Sanctions and cuts push sour crude prices above Brent

US sanctions on Venezuela and Iran along with output cuts by OPEC have tightened the supply of medium to heavy sour oil. (Reuters)
Updated 12 February 2019
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Sanctions and cuts push sour crude prices above Brent

  • US sanctions on Venezuela have created a strong pull for medium and heavy sour crude from other sources
  • A decision by OPEC and Russia to rein in oil output has also buoyed sour crude prices

SINGAPORE: Middle East oil benchmarks Dubai and DME Oman have nudged above prices for Brent crude, an unusual move as US sanctions on Venezuela and Iran along with output cuts by OPEC tighten supply of medium to heavy sour oil.
Sour crudes, mainly produced in the Middle East, Canada and Latin America, have a high sulfur content and are usually cheaper than Brent, the benchmark for low-sulfur oil in the Atlantic Basin.
But Dubai spot prices and DME Oman crude futures for April have held above ICE Brent at Asia’s market close since the start of February, data from the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), Dubai Mercantile Exchange and Refinitiv Eikon showed.
“The forceful implementation of US sanctions on Venezuelan crude exports, the greater-than-expected recent Saudi crude output cut ... and the uncertainty over US sanction exemptions on Iranian crude have all served to strengthen sour crudes relative to sweet benchmarks such as Brent,” said Tilak Doshi, a Singapore-based analyst at consultancy Muse, Stancil & Co.
US sanctions on Venezuela created a strong pull for medium and heavy sour crude from other places, said the traders and analysts.
The sanctions, aimed at blocking Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s access to the nation’s oil revenue, will be extended to non-US oil buyers from April 28.
Uncertainty over whether Washington will extend waivers to sanctions on Tehran’s oil exports that it previously granted to top Iranian crude buyers — China, India, Japan and South Korea — is also boosting Middle East oil prices.
A decision by OPEC and Russia to rein in oil output has buoyed sour crude prices as well.


India suspends Kashmir border trade with Pakistan

Updated 19 April 2019
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India suspends Kashmir border trade with Pakistan

  • Kashmir has been on edge since a February suicide attack that killed 40 Indian paramilitaries
  • India said it had reports that trade on the border was being “misused by Pakistan-based elements for funnelling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency”

NEW DELHI: India has suspended trade across its disputed Kashmir border with Pakistan, alleging that weapons and drugs are being smuggled across the route, as tensions simmer between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
Kashmir has been on edge since a February suicide attack that killed 40 Indian paramilitaries and brought the two countries to the brink of war with cross-border air strikes.
On Thursday, India’s government, which is in the middle of a tough national election, said it had reports that trade on the border was being “misused by Pakistan-based elements for funnelling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency.”
It also said many of those trading across the Line of Control, which divides Kashmir into zones under Indian and Pakistani control, had links to militant organizations.
The home ministry said trade would be suspended until a stricter inspection mechanism is in place.
The cross-border trade is based on a barter system, with traders exchanging goods including chillies, cumin, mango and dried fruit.
It began in 2008 as a way to improve strained relations between New Delhi and Islamabad, who have fought two of their three wars over the disputed region.
The Indian Express newspaper said Friday that 35 trucks carrying fruit traveling from the Indian side of the border had been stopped after the government order.
Trade on the border has been suspended before, including in 2015, when India accused a Pakistani driver of drug trafficking.
The latest move comes after India withdrew “Most Favoured Nation Status” — covering trade links — from Pakistan after the February attack, which was claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed Islamist group.
Islamabad has denied any involvement in the attack.
India’s Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made national security a key plank of his re-election campaign, pointing to the recent flare-up of violence as he battles the center-left opposition Congress party.
He is seeking a second term from the country’s 900 million voters in the mammoth election which kicked off on April 11 and runs till May 19. The results will be out on May 23.