Oil stable amid cautious optimism over Trump, Kim summit in Singapore

US output has risen by almost a third in the last two years, to a record of 10.8 million barrels per day. (Reuters)
Updated 12 June 2018
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Oil stable amid cautious optimism over Trump, Kim summit in Singapore

SINGAPORE: Oil markets were stable on Tuesday amid cautious optimism over the outcome of a summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.
Movements in crude markets were also limited ahead of a meeting between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and some of its allies on June 22 that may determine the crude production policy of several major producers.
Brent crude futures were trading at $76.45 per barrel at 0355 GMT, little changed from their last close.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $66.16 a barrel, up 6 cents from their last settlement.
Crude has been supported by healthy demand and voluntary production cuts led by OPEC, but analysts said oil markets were also currently heavily driven by public policy events and statements.
Trump and Kim on Tuesday met for a one-day summit in Singapore with the goal to narrow differences over how to end a nuclear standoff on the Korean peninsula, with Trump stating he had forged a “good relationship” with the North Korean leader.
“And today marks the potentially momentous meeting between Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore,” said Shannon Rivkin, investment director at Australia’s Rivkin Securities.
Global markets edged up as the highly anticipated summit got underway amid expressions of goodwill.
“Any positive outcome could be good news for markets,” Rivkin added.
Oil market fundamentals, however, point to lower prices, with output from the three biggest producers, Russia, the United States and Saudi Arabia on the rise.
Russian production has reportedly climbed from below 11 million barrels per day (bpd) to 11.1 million bpd in early June.
In the United States, output has risen by almost a third in the last two years, to a record of 10.8 million bpd.
“The deluge of US crude production continues to hold the top-side in check,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading at futures brokerage OANDA.
Now, top exporter Saudi Arabia — which has so far led OPEC’s efforts to withhold supplies — is also showing signs of raising production.
Saudi Arabia has told OPEC that it increased oil output to a little more than 10 million bpd in May, up from 9.9 million bpd in April.
“This fits with the theory that the Saudis and Russians are subtly moving toward a change to the agreement at this month’s meeting,” said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at futures brokerage AxiTrader.
OPEC, together with some non-OPEC producers including Russia, started withholding output in 2017 to end a global supply overhang and prop up prices.
OPEC and its partners are due to meet at its headquarters in Vienna, Austria, to discuss policy.
“Expect more of the same whippy markets driven by rumors and innuendo ahead of the June 22 Vienna OPEC meeting,” Innes said.


To fight off unemployment, Iraqi youth plant start-up seeds

Updated 17 February 2019
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To fight off unemployment, Iraqi youth plant start-up seeds

  • Iraqi entrepreneurs are taking on staggering unemployment by establishing their own start-ups
  • Under current legislation, private sector employees are not offered the same labor protections or social benefits as those in the public sector

BAGHDAD: Stuck between an endless waitlist for a government job and a frail private sector, Iraqi entrepreneurs are taking on staggering unemployment by establishing their own start-ups.
The first murmurs of this creative spirit were felt in 2013, but the Daesh group’s sweep across a third of the country the following year put many projects on hold.
Now, with Daesh defeated, co-working spaces and incubators are flourishing in a country whose unemployment rate hovers around 10 percent but whose public sector is too bloated to hire.
Many self-starters begin their journey at an aptly named glass building in central Baghdad: The Station.
There, they sip on coffee, peruse floor-to-ceiling bookshelves for ideas and grab a seat at clusters of desks where other stylish Iraqis click away at their laptops.
“We’re trying to create a new generation with a different state of mind,” said executive director Haidar Hamzoz.
“We want to tell youth that they can start their own project, achieve their dreams and not just be happy in a government job they didn’t even want,” he said.
Youth make up around 60 percent of Iraq’s nearly 40 million people.
After graduating from university, many spend years waiting to be appointed to a job in the government, Iraq’s biggest employer.
Four out of five jobs created in Iraq in recent years are in the public sector, according to the World Bank.
And in its 2019 budget, the government proposed $52 billion in salaries, pensions, and social security for its workers — a 15 percent jump from 2018 and more than half the total budget.
But with graduates entering the workforce faster than jobs are created, many still wait indefinitely for work.
Among youth, 17 percent of men and a whopping 27 percent of women are unemployed, the World Bank says.
When Daesh declared Mosul its seat of power in Iraq back in 2014, resident Saleh Mahmud was forced to shutter the city’s incubator for would-be entrepreneurs.
With Mosul now cautiously rebuilding after the militants were ousted in 2017, Mahmud is back in business.
“Around 600-700 youth have already passed by Mosul Space” to attend a seminar or seek out resources as they start their own ventures, said the 23-year-old.
He was inspired after watching fellow Mosul University graduates hopelessly “try to hunt down a connection to get a job in the public sphere.”
“A university education isn’t something that gets you a fulfilling job,” he said.
Another start-up, Dakkakena, is capitalizing on Mosul’s rebuilding spirit, too.
The online shopping service delivers a lorry-full of home goods every day to at least a dozen families refurnishing after the war.
“On the web, we can sell things for cheaper than stores because we have fewer costs, like no showrooms,” said founder Yussef Al-Noaime, 27.
Noaime fled Daesh to the Netherlands, where he was introduced to e-commerce. When he returned home, the computer engineer partnered with another local to found their venture.
A similar service, Miswag, was set-up in the capital Baghdad in 2014 and last year reported hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits.
On an autumn day, some 70 young Iraqi innovators converged for a three-day workshop in Baghdad on founding start-ups.
They flitted among round tables planning projects, their Arabic conversations sprinkled with English terms.
“What we’re doing is showing youth what entrepreneurship is — not necessarily so they succeed, but so they at least try,” said organizer Ibrahim Al-Zarari.
He said attendees should understand two things: first, that the public sector is saturated. And second, that oil isn’t the only resource on which Iraq — OPEC’s second-largest producer — should capitalize.
More than 65 percent of Iraq’s GDP and nearly 90 percent of state revenues hail from the oil sector. Many youths turn to it for work, but it only employs one percent of the workforce.
Widespread corruption and bureaucracy also weaken Iraq’s appeal for private investors. The World Bank ranks it 168th out of 190 for states with a good business environment.
Under current legislation, private sector employees are not offered the same labor protections or social benefits as those in the public sector.
And Iraq’s stuttering banking industry appears too cautious to dive in, said Tamara Raad, 26, who researches start-ups.
“The banks have a role to play. They must make loans without interest and help young entrepreneurs,” she said.
Banks or no banks, Mahmud in Mosul is already planning how he’ll grow his business in 2019.
“We will open a new, larger space for new gatherings,” he said excitedly, to bring together returning designers, developers and other inventors.