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Oil Hits $70 as Mideast Crisis Deepens Fear

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(Bloomberg) — Oil extended its dramatic surge above $70 a barrel as the fallout between the U.S. and Iran escalated after the assassination of one of the Islamic Republic’s most powerful generals.

Brent futures jumped by another 3% on Monday as the U.S. State Department warned of a “heightened risk” of missile attacks near military bases and energy facilities in Saudi Arabia. Prices got a further boost as President Donald Trump reiterated threats of retaliation should Iran “do anything” and vowed heavy sanctions against Iraq if American troops are forced to leave OPEC’s second-biggest producer.

The wild ride continues for oil as Washington and Tehran trade bellicose rhetoric, ratcheting up fears of a wider conflict that could disrupt supply from the world’s most important producing region. Crude was last this high when Saudi production facilities were attacked in September, knocking out about 5% of global output.

Trump said he’s prepared to strike “in a disproportionate manner” and attack more than 50 sites if Tehran retaliates against Soleimani’s killing. The Middle East nation said it has to “settle a score with the U.S.” and that it would no longer abide by limits on its enrichment of uranium. A vote by Iraq’s parliament to expel U.S. troops from the country deepened the fallout.

“Oil will remain on tenterhooks, ready to jump higher with every headline indicating a turn for the worse,” said Vandana Hari, founder of Vanda Insights in Singapore. “The U.S. and Iran traded sequentially bigger threats over the weekend and Tehran has pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal, marking a quick downward spiral in what could turn out to be the worst crisis in the Middle East since the Arab Spring.”

London’s Brent futures rose as much as 3.1%, or $2.14, to $70.74 on ICE Futures Europe and were at $70.45 at 12:09 p.m. in Singapore. The contract surged 3.6% on Friday. West Texas Intermediate advanced 2.4% to $64.53 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The deepening crisis continued to spill over into other markets. Asian equities from Japan to Australia fell while U.S. and European stock futures retreated. Gold surged to the highest in more than six years and Treasury yields ticked lower as investors sought havens from the turmoil.

Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq together pumped more than 16 million barrels of oil a day last month. Most of their exports leave the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway that Iran has repeatedly threatened to shut down if there’s a war.

The U.S. said there’s risk of attacks particularly in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia and near the Yemeni border and close to military bases as well as oil and gas facilities, the State Department said in a tweet.

In a separate event, an American service member and two contractors were killed in a Sunday attack on U.S. counter-terror forces in Kenya, with al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab militants claiming responsibility for the act. The raid came after a U.S. airstrike killed several members of the Somalia-based group, even as more troops are being dispatched to the Middle East.

Rising tensions between the U.S and Iran have already caused unprecedented disruptions to oil markets, but so far they’ve been short-lived. Last year, Washington blamed Tehran for sabotage attacks on supertankers and a missile and drone attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq crude-processing plant in September — the largest single supply halt in the industry’s history.

Trump’s tough talk followed Iran’s threat of a protracted response, and eclipsed a previous assertion that the U.S. hadn’t launched the attack near Baghdad airport on Thursday to “start a war.” The president is also sending more troops to the Middle East.

The Iranian leadership has signaled it will probably target U.S. military installations and bases in the Middle East and mobilize its network of militias across the region.

Beyond crude’s rise, there were other signals in the market that people were preparing for further disruption.

Volatility has risen to its highest level in a month and the cost of derivatives that insure against price spikes increased. Four million barrels of options contracts that would profit from a jump in Brent crude to $95 a barrel traded for both March and September. The cost of insuring tankers could rise again, after it surged in the wake of the Abqaiq attack in September.

Still, oil’s 23% rise last year could already have taken it to levels that may not leave much room for further increase, according to analysts.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said an actual disruption to global supplies is needed to keep prices are current levels. They were already trading above the bank’s fundamental fair value of $63 prior to the attack, buoyed by an “over-enthusiastic December risk-on rally” without evidence of an acceleration in global growth, the bank’s analysts wrote in an emailed note.

“The oil market always assumes the worst, so a lot of the general risk is already priced in,” said Jaafar Altaie, managing director of Abu Dhabi-based consultant Manaar Group. “Prices at $70 a barrel already assume the worst-case scenario and we see them holding there, in a range from $60-$70, for the first quarter.”

The greatest risk to supply would be an attack on Iraq’s southern fields, he said. Iran would likely continue to target tankers and energy infrastructure in the region as it’s accused of having done in recent months, Christof Ruehl, a researcher on energy and policy at both Columbia and Harvard universities, said on Bloomberg television Sunday.

“They’re walking a tight rope” and face retaliation if they react too forcefully, Ruehl said.

–With assistance from Alex Longley and Dan Murtaugh.

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Half of Ontarians support union’s goals in ongoing LCBO strike: poll

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Fewer than one-third of Ontarians say they want the provincial government to intervene to end the 12-day strike at Ontario’s main liquor retailer, while about half are supportive of the striking union’s demands.

That’s according to a new Leger poll that asked if the government should use binding arbitration or legislation to ensure LCBO stores open as soon as possible.

Twenty-nine per cent of respondents supported such a move, while 44 per cent opposed it. The poll also asked if respondents support the union’s stated goals, including wage increases and more permanent positions. Just under half, 49 per cent, answered in the affirmative, while 25 per cent said they were not supportive.

Awareness of the strike in Ontario is high, according to the poll, with 89 per cent saying they knew about it, though only 15 per cent reported being personally affected. The Leger poll of 601 residents, conducted last weekend, can’t be assigned a margin of error because online surveys are not considered truly random samples.

Approximately 10,000 workers at the LCBO walked off the job on July 5 after negotiations broke down.

The union representing the workers said the sides were headed back to the bargaining table Wednesday.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union has said the main issue is the province’s alcohol expansion plans that would see ready-to-drink cocktails sold outside LCBO stores — a move it maintains poses an existential threat to the LCBO and could lead to major job losses.

Colleen MacLeod, chair of the union’s LCBO bargaining unit, has said the plan would “mean thousands of lost jobs, fewer hours for the 70 per cent of LCBO retail workers who are casual and struggling to make ends meet, and hundreds of millions in dollars of lost public revenues drained from health care, education and infrastructure.”

The LCBO, a Crown corporation, nets the province $2.5 billion a year.

On Monday, the Ontario government sped up its expansion plan. The 450 stores across Ontario already licensed to sell beer, wine and ciders will be able to start ordering coolers and seltzers on Thursday and sell them as soon as they arrive.

The province has said it does not want to privatize the LCBO, and that the expansion is about giving people more choice and more convenience to buy alcohol.

Stephanie Ross, an associate professor in the school of labour studies at McMaster University, said Premier Doug Ford doesn’t have a great reputation when it comes to labour, given the high-profile disputes in recent years with health-care and education workers. And he’s faced accusations of making policy moves that benefit friends in the private sector, a criticism that’s been levied against him in the LCBO dispute.

“There is a base of support for the union’s message here, both in terms of the working conditions that they’re trying to fight to improve, and in terms of the role that the LCBO plays in funding public services in the province,” she said.

But the public may not be as sympathetic to LCBO workers as it has been to some others, like in the Metro grocery workers’ strike last year, she said — a relatively straightforward fight by low-paid workers struggling to afford food against the industry being partially blamed for food prices.

“And so in the depths of a kind of historic cost-of-living crisis, I think it was easier to feel sympathy for such workers in terms of really having to fight to make up lost ground.”

That means the LCBO union has its work cut out to try and convince the public of its cause, said Ross, especially when consumers are already divided on the liquor privatization issue in the first place. She thinks the union is doing a good job, however, of arguing the case for the LCBO as a public asset that helps fund important public services.

Larry Savage, a professor in the labour studies department at Brock University, said it’s clear both the union and the Ford government “are working hard to win over the public to their respective positions.”

The union has a “potentially powerful strategy” to gain public support, but it’s not a surefire one, he said in an email.

This strategy “requires people to connect the dots between the privatization of the LCBO and the loss of a critical revenue stream that contributes billions to public services like health care and education.”

Meanwhile, the government’s strategy has been to try and leverage consumer frustration over the strike in order to drive more support for increased privatization, said Savage.

“It’s a high-risk strategy because a heavy-handed approach can sometimes backfire and garner greater sympathy for the workers and their cause.”

In the Leger poll, 32 per cent of respondents said they looked for alternative locations to buy alcohol due to the strike, and while 15 per cent said they were concerned the strike could cause them to spend more money on alcohol.

Savage said while many consumers are likely inconvenienced, he also thinks most Ontarians are suspicious of the premier’s intentions when it comes to the LCBO: “It’s a classic case of private profits over the public good.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 17, 2024.

 

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Half of Ontarians support union’s goals in ongoing LCBO strike: poll

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Fewer than one-third of Ontarians say they want the provincial government to intervene to end the 12-day strike at Ontario’s main liquor retailer, while about half are supportive of the striking union’s demands.

That’s according to a new Leger poll that asked if the government should use binding arbitration or legislation to ensure LCBO stores open as soon as possible.

Twenty-nine per cent of respondents supported such a move, while 44 per cent opposed it. The poll also asked if respondents support the union’s stated goals, including wage increases and more permanent positions. Just under half, 49 per cent, answered in the affirmative, while 25 per cent said they were not supportive.

Awareness of the strike in Ontario is high, according to the poll, with 89 per cent saying they knew about it, though only 15 per cent reported being personally affected. The Leger poll of 601 residents, conducted last weekend, can’t be assigned a margin of error because online surveys are not considered truly random samples.

Approximately 10,000 workers at the LCBO walked off the job on July 5 after negotiations broke down.

The union representing the workers said the sides were headed back to the bargaining table Wednesday.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union has said the main issue is the province’s alcohol expansion plans that would see ready-to-drink cocktails sold outside LCBO stores — a move it maintains poses an existential threat to the LCBO and could lead to major job losses.

Colleen MacLeod, chair of the union’s LCBO bargaining unit, has said the plan would “mean thousands of lost jobs, fewer hours for the 70 per cent of LCBO retail workers who are casual and struggling to make ends meet, and hundreds of millions in dollars of lost public revenues drained from health care, education and infrastructure.”

The LCBO, a Crown corporation, nets the province $2.5 billion a year.

On Monday, the Ontario government sped up its expansion plan. The 450 stores across Ontario already licensed to sell beer, wine and ciders will be able to start ordering coolers and seltzers on Thursday and sell them as soon as they arrive.

The province has said it does not want to privatize the LCBO, and that the expansion is about giving people more choice and more convenience to buy alcohol.

Stephanie Ross, an associate professor in the school of labour studies at McMaster University, said Premier Doug Ford doesn’t have a great reputation when it comes to labour, given the high-profile disputes in recent years with health-care and education workers. And he’s faced accusations of making policy moves that benefit friends in the private sector, a criticism that’s been levied against him in the LCBO dispute.

“There is a base of support for the union’s message here, both in terms of the working conditions that they’re trying to fight to improve, and in terms of the role that the LCBO plays in funding public services in the province,” she said.

But the public may not be as sympathetic to LCBO workers as it has been to some others, like in the Metro grocery workers’ strike last year, she said — a relatively straightforward fight by low-paid workers struggling to afford food against the industry being partially blamed for food prices.

“And so in the depths of a kind of historic cost-of-living crisis, I think it was easier to feel sympathy for such workers in terms of really having to fight to make up lost ground.”

That means the LCBO union has its work cut out to try and convince the public of its cause, said Ross, especially when consumers are already divided on the liquor privatization issue in the first place. She thinks the union is doing a good job, however, of arguing the case for the LCBO as a public asset that helps fund important public services.

Larry Savage, a professor in the labour studies department at Brock University, said it’s clear both the union and the Ford government “are working hard to win over the public to their respective positions.”

The union has a “potentially powerful strategy” to gain public support, but it’s not a surefire one, he said in an email.

This strategy “requires people to connect the dots between the privatization of the LCBO and the loss of a critical revenue stream that contributes billions to public services like health care and education.”

Meanwhile, the government’s strategy has been to try and leverage consumer frustration over the strike in order to drive more support for increased privatization, said Savage.

“It’s a high-risk strategy because a heavy-handed approach can sometimes backfire and garner greater sympathy for the workers and their cause.”

In the Leger poll, 32 per cent of respondents said they looked for alternative locations to buy alcohol due to the strike, and while 15 per cent said they were concerned the strike could cause them to spend more money on alcohol.

Savage said while many consumers are likely inconvenienced, he also thinks most Ontarians are suspicious of the premier’s intentions when it comes to the LCBO: “It’s a classic case of private profits over the public good.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 17, 2024.

 

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Being Angry at Employers for Looking out for Their Interests Won’t Land You a Job

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The current job market is a stark reminder of a fundamental truth: The employee-employer relationship is inherently asymmetrical. This asymmetry is the default of the employer taking on the risk of investing capital while employees only invest their time. Employers have the upper hand, and the right to work ultimately depends on their decisions, as evidenced by layoffs.

 

Employees don’t own their jobs; their employers do.

 

In the face of rejection after rejection, job seekers become frustrated and angry, blaming employers for being unreasonable, greedy, or only looking out for their interest, as if their employers are in the business of hiring people. This mindset is counterproductive and will only hinder your ability to land a job.

 

I don’t think job seekers are angry with employers. I think they’re angry because they were in demand, and now they’re not. Recently, the tech industry has had more than its share of layoffs. Most likely, until now, those laid off had only experienced being highly sought after. A shift of this kind requires humility, which is lacking amid all the anger directed at employers.

 

When making a hiring decision, the employer rightfully prioritizes its interests over those of the job seeker. Employers seek candidates who can deliver value and contribute to their organization’s success. In contrast, job seekers look for roles that fit their skills, experience, and career goals. Employers looking after their interests aren’t wrong or nefarious; it’s simply smart business.

 

Employers’ self-interests are not your enemies. Instead, use them to your advantage by identifying them and positioning yourself as the solution. Demonstrating how you’ll support the employer’s interests will turn you from a generic candidate into an asset.

Three strategies can be used to align your self-interests—presumably landing a job—with those of an employer (Envision, “You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.”):

 

Understand the employer’s priorities, the obvious being to generate profit.

 

Job seekers tend to focus solely on the job description and the required qualifications and overlook the company’s overall goal(s). Knowing (read: researching) the company’s goals will enable you to explain how your skills and experience can support their goals.

 

Suppose you’re applying for a marketing coordinator role at a rapidly growing tech startup. The job posting lists key responsibilities, including managing the company’s social media accounts, creating content, and planning events. However, after studying the company holistically, you find, like most companies, it prioritizes gaining new customers.

 

With this knowledge, you can position yourself as a candidate who can help drive that growth by emphasizing, using quantifying numbers (e.g., In eight months, increased Instagram followers from 1,200 to 32,000.) in your resume, LinkedIn profile, cover letter and during your interview, your experience developing high-performing social media campaigns attracting new leads for previous employers. You could mention your innovative ideas for using user-generated content to raise brand awareness or partnering with industry influencers. The key is to show that you possess the required functional skills and understand the company’s overall goals and how you can help achieve them.

 

Explain how you’ll make your ‘to-be’ boss’s life easier.

 

Your ‘to-be’ boss is juggling a million competing priorities, budget constraints, and pressure from their boss to optimize their team’s productivity.

 

Position yourself as the candidate who’ll simplify your ‘to-be’ boss’s life, and you’ll differentiate yourself from other candidates. During the interview, make it a point to understand the specific pain points and challenges your ‘to-be’ boss is facing—I outright ask, “What keeps you up at night?”—and then present yourself as a solution.

 

Perhaps the department has a retention problem. You could tell a STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) story, demonstrating your ability to build strong cross-functional relationships and create a positive work culture that boosts employee engagement and loyalty.

 

Educating your prospective boss that by hiring you, they’ll have one less headache is a hard-to-ignore value proposition.

 

Show how their success is equal to yours.

 

Hiring boils down to finding candidates who can drive measurable business results. Don’t rely solely on your skills and experience. Outline how you can deliver tangible benefits to the employer. Quantify the value you’ve brought to previous employers.

 

If you’re applying for a sales role, share data on the year-over-year revenue growth, client retention rates, and customer satisfaction scores you achieved in your previous positions. Quantify the value you brought to the organization, then explain how you can replicate or exceed that level of performance in the new role.

 

Say you’re interviewing for an IT support position. In addition to highlighting your technical expertise, again using a STAR story, highlight your expertise in streamlining processes, reducing downtime, and providing exceptional customer service. Tie those accomplishments back to the employer’s need to maximize productivity and minimize disruptions.

 

The key is to make a compelling case that the employer also succeeds when you succeed.

 

It’s understandable to feel frustrated by rejection, but the most successful candidates recognize that employers have legitimate business priorities. Identifying an employer’s interests and showing how you can support them will improve your chances of landing a job. Stop expecting an employer to save you. Save an employer.

_____________________________________________________________________

 

Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers “unsweetened” job search advice. You can send Nick your questions to artoffindingwork@gmail.com.

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