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Oil prices: National GDP winners and losers

Oil fracking
David McNew | Getty Images

The recent rally in oil prices could throw cold water on the economies of countries that consume a lot of crude. But oil producers could finally get a badly needed break.

The sharp drop in global oil prices last year had major producers such as Russia and Venezuela scrambling to make up for lost revenue. It's anyone's guess where oil prices are headed over the longer term. But a recent rally has some forecasters tweaking their models to see what a sustained price recovery might look like. (Tweet This)

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From a low in the mid-$40s in January, internationally traded Brent crude prices have bounce back and are approaching $70 a barrel.

"If sustained, higher oil prices would reduce the gains in consumer real income and spending that we currently forecast," according to Adam Slater, a senior economist at Oxford Economics. "And also risk blunting the boost to investment that we forecast based on reduced business costs."

To see what happens if the rebound in prices sticks, Slater modeled $70-a-barrel oil prices for the next two years, and compared that to a baseline forecast of year-end prices of $59.50 this year and $65.90 in 2016.

The overall effect on global economic growth would be relatively mild, trimming worldwide growth a few tenths of a percentage point to 2.7 percent in 2015 and 2.8 percent next year.

The advanced economies of the United States, Japan and Europe would see the biggest downside effects. The largest winners would be big oil exporters including the Gulf nations, Venezuela, Russia and Malaysia. For Venezuela and Russia higher oil prices would generate more revenues to offset the squeeze on foreign exchange brought on by the crash in oil prices.

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The steady rise in oil prices this year, Slater noted, has helped Russian central bankers ease interest rates after sharp hikes last year that were designed to stabilize the ruble. Emerging economies that rely heavily on imports would also be losers if oil prices hold at higher levels.

China, already facing a slowdown, would see even steeper declines with oil at $70 a barrel, according to Slater. Growth would fall from 6.5 percent this year to just 5.6 percent next year, according to his model.

India, also a big oil importer, would see growth slow by a few percentage points, slipping to 7.4 percent this year and 7.3 percent in 2016.

The rally has encouraged some U.S. producers to keep on drilling. The crash in prices brought a sharp drop in active drilling rigs. But after months of cutbacks, the number of drilling rigs in the oil rich Permian Basin rose slightly last week, marking the first increase this year.

Supplies in storage also continue rise, which will weigh on prices and limit further price increases, say analysts. "We have growing concerns about crude fundamentals in the second half of 2015 and 2016," Morgan Stanley analysts said in a note to clients.