OPEC cut ‘biggest in almost 2 years’

Worried by a drop in oil prices and rising supplies, OPEC and its allies, including Russia, agreed in December to return to production cuts in 2019. Above, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and UAE’s Oil Minister Suhail Mohamed-Al Mazrouei at OPEC headquarters, in Vienna. (Reuters)
Updated 18 January 2019
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OPEC cut ‘biggest in almost 2 years’

  • OPEC said in a monthly report its oil output fell by 751,000 barrels per day (bpd) in December to 31.58 million bpd
  • OPEC expects 2019 global oil demand growth to slow to 1.29 million bpd from 1.5 million in 2018

LONDON: OPEC said on Thursday it had cut oil output sharply in December before a new accord to limit supply took effect, suggesting producers have made a strong start to averting a glut in 2019 as a slowing economy curbs demand.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said in a monthly report its oil output fell by 751,000 barrels per day (bpd) in December to 31.58 million bpd, the biggest month-on-month drop in almost two years.
Worried by a drop in oil prices and rising supplies, OPEC and its allies, including Russia, agreed in December to return to production cuts in 2019. They pledged to lower output by 1.2 million bpd, of which OPEC’s share is 800,000 bpd.
The reduction in December means that should OPEC fully implement the new Jan. 1 cut, it will avoid a surplus that could weaken prices. Oil slid from $86 a barrel in October to below $50 in December on concerns of excess supply.
OPEC expects 2019 global oil demand growth to slow to 1.29 million bpd from 1.5 million in 2018 although it was more upbeat about the economic backdrop than last month and cited better sentiment in the oil market, where crude is back above $60.
“While the economic risk remains skewed to the downside, the likelihood of a moderation in monetary tightening is expected to slow the decelerating economic growth trend in 2019,” OPEC said.
“This has recently been reflected in global financial markets. The positive effect on market sentiment was also witnessed in the oil market,” it said.
The supply cut was a policy U-turn after the producer alliance known as OPEC+ agreed in June 2018 to boost supply amid pressure from US President Donald Trump to lower prices and cover an expected shortfall in Iranian exports.
OPEC changed course after the slide in prices starting in October. A previous OPEC+ supply curb starting in January 2017 — when OPEC production fell by 890,000 bpd according to OPEC figures — got rid of a glut formed in 2014-2016.
In a sign of excess supply, OPEC’s report said oil inventories in developed economies had stayed above the five-year average in November.
The biggest drop in OPEC supply last month came from Saudi Arabia and amounted to 468,000 bpd, the survey showed.
Saudi supply in November had hit a record above 11 million bpd.
The Kingdom told OPEC it lowered supply to 10.64 million bpd in December and has said it plans to go even further in January by delivering a larger cut than required under the OPEC+ deal.
The second-largest was an involuntary cut by Libya, where unrest led to the shutdown of the country’s biggest oilfield.
Output from Iran posted the third-largest decline, also involuntary, as US sanctions that started in November discouraged companies from buying its oil.
Iran, Libya and Venezuela are exempt from the 2019 supply cut deal and are expected by some analysts to post further falls, giving a tailwind to the voluntary effort by the others.
OPEC said in the report that 2019 demand for its crude would decline to 30.83 million bpd, a drop of 910,000 bpd from 2018, as rivals pump more and the slowing economy curbs demand.
Delivering the 800,000 bpd cut from December’s level should mean the group would be pumping slightly less than the expected demand for its crude this year and so avoid a surplus. Last month’s report had pointed to a surplus.
The figures for OPEC production and demand for its crude were lowered by about 600,000 bpd to reflect Qatar’s exit from the group, which now has 14 members.


Microsoft tops $1 trillion as it predicts more cloud growth

Updated 20 min 36 sec ago
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Microsoft tops $1 trillion as it predicts more cloud growth

BENGALURU/SAN FRANCISCO: Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday briefly topped $1 trillion in value for the first time after executives predicted continued growth for its cloud computing business.
The Redmond, Washington-based company beat Wall Street estimates for quarterly profit and revenue, powered by an unexpected boost in Windows revenue and brisk growth in its cloud business which has reached tens of billions of dollars in sales.
Microsoft shares rose 4.4% to $130.54 in late trading after the forecast issued on a conference call with investors, pushing the company ahead of Apple Inc’s $980 billion market capitalization. The companies and Amazon.com Inc. have taken turns in recent months to rank as the world’s most valuable US-listed company.
Microsoft’s stock has gained about 23% gain so far this year, after hitting a record high of $125.85 during regular trading hours.
Under Chief Executive Satya Nadella, the company has spent the past five years shifting from reliance on its once-dominant Windows operating system to selling cloud-based services.
Azure, Microsoft’s flagship cloud product, competes with market leader Amazon Web Services (AWS) to provide computing power to businesses.
Growth in that unit slowed to 73% in the third quarter ended March 31 from 76% in the second quarter. Mike Spencer, Microsoft’s head of investor relations, said the decline was roughly in line with the company’s estimate.
Christopher Eberle, a senior equity analyst with Nomura, said that with Azure, “one should assume a slower rate of growth as we move forward, simply due to the law of large numbers.” Still, Azure will bring in $13.5 billion in sales in fiscal 2019 with an overall growth rate of 75%, he estimated. “I can’t name another company of that scale growing at these rates.”
Microsoft tops tech rivals such as Amazon in market capitalization on some days despite having less revenue, partly because most of its sales is to businesses, which tend to be steadier customers than consumers. A growing proportion of Microsoft’s software sales are billed as recurring subscription purchases, which are more reliable than one-time purchases.
Microsoft’s earnings per share of $1.14 beat expectations of $1 according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Windows licensing revenue from computer makers grew 9% year over year, beating expectations after a 5% decline in the previous quarter. Spencer said a shortage of Intel Corp. processor chips for PCs that many analysts expected to last into this summer had been resolved earlier than expected, allowing PC makers to ship more machines.
Microsoft’s “commercial cloud” revenue — which includes business use of Azure, Office 365 and LinkedIn — was $9.6 billion this quarter, up 41% from the previous year but down slightly from the 48% growth rate the previous quarter.
Microsoft’s so-called “intelligent cloud” unit, which contains its Azure services, posted revenue of $9.65 billion, above Wall Street estimates of $9.28 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood said that unit could reach $11.05 billion in revenue in the fiscal fourth quarter.
The “productivity and business process” unit that includes both Office as well as social network LinkedIn had $10.2 billion revenue versus expectations of $10.05 billion.
Microsoft’s latest results contained two weak spots.
Its gaming revenue was up only 5% versus 8% the quarter before, which Spencer attributed to less revenue from third-party game developers and the fact that many gamers are delaying purchases of Microsoft’s Xbox console because a new model is expected soon.
Sales of the company’s Surface hardware grew 21% versus 39% the quarter before, also because customers waited for updated hardware they expected to be released soon.
Total revenue rose 14% to $30.57 billion, beating analysts’ average estimate of $29.84 billion according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Net income rose to $8.81 billion, or $1.15 per share, from $7.42 billion, or 96 cents per share, a year earlier.