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Half of UK & US firms predict a recession in 2020 as the Chinese economy is expected to maintain solid 6-7% growth rate

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Half of UK & US firms predict a recession in 2020 as the Chinese economy is expected to maintain solid 6-7% growth rate
  • 46% of UK firms and 45% of US businesses predict their country will go into recession in 2020
  • A third UK firms (37%) and US firms (35%) also expect to see a global recession in 2020
  • A third (33%) of UK firms expect the UK economy to shrink in 2020, most likely by 1-3% (14%)
  • One in five (15%) US firms expect the US economy to shrink in 2020, also by 1-3% (7%)
  • 93% of Chinese firms are confident their economy will grow in 2020, most likely by 6-7%
  • Increased geopolitical tensions such as trade tariffs, Brexit and regional instability are cited as the number one risk to businesses in the UK in 2020 (65%) and joint top risk to businesses in the US

Just under half of firms in the UK (46%) and US (45%) predict their country will go into recession in 2020, while the Chinese economy is expected to maintain a solid 6-7% growth rate, according to new research released today by trade finance provider Stenn.

The research, which spoke to over 700 senior executives at medium-large sized businesses across the UK, US and China, also revealed that well over a third (37%) of UK firms and one in three (35%) US firms expect to see a global recession or international global crisis in 2020.

In the UK, a third (33%) of firms expect the economy to shrink in 2020, with well over a tenth (14%) expecting it to contract by 1-3%. A further 6% expect the UK economy to stay flat with no growth. This comes after the ONS reported the UK economy ended 2019 in stagnation[1], under pressure from long-term uncertainty, mounting business costs and a global economic slowdown. The UK economy also suffered its worst month for growth in October for more than a decade, after the weakest three months since early 2009[2].

In the US, almost one in five (16%) expect the economy to shrink in 2020, most likely by 1-3% (7%). In addition, 6% also expect it to stay flat with no growth. The American economy was boosted at the beginning of 2020, from figures showing a continued recovery in the manufacturing sector and a drop in the number of unemployment claims, alongside Trump’s announcement that a phase one trade deal with China could be signed on 15th January, but the economy isn’t recession proof. The median US economic forecaster also currently estimates a 35% probability that a recession will begin this year.

 Despite the ongoing US-China trade war, 93% of Chinese firms are confident the economy will grow in 2020. Within this, a quarter (25%) expect the economy to grow by 4-5%, while four in 10 (40%) expect it to grow 6-7% next year. Global shares rallied at the beginning of January after China injected more money into its economy, further cementing its likelihood of growth.

 Risks to businesses in 2020 

The study also looked into the largest risks to businesses in 2020 across the globe, with similar themes emerging.

In the UK, increased geopolitical tensions such as trade tariffs, Brexit or regional instability, are cited as the number one risk to businesses in 2020 (65%). Increased environmental concerns and climate change came in as the second largest risk (50%), while changing consumer behaviour, such as shopping online rather than in store, took third place (48%). A further 43% of UK firms also view increased cyber threats or data breaches as a likely event, and a top risk to be wary of in 2020.

In China, changing consumer behaviour (e.g. shopping online rather than in store) is cited as the biggest risk for 2020 (65%). Firms in China view a global recession or international financial crisis as the second largest risk to business (64%), closely followed by increased geopolitical tensions (62%), as firms navigate the threat of the US-China trade war.

In the US, firms have an equal weighting on the risk of increased geopolitical tension, increased environmental concerns, and changing consumer behavior to businesses in 2020 (all 54%). A further half (51%) also view increased cyber threats or data breaches as a top risk to businesses in 2020.

Dr. Kerstin Braun, President of Stenn Group, commented: “2019 was weaker than expected and the stakes are only higher for the year ahead. Trump has been playing games with global trade and while the Chinese are confident their economy will grow as it moves beyond the US-China trade war, it’s a very different story in the UK and US.

“Boris Johnson’s election result provided some much-needed solidity the UK has been craving and with Brexit confirmed to go ahead, businesses can begin to see a future. But the prolonged uncertainty has been battling the UK economy and many businesses are concerned Brexit could cause the economy to shrink in 2020. It’s vital UK firms start investing again as they exit Brexit limbo. This is critical for long-term growth. If current political and economic uncertainties ease, we could see a gradual revival in activity over the course of the year, likely by 1 or 2%.

“At the same time, the US is exposed to the effects of Trump’s unpredictable trade actions. While some fundamentals like employment are good, there are enough economic red flags to signal weakness in the second half of 2020. For example, corporate and government debt levels are high and personal loans are up more than 10% from a year ago. This makes the economy vulnerable to shocks and dependent on the Fed to keep interest rates low.

“The Chinese economy has been growing at rates above +6-7% since the early 1990s, so the fact the majority are optimistic this will continue in 2020 is a good sign. A quarter still expect slower growth than normal, at a rate of 4-5%, which comes after China’s economic growth rate slowed to a near 30-year low in Q3 2019, affecting people via the jobs market.

“What’s most worrisome is global trade. The capricious US-China tariff war has turned into political theatre at the expense of real businesses, while trade in and out of the UK after Brexit is still under threat. The uncertainty impacts short-term margins and long-term investment plans for companies with international supply chains.”

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Oil slips after U.S. crude stocks rise amid deep freeze hit to refiners

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Oil slips after U.S. crude stocks rise amid deep freeze hit to refiners 1

By Sonali Paul

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Oil prices fell in early trade on Wednesday after industry data showed U.S. crude inventories unexpectedly rose last week as a deep freeze in the southern states curbed demand from refineries that were forced to shut.

Crude stockpiles rose by 1 million barrels in the week to Feb. 19, the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported on Tuesday, against estimates for a draw of 5.2 million barrels in a Reuters poll.

API data showed refinery crude runs fell by 2.2 million bpd.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 55 cents or 0.9% at $61.12 a barrel at 0136 GMT, after slipping 3 cents on Tuesday.

Brent crude futures fell 38 cents, or 0.6%, to $64.99 a barrel, erasing Tuesday’s 13 cents gain.

Investors will be awaiting confirmation from the U.S. Energy Information Administration later on Wednesday that crude inventories rose last week, despite the hit to shale oil production amid the unprecedented icy spell in the U.S. south.

“The key question is how quickly does U.S. oil supply recover. It looks like supply will recover faster than refineries, and supply is going to outpace demand in the next few weeks. That will give negative weight to the market,” Commonwealth Bank analyst Vivek Dhar said.

The price retreat is being seen as a pause following a rally of more than 26% to 13-month highs in both Brent and WTI since the start of the year.

Prices have jumped due to the U.S. supply disruption and supply discipline by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, together called OPEC+, led by an extra 1 million bpd cut by Saudi Arabia.

At the same time stimulus spending to boost growth, investors rotating into commodities, and hopes that the rollout of vaccinations could lead to an easing of pandemic restrictions are all buoying oil prices.

(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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Oil settles mixed amid post-storm uncertainty

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Oil settles mixed amid post-storm uncertainty 2

By Laura Sanicola

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Oil prices settled near year-long highs on Tuesday on signs that global coronavirus restrictions were being eased, although concerns about the pace of a U.S. economic recovery and the return of Texas oil production kept gains in check.

U.S. crude settled down 3 cents to $61.67 a barrel, still close to its highest levels since January 2020. Brent crude <LCOc1> settled up 13 cents, or 0.2%, to $65.37 a barrel.

Both contracts rose more than $1 earlier before retreating.

Shale oil producers and refiners in the southern United States are slowly resuming production after 2 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude output and nearly 20% of U.S. refining capacity shut down because of last week’s winter storm.

Traffic at the Houston ship channel was slowly returning to normal. Production, however, was not expected to fully restart soon and some shale producers forecast lower oil output in the first quarter.

Some oil production may never come back, commodities merchant Trafigura said on Tuesday.

After the cold snap, U.S. crude oil stockpiles were also seen falling for a fifth straight week, while the inventories of refined products also declined last week, an extended Reuters poll showed.

“It appears that last week’s severe cold spell and related Texas power outage could be affecting the weekly EIA data into the middle of next month,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates in Galena, Illinois.

There were also concerns over the U.S. economic recovery, which the chair of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, said remained “uneven and far from complete.”

He said it would be “some time” before the central bank considered changing policies it had adopted to help the country back to full employment.

Commerzbank analyst Eugen Weinberg said the recent oil price rise was buoyed by upbeat price forecasts from U.S. brokers.

Goldman Sachs expects Brent prices to reach $70 per barrel in the second quarter from the $60 it predicted previously, and $75 in the third quarter from $65 forecast earlier.

Morgan Stanley, which expects Brent to reach $70 in the third quarter, said new COVID-19 cases were falling while “mobility statistics are bottoming out and are starting to improve”.

Bank of America said Brent prices could temporarily spike to $70 in the second quarter.

(Reporting by Laura Sanicola in New York; Additional reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin in London and Jessica Jaganathan in Singapore; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Mark Heinrich)

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Exclusive: AstraZeneca to miss second-quarter EU vaccine supply target by half – EU official

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Exclusive: AstraZeneca to miss second-quarter EU vaccine supply target by half - EU official 3

By Francesco Guarascio

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – AstraZeneca expects to deliver less than half the COVID-19 vaccines it was contracted to supply the European Union in the second quarter, an EU official told Reuters on Tuesday.

The expected shortfall, which has not previously been reported, comes after a big reduction in supplies in the first quarter and could hit the EU’s ability to meet its target of vaccinating 70% of adults by the summer.

The EU official, who is directly involved in talks with the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker, said the company had told the bloc during internal meetings that it “would deliver less than 90 million doses in the second quarter”.

AstraZeneca’s contract with the EU, which was leaked last week, showed the company had committed to delivering 180 million doses to the 27-nation bloc in the second quarter.

“Because we are working incredibly hard to increase the productivity of our EU supply chain, and doing everything possible to make use of our global supply chain, we are hopeful that we will be able to bring our deliveries closer in line with the advance purchase agreement,” a spokesman for AstraZeneca said, declining to comment on specific figures.

A spokesman for the European Commission, which coordinates talks with vaccine manufacturers, said it could not comment on the discussions as they were confidential.

He said the EU should have more than enough shots to hit its vaccination targets if the expected and agreed deliveries from other suppliers are met, regardless of the situation with AstraZeneca.

The EU official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, confirmed that AstraZeneca planned to deliver about 40 million doses in the first quarter, again less than half the 90 million shots it was supposed to supply.

AstraZeneca warned the EU in January that it would fall short of its first-quarter commitments due to production issues. It was also due to deliver 30 million doses in the last quarter of 2020 but did not supply any shots last year as its vaccine had yet to be approved by the EU.

All told, AstraZeneca’s total supply to the EU could be about 130 million doses by the end of June, well below the 300 million it committed to deliver to the bloc by then.

The EU has also faced delays in deliveries of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech as well as Moderna’s shot. So far they are the only vaccines approved for use by the EU’s drug regulator.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine was authorised in late January and some EU member states such as Hungary are also using COVID-19 shots developed in China and Russia.

OUTPUT BOOST DOWN THE LINE?

While drugmakers developed COVID-19 vaccines at breakneck speed, many have struggled with manufacturing delays due to complex production processes, limited facilities and bottlenecks in the supply of vaccine ingredients.

According to a German health ministry document dated Feb. 22, AstraZeneca is forecast to make up all of the shortfalls in deliveries by the end of September.

The document seen by Reuters shows Germany expects to receive 34 million doses in the third quarter, taking its total to 56 million shots, which is in line with its full share of the 300 million doses AstraZeneca is due to supply to the EU.

The German health ministry was not immediately available for a comment.

If AstraZeneca does ramp up its output in the third quarter, that could help the EU meet its vaccination target, though the EU official said the bloc’s negotiators were wary because the company had not clarified where the extra doses would come from.”Closing the gap in supplies in the third quarter might be unrealistic,” the official said, adding that figures on deliveries had been changed by the company many times.

The EU contracts stipulates that AstraZeneca will commit to its “best reasonable efforts” to deliver by a set timetable.

“We are continuously revising our delivery schedule and informing the European Commission on a weekly basis of our plans to bring more vaccines to Europe,” the AstraZeneca spokesman said.

Under the EU contract leaked last week, AstraZeneca committed to producing vaccines for the bloc at two plants in the United Kingdom, one in Belgium and one in the Netherlands.

However, the company is not currently exporting vaccines made in the United Kingdom, in line with its separate contract with the British government, EU officials said.

AstraZeneca also has vaccine plants in other sites around the world and it has told the EU it could provide more doses from its global supply chain, including from India and the United States, an EU official told Reuters last week.

Earlier this month, AstraZeneca said it expected to make more than 200 million doses per month globally by April, double February’s level, as it works to expand global capacity and productivity.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio; Additional reporting by Andreas Rinke and Sabine Siebold; Editing by David Clarke)

 

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