US penalizes Chinese firm

About one-fifth of the world’s oil supplies pass through the Strait of Hormuz. Iran’s actions in the Gulf took the market into more bullish territory on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 23 July 2019

US penalizes Chinese firm

  • Sanctions are part of Trump’s effort to increase pressure on Tehran

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration is penalizing a Chinese company and its top executive for violating US restrictions on dealing with Iran.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday the US is imposing sanctions on Zhuhai Zhenrong Limited and its CEO for violating restrictions on Iran’s oil industry.
Pompeo announced the measures in a speech in Orlando to the VFW.
The US sanctions are part of the Trump administration’s effort to increase pressure on Iran by starving its economy.
Oil exports are Iran’s largest source of foreign income and the US campaign has raised tensions between the two countries.
China has continued to import Iranian oil as other countries have stopped out of fear of US penalties.
Meanwhile, oil prices rose on Monday on concerns that Iran’s seizure of a British tanker last week may lead to supply disruptions in the energy-rich Gulf.  Brent crude futures climbed 79 cents, or 1.26 percent, to $63.26 a barrel.
West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 74 cents, or 1.33 percent, at $56.37 a barrel.
Last week, WTI fell over 7 percent and Brent lost more than 6 percent.
“The events in the Gulf have definitely taken the market into more bullish territory in today’s trading,” said Erik Norland, senior economist at CME Group.
“But that doesn’t mean markets will continue to go higher, and previous incidents in the Gulf haven’t driven up prices much — suggesting that investors’ calculus, rightly or wrongly, is that a war is not very likely.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• China has continued to import Iranian oil as other countries have stopped out of fear of US penalties.

• Capping gains, force majeure was lifted on loadings of crude on Monday at Libya’s Sharara oilfield, the country’s largest, whose closure since Friday had caused an output loss of about 290,000 bpd.

• Goldman Sachs on Sunday lowered its forecast of growth in oil demand for 2019 to 1.275 million bpd.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said on Friday they had captured a British-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf in response to Britain’s seizure of an Iranian tanker earlier this month.
The move has increased the fear of potential supply disruptions in the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf, through which flows about one-fifth of the world’s oil supplies, but no major escalation with Britain or the US appears imminent.
“In the cat and mouse game that Iran is playing with the US, it is taking calculated risks,” Harry Tchilinguirian, global oil strategist at BNP Paribas in London, told the Reuters Global Oil Forum.

“So far the US is not taking the bait.”
Capping gains, force majeure was lifted on loadings of crude on Monday at Libya’s Sharara oilfield, the country’s largest, whose closure since Friday had caused an output loss of about 290,000 barrels per day (bpd).
Hedge funds and other money managers raised their combined futures and options positions on US crude for a second week and increased their positions in Brent crude as well, according to data from the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Intercontinental Exchange.
Goldman Sachs on Sunday lowered its forecast of growth in oil demand for 2019 to 1.275 million bpd, citing disappointing global economic activity.


Powell: No clear hint on rates but says Fed will aid economy

Updated 23 August 2019

Powell: No clear hint on rates but says Fed will aid economy

  • The outlook for the US economy, Powell said, remains favorable but continues to face risks
  • Trump, who has relentlessly attacked Powell and the Fed over its rate policies, kept up his verbal assaults on Twitter

WASHINGTON: Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell sent no clear signal Friday that the Fed will further cut interest rates this year but said it would “act as appropriate” to sustain the expansion — phrasing that analysts see as suggesting rate cuts.
Powell said President Donald Trump’s trade wars have complicated the Fed’s ability to set interest rates and have contributed to a global economic slowdown.
Speaking to a gathering of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Powell didn’t give financial markets explicit guidance on whether or how many rate cuts might be coming the rest of the year. The Fed cut rates last month for the first time in a decade, and financial markets have baked in the likelihood of more rate cuts this year.
The outlook for the US economy, Powell said, remains favorable but continues to face risks. He pointed to increasing evidence of a global economic slowdown and suggested that uncertainty from Trump’s trade wars has contributed to it.
Reacting to the speech Friday, Trump, who has relentlessly attacked Powell and the Fed over its rate policies, kept up his verbal assaults on Twitter:
“As usual, the Fed did NOTHING!” Trump tweeted. “It is incredible that they can ‘speak’without knowing or asking what I am doing, which will be announced shortly. We have a very strong dollar and a very weak Fed. I will work “brilliantly” with both, and the US will do great.”
Trump added:
“My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powel (sic) or Chairman Xi?“
Powell’s speech comes against the backdrop of a vulnerable economy, with the financial world seeking clarity on whether last month’s rate decision likely marked the start of a period of easier credit.
The confusion only heightened in the days leading to the Jackson Hole conference, at which Powell gave the keynote address. Minutes of the Fed’s July meeting released Wednesday showed that although officials voted 8-2 to cut their benchmark rate by a quarter-point, there was a wider divergence of opinion on the committee than the two dissenting votes against the rate cut had indicated.
The minutes showed that two Fed officials favored a more aggressive half-point rate cut, while some others adopted the polar opposite view: They felt the Fed shouldn’t cut rates at all.
The minutes depicted the rate cut as a “mid-cycle adjustment,” the phrase Powell had used at his news conference after the rate cut. That wording upset traders who interpreted the remark as suggesting that the Fed might not be preparing for a series of rate cuts to support an economy that’s struggling with a global slowdown and escalating uncertainty from President Donald Trump’s trade war with China.
There was even a difference of opinion among the Fed members who favored a rate cut, the minutes showed, with some concerned most about subpar inflation and others worried more about the threats to economic growth.
Comments Thursday from Fed officials gathering in Jackson Hole reflected the committee’s sharp divisions, including some reluctance to cut rates at least until the economic picture changes.
“I think we should stay here for a while and see how things play out,” said Patrick Harker, the president of the Fed’s Philadelphia regional bank.
Esther George, president of the Fed’s Kansas City regional bank and one of the dissenting votes in July, said, “While I see downside risk, I wasn’t ready to act on that relative to the performance of the economy.”
George said she saw some areas of strength, including very low unemployment and inflation now closer to the Fed’s target level. She said her decision on a possible future rate cut would depend on forthcoming data releases.
Robert Kaplan, president of the Fed’s Dallas branch indicated that he might be prepared to support further rate cuts.
If “we are seeing some weakness in manufacturing and global growth, then it may be good to take some action,” Kaplan said.
George was interviewed on Fox Business Network; Harker and Kaplan spoke on CNBC.
The CME Group, which tracks investor bets on central bank policy, is projecting the likelihood that the Fed will cut rates at least twice more before year’s end.
Adding to the pressures on the Fed, Trump has kept up his attacks on the central bank and on Powell personally, arguing that Fed officials have kept rates too high and should be cutting them aggressively.
Trump has argued that a full percentage-point rate reduction in coming months would be appropriate — a suggestion that most economists consider extravagantly excessive as well as an improper intrusion on the Fed’s political independence.
The president contends that lower rates in other countries have caused the dollar to rise in value and thereby hurt US export sales.
“Our Federal Reserve does not allow us to do what we must do,” Trump tweeted Thursday. “They put us at a disadvantage against our competition.”
Earlier in the week, he had told reporters, “If the Fed would do its job, you would see a burst of growth like you have never seen before.”
Powell has insisted that the White House criticism has had no effect on the Fed’s deliberations over interest rate policy.