Oil jumps on fears of new Iran sanctions, Iraq conflict

Iraqis queue outside a petrol station in Kirkuk, in this October 13, 2017 photo, amidst mounting tension between Iraq and its northern autonomous Kurdish region. (AFP)
Updated 16 October 2017
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Oil jumps on fears of new Iran sanctions, Iraq conflict

SINGAPORE: Oil markets jumped on Monday on concerns over potential renewed US sanctions against Iran as well as conflict in Iraq, while a falling US rig count supported prices there.
Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were at $57.82 at 0156 GMT, up 65 cents, or 1.1 percent, from the previous close.
Traders said that worries over renewed US sanctions against Iran were pushing prices up.
US President Donald Trump struck a blow against the 2015 Iran nuclear deal on Friday, defying both US allies and adversaries by refusing to formally certify that Tehran is complying with the accord even though international inspectors say it is.
Under US law, the president must certify every 90 days to Congress that Iran is complying with the deal. The US Congress will now have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose economic sanctions on Tehran that were lifted under the pact.
During the previous round of sanctions against Iran, some 1 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil supplies were cut off global markets. While analysts said they did not expect renewed sanctions to have such a big impact again, especially as the United States would likely act alone, they did warn that such a move would be disruptive.
“If Iran (were) found breaching their nuclear agreement and had their trade agreement revoked, (that) would be the biggest catalyst for upward momentum on crude prices,” said Shane Chanel, equities and derivatives adviser at ASR Wealth Advisers.
There were also concerns about the stability of Iraq, the second biggest oil producer within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) behind Saudi Arabia.
Iraqi forces on Sunday began moving toward oil fields and an important air base held by Kurdish forces near the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, Iraqi and Kurdish officials said.
Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at futures brokerage AxiTrader said that “Trump’s reopening of the Iran nuclear issue, (and) the ongoing threat of the Kurdish pipeline being cut off” were the main factors pushing up oil prices.

US RIG COUNT DROPS
Within the United States, crude prices were also up as drillers cut back the number of rigs tapping new production.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were trading at $51.86 per barrel, up 41 cents, or 0.8 percent.
Drillers cut five oil rigs in the week to Oct. 13, bringing the total count up to 743, the lowest since early June, General Electric Co’s Baker Hughes energy services firm said in its closely followed report late on Friday.


Walmart, Microsoft team up to take on Amazon

Updated 17 July 2018
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Walmart, Microsoft team up to take on Amazon

  • The move is aimed at helping Walmart compete better against Amazon
  • Walmart is already using Microsoft services for some applications

WASHINGTON: Walmart said Tuesday it was entering into a strategic partnership with Microsoft on “digital transformation” for the onetime retail industry leader.
The move is aimed at helping Walmart compete better against Amazon, which is taking a growing share of retail sales in the United States and globally.
The two firms said the partnership was focused on using artificial intelligence and other technology tools to help manage costs, expand operations and innovate faster.
“Walmart’s commitment to technology is centered around creating incredibly convenient ways for customers to shop and empowering associates to do their best work,” said Walmart chief executive Doug McMillon, Walmart CEO.
Microsoft’s business cloud computing platform known as Azure will help Walmart manage operations ranging from refrigeration and air conditioning to improving its supply chain and transportation.
“The world’s leading companies run on our cloud, and I’m thrilled to partner with Walmart to accelerate their digital transformation with Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft.
Walmart is already using Microsoft services for some applications and will expand that to tap into Microsoft’s machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data platform, according to the statement.
Earlier this month, the research firm eMarketer said Amazon’s surging growth would enable it to capture 49.1 percent of US online retail sales this year, up from 43.5 percent.
Amazon is far ahead of online rivals like eBay, with 6.6 percent of ecommerce, and Apple, at 3.9 percent, according to eMarketer, which estimated Walmart’s share at 3.7 percent.
According to the research, Amazon now controls nearly five of the total US retail market, including online and offline.