Macro Snapshot — Europe’s diesel shortage threatens growth; Ghana pledges spending cuts to tackle deficit

Macro Snapshot — Europe’s diesel shortage threatens growth; Ghana pledges spending cuts to tackle deficit
European economies face the risk of a shortage of diesel as sanctions on Russia begin to bite (Shutterstock)
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Updated 25 March 2022

Macro Snapshot — Europe’s diesel shortage threatens growth; Ghana pledges spending cuts to tackle deficit

Macro Snapshot — Europe’s diesel shortage threatens growth; Ghana pledges spending cuts to tackle deficit

RIYADH: Mexico and Norway’s central banks have chosen to hike rates, while their Israeli counterpart predicts it too could introduce a quicker rise than expected. 

The Swiss central bank meanwhile is holding firm on lifting the world's lowest rate. 

Rouble closes at highest since February on gas sales move

The Russian ruble closed on Wednesday at its strongest this month against the dollar both in Moscow and offshore exchanges after President Vladimir Putin said Russia would start selling its gas to “unfriendly” countries in rubles.

The ruble ended below 100 per dollar, still down over 22 percent this year as Russia faces strict sanctions globally, triggered by its invasion of Ukraine late last month.

The rouble gained 6 percent to close at 97.7375 per dollar in Moscow after touching 94.9875, its strongest since March 2. It closed up 8.8 percent at 96.5 on the EBS platform. Both closing prices were the strongest since February.

Diesel shortage in Europe threatens to slow economic growth

European economies face the risk of a shortage of diesel, the preferred fuel for heavy industry, as sanctions on Russian energy threaten to disrupt imports while supply from elsewhere remains limited.

Russia is Europe’s largest supplier of diesel and related fuels, sending over three quarters of a million barrels per day for use in European heavy machinery, transportation, farming, fishing, and for power and heating.

The surge in diesel prices in Europe has already had an impact on industry by pushing up fuel and transportation costs, which are passed on to consumers through higher costs across the economy.

“Governments have a very clear understanding that there is a clear link between diesel and GDP (gross domestic product), because almost everything that goes into and out of a factory goes using diesel,” said John Cooper, director general of Fuels Europe, a division of the European Petroleum Refiners Association.

Norway hikes rates, makes hawkish tilt as inflation rises

Norway’s central bank raised its benchmark interest rate on Thursday as expected, and said it now plans to hike at a faster pace than previously intended to keep a lid on inflation and a rapidly growing economy.

Norges Bank’s monetary policy committee raised the sight deposit rate to 0.75 percent from 0.50 percent, its third hike since September, as unanimously predicted in a Reuters poll of economists and in line with the central bank’s plan. 

It now plans to make eight quarter-percent rate hikes by the end of 2023, including Thursday’s move, three more than the central bank’s previous projection and more than the six hikes anticipated by economists.

Dollar firms, yen holds near lowest since 2015

The dollar strengthened, with the Japanese yen sinking to its lowest since 2015, as the Russia-Ukraine conflict and expectations of central bank tightening kept investors cautious.

Equity markets were volatile, with European stocks slipping, following more hawkish comments from the US Federal Reserve on Wednesday.

Fed policymakers signaled that they could take more aggressive action to bring down inflation, including a possible half-percentage-point interest rate hike at the next policy meeting in May.

The Japanese yen fell against the US dollar for the fifth session in a row, hitting its lowest since 2015 with the Bank of Japan expected to lag policy tightening by other major central banks.

Ghana announces sweeping spending cuts to tackle deficit

Ghana’s finance minister on Thursday announced sweeping spending cuts to reduce the deficit, contain rising inflation and slow the cedi’s slide, with the country facing a looming debt crisis.

The West African gold, oil and cocoa producer has seen consumer inflation rise to over 15 percent, and the cedi currency has lost more than 15 percent of its value against the dollar this year. Its credit ratings have been downgraded over concerns about its ability to pass legislation to raise revenues.

After the central bank announced its largest ever interest rate hike of 250 basis points on Monday, Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta laid out a raft of fiscal measures at a news conference in the capital Accra. 

“We are confident these measures will address the short term challenges our nation is facing,” he said. 

The government will cut discretionary spending by an additional 10 percent, on top of a 20 percent cut announced earlier this year, and reduce government ministers’ salaries by 30 percent.

Bank of Mexico raised benchmark rate to 6.5 percent

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Thursday the Bank of Mexico had voted to raise its benchmark interest rate by 50 basis points to 6.5 percent, speaking before the latest decision has been made public by the central bank.

While speaking about inflation, Lopez Obrador noted the US Federal Reserve had last week raised its key lending rate for the first time since 2018, then said Mexico’s central bank had voted to hike its benchmark rate again by 50 basis points.

“We’re going to have an interest rate of 6.5 (percent),” he said, speaking at a regular government news conference. “The Bank of Mexico took the decision yesterday unanimously, and we respect the Bank of Mexico’s autonomy.”

The bank declined to comment on the unexpected announcement. The president’s office did not reply to a request for comment on whether Lopez Obrador had spoken in error.

Israel rate hikes may be “somewhat faster” than planned

The Bank of Israel can no longer remain patient in its monetary policy while inflation keeps rising, and the process of raising rates may be quicker than expected, its deputy governor said on Thursday.

In keeping the benchmark interest rate at 0.1 percent on Feb. 21, the central bank’s monetary policy committee had believed that conditions were ripe for the start of a gradual process of lifting the interest rate amid rising inflation, strong economic growth and higher employment.

However, Bank of Israel Deputy Governor Andrew Abir said the hiking cycle could now speed up.

“Given the recent pick-up in actual inflation and the move in inflationary expectations, the process may be somewhat faster than we originally envisaged,” he said at a conference.

After the last rates decision, Abir had told Reuters the Bank of Israel would not be aggressive in raising interest rates once it starts tightening policy in the coming months since inflation was expected to remain under control.

Swiss National Bank shifts focus to inflation after doubling forecast

The Swiss National Bank will take “all necessary measures” to tackle higher prices in Switzerland, SNB Chairman Thomas Jordan said on Thursday, indicating a shift in tone at the central bank that for years has battled to tame the strong Swiss franc.

The SNB doubled its inflation forecast for this year, citing higher energy costs, production bottlenecks and the Ukraine war.

It now sees 2022 inflation at 2.1 percent, lower than in many countries but still exceeding its target for limiting annual price increases to 0-2 percent.

Unlike the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England, the SNB held off hiking interest rates, sticking with the world’s lowest interest rate of minus 0.75 percent as expected.

(With input from Reuters)  

Saudi Arabia, GCC taking holistic approach to city-building and design, experts say

Saudi Arabia, GCC taking holistic approach to city-building and design, experts say
Updated 15 sec ago

Saudi Arabia, GCC taking holistic approach to city-building and design, experts say

Saudi Arabia, GCC taking holistic approach to city-building and design, experts say

LONDON: Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region have seen a significant shift in the concept of city-building with modernized infrastructure plans taking into account ways to improve people’s lives and experiences as opposed to “purely a functional response,” according to a UK-based architecture expert.

“It’s all about how can you create a terrific sense of being in a city and having a great experience,” said Daniel Hajjar, managing principal for Europe and the Middle East at HOK — a global architecture and engineering firm.

“Particularly in Saudi Arabia, you’re seeing a lot more use of those types of facilities, because there’s a lot more encouragement to sort of knock down both physical and figurative walls within the Kingdom, and I think that’s a very good thing, as it’s only a matter of time before you will begin to see, and you’re already seeing it, much more engagement from Saudis in their own country,” he told Arab News in an exclusive interview.

HOK, which has been engaged with the Kingdom since the 1970s, has designed several iconic projects, including the 80-story PIF Tower, which is the tallest of the five structures that make up the financial plaza of the King Abdullah Financial District and symbolizes “the dawn of a new era of financial leadership” within the Saudi capital.

The US-based firm, which was founded in 1955 in Missouri, began to officially expand its footprint in the Middle East in the early 1980s, and the first major project where the company brought a lot of its talent to complex designs was in Saudi Arabia. It was King Khalid Airport, King Saud University and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran that changed the way it operated as a firm, Hajjar explained.

“Those were sort of the first two institutes of higher education within the Kingdom that really propelled Saudi on the international stage that they began developing this fundamental infrastructure, and as a result, HOK was instrumental in delivering that, as well as the airport,” he said.

The company also developed other high-profile projects, among them the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology and King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center in Saudi Arabia, the National Assembly building and the Central Bank headquarters in Kuwait, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company corporate HQ, Dubai Marina, and the masterplan for Dubai Expo 2020

Hajjar said that the Kingdom’s projects have always challenged the company to develop the way they work, and have invested heavily in technology to deliver massive and complex LEED Platinum projects within months, and the first of their kind in the region.

Saudi Vision 2030 “is incredibly ambitious, and because of that, it raises the bar significantly in terms of what is it that’s going to drive that economy, post-oil, or post-hydrocarbon, because that is going to happen, and this diversification of the economy,” he said.

“Those master plans that are being done now are not necessarily for the generation today, but they’re for future generations to use, and master plans, by their very nature change and evolve over time. So as a result, we believe that setting a framework in place where you have the ability to engage people along the journey is incredibly important, because . . . they’re part of that evolution (and) it is part of their genetic DNA, if you will, but within the country,” Hajjar said.

When designing projects, Hajjar said it was important to ensure they had cultural or physical relevance, and to interpret natural and heritage aspects into a modern form.

“A lot of the architecture that is being produced, within Riyadh and perhaps within the Najd area in particular, this whole aspect of Salmani architecture or Salmani expression, seeking an expression that is genuine for the region, as opposed to looking at something in a pastiche manner.

“So as a result, you’re beginning to see much more authentic architecture, without copying the past, and look at a modern interpretation of those historic principles behind the architecture has a tremendously valuable proposition.”

Comparing Riyadh and Jeddah, he said that they were two totally different cities because they grew based on different parameters when they were established.

“If you look at Jeddah and the way the Al-Balad part of Jeddah has sort of grown out further from the original port, and then if you look at Riyadh as being the capital of the Kingdom, very much different in terms of the approach to city building between the two of them, and it doesn’t mean that one’s necessarily better than the other.

“Because there wasn’t as much of an economic boom in Jeddah, it sort of boomed and then it slowed down and then they didn’t simply just build. I think Riyadh now is looking at the various initiatives, in terms of greening Riyadh, public art, and creating that level of richness, while Jeddah has had international art exhibits along the Corniche,” he said.

These also differ from new developments such as the NEOM megacity project or Diriyah Gate, which is the birthplace of the first Saudi state and now everything is leveraging off that historic core as they begin to build out from there, he said.

The big challenge with Saudi Arabia is it is so geographically diverse from one region to the next, so how do you begin bringing those cultures together within the Kingdom and ensure “the richness that occurs in one region should be introduced to the richness from another in order to create this fantastic mosaic that is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Another major challenge is the future of transportation, and there will be a strong focus on linking cities together within the Kingdom and the Gulf region and cutting down on air travel carbon footprint.

“The irony behind all of this is pre-World War I, there was a railway in the Kingdom, and now there is no railway, so I think you’re going to begin seeing a lot of that, particularly GCC-wide (and) it’s going to serve the function of transporting commodities and everything else, but at the same time, they have the ability to encourage people to travel by rail and I think that will come,” he said.

Cities mature when they begin introducing large-scale infrastructure projects that help people live in it, and a decade in terms of the city’s life is not a very long time at all, Hajjar said, as the Vision 2030 target ambitions rapidly approach.

“Ultimately, a city has a continuum to it,” he said, “because when a city stops to develop and stops challenging itself, it slowly begins to lose meaning to people within the city. You have to continually reinvent the city, bring new things into the city, and have people engaged in different ways.”

India’s Gautam Adani: Asia’s richest man in the eye of a storm

Gautam Adani. (REUTERS)
Gautam Adani. (REUTERS)
Updated 28 January 2023

India’s Gautam Adani: Asia’s richest man in the eye of a storm

Gautam Adani. (REUTERS)
  • India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi hails from the same state and their relationship has come under intense scrutiny by Modi’s opponents for years

NEW DELHI: India’s Gautam Adani, the school drop-out turned billionaire who rose to become Asia’s richest man, faces possibly the biggest challenge of his career after a US short seller cast doubts on his business practices, hammering shares in his companies and his reputation.
Adani, whose home state is Gujarat in western India, built his business empire from scratch after starting as a commodities trader. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi hails from the same state and their relationship has come under intense scrutiny by Modi’s opponents for years.
Adani’s business empire grew rapidly and his wealth ballooned. His interests span ports, power generation, airports, mining, edible oils, renewable power and more recently media and cement.
He rose to become the world’s third-richest person according to Forbes, with a net worth of $127 billion, trailing only Bernard Arnault and Elon Musk. Married to dentist Priti Adani, he has two sons, Karan and Jeet, both of whom are involved in the company businesses.
Despite his riches the 60-year-old, who comes from a middle-class textile family, was far lesser known than other billionaires in a country where many inherit their wealth.
His business style was described as “very hands on,” according to one person with direct knowledge of his dealings.
As Adani’s empire swelled, stocks of his seven listed companies surged — in some cases more than 1,500 percent in the last three years amid aggressive expansion. He denied allegations by Modi’s opponents that he had benefited from their close ties.
In a 2014 interview with Reuters, when asked if he was friends with Modi, Adani said he had friends across the political spectrum, but avoids politics.
He has said no one political leader is behind his success and when asked about Modi’s use of Adani corporate planes during the interview, Adani said Modi “pays fully.”
In recent years, the $220 billion Adani Group empire has attracted foreign investment — France’s TotalEnergies, for example, partnered with Adani last year to develop the world’s biggest green hydrogen ecosystem.
More recently, Adani has taken a pro-active approach to building his public image, giving interviews to local and foreign media.
Appearing in a popular Hindi TV show this month called the ‘People’s Court’, Adani sat in a mock witness box inside a courtroom setup and answered questions about his conglomerate — offering an unusual level of scrutiny. He described himself as “a shy person” and credited the rise of his popularity in part to the political attacks he has faced.
Modi’s government has denied allegations of favoring Adani.
“People got to know who Adani (was) because of constant targeting by Rahul ji during the 2014 elections and after that,” Adani said, during the show, referring to opposition Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi.
Three weeks later, shares of his group’s listed companies plunged on Friday, taking their cumulative losses to $48 billion this week. Short seller Hindenburg Research on Wednesday accused Adani’s businesses of improper use of offshore tax havens and flagged concerns about high debt. Adani has called the report baseless, and said he was considering taking action.
Adani Group’s website says its vision is to balance “growth with goodness” as it aims to build assets of national relevance and transform lives through self-reliance and sustainability.
Adani is no stranger to controversies. The most recent was months of protest by fishermen against construction of a $900-million port in southern India’s Kerala, in which he sued the state government and fishermen leaders. And in Australia, environmental activists for years protested against Adani’s Carmichael coal mine project in Queensland on concerns of carbon emissions and damage to the Great Barrier Reef.
His latest challenge is how to deal with an unprecedented share price rout as the group’s flagship firm Adani Enterprises launched the country’s biggest public secondary share offering this week, aiming to raise $2.5 billion.
The stock’s price on Friday fell well below the offer price, casting doubts on its success.
Image guru Dilip Cherian told Reuters the Hindenburg Report — and its fallout — could carry reputational risk for Adani but he could take action to limit that damage and reassure investors of the group’s financial and assets strength and ensure the share sale is a success.
“In terms of the kind of stellar rise he has had this is a hazard,” Cherian said.
Adani told India Today TV in December that people who were raising questions about the group’s debt had not done a deep dive into its financials, without saying who he was referring to.
As the market rout played out on Mumbai exchanges, Adani was seen heading to a meeting at the federal power minister’s office in New Delhi. It is not known what was discussed and Adani Group did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.
Adani Group’s consolidated gross debt stands at $23.34 billion, Jefferies says. While Hindenburg alleged key listed Adani companies had “substantial debt” which has put the entire group on a “precarious financial footing,” the Adani Group has repeatedly said its borrowings are manageable and no investor has raised any concern.


UAE fintech Wafeq secures $3m to double down on Saudi presence and expand to Egypt

UAE fintech Wafeq secures $3m to double down on Saudi presence and expand to Egypt
Updated 28 January 2023

UAE fintech Wafeq secures $3m to double down on Saudi presence and expand to Egypt

UAE fintech Wafeq secures $3m to double down on Saudi presence and expand to Egypt

CAIRO: Wafeq, a UAE-based financial software company for small and medium enterprises, raised $3 million in a seed funding round led by Raed Ventures with participation from Wamda Capital to double down on its Saudi presence as well as expand to Egypt. 

Launched in 2019, Wafeq is a fintech startup that provides easy-to-use software to empower accounting and finance operations for SMEs. 

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Nadim Alamddine, Founder and CEO at Wafeq, said that Saudi Arabia is the largest and most important market for the company. 

“As such, we will double down on our growth here to continue offering our solutions to SMEs in the Kingdom. We already count some of the most successful SMEs and startups as our customers, and as we grow here, we will continue to help businesses become compliant with accounting regulations,” he stated. 

Empowering SMEs 

Built for the finance and accounting needs of SMEs in the region, Wafeq’s software is trusted by over 5,000 business owners and professional accountants processing over $117 million in monthly invoices. 

“Our platform is used by leading startups and SMEs from a diverse range of industries, including contracting, food and beverage, ecommerce, retail, and more,” Alameddine explained. 

SMEs comprise over 98 percent of all companies in Saudi Arabia, 90 percent in Egypt, and 94 percent in the UAE which provides Wafeq with a large market to fuel its operations. 


Launched in 2019, Wafeq is a fintech startup that provides easy-to-use software to empower accounting and finance operations for SMEs.

Wafeq initially focused on startups and acquired customers in category-leading businesses such as UAE fintech Tabby, Saudi fintech Lean Technologies, Dubai fintech DAPI, UAE mobility-tech Fenix, and Saudi fintech PiFlow among many more.

Wafeq’s stand-alone e-invoicing API will play a huge role in its expansion to Egypt which allows startups and businesses to set up reliable third-party e-invoicing as well as stay compliant with regulations.

Moreover, digitization of accounting practices in all three markets is undergoing significant shifts with the introduction of mandatory e-invoicing and digital reporting. 

“Saudi Arabia has one of the most transparent and business-friendly accounting practices in the region, put in place by the Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority, also known as ZATCA,” Alameddine stated. 

In December 2021, ZATCA announced that all taxpayers will have to issue electronic invoices with a compatible government system and divided the implementation into two phases. 

In the first phase, taxpayers were required to issue e-invoices as well as get familiar with the implementation of the new system. In the second phase, which is set to be implemented in July 2023, taxpayers with VATable income exceeding SR 500 million will be obliged to integrate their e-invoices systems with the governmental FATOORAH platform. 

“SMEs still follow manual processes or use legacy software that are not compatible with local accounting requirements. Our strategy in Saudi Arabia will be to build more localised features, ensure the successful implementation of ZATCA phase 2, and bring our e-invoicing API solutions to more businesses here,” he added. 

Wafeq initially focused on startups and acquired customers in category-leading businesses such as UAE fintech Tabby, Saudi fintech Lean Technologies, Dubai fintech DAPI, UAE mobility-tech Fenix, and Saudi fintech PiFlow among many more. 

Egyptian Opportunities 

The company plans to utilize its funding to expand its current presence in Saudi Arabia and the UAE as well as fuel its entry to Egypt. 

Alameddine explained that as Egypt stands with the highest percentage of SMEs, businesses have very limited access to tech solutions that can support their operations. 

“From a policy standpoint, Egypt is bringing in requirements like e-invoicing and soon e-receipts for businesses and this is where Wafeq will have a positive impact. As we enter Egypt, we will not only look to acquire new customers but also create jobs locally,” he added. 

Wafeq’s standalone e-invoicing API will play a huge role in its expansion to Egypt which allows startups and businesses to set up reliable third-party e-invoicing as well as stay compliant with regulations. 

“Together with the backing of Raed Ventures and Wamda Capital, we are excited about our entry into Egypt while growing our presence in Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” Alameddine said. 

Talal Alasmari, founding oartner at Raed Ventures, said that Wafeq is solving a problem that impacts thousands of businesses in the region. 

“The digitalisation of accounting practices will truly transform how SMEs here operate, increasing operational transparency, creating efficiencies and contributing to economic growth,” Alasmari added. 

 The company operates a Software as a Service business model which complements its strategy to be easy and affordable for businesses to use its software. 

“Signing up for Wafeq is free, and customers starting a business can choose to use our basic package. For customers with more complex requirements, we have a range of pricing options that considers their needs, volume of invoicing and other factors,” Alameddine explained. 

Raed Ventures is a venture capital firm that was founded in 2015 in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, which focuses on early-stage startups and has invested in notable companies like SWVL, Tabby, and Trella. 

Founded in the UAE in 2014, Wamda Capital is one of the leading venture capital firms in the region with a portfolio of investments in over 70 companies including Careem and Nana.

Global Markets: Asian equities hit 9-month high as recession fears wane

Global Markets: Asian equities hit 9-month high as recession fears wane
Updated 27 January 2023

Global Markets: Asian equities hit 9-month high as recession fears wane

Global Markets: Asian equities hit 9-month high as recession fears wane

SINGAPORE: Asian stocks rose on Friday and were poised for their fifth straight week of gains after data highlighted a resilient US economy, boosting investor sentiment ahead of next week’s slate of central bank policy meetings.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose as much as 0.55 percent to hit an almost nine-month high of 562.10, and was last at 559.39.

The index, which fell nearly 20 percent last year, is up nearly 11 percent so far this month and is on course for its best-ever January performance. Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.05 percent.

European stock futures indicated that stocks were set to rise, with the Eurostoxx 50 futures up 0.3 percent, German DAX futures 0.28 percent ahead and FTSE futures up 0.16 percent.

The US economy grew faster than expected in the fourth quarter as consumers boosted spending on goods, data showed, but it could be the last quarter of solid GDP growth before the lagged effects of the Federal Reserve’s jumbo interest rate hikes are fully felt.

A separate report showed that labor market remains tight and could lead the Fed to keep interest rates higher for longer.

Ashwin Alankar, head of Global Asset Allocation at Janus Henderson Investors, said the headline GDP suggested robust economic activity and if a recession were to materialize it would be a shallower one.

“Overall GDP data was a ‘tale-of-two cities’ – good overall growth stemming from less-than-ideal drivers and prices mitigating but at a rate that is worrisome.”

Thursday’s set of data has raised investor hopes of a soft landing — a scenario in which inflation eases against a backdrop of slowing but still resilient economic growth.

Futures are pricing in a 94.7 percent probability of a 25-basis-point hike next Wednesday and see the Fed’s overnight rate at 4.45 percent by next December, or lower than the 5.1 percent rate Fed officials have projected into next year.

Data on US personal consumption expenditures due at 1330 GMT will provide further clues on inflation.

“The disinflation impulse is likely to stretch further, as has been evident from CPI releases lately, likely continuing to build a case for a 25 basis point rate hike by the Fed next week,” Saxo strategists said.

Next week will also feature Bank of England and European Central Bank meetings that will indicate the monetary policy path those central banks are likely to take.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was little changed after surging more than 2 percent on Thursday. Mainland China markets are due to resume trading on Monday after the Lunar New Year holiday.

Elsewhere in Japan, core consumer prices in Tokyo, a leading indicator of nationwide trends, rose 4.3 percent in January from a year earlier, marking the fastest annual gain in nearly 42 years.

The Japanese yen strengthened 0.1 percent to 134.04 per dollar as the data reinforced market expectations that quickening inflation could nudge the Bank of Japan to move away from its ultra-easy policy.

“We still think the policy change is a long way off,” ING regional head of research Robert Carnell said. “The spring salary negotiations are key to watch as wage growth is a prerequisite for sustainable inflation.”

The dollar index, which measures the US currency against six other peers, rose 0.23 percent, while the euro fell 0.22 percent to $1.0866.

Sterling was last trading at $1.23805, down 0.25 percent on the day.

Oil prices rose on expectations of a boost to demand from China’s reopening and after the strong US data. US West Texas Intermediate crude rose 0.41 percent to $81.34 per barrel and Brent was at $87.83, also up 0.41 percent on the day.

Oil Update: Prices firm on upbeat US economic data

Oil Update: Prices firm on upbeat US economic data
Updated 27 January 2023

Oil Update: Prices firm on upbeat US economic data

Oil Update: Prices firm on upbeat US economic data

LONDON: Oil prices rose for a second session on Friday, buoyed by better than expected US economic growth, strong middle distillate refining margins and hopes of a rapid recovery in Chinese demand.

Brent futures gained $1.17, or 1.34 percent, to trade at $88.64 a barrel by 1332 GMT. US crude was up $1.17, or 1.44 percent, at $82.18 and on track for its highest daily jump in percentage terms for two weeks.

Both benchmarks advanced by more than 1 percent on Thursday and are heading for a third straight week of gains.

Brent’s backwardation has strengthened to about $2.73 from less than a dollar at the start of the month.

Backwardation is a market structure in which front-month contracts are more expensive than those for later loading, indicating tight current supply.

Delegates from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, known as OPEC+, meet next week to review crude production levels, with sources from the oil producer group expecting no change to current output policy.

The US Federal Reserve’s next decision on interest rates will be made at meeting over Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 against a backdrop of a dip to inflation and gross domestic product that grew by a faster than expected 2.9 percent in the fourth quarter.

“The positive batch of data gave oil prices a lift,” said PVM analyst Stephen Brennock.

Gains on US crude were capped by a 4.2 million barrel build in stocks at Cushing, the pricing hub for NYMEX oil futures, this week.

“We believe soaring middle-distillate prices and cracks are mostly behind crude’s bullish price action,” JPMorgan said in a note, pointing to heavy refinery maintenance and outages, plus the European ban on Russian refined products from Feb. 5.

In China, critically ill COVID-19 cases are down 72 percent from a peak early this month while daily deaths among COVID-19 patients in hospitals have dropped by 79 percent from their peak, pointing to a normalization of the Chinese economy and boosting expectations of a recovery in oil demand.