Brent oil inches up on Iran tensions and OPEC, while US crude falls

A trade war between the United States and China has dampened prospects of global economic growth and oil demand. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 05 July 2019
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Brent oil inches up on Iran tensions and OPEC, while US crude falls

  • Both benchmarks were set for their biggest weekly falls in five weeks
  • In the US, new orders for factory goods fell for a second straight month in May

LONDON: Brent oil ticked higher on Friday, supported by tensions over Iran and the decision by OPEC and its allies to extend a supply cut deal until next year, while US benchmark crude prices fell on weak economic indicators.
Brent was up 53 cents at $63.83 per barrel by 1330 GMT. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) slipped 18 cents to $57.16. The US market was closed on Thursday for a holiday.
Both benchmarks were set for their biggest weekly falls in five weeks.
A trade war between the United States and China has dampened prospects of global economic growth and oil demand, but talks between the two nations resume next week in a bid to resolve the deadlock.
“The truce between the United States and China is not translating into anything in the real economy in the short term,” Petromatrix oil analyst Olivier Jakob said.
“The negotiations still have to happen and until then we will be looking at very weak manufacturing PMIs,” he said referring to Purchasing Managers’ Indices which indicate companies’ optimism about their sector.
German industrial orders fell far more than expected in May, and the Economy Ministry said this sector of Europe’s largest economy was likely to remain weak in the coming months.
In the US, new orders for factory goods fell for a second straight month in May, government data showed, stoking the economic concerns.
The US Energy Information Administration reported on Wednesday a weekly decline of 1.1 million barrels in crude stocks, smaller than the 5 million barrel draw reported by the American Petroleum Institute and less than analyst expectations.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers such as Russia, a grouping known as OPEC+, supported prices by extending their deal on supply cuts.
Tension in the Middle East also offered some support. Iran, already embroiled in a row with the United States, threatened on Friday to capture a British ship after British forces seized an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar over accusations the ship was violating EU sanctions on Syria.
“It is just another sign that the market sentiment is not strong enough to react to those headlines and events, which is quite unusual,” Jakob said.
A Reuters survey found OPEC oil output sank to a new five-year low in June, as a rise in Saudi supply did not offset losses in Iran and Venezuela due to US sanctions and other outages elsewhere in the group.
Oil production by Saudi Arabia, the world’s top crude exporter, was 9.782 million barrels per day (bpd) in June, an OPEC source said, slightly up from 9.67 million bpd in May.


Debut of China’s Nasdaq-style board adds $44bn in market cap

Updated 22 July 2019
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Debut of China’s Nasdaq-style board adds $44bn in market cap

  • Activity draws attention away from main board

BEIJING: Trading on China’s new Nasdaq-style board for homegrown tech firms hit fever pitch on Monday, with shares up as much as 520 percent in a wild debut that more than doubled the exchange’s combined market capitalization and beat veteran investors’ expectations.

Sixteen of the first batch of 25 companies — ranging from chip-makers to health care firms — increased their already frothy initial public offering (IPO) prices by 136 percent on the STAR Market, operated by the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

The raucous first day of trade tripped the exchange’s circuit breakers that are designed to calm frenzied activity. The weakest performer leapt 84.22 percent. In total, the day saw the creation of around 305 billion yuan ($44.3 billion) in new market capitalization on top of an initial market cap of around 225 billion yuan, according to Reuters’ calculations.

“The price gains are crazier than we expected,” said Stephen Huang, vice president of Shanghai See Truth Investment Management. “These are good companies, but valuations are too high. Buying them now makes no sense.”

Modelled after Nasdaq, and complete with a US-style IPO system, STAR may be China’s boldest attempt at capital market reforms yet. It is also seen driven by Beijing’s ambition to become technologically self-reliant as a prolonged trade war with Washington catches Chinese tech firms in the crossfire.

Trading in Anji Microelectronics Technology (Shanghai) Co. Ltd., a semiconductor firm, was briefly halted twice as the company’s shares hit two circuit breakers — first after rising 30 percent, then after climbing 60 percent from the market open.

HIGHLIGHTS

• 16 of 25 STAR Market firms more than double from IPO price.

• Weakest performer gains 84 percent, average gain of 140 percent.

• STAR may be China’s boldest attempt at capital market reforms yet.

The mechanisms did little to keep Anji shares in check as they soared as much as 520 percent from their IPO price in the morning session. Anji shares ended the day up 400.2 percent from their IPO price, the day’s biggest gain, giving the company a valuation of nearly 242 times 2018 earnings.

Suzhou Harmontronics Automation Technology Co. Ltd., in contrast, triggered its circuit breaker in the opposite direction, falling 30 percent from the market open in early trade before rebounding. But by the market close, the company’s shares were still 94.61 percent higher than their IPO price.

Wild share price swings, partly the result of loose trading rules, had been widely expected. IPOs had been oversubscribed by an average of about 1,700 times among retail investors.

The STAR Market sets no limits on share prices during the first five days of a company’s trading. That compares with a cap of 44 percent on debut on other boards in China.

In subsequent trading sessions, stocks on the new tech board will be allowed to rise or fall a maximum 20 percent in a day, double the 10 percent daily limit on other boards.

Regulators last week cautioned individual investors against “blindly” buying STAR Market stocks, but said big fluctuations were normal.

Looser trading rules were aimed at “giving market players adequate freedom in the game, accelerating the formation of equilibrium prices, and boosting price-setting efficiency,” the Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE) said in a statement on Friday.

The SSE added that it was normal to see big swings in newly listed tech shares, as such companies typically have uncertain prospects, and are difficult to evaluate.