Oil prices rise on signs Iran’s crude exports fall further

Oil companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico shut down 19 percent of oil production as a precaution against Hurricane Michael. (AFP)
Updated 09 October 2018
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Oil prices rise on signs Iran’s crude exports fall further

TOKYO: Oil prices rose on Tuesday as more evidence emerged that crude exports from Iran, OPEC’s third-largest producer, are declining in the run-up to the re-imposition of US sanctions and as a hurricane moved across the Gulf of Mexico.
Brent crude was up 26 cents, 0.3 percent, at $84.17 a barrel by 0244 GMT. On Monday, Brent fell to a low of $82.66, but mostly recovered as investors bet China’s economic stimulus would boost crude demand. Brent rose to a four-year high of $86.74 last week.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down by 24 cents, or 0.3 percent, at $74.53 a barrel. WTI fell to as low as $73.07 in the previous session but closed just 5 cents lower.
Iran’s crude exports fell further in the first week of October, according to tanker data and an industry source, as buyers are seeking alternatives ahead of the start of the US sanctions on November 4 and creating a challenge to other OPEC oil producers as they seek to cover the shortfall.
The Islamic Republic exported 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude in that seven-day period, Refinitiv Eikon data showed. An industry source who also tracks exports said October shipments were so far below 1 million bpd.
That is down from at least 2.5 million bpd in April, before President Donald Trump in May withdrew the United States from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and re-imposed sanctions. The figure also marks a further fall from 1.6 million bpd in September.
Last week, Saudi Arabia, the biggest producer among the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), announced plans to lift crude output next month to 10.7 million bpd, a record.
“Iranian barrels are declining fast, and Saudi Arabia’s promise to balance will face a reality check in a month’s time,” JP Morgan said in an oil market note.
Oil companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico shut down 19 percent of oil production as Hurricane Michael moved toward eastern Gulf states including Florida.
If current forecasts prove accurate, the hurricane would largely miss major producing assets in the Gulf, analysts said, but any change of track could widen the impact.
The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday cut its global economic growth forecasts for 2018 and 2019, saying that trade policy tensions and rising import tariffs were taking a toll on commerce while emerging markets struggle with tighter financial conditions and capital outflows.


Israel’s tech sector faces challenge from shortage of workers

Updated 22 min 59 sec ago
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Israel’s tech sector faces challenge from shortage of workers

  • The sector accounts for about 45 percent of Israel’s exports
  • Arabs account for only 3 percent of tech workers but this is expected to change soon as 18 percent of all computer science students today are Arab

TEL AVIV: Israel is struggling to recruit enough workers to its technology sector, a report showed on Sunday, creating a challenge for an industry seen as the country’s main potential driver of economic growth over the next decade.
Start-Up Nation Central, which published the report with the Israel Innovation Authority, said that while the number of high-tech workers in Israel had grown over the past five years, their percentage of the labor force remained unchanged.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that the required growth will not be possible if the country’s supply of tech workers is inadequate,” said Eugene Kandel, head of Start-Up Nation Central
“Tech companies are struggling to find tech professionals, with many already finding (them) overseas.”
The number of tech workers — who earn more than double the average wage — grew to 280,000 in 2017 from 240,000 in 2013 but represent only 8 percent of the workforce, down from nearly 10 percent in 2008.
This is surprising given that investment into high-tech has soared, with venture capital funding exceeding $5 billion in 2017 and closing in on $6.5 billion this year. The number of multinationals operating development centers in Israel jumped to nearly 350 in 2016 from around 50 in 2000.
The sector accounts for about 45 percent of Israel’s exports. But about 15,300 positions remain open.
To find workers, Israeli companies are opening development centers overseas, mainly in Ukraine but also in the United States, Russia and India. Several dozen firms have also taken advantage of a rapid process established by the government in 2018 to obtain special visas for foreign tech workers.
But in the long term more initiatives are needed to increase the pool of workers, Kandel told reporters. There is great potential among women, who represent only 23 percent of tech workers, as well the largely untapped Arab and ultra-Orthodox Jewish sectors.
Arabs account for only 3 percent of tech workers but this is expected to change soon as 18 percent of all computer science students today are Arab, similar to their share of the population.
One obstacle for their employment in high-tech is that they live far from the country’s center.
Aharon Aharon, head of the government’s Innovation Authority, said he would launch two plans in the first quarter of 2019 — one to provide incentives in building an innovation ecosystem in the periphery and another to encourage tech companies to open branches outside of the center.