China’s Iran oil imports to rebound in December as buyers use US waivers

Sinopec resumed Iran oil imports shortly after Tehran’s biggest crude buyer received its waiver in November. (Reuters)
Updated 07 December 2018
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China’s Iran oil imports to rebound in December as buyers use US waivers

  • China’s waiver on US sanctions allows it to buy 360,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil for 180 days
  • For November and December, Iranian Heavy crude sold to Asia has been priced at $1.25 a barrel below Saudi’s Arab Medium

Beijing/Singapore: China’s Iranian oil imports are set to rebound in December after two state-owned refiners in the world’s largest oil importer began using the nation’s waiver from US sanctions on Iran, according to industry sources.

Sinopec resumed Iran oil imports shortly after Tehran’s biggest crude buyer received its waiver in November, while China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) will restart lifting from its own Iranian production in December.

It was reported in November that China’s waiver on US sanctions allows it to buy 360,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil for 180 days.

Top Chinese energy group CNPC, which has invested billions of dollars in Iranian oilfields, is ready to load its full share of production from December, said an oil executive with direct knowledge of CNPC’s Iran activities.

The executive estimated CNPC will load at least two million barrels a month from December, doubling previous levels to help compensate for cuts made before sanctions on Iran’s oil exports went into effect on Nov 5.

Before the waivers had been announced, Sinopec, Asia’s largest oil refiner, had planned to stop loading Iran oil in November, but resumed imports within days of getting the exemption, a second source said.

“We continued lifting Iranian oil in November because we received the waiver,” the second source added.

Sinopec and CNPC will likely use up the 360,000 bpd of Iranian oil imports allowed to China under the waiver.

Another source said Iranian oil is “attractively priced” versus rival supplies from the Middle East.

For November and December, Iranian Heavy crude sold to Asia has been priced at $1.25 a barrel below Saudi’s Arab Medium, a discount not seen since 2004. The source also said many Chinese refiners were geared toward processing Iranian crude grades.

At 360,000 bpd, China’s purchases would still be 45 percent less than the average 655,000 bpd imported during the January-September period.

The rise in Iranian oil supply and surging production from the United States, Russia and OPEC countries has pulled down crude oil prices by almost a third since October. Ahead of the sanctions being implemented in early November, China’s crude oil imports from Iran fell to 1.05 million tons (247,260 bpd) in October, the lowest since May 2010, Chinese customs data shows. Data from the provider Refinitiv Eikon, however, shows that 2.77 million tons of Iranian crude were discharged into Chinese ports in October, including into bonded storage tanks in Dalian.

By December, China’s Iran oil imports could reach almost 3 million tons, the Eikon data showed. A total 2.51 million tons of Iranian crude were discharged into Dalian in October and November, according to the data. Other major Iranian oil buyers, including India, South Korea and Japan, are also increasing or resuming orders.

It is still not clear whether Iran will be able to export much oil after the US sanctions waivers expire around the start of May.


UK core pay growth strongest in nearly 11 years, but jobs growth slows

Data showed the unemployment rate remained at 3.8 percent as expected. (Shutterstock)
Updated 16 July 2019
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UK core pay growth strongest in nearly 11 years, but jobs growth slows

  • Core earnings have increased by 3.6 percent annually, beating the median forecast of 3.5 percent
  • The unemployment rate fell by 51,000 to just under 1.3 million

LONDON: British wages, excluding bonuses, rose at their fastest pace in more than a decade in the three months to May, official data showed, but there were some signs that the labor market might be weakening. Core earnings rose by an annual 3.6 percent, beating the median forecast of 3.5 percent in a Reuters poll of economists. Including bonuses, pay growth also picked up to 3.4 percent from 3.2 percent, stronger than the 3.1 percent forecast in the poll. Britain’s labor market has been a silver lining for the economy since the Brexit vote in June 2016, something many economists attribute to employers preferring to hire workers that they can later lay off over making longer-term commitments to investment. The pick-up in pay has been noted by the Bank of England which says it might need to raise interest rates in response, assuming Britain can avoid a no-deal Brexit. Tuesday’s data showed the unemployment rate remained at 3.8 percent as expected, its joint-lowest since the three months to January 1975. The number of people out of work fell by 51,000 to just under 1.3 million. But the growth in employment slowed to 28,000, the weakest increase since the three months to August last year and vacancies fell to their lowest level in more than a year. Some recent surveys of companies have suggested employers are turning more cautious about hiring as Britain approaches its new Brexit deadline of Oct. 31. Both the contenders to be prime minister say they would leave the EU without a transition deal if necessary. A survey published last week showed that companies were more worried about Brexit than at any time since the decision to leave the European Union and they planned to reduce investment and hiring. “The labor market continues to be strong,” ONS statistician Matt Hughes said. “Regular pay is growing at its fastest rate for nearly 11 years in cash terms and its quickest for over three years after taking account of inflation.” The BoE said in May it expected wage growth of 3 percent at the end of this year.