Oil drops as Wall Street slumps, North Sea pipeline ramps up

An oil pump jack at sunset near Strasbourg, France. US futures fell through $60 a barrel for the first time since December. (Reuters)
Updated 09 February 2018
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Oil drops as Wall Street slumps, North Sea pipeline ramps up

NEW YORK: Oil prices slid more than 3 percent on Friday, following beleaguered equity markets lower, as US futures fell through $60 a barrel for the first time since December on renewed concerns about rising crude supplies.
Futures were on track for a sixth straight day of losses, wiping away the year’s gains in a string of high-volume trading sessions, pressured by stronger-than-expected supply figures and a surprising ramp-up of the North Sea Forties Pipeline, which shut earlier in the week.
Oil services company Baker Hughes said total US onshore rigs rose by 26 to 791, highest since January 2017. Drillers have added rigs as oil prices rallied through mid-January to levels not seen in three years.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was down $2.28, or 3.7 percent, at $58.89 as of 1:23 p.m. EST (1823 GMT), lowest since Dec. 26.
Brent futures fell $2.28 a barrel, or 3.5 percent to $62.53 a barrel, its lowest since Dec. 14.
“Oil futures really came under pressure especially when they crossed $60; it really seemed like traders started to liquidate,” said Philip Streible, futures broker at RJO Futures in Chicago.
The market has been increasingly pressured by the weak stock market. Also, oil is inversely correlated with the dollar, which has strengthened as equity markets slid. The S&P 500 stock index fell to its lowest level since Oct. 5.
US and Brent crude futures have slid more than 11 percent from this year’s peak in late January. Brent was heading for a weekly loss of nearly 9 percent; US crude was on track for a 10 percent weekly drop. Both would be the biggest weekly declines since January 2016.
Crude volumes in the North Sea Forties pipeline continued to ramp up faster than expected following a restart, a trade source told Reuters.
The news that the line will reach full rates over the weekend intensified oversupply worries, said Gene McGillian, director of market research at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.
“The idea that it is back up and running normally, combined with the data that show US production is rising, contributes to the overall idea that US production could offset cuts by OPEC,” said McGillian.
Investors were already worried that rising US production will overwhelm efforts by OPEC and other producing nations to cut supply. US output rose to 10.25 million bpd in the most recent weekly figures, which if confirmed would represent a record. The Baker Hughes figures should mean still more supply in coming months.
On Thursday, OPEC member Iran announced plans to boost production within the next four years by at least 700,000 barrels a day.
“We think that surging supply and slowing demand growth will tip the market back into a surplus this year,” analysts at Capital Economics said in a note.


Despite efforts to stop lira fall, Turks still worried

Updated 26 May 2018
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Despite efforts to stop lira fall, Turks still worried

ANKARA: After the embattled Turkish lira weakened against the US dollar this week, Turks remain troubled over the economy despite the government’s reassurances.
The lira’s drama worsened on Wednesday when Japanese investors sold Turkish assets, after comments by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spooked investors earlier in May.
The lira hit 4.92 against the dollar before paring back some of its losses on Wednesday after an emergency central bank interest rate hike, but for many it’s not enough.
In a busy bureau de change on one of Ankara’s popular streets, thoughts turn to the worsening situation and fears that the country is already in a “currency crisis,” as experts at Commerzbank have described it.
During AFP’s visit, dozens came in to change their liras into gold, dollars and euros.
Ali Yilik indicated he was not convinced by Ankara’s reassurances as he changed his money into dollars for work.
“Who wouldn’t be worried about the exchange rate (situation)? This is not something that happens in normal conditions. It is extraordinary,” Yilik, who sells construction material, said.
Ali’s son Yahya Yilik, who is the manager at Tunali Doviz, said more Turks were coming in buying euros and dollars amid worries that the lira would fall further.
“They think the lira will keep losing value,” Yilik told AFP, adding that interest rate increases were a “temporary measure.”
In the past “one or two weeks,” the manager said the center had sold more foreign exchange than those wanting to buy lira.
The fall followed Erdogan comments during his UK visit mid-May when he indicated he wanted a greater say in monetary policy if he won in June 24 polls. This then raised concerns over economic policy becoming more unpredictable.
Student Necdet Guven was in the bureau de change to obtain dollars ahead of a trip to the US in mid-June but said he was “really worried” about the economy.
“Because everyday our economy gets worse. In the past, Turkey used to be among the top countries for agriculture and livestock, but now we import meat from Serbia and straw from Russia,” Guven lamented.
“We are not that developed a country in terms of industry,” he added, saying he believed Turkey had the potential to develop the economy further.
The lira appeared to show no signs of dramatic improvement and was at 4.70 against the dollar on Friday. In the past month, the lira has lost over 16 percent of its value against the greenback.
In a bid to ease concerns, Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek — an ex Merrill Lynch economist trusted by markets — on Friday said the central bank “would do whatever is necessary” during an interview with NTV broadcaster.
“There is no question of taking steps back on either the independence of the central bank or the rule-based market economy,” Simsek vowed.
But not everyone looked at the situation pessimistically.
Orhan Albayrak said the euro and dollar’s value was increasing because of “outside forces’ economic pressure on Turkey,” adding there was “an artificial rise.”
But Albayrak, a wholesaler, was hopeful the lira’s fortunes would improve toward the date of the presidential and parliamentary elections.
“But when there are five, 10 days to the elections, I believe this increase will reverse,” he added.
Albayrak said the three percent key rate rise had some impact, but believed the lira could improve and “reach 4.2, 4.3” with further central bank moves supported by the government.
After the rate hike on Wednesday evening, Erdogan insisted Turkey would adhere to the global governance principles on monetary policy in the new system post-election.
But, Erdogan added he would not let those principles “finish our country off.”