Oil prices surge after attacks hit Saudi Arabia's output

The Houthi attack hit two sites owned by Aramco and effectively shut down six percent of the global oil supply. (AP)
Updated 16 September 2019

Oil prices surge after attacks hit Saudi Arabia's output

  • Brent crude futures settled at $69.02 a barrel, rising $8.80, or 14.6 percent
  • President Donald Trump said Sunday the US was ‘locked and loaded’ to respond to the attacks

NEW YORK: Oil ended nearly 15 percent higher on Monday, with Brent logging its biggest jump in over 30 years and a record trading volumes, after an attack on Saudi Arabian crude facilities cut the kingdom’s production in half and intensified concerns of retaliation in the Middle East.
Brent crude futures settled at $69.02 a barrel, rising $8.80, or 14.6 percent, its largest one-day percentage gain since at least 1988.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures ended at $62.90 a barrel, soaring $8.05, or 14.7 percent — the biggest one-day percentage gain since December 2008.
Trades also ramped up, with Brent futures surpassing 2 million lots, an all-time daily volume record, Intercontinental Exchange spokeswoman Rebecca Mitchell said.
“The attack on Saudi oil infrastructure came as a shock and a surprise to a market that had not been trading volatility and was more focused on the demand aspect over supply,” said Tony Headrick, an energy market analyst at St. Paul, Minnesota commodity brokerage CHS Hedging LLC.
“I think the tables abruptly shifted in the way of the supply outlook and that caught many that were short off guard and encouraged new length to be put in place,” Headrick said.
The Chicago Board Options Exchange’s Crude Oil Volatility Index, a gauge of options premiums based on moves in the US oil exchange traded fund, rose to 77.17, its highest level since December last year.
Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest oil exporter and, with its comparatively large spare capacity, has been the supplier of last resort for decades.
The attack on state-owned producer Saudi Aramco’s crude-processing facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais cut output by 5.7 million barrels per day and threw into question its ability to maintain oil exports. The company has not given a specific timeline for the resumption of full output.
Two sources briefed on Aramco’s operations said a full return to normal production “may take months.”

Prices surged about 20 percent after the open on Sunday evening, with Brent crude posting its biggest intraday gain since the 1990-1991 Gulf crisis, before pulling back as various nations said they would tap emergency supplies to keep the world supplied with oil.
President Donald Trump approved the release of oil from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which helped limit gains in oil prices.
Oil futures climbed higher during the session after the Saudi-led military coalition battling Yemen’s Houthi movement said the attack was carried out with Iranian weapons, raising the prospect of a global conflict involving the United States and Iran.
Trump also said Washington was “locked and loaded” to hit to respond to the strike, and the threat of retaliation and an escalation of tensions in the Middle East may keep prices elevated, regardless of any relief from global stockpiles.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft told the Security Council that emerging information on attacks on the Saudi oil facilities “indicates that responsibility lies with Iran” and that there is no evidence the attack came from Yemen.
Britain’s UN Ambassador Karen Pierce told the council: “We’re still assessing what happened and who’s responsible for the attacks. Once this has been established, we will discuss with our partners how to proceed in a responsible manner.”
Russia and China urged against hasty conclusions over the attacks.
 


India probes Flipkart, Amazon discounts after retailers complain

Updated 15 October 2019

India probes Flipkart, Amazon discounts after retailers complain

  • Products on Amazon, Flipkart listed at steep discounts in sale
  • Trader groups allege firms violating foreign investment rules

NEW DELHI: The Indian government is looking into whether hefty discounts offered on Walmart-owned Flipkart and Amazon.com during their online festive sales violate foreign investment rules, a commerce ministry official told Reuters.
India introduced new rules in February aimed at protecting the 130 million people dependent on small-scale retail by deterring big online discounts. The rules forced e-commerce firms to tweak their business structures and drew criticism from the United States, straining trade ties between New Delhi and Washington.
While Amazon and Flipkart say they’ve complied with the federal rules, local trader groups say the two companies are violating them by burning money to offer discounts — of more than 50 percent in some cases — during the ongoing festive sales.
Reuters reviewed emails and internal training material from Flipkart showing the company is in some cases offering to reduce, or forfeit, its sales commission from sellers that offer discounts.
The commerce ministry official said the government was reviewing complaints and evidence filed by the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), a group representing some 70 million brick-and-mortar retailers, alleging Amazon and Flipkart were violating the foreign investment rules.
The official declined to comment on possible action, but executives from Amazon and Flipkart were summoned to meet commerce ministry officials last week to discuss the matter.
Flipkart in a statement said it had a “good meeting” with government officials and it was “deeply committed to doing business the right way in India.”
Amazon said it had an “open & transparent discussion” with officials and has a high bar for compliance.
Seeking to attract shoppers around the key Hindu festival of Diwali, both retailers have placed full-page advertisements in top national daily the Times of India to showcase discount offerings stretching from Samsung and Apple phones to clothing and diapers.
“Customers are going online because of the unbelievable discounts. Because of this sales at offline businesses are down 30 percent to 40 percent this month,” CAIT’s secretary general Praveen Khandelwal said.
Two emails received by Flipkart sellers in September, just days ahead of the inaugural phase of the festive sales, showed it offering to partly fund discounts.
The company would “burn” 3 percent of the discount if a seller lowered a product price by 15 percent, or 9 percent if the seller discounted by 30 percent, said one of the emails.
In training material posted on Flipkart’s restricted website for its sellers, seen by Reuters, the company asks them to prepare for the festive season by saying “nothing is bigger than this” and explaining how they can benefit by discounting products for Flipkart’s premium customers.
“We want to ensure that you fetch as much profit from it as possible ... whatever the discount you are offering, half of that will be reimbursed to you by Flipkart,” a post said.
A Flipkart source said the incentives were compliant with Indian regulations and were aimed at promoting sellers’ earnings by effectively reducing the commission they pay.
All India Online Vendors Association, whose 3,500 members sell products on various online platforms including Flipkart, in a statement said fewer than 100 of its members benefitted from Flipkart’s partial discount funding, giving some sellers an unfair advantage.