Oil rises on Iran sanctions and lower US stockpiles

An oil well pump jack is seen at an oil field supply yard near Denver, Colorado, U.S., February 2, 2015. (Reuters)
Updated 30 August 2018

Oil rises on Iran sanctions and lower US stockpiles

LONDON: Oil prices extended gains yesterday as the market considered the impact of reduced Iranian exports and a fall in
US stockpiles.

Brent crude gained more than 50 cents a barrel at $77.64 by midday in London, taking its weekly gain to almost 10 percent.

US light crude was 40 cents higher at about $69.91.

“The oil market is once again tightening after a short period in late June and early July when it was likely oversupplied,” said Giovanni Staunovo, an analyst at UBS Group AG in Zurich. “Iranian oil export declines are already visible well in advance of US oil-related sanctions.”

Most of Iran’s customers are already facing difficulties in buying the country’s crude even before sanctions are imposed on Nov. 4, Bloomberg reported on Thursday.

India and China’s combined purchases of Iranian oil could drop about 23 percent to almost 1 million barrels a day amid the US restrictions, ESAI Energy said. 

OPEC is set to discuss the impact of the decline in Iranian crude on global energy markets when it meets in December — more than a month after the oil sanctions come into effect.

“A sudden drop in Iranian crude shipments from the market will cause big shortages and a negative impact on oil prices,” he said, referring to a possible increase in prices,” Alaa Al-Yasiri the head of Iraq’s state-oil marketer SOMO, told Reuters on Wednesday. “It’s very difficult to predict what’s going to happen in next OPEC meeting but producers must find ways to make up for Iranian crude that the market will lose. The major issue during the next OPEC meeting will be are producers really ready to pump more oil to compensate Iran’s share?”

Ongoing concerns over supplies from Venezuela as well as declining US oil inventories have stengthened claims that the global oil market is tightening once again.

US commercial crude inventories fell by 2.6 million barrels in the week to Aug. 24, to 405.79 million barrels, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday. That was more than forecast.

Still, current US sanctions on Iran are unlikely to stop Iranian oil exports completely, a long-time adviser at Saudi Arabia’s Energy Ministry said on Tuesday, adding Iran would be unable to close the straits of Hormuz and Bab Al-Mandab even partially.

Speaking at an oil conference in the Norwegian city of Stavanger, Ibrahim Al-Muhanna said that Iran would be the first to lose out from any move to block those major shipping routes and that any such action would trigger further sanctions on Iran.

Iran has said if it cannot sell its oil due to US pressure, then no other regional country will be allowed to do so either, threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz.

“The amount of oil going through the Strait of Hormuz is so large. There’s more than 18 million barrels a day, about two-thirds of world maritime oil trade. Meaning, cutting oil from there will lead to an acute oil shortage and prices will skyrocket,” Muhanna said.


No more spending excuses for Merkel as investment bottlenecks ease

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gestures at her arrival for the government’s ‘Open Door Day’ in Berlin on Sunday Sam sit fuga. Et laut ute odi cum as elit. (Reuters)
Updated 11 min 22 sec ago

No more spending excuses for Merkel as investment bottlenecks ease

  • German leader urged to boost public investment by taking on new debt Sunducim velessunt alis plabore sernatur

BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has fended off growing calls for more fiscal stimulus by citing the slow outflow of existing federal funds — but data suggests the money is indeed being used up as local authority bottlenecks gradually clear. With Europe’s largest economy on the brink of recession and borrowing costs at record lows, Merkel has faced pressure at home and from abroad to ditch her pledge to target balanced budgets and instead boost public investment by taking on new debt.
Merkel and her conservatives say Berlin has already earmarked billions of euros in investment for schools, nurseries and hospitals but that local authorities have spent only a fraction of this windfall.
But this excuse seems no longer valid: Figures from the Finance Ministry show that towns and municipalities are now tapping the federal government’s funds more actively, suggesting that planning and labor bottlenecks are easing.
Of €3.5 billion ($3.9 billion) earmarked in a municipal infrastructure fund for investment in schools, nurseries and hospitals (KInvFG I), local authorities have applied for nearly €3.4 billion, the data showed — roughly 96 percent of the overall amount on offer.
The fund was created in 2015 and initially meant to last until 2018. Due to the slow initial take-up, it was then extended to 2020.
Of another €3.5 billion put aside by the government in 2017 for school renovations (KInvFG II), authorities so far have tapped €2.4 billion, or 69 percent.

HIGHLIGHTS

• German towns tap into federal funds more actively.

• Improved outflow raises pressure to provide more money.

• Coalition parties at odds over debt-financed stimulus.

“As you can see, the program is running very well,” a Finance Ministry spokeswoman said, adding that the take-up had jumped by nearly €2 billion over the past 12 months.
“The figures show that there is planning progress in most federal states and that financially weak municipalities welcome the financial aid from the federal government,” she added.
The improved flow of funds is important for Germany, where heavily indebted towns and municipalities historically manage a large chunk of public spending and many citizens are annoyed by run-down local infrastructure and closed public facilities.

Austerity
Years of austerity linked to the national debt brake — a constitutional amendment introduced in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008/09 to rein in public debt — have led to pent-up public investment needs in towns and municipalities worth a combined €138 billion, data from KfW Research shows.
“Towns and municipalities have been structurally underfunded for more than 20 years. They were forced to cut staff,” Gerd Landsberg, managing director of the German Association of Towns and Municipalities, told Reuters.
“That partly explains the initial problems with the slow take-up of federal funds — it takes time to hire new staff and get the ball rolling,” Landsberg explained.
The latest figures show, however, that authorities are overcoming those staff-related planning bottlenecks, meaning most of the money should be used up soon, he said.
Landsberg called on the government to provide more funding lines and improve the design of its programs.
“Short-term investment funds alone do not provide sufficient planning and personnel security. We must secure the financial strength of towns and municipalities in the long term.”
Like Merkel and her conservatives, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz of the jointly governing, center-left Social Democrats (SPD) has shown little appetite so far to ditch the balanced budget goal and boost investments through new debt.
Eckhardt Rehberg, the chief budget lawmaker in Merkel’s conservatives, is also sticking to the line that billions of euros still sit unused in various special-purpose funds.
“The debate about debt-financed investment programs misses the point. The problem is not a lack of money, but the sluggish outflow of funds,” Rehberg said.
Authorities must hire more staff, cut red tape and speed up planning and approval procedures, he said. “In addition, the construction sector has already reached its capacity limit, which means it can hardly cope with more demand,” Rehberg added.
Nevertheless, members of both the SPD’s own left wing and of the Greens, an increasingly strong opposition party, are pushing for a fiscal U-turn. Even the influential BDI industry lobby group, traditionally close to Merkel’s conservatives, last week called for a debt-financed fiscal stimulus package.
Cansel Kiziltepe, a lower house SPD lawmaker specializing in finance, said Merkel and the conservatives should stop blaming local authorities and rethink their insistence on incurring no new debt in their budgets, a policy goal commonly known as the “black zero.”
“Especially in times of economic weakness and in light of improved outflow of funds, it’s high time to say goodbye to the fetish of the black zero,” Kiziltepe told Reuters.