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Oil demand growth hasn't been this slow since 2008

Photo: Yegor Aleyev/TASS via Getty Image

Global oil demand growth from January through May was the slowest for that period since 2008, and the "situation is becoming even more uncertain" as the U.S.-China trade fight heats up, the International Energy Agency said Friday.

Why it matters: Its closely-watched monthly report provides fresh evidence of how the global economic slowdown is weighing on oil markets. Prices are at their lowest levels since January, despite tensions in the Middle East that typically put upward pressure on the market. "Economic woes hold sway over geopolitics," it said.

But, but, but: Crude oil prices moved up back up somewhat on Friday, "supported by expectations of more OPEC production cuts," Reuters notes. The global benchmark Brent crude was trading above $58-per-barrel on Friday morning.

Where it stands: The IEA again trimmed its overall demand growth forecasts for 2019 and 2020. The Paris-based agency now sees oil demand growing by 1.1 million barrels per day this year and 1.3 million barrels per day next year.

  • "The outlook is fragile with a greater likelihood of a downward revision than an upward one," the report notes.
  • The increase of 520,000 barrels per day in the January through May stretch was the weakest in 11 years.

What they're saying: "Economic recession risk and further escalation of the U.S.-China trade war are key concerns in the near term," the consultancy Rystad Energy said in a note.

  • "Oil prices are swept up in stock market and commodity losses due to rising concern about trade disputes, the health of the global economy and weak oil demand," IEA's report states.

Go deeper: The IEA's case against peak oil demand