Singapore: Oil prices have risen above USD 70 per barrel for the first time since 2014 as investors bet supply cuts led by OPEC will dominate the market this year.
But some traders are sounding a warning – the world’s biggest crude consuming region, Asia, is showing signs of an impending downward correction.
Prices for Brent crude oil futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, have risen by more than 50 per cent since mid-2017 and hit $70 per barrel this week for the first since December 2014. Average Asian physical crude oil prices also moved over $70 per barrel in January.
“A healthy (price) correction could be on the cards,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia/Pacific at futures brokerage Oanda in Singapore.
One reason, traders say, is that the supply of oil products remains ample. In the last three years, refiners enjoyed high profits because of relatively cheap crude oil, which is used to make fuels like diesel or gasoline.
As a result, Asian refiners processed an unprecedented 23 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil in late 2017.
China, by far Asia’s biggest oil consumer, is now producing so much fuel that its refiners have turned to exports to find buyers. And their purchases of crude could fall.
Chinese diesel exports have surged by almost 3,000 per cent since early 2015, to a record of more than 2 million tonnes last December, according to customs data. Its gasoline exports are up by 365 per cent since early 2015, to more than 1 million tonnes in December.
Its total December refined oil products reached a record 6.17 million tonnes, according to customs data announced on Friday.
“This drop in margins could reduce Asian refiners’ demand for incremental crude in the near term and weigh on global (crude) prices,” said Sukrit Vijayakar, director of energy consultancy Trifecta.
Singapore refining margins, which act as Asia’s benchmark, have slumped by 90 per cent from their 2017 high, to below $6 per barrel this week – the lowest seasonal level in five years.
BMI Research said in a note this week: “In Q1, the balance of risk to Brent (prices) lies to the downside.”
Jobs are plenty, but techies in India lack necessary skillsets: IBM chief
Mumbai: Global tech major IBM chief Virginia “Ginni” Rometty has said Indians lack the required skillsets even as new-age jobs galore, and exhorted all to look at education beyond obtaining/giving away degrees.
“In India, you have the same issues. Open jobs, (but) no matching skillsets,” she said, speaking at a company conference in Mumbai.
“You have got to believe in a few different things than I think you believed in the past.
“One is to believe that skills are perhaps more important than a degree,” Rometty said, amid reports of huge unemployment among qualified engineers who when employed at the entry level are paid much lower than those semi-skilled with experience.
There have been reports that nearly three-fourths of the millions of engineers and B-school graduates are simply not employable at all, speaking volumes about the quality of both the academics as well as the admission process in the country’s education systems.
According to private economic think tank CMIE data, as of February, there were as many as 31.2 million youth actively looking for jobs.
This is in a country where over 60 per cent of the 1.35 billion population are under 35.
“It can be that you can have folks with less than a university degree, but participate well in this industry,” Rometty said.
Contrary to perceptions of jobs being in short supply, she said there are jobs aplenty and an equivalent number of people looking for them, but the skillsets are not matching, which is the real problem.
She said businesses and governments have to work together to solve the issue at hand, underlining that “we cannot have a world of the haves and the have-nots in this new world where certain people know how to work in the new technology-led era and the vast majority of others do not.”
Posing a question on whether tech will kill jobs, she said the nature of jobs will undergo a change and also spoke about her company’s social sector projects, especially those aimed at educating women.
Two years ago, the head of a leading European tech player had alluded to similar concerns as Rometty.
He had said over 65 per cent of the Indian IT staff is “just not re-trainable”, and had taken potshots at the Indian education system and also blamed the tech companies for not doing enough.
“For some unknown reasons, we call it a knowledge-driven industry.
“If you have that kind of talent, and then making them learn the existing technology itself is such a huge challenge,” he had said.
India to post Customs intelligence officers in China to check financial frauds
New Delhi: India has decided to post Customs intelligence officers in China in its effort to check black money, trade-based money laundering and other financial frauds, officials said.
Two posts of the Customs Overseas Intelligence Network (COIN) have been created in the Indian Embassy in Beijing and in the Consulate General of India at Guangzhou, they said.
The Finance Ministry has begun the process to select officers for the postings.
The move has been initiated by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), the lead agency to check Customs frauds and smuggling, to curtail incidents of trade-based money laundering and other financial frauds originating from China, the officials said.
COIN officers are usually mandated to pass on intelligence or information gathered from their respective positing stations overseas to help Indian intelligence agencies – mainly DRI – check trade-related frauds, they said.
“COIN officers play an important role in checking trade-based money laundering, black money and tax evasion by sharing intelligence with Indian agencies. Since a significant import and export is done between India and China, it was considered imperative to expand the snoop network to China,” an official said, wishing anonymity.
In the past, Customs authorities in India have detected a few cases of smuggling to and from China, he said.
COIN officers have been posted in several countries, including Nepal, Singapore, Brussels, the US and the UK, to help Indian authorities check smuggling, the officials said.
The selection process involves concurrence by the Ministry of External Affairs and final approval by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-headed Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, they said.
Giving details of the process, the officials said an evaluation committee comprising directors general of DRI, Directorate General of Goods and Services Tax Intelligence, National Academy of Customs, Excise and Narcotics and the Directorate General of Human Resource Development will evaluate the service records of concerned officers for posting.
A high-level committee comprising the chairperson, two members of the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs and the director general of DRI will interview the officers, they said.
The board will then recommend a panel of three officers for each post to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
After obtaining the finance minister’s approval, the panel will be forwarded to the Ministry of External Affairs for its concurrence followed by a reference to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet for final approval, the officials said.
SEBI mulls reducing rights issue listing time
Kolkata: After reducing time to list shares on the stock exchanges post-closure of initial public offerings (IPOs), markets regulator SEBI is aiming to cut down the time for listing of rights issue shares, an official said.
In September last year, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) decided on reducing the time to list shares on the bourses after IPO to 3 days from the present 6. The SEBI directive is likely to come into effect from July this year. SEBI had cited mitigating external risks such as market volatility and uncertainty of financial markets as the reason behind the move.
“SEBI aims to reduce the listing of IPO shares to 3 days from 6 days now. It is supposed to be introduced for IPOs from July 2019 onwards. Now, the regulator is working on simplifying the rights issue process,” Central Depository Services (India) Ltd (CDSL) VP (operations) Nitin Ambure told PTI. “I hope the number of days for listing the rights issue shares may come down to 8-10 days from about a month now. This may happen in phases, also depending on the regulator’s final decision,” he said.
Ambure was in the city to participate at a discussion on demat of unlisted shares at the Merchants’ Chamber of Commerce here. The markets regulator has involved stakeholders such as depositories and transaction advisors in the rights issue listing simplification process, just like it engaged exchanges and depositories for IPO shares, he said.
From April onwards, Unified Payments Interface (UPI) will be introduced as an alternative payment option for retail investors and SEBI has already cleared a proposal on it. National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT) is also being tested.
Analysts said the new payment mechanisms will make Applications Supported by Blocked Amount (ASBA) mechanism less attractive to investors. ASBA was introduced by the regulator so an investor does not lose out interest component on the application money.
Earlier, the process of normal allotment of shares for IPOs took almost a month. Ambure said SEBI had granted relaxation for processing Demat Request Number from the current 15 days to 30 days in the wake of unusual surge in requests for dematerialisation in recent months. As of now, the transfer of shares in the demat form is mandatory.
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