Asian economies, a major net importer of oil as a whole, will be much more adversely affected than most other regions if oil prices keep rising, Nomura Research warned in a latest report.
The price of Brent crude was up nearly 15 percent last week from 108 U.S. dollars per barrel at the end of last year, hovering at about 124 U.S. dollars per barrel. While this pales in comparison to the 364 percent surge over the prior five years to the peak of 144 U.S. dollars per barrel in July 2008, Nomura said the recent run-up is not insignificant and the current level is already relatively high.
Given that Asia excluding Japan's annual net imports of crude and refined petroleum increased from 234 billion U.S. dollars in 2009 to 329 billion U.S. dollars in 2010 and to a record 447 billion U.S. dollars in 2011, Nomura estimated a U.S. dollars per barrel rise in Brent crude could add 3.5 billion U.S. dollars to Asia's monthly net oil import bill. Although Asia excluding Japan is not completely without oil reserves, but with its massive industrialization and growing consumer affluence, it only produces what is enough to cover one-third of its needs.
The Japanese research house conducted "what if" exercise under three different scenarios to assess the impact on the gross domestic product growth, consumer price index inflation, current account balances, fiscal positions and policy interest rates for each Asian economies.
Under a good scenario, where the price of Brent averages this year at around 110 U.S. dollars per barrel, Asia excluding Japan' s total GDP growth will be 6.6 percent. Under the bad scenario, where the oil price averages 125 dollars per barrel in each of the four quarters of this year, Nomura forecast total GDP growth to slow to 6.4 percent, and slow further to 6.1 percent in the ugly scenario, where the oil price averages 135 U.S. dollars per barrel for the year.
Among the individual economies, Nomura predicted that the growth is hit hardest by falling about one percentage point in India, South Korea, Thailand and the Philippines, while China, Malaysia and Singapore are least-affected if the ugly scenario takes place.
According to Nomura, Asia excluding Japan's consumer price index inflation will rise from 4.5 percent in the good scenario to 5.2 percent in the ugly scenario, led by big inflation surges of 1. 8 percentage point in the Philippines and Thailand.
Asia excluding Japan's 2012 total current account surplus will narrow from 1.4 percent of GDP in the good scenario to 0.6 percent in the ugly scenario, but with some big divergences across the region. In the ugly scenario, India's current account deficit will increase to 4 percent of GDP, while Malaysia's current account surplus will swell to 11.5 percent of its GDP.
As for Asia excluding Japan's aggregate fiscal deficit, it will widen from 2.1 percent of GDP in the good scenario to 2.8 percent in the ugly scenario, led by increases of 0.9 percentage points in India, South Korea and the Philippines. Of these three, India would have the largest fiscal deficit at 5.9 percent of its GDP.
The monetary policy outlook will be very different in the good and ugly scenarios. Nomura said nearly all Asian central banks will cut rates further this year in the good scenario, by 25 basis points to 100 basis points from current levels. By contrast, in the ugly scenario Nomura would expect policy rates to be kept on hold for the rest of this year in India and South Korea; and hiked by 25 basis points in Malaysia, by 50 basis points in Thailand, 75 basis points in the Philippines and 100 basis points in Indonesia, respectively. Only China will be expected to cut rates by 25 basis points in the ugly scenario.