil prices further to as low as $57 a barrel and clouding growth prospects across the Middle East, the Institute of International Finance (IIF) has said.

“Before the coronavirus we were assuming that oil prices would average $60 a barrel this year, compared to $64 last year,” said Garbis Iradian, chief economist for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) at the finance industry body.

“Most likely we’ll revise our forecast for the whole year, it could be $58 or $57 depending on coronavirus developments.”

His comments underscored growing concerns about the economic impact of the virus that will dominate the meetings of finance officials from the world’s 20 largest economies this weekend in Riyadh.

Iradian said the virus outbreak could depress China’s growth by 0.5 to 0.7 percentage points. That would have a dramatic impact on crude prices, which on Friday fell to $57.75 a barrel by 1442 GMT, as a rise in new cases fueled economic uncertainty.

“If the growth rate (for China) is 5% then it has major implications for oil. The Chinese demand for oil could drop by around 400,000 barrels a day, and other Asian countries could lower their demand.

Overall the increase in global demand for oil, instead of being 900,000 barrels per day … could be 300,000 to 400,000,” he said.

This may impact economic growth in the Middle East, though a direct impact on regional economies, particularly for oil exporters, has so far been contained, he said.

A draft communique prepared for the G20 meeting on Feb. 22-23 said financial leaders of the world’s largest economies expect a modest pick-up in global growth in 2020 and 2021 due to a continuation of “accommodative” financial conditions and signs of easing trade tensions. ‑‑Reuters

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