Oil prices drop after OPEC+ decision despite omicron fears: Daily Virus Update

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Updated 03 December 2021

Oil prices drop after OPEC+ decision despite omicron fears: Daily Virus Update

Oil prices drop after OPEC+ decision despite omicron fears: Daily Virus Update
  • Since August, the group has been adding an additional 400,000 barrels per day

DUBAI: Oil prices dropped on Thursday as OPEC+ decided to stick to plans to increase production by 400,000 barrels per day in January.

The drop came after Brent crude futures rose $1.24, or 1.8 percent, to $70.11 by 0748 GMT, having eased 0.5 percent in the previous session.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures gained $1.13, or 1.7 percent, to $66.70 a barrel, after a 0.9 percent drop on Wednesday.

December 02

Global oil prices have lost more than $10 a barrel since last Thursday, when news of omicron first shook investors.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, together known as OPEC+, will likely decide on Thursday whether to release more oil into the market as previously planned or restrain supply.

Since August, the group has been adding an additional 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) of output to global supply each month, as it gradually winds down record cuts agreed in 2020.

The new variant, though, has complicated the decision-making process, with some observers speculating OPEC+ could pause those additions in January in an attempt to slow supply growth.

December 01

The OECD warned Wednesday that the omicron coronavirus variant threatens the global economic recovery as it lowered the growth outlook for 2021 and appealed for a swifter rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

The global economy is now expected to expand by 5.6 percent this year, down from an earlier forecast of 5.7 percent, the OECD said in its updated economic outlook

 Nigeria’s public health authorities said Wednesday that the new COVID-19 variant, omicron, was identified in samples from three passengers travelling to the continent’s most populous country from South Africa.

“Genomic surveillance has now identified and confirmed Nigeria’s first cases of the B.1.1.529 SARS-CoV-2 lineage, now known as the omicron variant,” the head of Nigeria’s Centre for Disease Control, Ifedayo Adetifa, said in a statement.

Earlier, the UK’s health secretary, Sajid Javid, said it was likely the vaccines would remain effective against serious disease from the new variant. He added it could be two more weeks before more was known about the variant.

Japan has asked airlines to stop taking new incoming flight bookings over concerns about the virus variant.

“We have asked airlines to halt accepting all new incoming flight reservations for one month starting December 1,” a transport ministry official told AFP, adding that existing bookings would not be affected.

Oil prices rose more than 3 percent on Wednesday, recouping a big chunk of the previous session’s steep losses, as major producers prepared to discuss how to respond to the threat of a hit to fuel demand from the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Brent crude futures rose $2.46, or 3.6 percent, to $71.69 a barrel at 0742 GMT, after rising to as high as $71.95 earlier in the day.

The benchmark had slumped 3.9 percent on Tuesday.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose $2.13, or 3.2 percent, to $68.31 a barrel, after a 5.4 percent drop on Tuesday.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will meet on Wednesday after 1300 GMT and ahead of a meeting on Thursday of OPEC+, which groups OPEC with allies including Russia.

November 30

Amid speculations on the impact of omicron on oil demand, the Saudi energy minister said it was too early to tell, adding OPEC+ was keen to monitor the situation.

The group of oil-producing countries has rescheduled its meetings to later this week to have more time in assessing the impact, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, told Arab News in an Aramco ceremony in Dhahran on Monday.

Earlier, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said, there is “no need for emergency measures in the oil market.”

He added OPEC+ partners did not call to review the current deal.

Oil prices rebounded on Monday after a huge slump last week, which was led by fears brought by the new coronavirus variant.

Brent crude futures climbed $3.11, or 4.3 percent, to $75.83 a barrel by 0355 GMT, after falling $9.50 on Friday.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was up $3.47, or 5.1 percent, at $71.62 a barrel, having tumbled $10.24 in the previous session.

Oil prices plunged more than 10 percent on Friday, their biggest one-day drop since April 2020,  as the new variant spooked investors across financial markets.

There are worries the new variant could derail the global economic recovery, potentially hurting oil demand, while it has also added to concerns that a supply surplus could swell in the first quarter.

Economists at Goldman Sachs outlined four scenarios that could happen as the world cautiously navigates the situation. 

If omicron turns out to transmit faster than its predecessor, Delta, it will result in first-quarter global growth slowing to a 2 percent quarter-on-quarter annual rate.

The economists said if both the disease severity and immunity against hospitalizations are worse than for Delta, global economic growth will take a more substantial hit, but inflation impact will be “ambitious.”

On a slightly positive note, if omicron spreads slower than delta, it will have no significant effect on global growth and inflation, Goldman Sachs said.

If the new variant is more transmissible, but causes less severe disease, global growth could be higher than Goldman’s baseline.

November 29

Most Gulf stock markets ended lower on Sunday, with the Saudi and Dubai indexes suffering their biggest single-day fall in nearly two years as fears of a potentially vaccine-resistant coronavirus variant spooked investors.

Opinion

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The World Health Organization on Friday designated the omicron coronavirus variant detected in South Africa as being “of concern” — the fifth variant to be given that designation

Saudi Arabia’s benchmark index slid 4.5 percent, dragged down by a 5.4 percent fall for Al Rajhi Bank and a 6.2 percent decline for Saudi Basic Industries.

The Kingdom halted flights from and to Malawi, Zambia, Madagascar, Angola, Seychelles, Mauritius and the Comoros Islands on Sunday owing to concerns related to the spread of the new COVID-19 strain, state news agency SPA reported on Twitter.

The latest pandemic developments also sent oil prices, a key catalyst for the Gulf’s financial markets, plunging by $10 a barrel on Friday for their largest one-day drop since April 2020. The new variant added to concerns that an oil supply surplus could swell in the first quarter.

“It’s obvious that traders are concerned about the implications of the newly mutated virus which brings back the lock-down memories from last year. If Saudi decides to impose more restrictive measures the economy will be impacted significantly and the growth prospects next year will vanish”, Mohammed Al-Suwayed, chief executive officer of Razeen Capital, said. He said the time is now suitable for investors to reinvest in the market since the share prices are relatively low.

Dubai’s main share index declined 5.2 percent, its biggest intraday fall since March 2020, with most stocks in negative territory.

Blue-chip developer Emaar Properties plunged 9.4 percent and budget carrier Air Arabia retreated by 7.1 percent.

In Abu Dhabi, the index fell 1.8 percent, weighed down by a 3.3 percent drop for telecoms company Etisalat and a 1.4 percent decline for First Abu Dhabi Bank, the country’s largest lender.

The UAE has suspended entry for travelers from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique from Nov. 29 over concerns about the new coronavirus variant, the state news agency reported on Friday.

In Qatar, the index slipped by 2.8 percent as investors shunned stocks across board, with petrochemicals group Industries Qatar leading the losses.

Egypt’s blue-chip index lost 1.3 percent, with top lender Commercial International Bank retreating by 0.8 percent.

(With Reuters)


Gasoline price surge fuels EV demand in Kingdom: KAPSARC

Gasoline price surge fuels EV  demand in Kingdom: KAPSARC
Updated 30 September 2022

Gasoline price surge fuels EV demand in Kingdom: KAPSARC

Gasoline price surge fuels EV  demand in Kingdom: KAPSARC
  • KSA has implemented energy price reforms to unlock economic and environmental benefits for the country

RIYADH: Growing gasoline prices will play a significant role in increasing the demand for electric vehicles in the Kingdom, according to Anwar Gasim, a King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center researcher.

“The higher the domestic gasoline price, the more a consumer may be incentivized to switch to an electric vehicle,” he told Arab News.

According to Gasim, gasoline prices in the Kingdom seven years ago were a quarter of today’s prices.

“If you look at the 91-octane gasoline, it was SR0.45 ($0.12) per liter. Today, it’s SR2.18,” Gasim said in an exclusive interview with Arab News.

Since 2016, the Kingdom has implemented energy price reforms to unlock economic and environmental benefits for the country.

“Since gasoline prices ended up getting linked with the international price, the government had to put a cap on them when international prices went up very high last year,” said Gasim.

It means there is a limit that domestic gasoline prices will not surpass, no matter how high energy prices may hike internationally.

“I think it was becoming too high for people here, and then the government decided to put a cap,” he said.

According to Gasim, raising domestic energy prices can contribute to the Kingdom’s climate goals.

Saudi Arabia aims to reduce emissions and increase the share of renewables to 50 percent by 2030.

“Higher energy prices can incentivize more efficient behavior, more energy conservation, and therefore it can help save energy and reduce emissions,” he added.

KAPSARC was a part of the regulatory team led by the Ministry of Energy, which on Aug. 22 issued the completion of all legislative and technical aspects to regulate the EV charging market.

These stations will more likely charge the vehicles using the national grid. Still, there are possibilities that off-grid stations will be a requirement.

Some neighborhood distribution networks can no longer accommodate any additional load. They have reached the peak of the transformer capacity.

The only option is using off-grid solutions; renewable sources like solar and hydrogen can supply these off-grids.

Electromin, a wholly owned e-mobility turnkey solutions provider under Petromin, in May announced the rollout of electric vehicle charging points across the Kingdom.

In an earlier interview with Arab News, Kalyana Sivagnanam, the group CEO of Petromin, said that the network includes 100 locations across the Kingdom powered by a customer-centric mobile application.

Sivagnanam said that the company would set up most of its charging stations in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam and eventually branch out across the country.

Electromin’s charging network will offer a complete spectrum of services from AC chargers to DC fast and ultrafast chargers, catering to all customer segments.

The imports of EV charging equipment were permitted in the Kingdom in 2020.

As part of the Kingdom’s sustainability strategy, the Royal Commission of Riyadh launched an initiative last year to ensure that 30 percent of all vehicles in the capital would be powered by electricity by 2030.


Saudia to bring voice recognition technology, augmented reality on board: VP

Saudia to bring voice recognition technology, augmented reality on board: VP
Updated 30 September 2022

Saudia to bring voice recognition technology, augmented reality on board: VP

Saudia to bring voice recognition technology, augmented reality on board: VP

RIYADH: Saudia, Saudi Arabia’s national carrier, is aiming to integrate voice recognition technology and augmented reality to its services, the company announced during the second edition of the Global AI Summit held in Riyadh.

Saudia has signed an agreement, aimed at boosting artificial intelligence in the flight sector, with the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority and the Saudi Company for Artificial Intelligence. Speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the summit, Dr. Khaled Alhazmi, vice president of IT support and operations at Saudia, said that the agreement is the first step in introducing AI products to the airline’s services.

Alhazmi explained that the company is currently exploring voice recognition technology through one of SDAIA’s products, an app called SauTech.

“It is an amazing app; it currently gives accurate results for the recognition of the dialects of the Arabic language. And right now, we are trying to explore opportunities and use cases, to start implementing it in our services,” he said.

The company is also planning to adopt Internet of Things technology as well as augmented reality to ensure that they are first movers to implement AI into their services.

“Our strategic direction is to build an ecosystem of partners who would enable us to digitize our services to our customers. We are aiming to deliver a first-class experience to our customers,” he added.

Alhazmi believes that the digitalization factor currently in use at the airline such as downloading tickets to personal devices can be greatly expanded on, and that there are huge opportunities to integrate technology into the sector.

“We are digitizing everything under a program, which is adapting the digital first. Right now we believe that we need to put in use all the data science, all the technologies nowadays, and put them into the hands of the customer,” he said. The company wants to improve its self-service options by providing a personalized platform that will enable users to customize their journey according to their needs.

“That’s actually the main goal because we understand right now that we have a new generation of people who are more interested in technology, they are using technology every day,” he added.

Saudia has also recently partnered with agritech company Red Sea Farms to provide sustainable and high-quality meals for its customers.

“We can see that the adoption of technology in Saudi Arabia in general is getting more mature than other countries,” Alhazmi concluded.


Saudi budget surplus is calculated on $76 for brent price

Saudi budget surplus is calculated on $76 for brent price
Updated 30 September 2022

Saudi budget surplus is calculated on $76 for brent price

Saudi budget surplus is calculated on $76 for brent price
  • Real GDP growth is forecasted to increase by nearly 8 percent year-on-year in 2022 and 3.1 percent year-on-year in 2023

RIYADH: Based on the government budget figures, Al-Rajhi Capital assessed the government's 2023 budgeted revenues to likely be based on Brent at $76 per barrel.

Real GDP growth is forecasted to increase by nearly eight percent year-on-year in 2022 and 3.1 percent year-on-year in 2023, according to Al-Rajhi Capital.

Inflation is expected to be 2.6 percent and 2.1 percent in 2022 and 2023 respectively, Al-Rajhi said.

Revised 2022 revenues are mostly in line with estimates, however, the expenditure budget is much higher than from an earlier announcement, it said.

The 2023 spending budget was raised by 18 percent, with a slight fiscal surplus of SR9 billion expected for 2023.


Saudi Arabia to record a budget surplus of $24bn in 2022

Saudi Arabia to record a budget surplus of $24bn in 2022
Updated 01 October 2022

Saudi Arabia to record a budget surplus of $24bn in 2022

Saudi Arabia to record a budget surplus of $24bn in 2022
  • Total revenues expected to reach about SR1.12 trillion in 2023

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is expecting its budget surplus in 2022 to hit SR90 billion ($24 billion), and another SR9 billion next year, the Ministry of Finance announced on Friday.

Looking at the full year 2022 projections, real GDP is expected to grow by 8 percent, while the inflation in 2022 may record about 2.6 percent.

Looking at the next year’s projections, Saudi total revenues are expected to reach about SR1.12 trillion in 2023, while reaching about 1.21 trillion in 2025, according to the Ministry of Finance's preliminary statement of the state's general budget for the year 2023.

Total expenditures are expected to reach about SR1.11 trillion in the next fiscal year 2023, and that the expenditure ceiling will reach about SR1.13 trillion in 2025.

The objectives of the state's general budget for the fiscal year 2023 come as a continuation of the process of work to strengthen and develop the financial position of the Kingdom, the finance minister said.

“The government attaches great importance to enhancing the support and social protection system and accelerating the pace of strategic spending on Vision programs and major projects to support economic growth,” Mohammed Al-Jadaan said.

The Kingdom’s economy has demonstrated its strength and durability by achieving high growth rates, after taking many policies and measures with the aim of protecting the economy from the repercussions of inflation and supply chain challenges, he added.

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Deals worth over $27bn available for Saudi businesses with leading national firms

Deals worth over $27bn available for Saudi businesses with leading national firms
Updated 30 September 2022

Deals worth over $27bn available for Saudi businesses with leading national firms

Deals worth over $27bn available for Saudi businesses with leading national firms

RIYADH: Saudi companies are being encouraged to tap into investment deals and contracts worth more than SR100 billion ($26.62 billion) with two of the Kingdom’s biggest firms.

Representatives from the Saudi Electricity Co. and the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation — also known as SABIC — unveiled various opportunities for firms in the Kingdom to work with them during workshops organized by the Federation of Saudi Chambers, according to Saudi Press Agency.

The Saudi Electricity Co. set out its strategy for the localization of the electricity industries, known as ‘Bena’, which aims to encourage and support local manufacturing.

It also includes three initiatives: to raise the percentage of localization in the company's projects; increase the purchases of materials from national factories; and identify investment opportunities required to be localized.

The firm indicated the volume of future demand for or purchases and contracts is expected to reach SR100 billion.

SABIC explained that the investment opportunities under the umbrella of its Nusaned initiative to enhance local content, contributed to supporting economic development with more than $1 billion of gross domestic product.

The company approved 43 investment opportunities, with the total investment opportunities amounting to 351 opportunities.

The number of investors has reached 183, while the number of feasibility studies has hit 74.