Oil prices fall as US grants Iran sanction waivers to major importers

Oil markets have been preparing for the US sanctions on Iran for months. Above, gas flares from an oil production platform at the Soroush oil fields in the Arabian Gulf, south of Tehran. (Reuters)
Updated 05 November 2018
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Oil prices fall as US grants Iran sanction waivers to major importers

  • The US said on Friday it will temporarily allow eight importers to keep buying Iranian oil.
  • Oil markets have been preparing for the US sanctions on Iran for months

SINGAPORE: Oil prices fell on Monday as the start to US sanctions against Iran’s fuel exports was softened by waivers that will allow major buyers to still import Iranian crude, at least temporarily.
Front-month Brent crude futures were at $72.40 per barrel at 0332 GMT on Monday, down 43 cents, or 0.6 percent from their last close.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 46 cents, or 0.7 percent, at $62.68 a barrel.
Brent has lost more than 16 percent in value since early October, while WTI has declined by more than 18 percent since then, in part as hedge funds have cut their bullish wagers on crude to a one-year low by the end of October, data showed on Friday.
Prices came under pressure as it became clear that Washington was allowing several countries to continue importing crude from Iran despite the sanctions, which officially started on Monday.
The US said on Friday it will temporarily allow eight importers to keep buying Iranian oil.
Washington has so far not named the eight, referred to as “jurisdictions,” a term that might include Taiwan which the US does not regard as a country.
China, India, South Korea, Turkey, Italy, the United Arab Emirates and Japan have been the top importers of Iran’s oil, while Taiwan occasionally buys Iranian crude.
Japan said on Monday it was in close communication with the US. While Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declined to detail any potential sanction waivers, he said his government had asked Washington that sanctions should not have an adverse impact on Japanese companies.
Oil markets have been preparing for the sanctions for months.
“Iranian exports and production had been declining steadily ... Iranian exports show a decline of more than 1 million barrels per day (bpd) as of October from May,” said Edward Bell of Emirates NBD bank.
On the demand side, Bell warned that consumption may be slowing due to an economic slowdown, as seen in a sharp drop in refining profits.
“Sagging refining margins at a time of weak crude prices sends a very telling message to us that demand is underperforming,” he said.
A slowdown in demand would come just as output is rising.
Joint output from the world’s top producers — Russia, the US and Saudi Arabia — in October rose above 33 million bpd for the first time, up 10 million bpd since 2010.
These three countries alone meet more than a third of consumption.
In the Middle East, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company plans to increase its oil production capacity to 4 million bpd by the end of 2020 and 5 million bpd by 2030, ADNOC said on Sunday, compared with current output of just over 3 million bpd.


New tech regulation ‘inevitable,’ Apple CEO Cook says

Updated 19 November 2018
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New tech regulation ‘inevitable,’ Apple CEO Cook says

  • ‘I’m a big believer in the free market. But we have to admit when the free market is not working. And it hasn’t worked here’
  • ‘I think it’s inevitable that there will be some level of regulation’

WASHINGTON: Apple CEO Tim Cook predicts that new regulations of tech companies and social networks to protect personal data are “inevitable.”
In an interview with news website Axios being broadcast Sunday on HBO television, Cook said he expected the US Congress would take up the matter.
“Generally speaking, I am not a big fan of regulation,” Cook said in an excerpt released by Axios. “I’m a big believer in the free market. But we have to admit when the free market is not working. And it hasn’t worked here. I think it’s inevitable that there will be some level of regulation.
“I think the Congress and the administration at some point will pass something.”
Cook has previously been a proponent of self-regulation, especially as concerns user data protection.
But following the scandal that saw data consultancy Cambridge Analytica obtain data from millions of Facebook users, Cook said the industry was now “beyond” the scope of self-regulation.
Facebook has been trying to fend off concerns about how well it protects user data and defends against use of the site to spread misinformation aimed at swaying elections.
Controversies that have battered Facebook since the 2016 presidential election in the United States have raised questions over whether co-founder Mark Zuckerberg should keep his post as chief executive.
Turning to gender inequality in the workplace, Cook said the tech industry has generally been strong in diversity, even though a male-dominated culture prevails.
“I agree 100 percent from a gender point of view that the (Silicon) Valley has missed it, and tech in general has missed it,” he said.
However, Cook added, “I’m actually encouraged at this point that there will be a more marked improvement over time.”