Oil hits highest level since March on vaccine, Biden transition

OPEC+ is expected to roll over current supply curbs into next year following technical talks this week. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 25 November 2020

Oil hits highest level since March on vaccine, Biden transition

  • Third COVID-19 shot and Trump go-ahead on incoming administration fuel hopes of global demand recovery

LONDON: Oil hit its highest level since in March on Tuesday, rising toward $47 a barrel, as a third promising coronavirus vaccine spurred demand recovery hopes and US President-elect Joe Biden received the go-ahead to begin his transition.

AstraZeneca said on Monday its COVID-19 shot was 70 percent effective in trials and could be up to 90 percent effective, giving the fight against the pandemic a third vaccine. This follows positive results from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

Brent crude rose 45 cents, or 1 percent, to $46.51 a barrel in morning trade and hit a session high of $46.72, its highest since March 6. US West Texas Intermediate crude gained 47 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $43.53.

“The fight against the coronavirus is intensifying and is proving to be increasingly successful,” said Tamas Varga of broker PVM. “Next year’s oil demand estimates are bound to be amended upwards.”

This is Brent’s highest since the collapse of an earlier OPEC-led output pact, just as demand was starting to crater in March due to the developing pandemic, sent prices crashing.

Also supporting oil and wider financial markets, US President Donald Trump on Monday allowed officials to proceed with a transition to Joe Biden’s administration.

“In the short term, this is good for markets in general as well as for the oil market,” said Bjarne Schieldrop of SEB.

Expectations that US crude inventories edged lower last week also added support. The first of this week’s US supply reports is due from the American Petroleum Institute.

After the previous output pact collapsed, OPEC and allies agreed to record high output cuts to support prices.

OPEC+, as the group is known, is expected to roll over current cuts into 2021 at meetings on Nov. 30-Dec. 1, following technical talks this week.


HSBC to axe 82 branches in UK, cut services in others

Updated 19 January 2021

HSBC to axe 82 branches in UK, cut services in others

  • The lender said it would be left with 511 branches in the UK following the closures

LONDON: HSBC said on Tuesday it planned to axe 82 branches in Britain this year after a drop in footfall across its retail network and a surge in digital banking.
The lender said it would be left with 511 branches in the UK following the closures, with many of the remaining branches set to be refurbished with some providing fewer services.
The COVID-19 pandemic has dented bank finances, putting pressure on lenders to cut costs, while more customers have opted to bank online as people have been encouraged to stay at home to combat the spread of the virus.
HSBC said it had begun trialing different branch formats and decided to provide fewer full-service branches focused in large cities and towns, with others providing cash or self-service technology.
The bank said ‘pop-up’ mobile branches would also be rolled out later this year.
“The direction of travel is really quite clear and this is borne out by the reduction in branch usage and increase in digital interaction that we are seeing first-hand,” said Jackie Uhi, HSBC UK’s head of network.