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.


Japan’s households tighten purse strings as sales tax and typhoon hit

Updated 06 December 2019

Japan’s households tighten purse strings as sales tax and typhoon hit

  • Falls in factory output, jobs and retail add to fears of worsening slowdown after Tokyo unveils $122bn stimulus package

TOKYO: Japanese households cut their spending for the first time in almost a year in October as a sales tax hike prompted consumers to rein in expenses and natural disasters disrupted business.

Household spending dropped 5.1 percent in October from a year earlier, government data showed on Friday.

It is the first fall in household spending in 11 months and the biggest fall since March 2016 when spending fell by 5.3 percent. It was also weaker than the median forecast for a 3 percent decline.

That marked a sharp reversal from the 9.5 percent jump in September, the fastest growth on record as consumers rushed to buy goods before the Oct. 1 sales tax hike from 8 percent to 10 percent.

“Not only is the sales tax hike hurting consumer spending but impacts from the typhoon also accelerated the decline in the spending,” said Taro Saito, executive research fellow at NLI Research Institute.

“We expect the economy overall and consumer spending will contract in the current quarter and then moderately pick up January-March, but such recovery won't be strong enough.”

Household spending fell by 4.6 percent in April 2014 when Japan last raised the sales tax to 8 percent from 5 percent. It took more than a year for the sector to return to growth.

Compared with the previous month, household spending fell 11.5 percent in October, the fastest drop since April 2014, a faster decline than the median 9.8 percent forecast.

Analysts said a powerful typhoon in October, which lashed swathes of Japan with heavy rain, also played a factor in the downbeat data. Some shops and restaurants closed during the storm and consumers stayed home.

Separate data also showed the weak state of the economy.

The index of coincident economic indicators, which consists of a range of data including factory output, employment and retail sales data, fell a preliminary 5.6 points to 94.8 in October from the previous month, the lowest reading since February 2013, the Cabinet Office said on Friday.

It was also the fastest pace of decline since March 2011, according to the data.

Real wages adjusted for inflation, meanwhile, edged up for a second straight month in October, but the higher levy and weak global economy raise worries about the prospect for consumer spending and the overall economy.

While the government has sought to offset the hit to consumers through vouchers and tax breaks, there are fears the higher tax could hurt an economy already feeling the pinch from global pressures.

Japan unveiled a $122 billion fiscal package on Thursday to support stalling growth and as policymakers look to sustain activity beyond the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

A recent spate of weak data, such as exports and factory output, have raised worries about the risk of a sharper-than-expected slowdown. The economy grew by an annualized 0.2 percent in the third quarter, the weakest pace in a year.

Analysts expect the economy to shrink in the current quarter due to the sales tax hike.