A bearish week in oil — but the bulls will run for the rest of quarter one

Last week saw several developments in the oil market that should have raised prices — yet it ended with bearish sentiment. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 11 February 2019
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A bearish week in oil — but the bulls will run for the rest of quarter one

  • The signals for the rest of the first quarter of 2019 are on the upside
  • The US sanctions on Venezuelan oil exports are also affecting the market

RIYADH: Last week saw several developments in the oil market that should have raised prices — yet it ended with bearish sentiment, with Brent easing to $62.10 per barrel, and WTI falling to $52.72.
The signals for the rest of the first quarter of 2019 are, however, on the upside. The market is extremely tight — especially in medium and heavy crude grades. If that continues, the global market will face a huge supply shortage, exceeding the conditions that drove oil prices above $86 last year.
There are several factors behind this. According to a S&P Global Platts survey, OPEC production in January was at its lowest level since March 2015. Crude output plunged to 30.86 million barrels per day (bpd), a fall of 970,000 bpd from December, as new supply quotas went into force on Jan. 1.
On top of that, a potential return of supply from Libya has not yet materialized in the market — with ongoing unrest at the El Sharara oilfield, further restricting supply.
Strong imports from China are also deepening market tightness, with total crude imports at 10.4 million bpd, up around 2.3 million bpd from last year.
This a bullish development. China crude oil imports are still rising despite the trade dispute with the US. This means that the oil-price deterioration due to a global economic slowdown, as predicted by some, is completely wrong.
The US sanctions on Venezuelan oil exports are also affecting the market. Venezuelan oil production had already experienced problems prior to the sanctions, given the deterioration of infrastructure and internal labor problems. S&P Global Platts expects oil output to further fall to below 800,000 bpd by the end of February.
Counter to all this is that US producers continue to put more oil on the market, with output at a record 11.9 million bpd lately, with exports reaching 2.8 million bpd, the fourth-highest number on record.
Yet given the other factors at play, it is intuitive that the tightness in the market will transform into shortage before the end of the first quarter of 2019 — and that will boost prices.


Huawei in public test as it unveils sanction-hit phone

Updated 19 September 2019

Huawei in public test as it unveils sanction-hit phone

  • Hit by US sanctions, Huawei's Mate 30 will not be allowed to use Google’s Play Store
  • Household-name services like WhatsApp, Instagram and Google Maps will be unavailable.
BERLIN: Chinese tech giant Huawei launches its latest high-end smartphone in Munich on Thursday, the first that could be void of popular Google apps because of US sanctions.
Observers are asking whether a phone without the Silicon Valley software that users have come to depend on can succeed, or whether Huawei will have found a way for buyers to install popular apps despite the constraints.
The company has maintained a veil of secrecy over its plans, set to be dropped at a 1200 GMT press conference revealing the Mate 30 and Mate 30 Pro models.
Huawei, targeted directly by the United States as part of a broader trade conflict with Beijing, was added to a “blacklist” in Washington in May.
Since then, it has been illegal for American firms to do business with the Chinese firm, suspected of espionage by President Donald Trump and his administration.
As a result, the new Mate will run on a freely available version of Android, the world’s most-used phone operating system that is owned by the search engine heavyweight.
While Mate 30 owners will experience little difference in the use of the system, the lack of Google’s Play Store — which provides access to hundreds of thousands of third-party apps and games as well as films, books and music — could hobble them.
Household-name services like WhatsApp, Instagram and Google Maps will be unavailable.
The tech press reports that this yawning gap in functionality has left some sellers reluctant to stock the new phones, fearing a wave of rapid-fire returns from dissatisfied customers.
Huawei president Richard Yu said at Berlin’s IFA electronics fair this month that his engineers found a “very simple” way to install the hottest apps without going via the Play Store.
Huawei could offer its own app store in a preliminary version, setting itself up as a competitor to the dominant Apple and Google offerings, observers speculate.
Over the longer term, the company could build out a similar “ecosystem” of devices, apps and services as the Silicon Valley companies that would bind users more closely to it.
The world’s second-largest smartphone maker after Samsung, Huawei earlier this month presented its proprietary operating system HarmonyOS, a potential replacement for Android.
The Mate 30 will not yet have HarmonyOS installed.
But it could make for a new round in the decades-old “OS wars” between Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s Mac OS, then Android versus Apple’s iOS.
Meanwhile, Eric Xu, current holder of Huawei’s rotating chief executive chair, has urged Europe to foster an alternative to Google and Apple.
That could provide an opening for Huawei to build up Europe’s market of 500 million well-off consumers as a stronghold against American rivals.
“If Europe had its own ecosystem for smart devices, Huawei would use it... that would resolve the problem of European digital dependency” on the United States, Xu told German business daily Handelsblatt.
He added that his company would be prepared to invest in developing such joint European-Chinese projects.