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16 April 2024

Cheap oil: Who are the winners and losers?

By AFP & Staff

The plunge in oil prices is proving a boon for consumers and airlines, but is a bust for energy companies and producing nations, while complicating the jobs of central bankers worried about deflation.


On the winners’ side, consumers in importing countries reap the benefits every time they fill up their car or home heating oil tanks.

With more money jingling in their pockets after passing the filling station, consumers are spending more on other goods and services, providing a boost to growth at home.

Even if oil and gas producing regions in the United States are feeling the pain, overall the US economy is benefiting from lower energy prices.

Cheap fuel will also help prop up China's slowing growth, while helping India keep expanding at a rate above 7 per cent.

In Europe, low oil prices are also providing a considerable boost to growth.

Coe-Rexecode estimated in November that a quarter of the 1.5 per cent growth the eurozone probably managed in 2015 was due to cheap oil. Another 0.3 percentage points was due to the lower value of the euro.


Global energy companies are getting less for their product and seeing their share prices fall.

Last week, Moody’s put 120 energy, metals and mining companies on review for ratings downgrade, warning that they face "rising financial stress with much lower cash flows".

The share prices of energy companies have plunged, and their borrowing costs will climb as their credit ratings are downgraded.

Renewable energy companies are also among the losers as low prices mean there is little incentive to seek out alternatives.

While not losers, central bankers are facing more work. Falling oil prices, weighing on consumer prices, make it harder for them to ward off dangerous deflation.

Japan could announce further stimulus measures to encourage growth and inflation later in the week, and Mario Draghi has signalled further action in March by saying the European Central Bank is “not surrendering” in its efforts to raise inflation and that there are “no limits” to the actions it could take.

Even as most oil-rich Gulf nations have huge cash reserves which act as buffers to shield their economies from oil price fluctuations, prudent nations are using this as an opportunity to wean consumers away from fuel and energy subsidies.

Some of the non-GCC oil producers, like Nigeria, plan to step up borrowing.