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

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.

US regulators target Facebook on discriminatory housing ads

Updated 18 August 2018

US regulators target Facebook on discriminatory housing ads

  • Facebook says company does not allow discrimination
  • US complaint alleges violation of fair housing laws

NEW YORK: Federal regulators are alleging that Facebook’s advertising tools allow landlords and real estate brokers to engage in housing discrimination.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development said in an administrative complaint this week that Facebook violated the Fair Housing Act because its targeting systems allow advertisers to exclude certain audiences, such as families with young children or disabled people, from seeing housing ads.

“When Facebook uses the vast amount of personal data it collects to help advertisers to discriminate, it’s the same as slamming the door in someone’s face,” HUD Assistant Secretary Anna María Farias said in a statement Friday.

Service providers such as Facebook typically aren’t liable for the actions of their users. In a separate, civil lawsuit filed by housing advocates, the Justice Department said Facebook doesn’t fall under that category because it mines user data, some of which users have to provide, and customizes ads for specific audiences. The government said that counts as being a content creator, rather than merely a transmitter of user content.

Facebook said the company doesn’t allow discrimination and has strengthened its systems over the past year to prevent misuse. The company added that it is working directly with HUD to address its concerns. Facebook has an opportunity to respond to the HUD complaint before the agency determines whether to file formal charges.

The HUD action is separate from the federal lawsuit, filed in March in New York by the National Fair Housing Alliance and other organizations. The lawsuit says investigations by fair housing supporters in New York, Washington, D.C., Miami and San Antonio, Texas, show that Facebook continues to let advertisers discriminate even though civil rights and housing groups have notified the company since 2016 that it is violating the federal Fair Housing Act.

It seeks unspecified damages and a court order to end discrimination.

The Justice Department’s position came in a filing in that case. Facebook said it plans to respond in court.