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Oil Dips as 2019 Ends; Big Gains on Year



Oil Dips
© Reuters.

Investing.com – Oil prices fell on the last day of 2019, but still rounded the year out with the biggest annual gains in three. A rebound forecast in U.S. shale crude production could, however, pose greater challenges for the market in 2020.

New York-traded , the U.S. crude benchmark, settled down 62 cents, or 1.0%, at $61.06 per barrel. Despite that drop, WTI rose 11% for December, its largest monthly gain since January.

London-traded , the global oil benchmark, settled down 67 cents, or 1%, at $66.65 per barrel. Notwithstanding Tuesday’s slide, the U.K. crude standard settled up 7% for December, its largest monthly advance since April.

For the year, WTI rose 34% while Brent had a 24% gain, the biggest annual gains since 2016 for both benchmarks.

Oil’s 2019 rally was largely helped by production cuts carried out by OPEC. Since January, the Saudi-led OPEC, joined by its ally Russia under the OPEC+ alliance, has tried to observe a daily production cut of 1.2 million barrels. In December, as that arrangement was about to expire, OPEC+ said it would deepen those cuts to 2.1 million barrels per day from the start of 2020.

Despite its plan for stiffer production cuts, OPEC+ could have a tougher time keeping oil prices up in 2020 as U.S. shale oil output could rebound next year, some long-time traders in oil said.

While production as a whole hit a record high of 12.9 million barrels per day in 2019, shale oil output, which accounts for more than half of U.S. total production, has been somewhat restrained this year. U.S. crude producers as a whole cut the number of in the country to 677 this year from 885 at the end of 2018, a drop of 208 rigs, or 24%.

“The main reason for the 24% cutback in actively-drilling U.S. oil rigs this year was the price uncertainty that persisted midyear,” said John Kilduff, founding partner at New York energy hedge fund Again Capital. WTI hovered between $50 and $55 during most of the summer months, weighing on the broader oil market.

Kilduff said with the OPEC decision to double down on production cuts taking effect only in early December, it will take U.S. drillers some time to turn their spigots back on in full and plow ahead with production.

“With oil prices being the way they are, one can bet on more challenges ahead for production,” Kilduff added. “WTI at above $60 is very, very remunerable to U.S. shale. OPEC will have to take a lot more off the market to face that wall of shale supply headed the global market’s way.”

Non-OPEC oil supply, led by the U.S. shale, is forecast to grow by 2.1 million barrels a day in 2020, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA).

Global demand for oil, meanwhile, is set to increase by 1.2 million barrels a day next year, the EIA said.

That means the world will need 900,000 fewer barrels of oil every day from both OPEC and non-OPEC producers alike, a situation that could sharply offset OPEC+ production cuts.

For the bulls, the coming year may still have a positive start from the phase one of the U.S.-China trade deal, which, according to a tweet by President Donald Trump on Tuesday, will be signed on Jan. 15. Yet, the positive impact of that deal could just be fleeting if U.S. crude production starts ramping up strongly.

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Gold, industrial stocks push TSX higher



Canada’s main stock index rose on Monday with gains in gold and industrial stocks, while a holiday in the United States prompted languid trade.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was unofficially up 38.37 points, or 0.22 per cent, at 17,597.39.

The holiday commemorating slain civil rights leader Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. in the United States resulted in a lack of cues from the U.S.-listed shares of TSX majors.

The materials sector, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, added 0.7 per cent as gold prices rose amid some safe-haven demand.

Industrial stocks rose 0.8 per cent as Bombardier Inc. shares increased 8.9 per cent and Ballard Power Systems Inc. closed 3.5 per cent higher.

Energy lost ground on Monday, sliding 0.1 per cent despite an increase in oil prices.

Leading the index wereWestshore Terminals Investment Corp., up 3.4 per cent, and Alamos Gold Inc., higher by 3.1 per cent.

Lagging shares were Hexo Corp., down 2.9 per cent, Encana Corp., down 2.7 per cent, and Martinrea International Inc., lower by 1.7 per cent.

European shares retreated from recent peaks on Monday as investors paused before launching into a week packed with economic data and the European Central Bank’s first policy meeting of the year.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down about 0.1 per cent, after ending at a record high on Friday on optimism around U.S.-EU trade talks. Market activity was thin because of a holiday in the United States.

The benchmark European index has risen about 2 per cent so far this month, as investors bet on a recovery in global growth amid cooling U.S.-China trade tensions.

“We are seeing a little bit of a pullback, having seen a very good run in markets since the start of the year,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda in London, adding that there was also some profit taking ahead of a “big week” consisting of U.S. corporate earnings and the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Markets will also be watching for the Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) from the euro zone on Friday, with a recent Reuters poll showing that economists expect a slowdown in the bloc to have bottomed out in 2019.

Comments from ECB Chief Christine Lagarde at the central bank’s first policy meeting for the year on Thursday will also be a point of interest. The bank is expected to keep the deposit rate unchanged after cutting it in September for the first time since 2016.

“We got a massive policy stimulus announced a few months ago, and it’s going to take some time for that to filter through to the financial system. It’s unlikely that the ECB is going to act in the aftermath of that so soon,” Oanda’s Erlam said.

Oil prices rose to their highest in more than a week on Monday after two large crude production bases in Libya began shutting down amid a military blockade, risking reducing crude flows from the OPEC member to a trickle.

Brent crude was up 51 cents, or 0.8 per cent, at $65.36, having earlier touched $66 a barrel, its highest since Jan. 9.

West Texas Intermediate was up 27 cents, or 0.5 per cent, at $58.81 a barrel, after rising to $59.73, the highest since Jan. 10.

Two major oilfields in southwest Libya began shutting down on Sunday after forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar closed a pipeline, potentially cutting national output to a fraction of its normal level, the National Oil Corporation (NOC) said.

NOC declared force majeure on crude loadings from the Sharara and El Feel oilfields, according to a document seen by Reuters.

The closure, which follows a blockade of major eastern oil ports, risked taking almost all the country’s oil output offline.


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The changing world of corporate activism



Something rare happened in the world of Canadian business this January — a CEO took a political stance publicly.

On January 12, the head of Maple Leaf Foods, Michael McCain, logged onto his company’s corporate Twitter account and criticized the Trump administration for escalating tensions with Iran.

McCain tied U.S. actions to the Ukrainian Airlines flight shot down over Tehran.



This doesn’t often happen. Corporate entities in Canada tend to stay away from controversial topics. But it is not unheard of.

Heather Reisman is the longtime CEO of Indigo Books.

She spoke with Cost of Living host Paul Haavardsrud about the times she has felt obligated to speak out.

Here is part of their conversation, starting with Reisman talking about how, in 2010, she stepped in to help an Iranian woman who was going to be stoned to death over charges of adultery.

Just five days after Reisman started an online petition, it gathered more than 70,000 names demanding that the woman be set free.

The CEO also wrote an open letter to the president of Iran urging him to release Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.

“I just thought, I just can’t let this one just go by. The notion that a person would be buried up to their neck in sand and stoned to death … that initial impetus is what led to the decision to create a petition,” said Reisman.

Do you think there’s a difference between your private self and your responsibilities as a CEO of a company?

No. I think your values are your values. Absolutely … if you’re a different person when you’re at work than you are when you’re at home or when you’re on a walk thinking about what you care about, then who are you?

What do you think it is that holds a company back?

If you take a position on something that is considered controversial, there’s always the possibility that there could be some fallout that you have to navigate.

I believe, over time, your employees most value a CEO whose values are clear and strong.– Heather Reisman, CEO of Indigo Books

For me to speak out about the importance of literacy and the fact that we are implicitly or explicitly ignoring that we are holding a whole segment of kids back from attaining rich literacy, it’s not very controversial … people may not be aware but that’s not a big risk.  You’re gonna get a gold star for that and you’re not going to risk a lot.

It’s [riskier] when you make a statement that could … cause some customers to say well, we don’t like that position, or even some employees. I believe, over time, your employees most value a CEO whose values are clear and strong and who does not depress those values if there is a business issue. In fact, the opposite.

I think your employees most respect a CEO whose values are clear, who they align with, and who they can feel confident that all of the decisions of the company will be consistent with those values.

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What you need to know ahead of labour disruption



A strike is back on the horizon after Grand River Transit union members voted against a tentative agreement negotiated by their union.

Thousands of people will find themselves dealing with the transit disruption as of 5 a.m. on Tuesday.

Whether or not you’re someone who relies on public transit, here are a few things you should know about the strike.

Buses will be parked, but not light rail transit vehicles

Though buses will not run, the Ion LRT will still run as scheduled.

If you’re able to get to an LRT station near you, you’ll be able to travel along its 19 kilometres and stops.

That said, if the LRT experiences any disruptions, there will be no bus shuttles to move passengers to another station.

It’s not just drivers who are striking

While the effects of the strike will be most apparent without drivers on the streets, the union represents several different levels of GRT and Mobility PLUS staff.

Members of Unifor Local 4304 include drivers, mechanics, vehicle service attendants and dispatchers.

The union represents about 700 employees altogether.

This isn’t the first possible strike

Union members were supposed to go on strike on Jan. 13, but a last-minute tentative agreement was made.

That agreement was reached about 30 minutes before the set strike date.

Still, it was tentative and relied on Unifor members to vote on it.

On Sunday evening, they voted against it.

The region tweeted that it was “disappointed with UNIFOR 4304’s failure to ratify” the tentative agreement.

By Monday evening, the region confirmed that GRT buses would not run starting Tuesday morning.

There are other ways of getting around

The Region of Waterloo says that every effort will be made to honour pre-scheduled dialysis trips with Mobility PLUS.

Trips for other reasons, like work, medical or recreational, are cancelled.

Inter-city bus services aren’t affected by the strikes.

If you’re looking for other ways to get around, you can also consider taking a taxi, carpooling, walking or riding a bicycle for part of your ride.

Waterloo Taxi is at least one carrier prioritizing dialysis patients who need to get to the hospital.

President Peter Neufeld says that they’re making sure they have enough drivers to deal with the expected rush.

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