Sanctions and cuts push sour crude prices above Brent

US sanctions on Venezuela and Iran along with output cuts by OPEC have tightened the supply of medium to heavy sour oil. (Reuters)
Updated 12 February 2019
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Sanctions and cuts push sour crude prices above Brent

  • US sanctions on Venezuela have created a strong pull for medium and heavy sour crude from other sources
  • A decision by OPEC and Russia to rein in oil output has also buoyed sour crude prices

SINGAPORE: Middle East oil benchmarks Dubai and DME Oman have nudged above prices for Brent crude, an unusual move as US sanctions on Venezuela and Iran along with output cuts by OPEC tighten supply of medium to heavy sour oil.
Sour crudes, mainly produced in the Middle East, Canada and Latin America, have a high sulfur content and are usually cheaper than Brent, the benchmark for low-sulfur oil in the Atlantic Basin.
But Dubai spot prices and DME Oman crude futures for April have held above ICE Brent at Asia’s market close since the start of February, data from the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), Dubai Mercantile Exchange and Refinitiv Eikon showed.
“The forceful implementation of US sanctions on Venezuelan crude exports, the greater-than-expected recent Saudi crude output cut ... and the uncertainty over US sanction exemptions on Iranian crude have all served to strengthen sour crudes relative to sweet benchmarks such as Brent,” said Tilak Doshi, a Singapore-based analyst at consultancy Muse, Stancil & Co.
US sanctions on Venezuela created a strong pull for medium and heavy sour crude from other places, said the traders and analysts.
The sanctions, aimed at blocking Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s access to the nation’s oil revenue, will be extended to non-US oil buyers from April 28.
Uncertainty over whether Washington will extend waivers to sanctions on Tehran’s oil exports that it previously granted to top Iranian crude buyers — China, India, Japan and South Korea — is also boosting Middle East oil prices.
A decision by OPEC and Russia to rein in oil output has buoyed sour crude prices as well.


Filipino remittances from the Middle East down 15.3% in 2018

Updated 17 February 2019
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Filipino remittances from the Middle East down 15.3% in 2018

  • Cash remittances from OFWs in Saudi Arabia fell 11.1 percent last year to $2.23 billion from $2.51 billion previously
  • Personal remittances are a major driver of domestic consumption

DUBAI: Money sent home by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East went down 15.3 percent to $6.62 billion in 2018 from $7.81 billion a year earlier, latest government data shows.
Lower crude prices, which affected most OFW host countries in the region, the job nationalization schemes of Gulf states and a deployment ban last year of household service workers to Kuwait were the primary reasons for the decline, a reversal from the 3.4 percent remittance growth recorded in 2017.
A government study has noted that Saudi Arabia was the leading country of destination for OFWs, with more than a quarter of Filipinos being deployed there at any given time, together with the United Arab Emirates (15.3 percent), Kuwait (6.7 percent) and Qatar (5.5 percent).
Cash remittances from OFWs in Saudi Arabia fell 11.1 percent last year to $2.23 billion from $2.51 billion a year before; down 19.9 percent to $2.03 billion in the UAE from $2.54 billion in 2017; 14.5 percent lower in Kuwait to $689.61 million from $806.48 million and 9.2 percent down in Qatar to $1 billion in 2018, from $1.1 billion a year earlier.
The Philippine government issued a deployment ban for Kuwait early last year, and lasted for five months, after a string of reported deaths and abuses on Filipino workers in the Gulf state.
OFW remittances from Oman, which implemented a job nationalization program like that of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, dove 33.8 percent to $228.74 million in 2018 from $345.41 million a year before. In Bahrain, cash sent by Filipinos rose 2.2 percent to $234.14 million last year from $229.02 million previously.
Meanwhile, overall OFW remittances grew 3 percent year-on-year to $32.2 billion, the highest annual level to date.
“The growth in personal remittances during the year was driven by remittance inflows from land-based OFs with work contracts of one year or more and remittances from both sea-based and land-based OFs with work contracts of less than one year,” the Philippine central monetary authority said.
Personal remittances are a major driver of domestic consumption and in 2018 accounted for 9.7 percent of the Philippines’ gross domestic product.