IEA: Oil market moving back into balance

A flame burns at the Shell Deer Park oil refinery in Deer Park, Texas. (AP)
Updated 14 September 2017
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IEA: Oil market moving back into balance

PARIS: There are signs the global oil market is returning to balance and stocks of oil products in industrialized nations could soon fall below their five-year average, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Wednesday.
The IEA also said production by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies fell in August and compliance with their pact to cut supply to the markets increased.
OPEC and a number of other producers including Russia agreed last year on production cuts to ease a global supply glut, but prices have not risen much above $50 per barrel as compliance has been a problem.
But with oil demand perking up as well as hurricanes and regular summer maintenance knocking out some production, the IEA said it has seen some of that glut disappear.
Within industrialized countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) oil product stocks are now only 35 million barrels above the five-year average, the IEA said in its monthly report.
Industry and government oil product stocks stood at 1,796.3 million barrels in July in the 34 countries that make up the OECD.
“Depending on the pace of recovery for the US refining industry post-(Hurricane) Harvey, very soon OECD product stocks could fall to, or even below, the five-year level,” added the IEA.
“Based on recent bets made by investors, expectations are that markets are tightening and that prices will rise, albeit very modestly.”
Looking at recent developments in the oil futures markets, the IEA called them “a sign that oil markets have started to rebalance.”
On Tuesday, OPEC, in its monthly report, also pointed to a decline in its production in August as a sign that supply and demand could be moving further toward balance.
“It is clear that the rebalancing process is under way, supported by the high conformity levels of OPEC member countries and participating non-OPEC countries to the production adjustments” in the cooperation agreement, OPEC Secretary-General Mohammed Barkindo said in a speech in Oxford on Monday.
The IEA said OPEC crude production fell in August for the first time in five months, thanks to both cuts in production as well as a flare-up in turmoil in Libya disrupting output. Compliance with agreed production cuts among the 12 members bound by the pact rose to 82 percent from 75 percent in July.
The 10 non-OPEC producers that are part of the supply cut pact also cut production by 270,000 barrels per day in August from July, and their output is now 640,000 barrels per day, their pledged level.
Speaking of Hurricane Harvey, which in August struck the US Gulf Coast, the location of significant refinery and export operations, the IEA said the impact should be brief.
“As far as Harvey is concerned, disruption to local oil markets in the US Gulf Coast is easing on a daily basis and its impact on global markets is likely to be relatively short-lived,” said the agency, which advises the OECD on energy markets.
The IEA also raised its forecast for growth in global oil demand after thirst for crude “grew very strongly year-on-year” in the second quarter of 2017.
It now sees global oil demand increasing by 1.6 million barrels per day (mbd), to 97.7 mbd on average this year, thanks to brisk consumption in Europe and the US.
Oil prices rose after the report was published, with Brent crude adding 10 cents to $54.37 per barrel around 8:20 a.m. GMT.
— AFP


Uber taps into Japan with first taxi-hailing pilot

Updated 22 May 2018
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Uber taps into Japan with first taxi-hailing pilot

TOKYO: Uber announced Tuesday it would start its first taxi-hailing pilot program in Japan this summer, as it bids to break into a tough market in the world’s third largest economy.
The US firm has found it difficult to penetrate the Japanese market, where risk averse passengers prefer to stick to their high quality traditional taxi service.
Hailing a taxi rarely takes more than a few seconds in major Japanese cities and there has been a relatively sluggish uptake of services like Uber, where consumers order an unlicensed car via a smartphone app.
But Uber said in a statement Tuesday it would launch a pilot program this summer to hook up tourists and residents in the western Awaji island with available taxi drivers.
Uber said it aimed to provide local residents and tourists with “reliable and safe transportation” on the small island, which is home to just over 150,000 people.
“I’m very excited that Uber’s technology will contribute to further enhancing the transit environment of Awaji Island,” Brooks Entwistle, Uber’s Chief Business Officer, said in the statement, adding it will be “the first initiative of its kind in Japan.”
Uber is far from alone in targeting the Japanese taxi market, with Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing and Japanese telecom firm SoftBank announcing a deal in early February to develop a taxi app in Japan.
SoftBank has heavily invested in the taxi market and recently took a 15 percent stake in Uber.
And Sony has said it is planning a joint venture to offer artificial intelligence technology to six taxi operators, which currently own a total of 10,000 vehicles in Tokyo.
The technology would use AI to predict demand for taxis and allow companies to more efficiently mobilize their resources.
Carmaker Toyota has also announced an investment of ¥7.5 billion in the JapanTaxi app, which says it is the biggest taxi-hailing app in Japan.