OIL PRICES FALLING
Oil prices are in free fall this morning after it emerged that Saudi Arabia, the world's largest exporter, had slashed its contract price for its US customers in a further sign of an escalating war for control of global energy markets.
Brent crude - a benchmark made of oil from 15 North Sea fields against which almost half the world's petroleum is priced - fell 1.4pc to $83.61 in the morning trading session in London.
US crude futures are now trading at around $77 per barrel, a figure that will squeeze the profitability of shale oil producers in the US who are seen to be the biggest threat to the domination of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) in terms of controlling the price of crude.
Today's falls were triggered by state-owned Saudi Aramco - the world's largest state-owned oil company by production and reserves - slashing the contracted price for its sale of crude to the US.
Opec, of which Saudi is the leading member - has been losing market share to shale oil producers in the world's largest economy with Nigeria recently dropping out of the list of member countries that supply North America.
At the same time, Opec members are producing too much crude to meet falling demand for the current market driving down prices further. According to estimates of the International Energy Agency, the call on Opec in the fourth quarter will total 30.3 million barrels per day, while next year it will fall to just 29.3 million barrels per day.
Pressure is on the 12-member cartel - which controls about a third of the world's oil supply - to cut production at its next meeting on November 27. However, its leading producers led by Saudi appear to be willing to keep the spigots open in order to defend market share and cripple some of their major rivals.
Russia, which pumps over 10m barrels per day of crude, has been a major loser in the current oil price rout. Deutsche Bank now expects Russia's economy to contract by 0.2pc next year, recovering slightly in 2016 to a moderate growth rate of 0.8pc. Russia's main export blend Urals oil is priced off Brent, the benchmark for about half the world's oil.
Opec is due to publish annual World Oil Outlook on Thursday which should provide further insight into its longer term planning to meet world energy market demand.
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BP and its partners in Azerbaijan's giant ACG oil production complex agreed Thursday to extend the production sharing contract by 25 years to 2049 and to increase the stake of state-owned SOCAR, reducing the size of their own shares.
The U.S. current-account deficit increased to $123.1 billion (preliminary) in the second quarter of 2017 from $113.5 billion (revised) in the first quarter of 2017, according to statistics released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). The deficit increased to 2.6 percent of current-dollar gross domestic product (GDP) from 2.4 percent in the first quarter.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures CLc1 were trading up 41 cents, or 0.8 percent, at $50.30 by 0852 GMT, near the three-month high of $50.50 it reached last Thursday. Brent crude futures LCOc1, the benchmark for oil prices outside the United States, were at $55.91 a barrel, up 29 cents, and also not far from the near five-month high of $55.99 touched on Thursday.
“The principal risk regarding Russian and Chinese activities in Venezuela in the near term is that they will exploit the unfolding crisis, including the effect of US sanctions, to deepen their control over Venezuela’s resources, and their [financial] leverage over the country as an anti-US political and military partner,” observed R. Evan Ellis, a senior associate in the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Americas Program.