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News August 8th 2014

 Crude Oil Ends Higher On Russian Action

U.S. crude oil ended higher Thursday, on deepening tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine and on some upbeat economic data from the U.S. with first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits dropping more than expected last week.

Investors treaded with caution over the oil supply situation after an official weekly report from the Energy Information Administration showed U.S. crude oil stockpiles to have declined more than expected last week.

The focus on Ukraine continued with Russia reacting sharply to last week's sanctions from the U.S. and European Union for its alleged support to separatists in eastern Ukraine. Russia retaliated with the imposition of a ban on imports of agricultural produce from the U.S. and restrictions on import of fruits and vegetables from Europe.

A Labor Department report showed first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits declined last week, after reporting a rebound in the week before.

Light Sweet Crude Oil futures for September delivery, the most actively traded contract, gained $0.42 or 0.4 percent to close at $97.34 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange Thursday.

Crude prices for September delivery scaled a high of $97.48 a barrel intraday and a low of $96.55.

On Wednesday, crude oil futures ended down $0.46 or 0.5 percent at $96.92 a barrel despite official inventory data showing a more than expected drop in crude oil stockpiles in the week ended August 1.

The dollar index, which tracks the U.S. unit against six major currencies, traded at 81.50 on Thursday, up from its previous close of 81.43 late Wednesday in North American trade. The dollar scaled a high of 81.64 intraday and a low of 81.38.

The euro traded lower against the dollar at $1.3363 on Thursday, as compared to its previous close of $1.3383 late Wednesday in North American trade. The euro scaled a high of $1.3393 intraday and a low of $1.3338.

In economic news from the U.S., a report from the Labor Department showed initial jobless claims to have unexpectedly declined to 289,000 in the week ended August 2, a decrease of 14,000 from the previous week's revised level of 303,000.

The European Central Bank today held its key lending rate unchanged at 0.15 percent, as expected. The bank maintained the deposit rate at -0.10 percent.

Meanwhile, the Bank of England kept its key rate at a record low on Thursday, sticking to its forward guidance even as the strong pace of economic recovery augmented speculation for a rate hike late this year. The nine-member Monetary Policy Committee decided to keep its key bank rate unchanged at 0.50 percent and the asset purchase program at GBP 375 billion.

Germany's industrial production grew marginally at a slower-than-expected pace in June, as geopolitical instability weighed on economic activity, data showed Thursday.

German industrial output increased 0.3 percent month-on-month in June, reversing the revised 1.7 percent fall in May, Destatis reported. This was slower than the expected 1.2 percent increase. Nonetheless, it was the first rise in four months.
From Russia to Iraq, rising oil risks push 2015 prices to a premium

Aug 7 (Reuters) - European oil prices in a year's time have risen to a premium over immediate prices for the first time since 2012, as turmoil in Iraq and Libya and tensions between Russia and the West elevate supply risks in the months ahead.

Front-month September Brent settled at $105.44 on Thursday while the contract for delivery over 12 months ended at $105.47 a barrel, the first time in two years that the spread has inverted, according to Reuters data.

U.S. prices for 2015 and beyond have also remained strong despite a sharp fall in immediate-delivery crude to its lowest in six months, although the shift is not so severe. Short-term prices have been supported by low stockpiles in Cushing, Oklahoma, far away from geopolitical risks.

The so-called forward curve for oil prices has flattened abruptly over the last couple of months, with near-term prices tumbling quickly as concerns of an immediate disruption in supplies gave way to a growing surplus of regional crude as due to poor refining margins and weak demand.

But longer-term prices have remained relatively stronger, with a growing list of factors that could threaten to eat into oil production in the months or years ahead, if not today.

The prospect of rising output from Iraq has been dimmed by the dramatic onset of a Sunni insurgency that has spooked investors. On Thursday, two big U.S. oil companies were pulling staff from operations in the northern region of Kurdistan.

The ongoing crisis between Russia and the West over Ukraine has prompted several waves of sanctions, including measures last week meant to cut off sales of certain drilling equipment, with the prospect of further measures to come - or even a retaliatory backlash that could potentially erode exports.

Violence in Libya has dashed confidence in the country's quick recovery to pre-war production, while negotiations between Iran and six world powers about the country's nuclear program - and therefore the future of its oil output - are expected to remain unsettled until next year.

"On the front side of the term (structure), nothing is going to be resolved that will affect the markets," said Tariq Zahir, an analyst at Tyche Capital Advisors in New York.

"But when you look that far ahead, the risk premium still holds up: what if more sanctions are imposed on Russia? What if the global economy goes into a slowdown and demand is weaker?"

FLATTEST OF THE SHALE ERA

Since April, prompt-month Brent prices have fallen by more than $2. December 2015 crude has risen by $4.

The forward curve is now near its flattest since the onset of the shale revolution in the United States three years ago, when oil traders were forced to rethink their long-term vision for oil supplies. With billions of barrels of shale reserves to tap, fears of "peak oil" gave way to preparations of a lengthy glut.

For many analysts, the real story is not how high long-dated prices are, but how high they could have been.

"The real question is, if this geopolitical tension were prior to the U.S. shale revolution, we would be up $20 to $30 a barrel," said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago. "But now people are looking at the United States as a safe harbor for oil."

Some note that with the United States ramping up oil production to record-high levels and the Sunni insurgency still far from the oilfields in the south of Iraq, imminent threats to global supplies remain unlikely - and the market's focus should be on weakness in immediate demand rather than long-term worry.

"Refinery runs over the past three months were at record highs: We've never run this much crude, yet demand seems to be a little languent, as the summer driving season is almost over," said Carl Larry, CEO of consultancy Oil Outlooks in Houston, Texas. "But we're making assumptions that the U.S. economy will be much better a year from now." (Reporting by Lorenzo Ligato; editing by Gunna Dickson)

WTI Crude Heads for Third Weekly Loss Before Chinese Trade Data

West Texas Intermediate crude headed for a third weekly decline before trade data that’s forecast to signal a slowdown in imports by China, the world’s second-biggest oil consumer.

Futures were little changed in New York after advancing 0.4 percent yesterday. China’s purchases rose 2.6 percent in July, compared with a 5.5 percent gain the previous month, a Bloomberg News survey showed before customs data today. Exports also slowed, according to the survey. Brent increased the most in two weeks yesterday amid concern the conflict in Iraq will spread after militants captured the nation’s largest dam.

WTI for September delivery was at $97.43 a barrel, up 9 cents, in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 8:58 a.m. Sydney time. The contract gained 42 cents to $97.34 yesterday. The volume of all futures traded was about 18 percent below the 100-day average. Prices are down 0.5 percent this week, heading for a third weekly drop.

Brent for September settlement gained 85 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $105.44 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange yesterday. The European benchmark crude ended the session at a premium of $8.10 to WTI.

China’s overseas shipments in July probably increased 7 percent, down from 7.2 percent in June, according to the survey. The nation will account for about 11 percent of global oil demand this year, compared with 21 percent for the U.S., according to the International Energy Agency.

 Asia Stocks Extend Rout on Ukraine; Copper, Kiwi Retreat

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Asian stocks dropped, pushing the regional index toward a six-week low, amid concern the standoff over Ukraine will hamper the global economic recovery. Copper and the New Zealand dollar fell before Chinese trade data.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index lost 0.6 percent by 10 a.m. in Tokyo, down a fourth day and set for the lowest close since June 27. The Topix (TPX) index sank 1 percent with the Bank of Japan to review monetary policy today. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were little changed after the gauge dropped to the lowest close since April. New Zealand’s dollar weakened 0.3 percent while copper fell for the third day this week. Brent crude oil climbed amid concern the conflict in Iraq will spread.

Russia has retaliated against U.S. and European sanctions by banning some western food imports, as concern that President Vladimir Putin could ratchet up tensions by invading Ukraine sends global stocks down a second week, fueling demand for haven assets and overshadowing improvement in U.S. jobs data. In Iraq, the U.S. is considering airdrops of aid for people driven from their homes by Islamist militants. China reports on July trade today, with both export and import growth projected to slow.

“China’s trade balance figures will be closely watched against a background of fragile investor sentiment,” Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney, wrote in an e-mail. “Confirmation that Russia will retaliate by imposing food-import sanctions is a negative for world markets. The outlook for world trade is being eroded by both geopolitical developments and the rise of protectionist sentiment.”

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average slipped 1.2 percent, bringing it down 3 percent this week, its first retreat in four weeks and the largest since April. The BOJ reviews its monetary base target today and Governor Haruhiko Kuroda will address reporters on policy and the economy.
Kospi Drops

The Kospi index in Seoul lost 0.4 percent in a fourth declining day.

MSCI’s All-Country World index has fallen 1.3 percent this week, after dropping 2.4 percent last week. The gauge of global stocks trades at 14.96 times estimated earnings, the lowest valuation since May, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said yesterday the risks to the euro-area recovery from conflicts including that in Ukraine are increasing.

“Heightened geopolitical risks, as well as developments in emerging-market economies and global financial markets, may have the potential to affect economic conditions negatively,” Draghi said. He has said large-scale asset purchases, or quantitative easing, are an option for dealing with a severe economic shock.
Central Bank

Standard & Poor’s 500 Index e-mini futures were little changed at 1,905 after dropping to as low as 1,899.75 in the U.S. session.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index slid a sixth straight day in Sydney, losing 0.3 percent today to bring it down 1.1 percent in the week. The Australian dollar was little changed at 92.61 U.S. cents following yesterday’s 0.9 percent slide. The currency is on track for a second straight weekly drop, weakening 0.6 percent after data yesterday showed the jobless rate unexpectedly increased to a 12-year high of 6.4 percent from 6 percent.

Home-loan and investment lending data is due today, and the Reserve Bank of Australia releases its quarterly policy statement.
Chinese Trade

Economists predict Chinese data today will show exports grew 7 percent in July, down from 7.2 percent in June. Imports probably expanded 2.6 percent after gaining 5.5 percent in the previous month, according to a Bloomberg survey. A gauge of China’s services industries released earlier this week dropped to a six-month low in July, dragged down by a weakening property market.

New Zealand’s dollar, dubbed the kiwi, dropped to 84.52 U.S. cents, set for a fourth consecutive weekly decline, down 0.7 percent. Both Australia and New Zealand count China as their biggest trading partner.

Copper for three-month delivery on the London Metal Exchange fell 0.3 percent to $6.980 a metric ton, set for a weekly decline of 1.3 percent. China is the world’s No. 1 consumer of industrial metals.

The yen, regarded as a haven by some investors, is the best-performing Asian currency this week, gaining 0.5 percent. Malaysia’s ringgit was down 0.3 percent to 3.2175 per dollar in a third day of declines.
Treasury Yields

Yields on 10-year U.S. Treasuries rose one basis point, or 0.01 percentage point, to 2.42 percent, after falling six basis points in New York. Australian bonds due in a decade yielded 3.36 percent, also down six basis points.

Gold dropped 0.1 percent to $1,310.75 an ounce after rising a third day yesterday, up as much as 0.7 percent to $1,314.56, the highest intraday level since July 22. The precious metal has gained 1.3 percent this week, its first weekly advance in four weeks.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen yesterday urged Russia to “step back from the brink” by pulling back troops and halting aid for rebels.

Russia has massed troops along its border with Ukraine, prompting the U.S. to say there’s a risk of an invasion. President Vladimir Putin’s government has also said it could ban imports from western automotive, shipping and aerospace industries.
Islamic State

Separately, a defense official said that the U.S. is considering airdrops of aid for thousands of refugees driven from their homes by Islamist militants in Iraq. The planes dropping food and other humanitarian supplies would be accompanied by combat aircraft, raising the possibility of air strikes, a second official said.

Both officials asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.

The potential escalation in U.S. involvement comes as the Islamic State, the group that seized swathes of northern Iraq in June, extended its advance today by seizing the Mosul dam, the country’s largest.

Brent crude rose a second day, climbing 0.2 percent to $105.67 a barrel. Brent rebounded 0.8 percent from a nine-month low yesterday after the militants’ capture of the dam in Iraq bolstered concern unrest will spread in OPEC’s second-biggest producing nation.

West Texas Intermediate crude added 0.1 percent to $97.43 a barrel after gaining 0.4 percent last session.

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