US regulator blasts own agency’s report on crude price collapse

US regulator blasts own agency’s report on crude price collapse
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s report failed to explain the plunge in US crude oil futures, according to one commissioner. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 25 November 2020

US regulator blasts own agency’s report on crude price collapse

US regulator blasts own agency’s report on crude price collapse
  • ‘While some may have hoped for a more definitive analysis, we simply cannot provide that at this time’

NEW YORK: One of the commissioners of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission on Tuesday criticized as “incomplete and inadequate” the federal agency’s report on April’s plunge in oil futures deep into negative territory.

Dan Berkovitz, one of five CFTC commissioners, said the report, issued on Monday, “does not provide the public with an adequate explanation for the extraordinary price collapse” on April 20 in US crude oil futures.

On that day, the price of US West Texas Intermediate crude plunged briefly to as low as negative-$40 a barrel.

Monthly contract expiries can prompt volatile trade, but the negative move was unprecedented.

In its report, the CFTC cited a series of occurrences, including the collapse in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a surge in supply.

On April 20, oil futures sank as contract holders realized they didn’t want to take delivery of oil they wouldn’t be able to sell or store. The selloff intensified in the last minutes of trading, with the contract closing at -$37.63 a barrel.

Berkovitz said that the report, published by the market oversight division, fails to fully analyze the “flash crash” in the last 20 minutes of trading that took the contract from $0 to below negative-$40.

He said the report also did not adequately assess rumors of low storage availability in Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for the contract, or late-arriving trades that influenced the day’s action.

“The issuance of an incomplete preliminary report is a disservice to the public, market participants, and small and large businesses that depend on a reliable crude oil futures benchmark for contract pricing, risk mitigation, and price discovery,” he said.

The CFTC, in its report published on Monday, said a root cause analysis evaluating individual price movements was beyond the report’s scope, adding that further data, information, and analysis may affect the observations.

Officials also did not comment on reports of a probe into trading activities that led to negative prices. “While some may have hoped for a more definitive analysis, we simply cannot provide that at this time,” said Chairman Heath Tarbert on Monday.

Of the CFTC commissioners, just one other has released a separate statement, Commissioner Rostin Benham, who also raised some questions, including whether stronger risk controls are necessary. 


Emirati-Swiss consortium creates MENA remittance giant with Bahrain acquisition

Emirati-Swiss consortium creates MENA remittance giant with Bahrain acquisition
Updated 18 min 16 sec ago

Emirati-Swiss consortium creates MENA remittance giant with Bahrain acquisition

Emirati-Swiss consortium creates MENA remittance giant with Bahrain acquisition
  • Prism Group and Royal Strategic Partners to acquire BFC Group Holding
  • BFC to be merged with Finablr and rebranded WizzFinancial

DUBAI: An Emirati-Swiss consortium is acquiring Bahrain’s BFC Group Holding, which owns the Gulf country’s largest money transfer and exchange company.

Switzerland’s Prism Group AG and Abu Dhabi’s Royal Strategic Partners have signed a deal to acquire BFC and its subsidiaries – BFC Bahrain, BEC Exchange (Kuwait), BFC Payments and BFC Forex and Financial Services (India).

BFC will be merged with WizzFinancial, formerly Finablr, the Abu Dhabi-based payments company acquired by the same consortium in December.

The deal creates one of the largest remittance and currency exchange groups in the Middle East and North Africa region, home to millions of migrants who regularly sending money home and vice versa.

“The acquisition creates a regional powerhouse with licenses to operate in over 30 countries,” the consortium said in a press statement.

The move comes amid a period of intense change for the financial sector as it adopts new technologies to create better user experiences.

“Everybody in the financial services arena is embarking on a digital transformation of some kind,” Anthony Wagerman, an adviser at Prism Group told Arab News. “It’s not really a matter of if, it’s a matter of when, and it’s a matter of how long that takes and ensuring your customers are with you.”

While a large part of the remittance market continues to rely on “tried and tested methodology,” the traditional money-sending sector has been disrupted by COVID-19, which “undoubtedly acted as a form of catalyst or accelerator for this digital journey,” he said.

The consortium’s investment in the businesses it is acquiring will help speed their digital transformation, but it is important to recognize that some customers will continue to use traditional methods, said Wagerman.

“We want to create a seamless service that’s completely omnichannel, from walk-up to online to mobile, because that is really the way the market is going now,” he said.

The deal comes amid evidence of impressive resilience in the sector during the COVID pandemic with remittance flows of $540 billion in 2020, just 1.6 percent below 2019 levels, according to World Bank data. That compares with a 4.8 percent decline during the global financial crisis.

Moreover, the remittance industry is set to almost double to $930.44 billion by 2026, according to Allied Market Research.

“The reports we’re seeing of the first coming up to the first half of 2021 is really quiet encouraging, and have shown a lot of businesses snapping back rather more quickly than people originally envisaged,” Wagerman said.

Asked how blockchain technology plays a role in the remittance industry’s digital journey, he said there is still a strong need for regulation in this area given the variation in countries’ different rules.

“There’s an overall attractiveness about having frictionless payments that avoided intermediaries, of course there is. The reality however is not so simple, not least because when money crosses borders, there’s all kind of issues particularly from a regulatory perspective,” Wagerman explained.


Saudi Arabia sees record IPOs requests, 50% rise in managed assets, says CMA chief

Saudi Arabia sees record IPOs requests, 50% rise in managed assets, says CMA chief
Updated 03 August 2021

Saudi Arabia sees record IPOs requests, 50% rise in managed assets, says CMA chief

Saudi Arabia sees record IPOs requests, 50% rise in managed assets, says CMA chief
  • Elkuwaiz says assets under management by financial institutions have increased by 50 percent

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is seeing a record interests from companies to sell shares to the public, while the size of the assets under management by financial institutions increased by 50 percent to SR600 billion over 3 years, the chairman of the country’s capital market authority said.

The increase in the volume of assets under management (AUM) had impact on the financial market and has contributed to opening new investments areas such as the launch of financial derivatives market, which made a debut last year, Mohammed Elkuwaiz said in panel hosted by the Financial Academy.

The authority received recently 30 requests to sell shares in initial public offerings and this is the highest number the authority, known as CMA, got since its establishment, he added. 

Mohammed Elkuwaiz, CMA chairman

Saudi Arabia is implementing a huge program to modernize and develop its financial sector under the country’s vision 2030 plan. Under this program the CMA had a target to list 20 new companies in 2021 on the Saudi index through public offerings, and the authority had achieved half of this target by the end of the first half of the year, Elkuawiz said.

Interests from companies to sell shares to the public increased over the past few years with the introduction of the parallel market, known as Nomu. Elkuwaiz explained that the main market, Tadawul, targets larger and more mature companies with the ability and willingness to bear big loads in terms of disclosure data, governance, while smaller companies prefer to list on Nomu.

“Listing on Nomu is an exciting window for the small and medium size and entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia as we see the increase in IPOs interest and this is the result of the CMA strategy,” said Mohammed Ramady, an independent economic analyst and former senior banker told the Arab News in comments on Saudi financial development.

Another area where Saudi Arabia is venturing and advancing is Fintech. “We have more than 15 companies licensed as financial technology companies, which facilitates the availability of other types of financing that did not exist in the past, such as crowdfunding, which has become a boost for the financial market,” Elkuwaiz added.

The chairman of CMA also noted that foreign investments in the Saudi stock market have been positive and steady since they were allowed several years ago, with more than SR20 billion has entered Tadawul market since it was included in global indexes.

“The system of governance and disclosure in the financial market has been developed, making the Kingdom one of the world’s top 4 countries in terms of governance – something we are very proud of,” he added.


Fitch revises Egyptian bank’s outlook to stable

Fitch revises Egyptian bank’s outlook to stable
Updated 03 August 2021

Fitch revises Egyptian bank’s outlook to stable

Fitch revises Egyptian bank’s outlook to stable

RIYADH: Fitch Ratings has revised Commercial International Bank (Egypt) S.A.E.’s (CIB) outlook to stable from negative while affirming the bank’s long-term issuer default rating at “B+” and viability rating at “b+.” 

According to the ratings firm, pressures on the domestic environment have eased since the end of the third quarter of 2020 moderating downside risks to Egyptian banks’ credit profiles.

It said this reflects improving foreign currency liquidity, with the banking sector’s net foreign assets reaching $3.5 billion in April 2021, a reversal of a net foreign liability position of $5.3 billion at the end of April 2020. This was supported by a strong increase in foreign holdings of Egyptian treasuries to $29 billion in May 2021.

Fitch expects real GDP growth to accelerate to 6 percent in 2022.


Egypt’s domestic liquidity exceeds $213.9 billion

Egypt’s domestic liquidity exceeds $213.9 billion
Updated 02 August 2021

Egypt’s domestic liquidity exceeds $213.9 billion

Egypt’s domestic liquidity exceeds $213.9 billion

CAIRO: Egypt’s domestic liquidity rose to EGP 5.36 trillion ($213.9 billion) at the end of June 2021.

According to the official data, liquidity grew by 1.9 percent monthly. Domestic liquidity increased by 18.3 percent annually, compared to EGP 4.53 trillion in June 2020.

The money supply rose during June to EGP 1.25 trillion, compared to EGP 1.22 trillion in May 2021.  Money supply includes deposits in local currency and cash in circulation outside the banking system.

Last November, the Central Bank of Egypt decided to reduce both the overnight deposit and lending rate and its main operation rate by 50 basis points, to 8.25 percent, 9.25 percent, and 8.75 percent, respectively.

Last month, the central bank froze the interest rate for the fourth time this year.


Saudi Arabia reiterates its commitment to fight climate change

Saudi Energy Minister Abdulaziz Bin Salman. (REUTERS file photo)
Saudi Energy Minister Abdulaziz Bin Salman. (REUTERS file photo)
Updated 02 August 2021

Saudi Arabia reiterates its commitment to fight climate change

Saudi Energy Minister Abdulaziz Bin Salman. (REUTERS file photo)
  • Prince Abdul Aziz and Sharma discussed the framework of the circular carbon economy adopted by G20 leaders during Saudi Arabia’s presidency in 2020

RIYADH: Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman recently held a meeting with COP26 President-designate Alok Sharma and discussed ways to enhance cooperation in confronting global climate change.
The Saudi minister highlighted the Kingdom’s qualitative initiatives to help reduce emissions and preserve the environment, foremost of which are the Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched these initiatives on March 27. These initiatives are aimed at reducing carbon emissions in the region by 60 percent through the use of clean hydrocarbon technologies and the planting of 50 billion trees, including 10 billion in Saudi Arabia.
The “green” initiatives, which are part of the Vision 2030 strategy, will place Saudi Arabia at the center of regional efforts to meet international targets on climate change mitigation, as well as help it achieve its own goals.
Prince Abdul Aziz and Sharma also discussed the framework of the circular carbon economy adopted by G20 leaders during Saudi Arabia’s presidency in 2020.
While the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region has long been a leading global supplier of fossil fuels, renewables are complementing its own energy mix, offering eco-friendly alternatives such as clean hydrogen fuel to decarbonize and reduce gas emissions.
With around 70 to 90 percent of the Arabian Peninsula facing the threat of desertification, owing to past and ongoing human activities, massive afforestation, and land restoration initiatives hold hope for millions of hectares of degraded land.
Unfortunately, in a G20 meeting held in Italian city, Naples on July 22-23, energy and environment ministers failed to agree on the wording of key climate change commitments in their final communique after China and India refused to give way on two key points.
One of these was phasing out coal power, which most countries wanted to achieve by 2025 but some said would be impossible for them.
The other concerned the wording surrounding a 1.5-2 degree Celsius limit on global temperature increases that was set by the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Average global temperatures have already risen by more than 1 degree compared to the pre-industrial baseline used by scientists and are on track to exceed the 1.5-2 degree ceiling.
“Some countries wanted to go faster than what was agreed in Paris and to aim to cap temperatures at 1.5 degrees within a decade, but others, with more carbon-based economies, said let’s just stick to what was agreed in Paris,” said Italy’s Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani.
The G20 meeting was seen as a decisive step ahead of United Nations climate talks, known as COP26, which take place in 100 days’ time in Glasgow in November.