Oil dives after OPEC delays output decision

Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih, left, at the OPEC conference in Vienna, Austria. (AFP)
Updated 07 December 2018
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Oil dives after OPEC delays output decision

  • OPEC met in Vienna to decide production policy in coordination with other countries including Russia, Oman and Kazakhstan
  • An OPEC delegate said the organization had agreed on a tentative deal to cut oil output but had not come up with a final figure

NEW YORK: Oil prices fell in choppy trading on Thursday after OPEC and allied exporting countries ended a meeting without announcing a decision to cut crude output, and prepared to debate the matter on Friday.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) met in Vienna to decide production policy in coordination with other countries including Russia, Oman and Kazakhstan.
An OPEC delegate said the organization had agreed on a tentative deal to cut oil output but had not come up with a final figure.
Earlier, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said OPEC needed Russia to cooperate, and said a decision was likely by Friday evening.
“If everybody is not willing to join and contribute equally, we will wait until they are,” Al-Falih said.
Market watchers had expected a joint cut of 1 million to 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd).
Brent crude futures were down $2.57, or 4.2 percent, on the day to $58.99 a barrel by 4:41 p.m. GMT, off the session low of $58.36. US crude futures fell $2.37, or 4.5 percent, to $50.52 a barrel, bouncing off the session low of $50.08 a barrel.
The crude benchmarks have slumped about 30 percent this quarter.
Prices found support briefly after data showed US crude stockpiles declined last week for the first time in 11 weeks. The US became a net exporter of crude and refined products for the first time since at least 1991, data from the US Energy Information Administration showed.
“Fears of a further escalation in the US-China trade war, and potential for OPEC+ not cutting oil production deep enough will continue to weigh on oil prices in today’s trading session,” said Abhishek Kumar, senior energy analyst at Interfax Energy in London.
“All eyes are now fixated on (an) OPEC+ joint declaration, and a combined output cut of at least 1 million barrels per day will be required to see a meaningful recovery in oil prices.”
Led by Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s crude oil production has risen by 4.1 percent since mid-2018, to 33.31 million bpd.
European equities hit their lowest in two years and commodity-sensitive currencies such as the Russian rouble fell sharply, in part because of the slide in the oil price, but also with the arrest of a top executive of Chinese tech giant Huawei in Canada for extradition to the US. The arrest came just as Washington and Beijing prepare for crucial trade negotiations.
Barclays said in its Global Outlook published on Thursday that “investors need to lower their expectations” and “2019 should be a period of lower returns and higher volatility.”
Barclays said it expected “the global economy to slow over the next several quarters” although it added that “not one major economy is near recession.”
US crude inventories have climbed steadily as domestic production surged to new peaks. Exports of US crude also jumped to a record 3.2 million barrels per day last week, adding to global supplies. Stockpiles at Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for US crude futures, rose to the highest in nearly a year.


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

Updated 37 min 11 sec ago
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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.