×

Not all Asian consumers not seeing the oil dividend

The plunge in oil prices was supposed to help consumers by boosting their disposable incomes. Things aren't quite going according to plan.

Not all consumers in Asia are benefiting from far lower oil prices at the pump despite a 70 percent crash in oil prices due to a variety of reasons from government subsidies to taxation, a Barclays study found.

Crude oil prices have fallen 70 percent since June 2014 amid an extended decline due to a global energy surplus. The moves have rattled global markets, sent investors scurrying out of riskier debt and rumbled currencies of energy exporters.

Benchmark U.S. WTI crude oil prices are up 2.0 percent at $30.22 a barrel while Brent oil is up 1.5 percent at $33.50 a barrel in Asian trade on Monday after hitting a 13-year low in February 2016.

Retail prices meanwhile have fallen by just an average of 35 percent since then, which translates into a 51 percent pass-through rate.

The discrepancy is due to fuel accounting for just 44 percent of retail gasoline prices in Asia Pacific, said Barclays. The remainder of the price is comprises of refining margins (the difference between the wholesale value of the oil products a refinery produces), taxes, marketing margins and distribution costs.

Bloomberg and Barclays Research

Some of the oil price decline has also been absorbed by state oil companies and governments to deal with currency or inventory losses.

Consumers in Taiwan, Thailand and Australia have benefited the most from the oil crash due to their competitive fuel market structure and political willingness to pass on the price cuts.

Those in Indonesia, China and India have been benefited less as government authorities also took the opportunity from low oil prices to reduce fuel subsidies and absorb some of the gains from lower oil prices as taxes or levies.

As for electricity tariffs, the price declines are even more limited due to country-specific generation methods and pricing mechanisms.

In India for instance, coal (not oil) is used for electricity generally and the pass-through was limited by an upward adjustment to power tariffs.

Follow CNBC International on Twitter and Facebook.