Oil at 6-week high on Gulf of Mexico storm, Iran tensions

US oil producers cut nearly a third of their output in the Gulf of Mexico, above, ahead of what could be one of the first major storms of the Atlantic hurricane season. (Reuters)
Updated 11 July 2019

Oil at 6-week high on Gulf of Mexico storm, Iran tensions

  • Oil prices were also supported by a decline in US inventories
  • Stocks have now fallen for four consecutive weeks, the Energy Information Administration said

LONDON: Oil prices hit a six-week high on Thursday as oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico were evacuated ahead of a storm, while an incident with a British tanker in the Middle East highlighted tensions in the region.
Brent crude futures reversed early losses and were up 40 cents at $67.41 a barrel by 0852 GMT. Earlier in the session they hit their highest since May 30 at $67.65, after ending Wednesday up 4.4 percent.
US West Texas Intermediate crude futures were up 33 cents, at $60.76 a barrel, having earlier touched their highest since May 23 at $60.94. They gained 4.5 percent in the previous session.
A day after Iran warned Britain would face “consequences” over the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker, three Iranian vessels tried to block the passage of a British ship run by BP through the Strait of Hormuz, the British government said. They withdrew after warnings from a British warship.
“What happened was partially expected. We pointed out last week that Iran was likely to do something of the sort,” Petromatrix oil analyst Olivier Jakob said.
“They might have created a little bit of disturbance, but nothing came out of it. For now, we are in the process of intimidation and psychological warfare ... To have a strong price reaction you need something to really happen.”
Oil prices were also supported by a decline in US inventories. US crude stocks fell 9.5 million barrels in the week to July 5, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said, more than the 3.1 million-barrel draw analysts had expected as refineries ramped up output.
US oil producers on Wednesday also cut nearly a third of their output in the Gulf of Mexico ahead of what could be one of the first major storms of the Atlantic hurricane season.
Fifteen production platforms and four rigs were evacuated in the north central Gulf of Mexico, according to a US regulator, as oil firms moved workers to safety ahead of a storm expected to become a hurricane by Friday.
“There is nothing like an early start to the hurricane season to support oil prices, but looking under the hood of the EIA data, it paints an even rosier picture for US oil markets,” said Stephen Innes, managing partner, Vanguard Markets in Bangkok.
“Imports down, exports likely up and refinery utilization at yearly highs,” he said.
Stocks have now fallen for four consecutive weeks, according to the EIA.
US output is rising again after a brief drop from record levels, according to the EIA. Production last week rose to 12.3 million barrels a day.
“Rising US shale production levels, subdued global economic momentum and existing trade uncertainties will cap bullish gains for crude oil futures,” said Benjamin Lu, analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore.


Popeyes flexes its muscles in China as KFC feels the heat

Updated 56 min 10 sec ago

Popeyes flexes its muscles in China as KFC feels the heat

  • Popeyes signed a lease in Shanghai for its first store in China on Monday

SHANGHAI: US fried chicken chain Popeyes wants to become the top chicken brand in China, the chief executive of its parent company said on Tuesday, as it prepares to take on KFC, the leading player in the world’s most populous market.

Popeyes signed a lease in Shanghai for its first store in China on Monday, which is expected to open next year.

The company outlined plans in July to build 1,500 restaurants in China in the coming decade, becoming the last of Toronto-based Restaurant Brands International Inc’s main brands to enter the country.

By contrast, Yum China’s KFC has about 6,300 stores. Yum has said that it is acutely aware there is more opportunity to expand in China, noting that while it was in 1,300 Chinese cities, there are still as many as 800 cities without a KFC store.

Popeyes’ July plan was “just really to put a framework on the short-term potential business,” Jose Cil, RBI’s CEO said in an interview in Shanghai.

“I think we can be the No. 1 chicken brand here in China and all around Asia,” he said, adding that consumers in the region were looking for options. He dismissed concerns that a slowing China economy and trade tensions had dimmed prospects for growth in the long term.

Cil’s remarks comes as the Cajun-inspired fast food chicken chain experiences a surge in popularity in the US after a newly launched fried chicken sandwich went viral on social media.

Demand was such that Popeyes had to stop taking orders after only two weeks before relaunching it this month.

The sandwich will also be offered in China, he said.

Cil noted that RBI’s other two main brands had seen rapid growth in China.

Burger King has expanded to around 1,100 stores in China from less than 100 in 2012. “We think we’ll keep growing at a steady pace,” Cil said.

And Tim Hortons, its Canadian coffee chain, just opened its 28th store in China after launching there in February.

“We are preparing ourselves to be able to accelerate growth in the coming years,” Cil said of
the brand.