Will the natural resources sector recover from Covid-19?

Expert analysis to help inform the decisions that will sustain your organisations through the crisis and beyond

1 minute read

The outbreak of coronavirus, the oil price crash and the impending global recession present an enormous challenge for energy and natural resources. How are you keeping up with the spread of Covid-19 and its impact on your sector?

We’ve introduced a new weekly briefing to help you form a view of this rapidly evolving situation and the implications for your business. (Get the key takeaways when you fill in the form on this page.) The coronavirus weekly impact briefing draws on the combined expertise of Wood Mackenzie’s team of 600+ analysts in 40+ countries as well as sister companies AIR and Verisk Maplecroft. It charts the spread of the pandemic, the impact on the global economy, and major sector challenges. Each week, we answer our customers’ questions about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic across the sectors we cover.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we have answered in recent weeks.

Download the key takeaways from recent weeks when you fill in the form on this page.  

1. What’s the true scale of the pandemic and how does this impact Wood Mackenzie’s global economic outlook?

Two factors are compounding the severity of the economic impact we’re forecasting.

First, large-scale underreporting. AIR’s lowest projection estimates the true global case count is being underreported by a factor of 10, and fatalities by a factor of 1.5. Recovery is tied to lifting of restrictions, and more accurate reporting will help guide government responses to lockdown measures.

Second, accelerating case load in emerging markets such as Turkey, Brazil and India. Economic frailties in emerging markets are being exposed and could get much worse.

To contain the pandemic, the global economy has been halted in an unprecedented way. Peak-to-trough contraction will be extremely swift and deep. Growth rates will pick up sharply as restrictions are lifted. The coronavirus crisis affects every part of the world, but the magnitude of the economic impact will vary by country/region depending on the scale of the health crisis itself and the structure of economies. On a like-for-like basis (2010 US$ constant), the IMF and Oxford Economics forecast contraction of 4.3% and 4.1% in 2020, respectively.

Wood Mackenzie’s macroeconomics team produces quarterly economic updates, topical insights and detailed analysis at the intersection of economics and energy and commodities. Helping our customers understand the key macroeconomic drivers of commodity demand is important. For that reason, we share our proprietary economic forecasts, which underpin Wood Mackenzie research, with all customers. Get Wood Mackenzie's global economic outlook for Q2 2020 here

2. When will lockdown end?

The impact of lockdowns has been immediate and severe. Governments are beginning to ease lockdown rules, driving a modest uptick in economic activity.

However, we expect restrictions to remain in place into the fourth quarter of 2020 in many countries, particularly in Asia and Europe – possibly even extending into 2021.

As a consequence, we have downgraded our economic outlook to a severe recession; we’re forecasting a 4% contraction in the global economy in 2020. Economies under tight lockdowns, France, Italy and Spain, posted large contractions in output in Q1. US GDP also fell in Q1, but we are expecting far worse for Q2. With rocketing unemployment, incomes will be hit hard and the risk of defaults in highly indebted households increases.

China is the model to watch for economies emerging from lockdown; the detrimental effect of lockdown measures on the economy was confirmed by China's 6.8% yoy contraction in Q1.

3. What are the emerging trends in trade and demand?

Global travel has collapsed with cross-border movement severely restricted. Consumption of jet fuel has halved in two months with the drop off in commercial passenger airline travel. Global maritime traffic continues its counter-seasonal decline, driven by slowing trade and a rapidly contracting cruise ship industry. However, a partial recovery is on the horizon as China manufacturing activity and mobility return.

4. What’s the outlook for metals and mining?

The mining sector was hit early by coronavirus. As China slowly re-emerges from lockdown measures its industrial sector is recovering, helping to stabilise early commodity price falls. However, with Europe and North America still suffering losses, China’s recovery has not mitigated steep losses in demand – particularly for Base Metals. As we move into the next phase of the pandemic, attention turns to Latin America, Africa and East Asia – critical supply centres for copper, cobalt, iron ore, gold, nickel and zinc.

5. How is coronavirus affecting the renewables sector?

After early supply chain disruptions, the environment for solar, energy storage and electric vehicles is stabilising. However, wind is deeply affected with the most disparate supply chain and concentration of resources in hard-hit markets. Despite this, we will see record annual capacity installations for wind, solar and storage in 2020, showing the resilience of the renewables sector that continues to flourish in many markets. Electric vehicles though are set for a more than 40% drop in annual sales. Not yet competitive, the fall in consumer spending as well as low oil prices and delayed new models will mean a large fall in key markets China and the US.

6. When will US commercial crude oil storage hit capacity?

WTI turned negative for the first time since WTI futures started trading as Cushing stocks climb at record rates towards tank tops. The L48 shut-in volumes are already over 0.5 million b/d. US commercial crude oil storage is expected to reach near capacity in June, Cushing by the first half of May.

How to get Wood Mackenzie's weekly coronavirus impact briefing

The coronavirus weekly impact briefing is free for all Wood Mackenzie customers. Find out how to become a customer, or download the key takeaways from recent weeks when you fill in the form on this page.