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WestJet to suspend international flights




WestJet Airlines says it will suspend all international flights — including to the U.S — for 30 days, beginning this Sunday March 22.

The final commercially-scheduled, Canada-bound flights taking off from international destinations will leave by 11:59 p.m., local time, that night. After that, the airline said it will operate rescue and repatriation flights in partnership with the Canadian government.

As of Monday night, when the announcement was made, tickets were no longer available for sale for the 30-day period after March 22.

The Calgary-based airline said the goal is to stop sending Canadians out of the country and focus on bringing them home.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday that Canada will ban entry to most non-residents, except U.S. citizens. He’s urging Canadians abroad to travel back to Canada as quickly as possible. 24:51

The decision came in response to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s appeal to Canadians overseas to return home. Over the weekend, Global Affairs Canada also urged Canadians abroad to return while they have the chance because countries around the world are imposing ever-tighter travel restrictions.

WestJet said it’s also lowering prices on remaining seats on flights into Canada, and is reducing its domestic flight schedule by 50 per cent.

“While this is a difficult time, we now have the responsibility as a Canadian airline to bring our citizens home,” CEO Ed Sims said in the statement.

WestJet said Canadians abroad who plan to return home after March 22 should look to see if they can find an earlier return flight. If not, they should visit the Canadian government’s website to register for possible repatriation.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a dramatic impact on airlines’ business worldwide. The union representing WestJet flight attendants cautioned last week that it could be expecting layoffs of more than 50 per cent of its staff.

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Stocks jump on virus slowdown hopes, but oil slips on oversupply –




© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A pump jack operates in front of a drilling rig at sunset in an oil field in Texas


By Swati Pandey and Paulina Duran

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Stocks jumped on Monday as investors were encouraged by a slowdown in coronavirus-related deaths and new cases, while oil prices skidded after Saudi-Russian negotiations to cut output were delayed, keeping oversupply concerns alive.

Equity investors took solace as the death toll from the coronavirus slowed across major European nations including France and Italy.

U.S. stock futures rose 4% in Asian hours, trading close to its upper limit after U.S. President Donald Trump expressed hope the country was seeing a “levelling off” of the coronavirus crisis.

London’s was up 3.2% in early trading, while index was 4% higher.

“The stabilisation we are seeing in the market today is welcomed but it is something really fragile,” said Frank Benzimra, head of Asia equity strategy at Societe Generale (PA:).

In commodity markets, fell as much as $4 after Saudi Arabia and Russia postponed their meeting, initially scheduled for Monday, to Thursday even as the virus pandemic pummels demand.

“With a very light calendar globally today, there is enough momentum to keep the equity rally running through the course of the day and also into European time,” said Jeffrey Halley, Senior Market Analyst, Asia Pacific, OANDA.

“All bets are off after that although I could see a couple of days of positive sentiment ahead, especially if those mortality rates keep falling.”

In currency markets, sterling fell 0.06% in Asia after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to hospital following persistent coronavirus symptoms 10 days after testing positive for the virus.

In Asia, Australia’s benchmark index rose 4.33%; added 4.24% after a slow start while South Korea’s index climbed 3.85%. Hong Kong’s was 2.18% higher.

That sent MSCI’s broadest index of Asian shares outside of Japan up almost 2.03%, on track for its best performance in over a week.

Markets in mainland China were closed for a public holiday.

Worryingly, the number of new coronavirus cases jumped in China on Sunday while the number of asymptomatic cases surged too as Beijing continued to struggle to extinguish the outbreak despite drastic containment efforts.

“Focus in markets will now turn to the path out of lockdown and to what extent containment measures can be lifted without risking a second wave of infections,” National Australia Bank analyst Tapas Strickland wrote in a note.

“Key to a strong rebound in China will be the ongoing lifting of containment measures with Wuhan – the epicentre of the outbreak – set to lift containment measures on April 8.”

Strickland, however, noted many in China were still subject to social distancing and isolation restrictions to prevent a resurgence in infections.

The pandemic has claimed more than 68,000 lives and infected over a million people globally. The United States has the highest number of reported cases, at over 300,000.

Concerns about heavy damage to the global economy have pushed investors into the perceived safety of government bonds where yields are at or near all-time lows.

“One of the major concerns of markets at the moment is the extent and the soundness of the recovery in production that we are seeing in China and other Asian countries,” SocGen’s Benzimra added.

Elsewhere in currencies, the dollar gained 0.4% against the yen to 108.93..

The euro was barely moved at $1.0819 while the risk sensitive Australian dollar was up 0.6% at $0.6037. The pound was last down 0.02% at $1.2266.

In commodities, Brent crude futures was down nearly 1.23%, or 42 cents, at $33.69 a barrel while slipped 1.83%, or 52 cents, to $27.82.

added 0.54% to $1,625.2 an ounce.

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Oil prices decline $3 a barrel as market remains uncertain on supply outlook – Kitco NEWS



NEW YORK (Reuters) – Global benchmark oil prices traded as much as $3 a barrel lower as the market opened for Monday’s trading session, reflecting fears of oversupply after Saudi Arabia and Russia postponed to Thursday a meeting about a potential pact to cut production.

Late last week, prices had surged, with both U.S. and Brent contracts posting their largest weekly percentage gains on record due to hopes that OPEC and its allies would strike a global deal to cut crude supply worldwide.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus has cut demand and a month-long price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia has left the market awash in crude. During the month, prices have plummeted as the market has waited for a plan to cut production from OPEC and its allies.

Over the weekend, Saudi Arabia sent a signal that a production cut deal may be ahead, potentially muting the price decline. U.S. President Donald Trump said he will put pressure on Saudi Arabia and its allies for such a deal.

“I don’t know that anyone is going to get too aggressively short before the meeting,” said Robert McNally, president of Rapidan Energy Group in Bethesda, Maryland.

Brent crude LCOc1 traded lower by $2.39 a barrel, or 7%, by 6:16 p.m. EDT (10:16 GMT) after earlier touching a session low of $30.03 a barrel.

U.S. crude CLc1 traded down $2.41 a barrel, or 8.5%, at $25.93 a barrel.

Saudi Arabia’s decision to postpone its posting of the international prices for its crude for the first time indicates that it is not eager to flood the market with low-priced crude before a potential agreement. “That’s a pretty clear sign that they are open to cutting production in May,” McNally said. The kingdom delayed the release until Friday to wait for the outcome of the meeting between OPEC and its allies regarding possible output cuts, a Saudi source told Reuters.

Trump said on Saturday that he will put tariffs on Saudi and Russian production, potentially accelerating an output cutback.

OPEC and its allies postponed an emergency meeting scheduled for Monday, led by Saudi Arabia, where the oil cuts could be agreed upon. A senior Saudi source told Reuters on Sunday that the kingdom would now host the meeting via videoconference on Thursday and the delay was to allow more time to bring other producers on board.

Russian President Vladimir Putin put the blame for the crash in prices on Saudi Arabia on Friday – prompting a response from Riyadh the following day disputing Putin’s assertions.

OPEC and its allies are working on a global agreement for an unprecedented oil production cut equivalent to around 10% of worldwide supply in what they expect to be a global effort including countries that do not exert state control over output, such as the United States.

Trump has, however, made no commitment to take the extraordinary step of persuading U.S. companies to cut output.

Per Magnus Nysveen, head of analysis at Rystad Energy, said the decline in global demand because of the coronavirus pandemic and the global lockdowns was larger than the proposed cuts by the OPEC+ alliance.

“It is not strange for the market to hike prices by enthusiasm such as Friday’s, but for the levels to stay stable for more than a day or two, it takes concrete developments and deals on the ground,” he said.

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The World's Biggest Oil Deal Can't Save Crude Prices –



The World’s Biggest Oil Deal Can’t Save Crude Prices |

Nick Cunningham

Nick Cunningham is an independent journalist, covering oil and gas, energy and environmental policy, and international politics. He is based in Portland, Oregon. 

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    G20 countries are set to send their oil minister for an emergency meeting on Friday, a sign that there is a chance that OPEC and Russia can pull in other oil-producing countries into a global production cut.  Sentiment around the odds of a massive production cut deal have seemingly gyrated just as much as oil prices. Last week, President Trump’s tweet was met with euphoria by oil traders but skepticism by analysts. A day later, the odds seemed to improve dramatically and OPEC+ agreed to hold a meeting on Monday after Russia voiced some degree of support. But Trump dashed hopes again after he emerged from a meeting with American oil executives and said that the free market would sort things out. 

    That statement may have caused OPEC+ to delay a meeting until the end of this week. Saudi Arabia delayed the release of its monthly pricing list, an influential data point that offers both a pricing benchmark and also offers a window into Saudi strategy. The delay suggests that Riyadh will wait and see if there is any progress on OPEC+ talks before taking action one way or another. 

    The odds of success vary depending on who you ask. 

    On the bullish side of the ledger is the fact that an emergency meeting of the G20 oil ministers has been called, signaling potential participation in global production cuts beyond just OPEC+ countries. “It is coming to a level where it will have significant implications for the stability of the global economy and millions of workers employed in the oil and gas industry,” Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) told the FT. “The main task [of the G20] is to provide and maintain the financial and economic stability of global markets so it is perfectly in-line with their remit.”

    Saudi Arabia and Russia are “very, very close” to an historic deal to cut production, but success likely hinges on whether or not the U.S. and other non-OPEC countries join. 

    Related: Big Oil Raises Debt To Ride Out Price Crash
    Still, several analysts voiced skepticism that a production deal was imminent. 

    The meeting delay “is a fresh sign that working out a deal of this magnitude will take time,” JBC Energy wrote in a note on Monday. “Defining the right size for it will be very difficult, and of course, there is good reason to wonder if it will materialise at all.” The fact that Brent was trading at around $34 on Monday suggests that “a large part of the market still appears to be holding onto the hope of a better future,” the firm concluded. 

    However, even if they do, a global production cut – even one as large as 10 million barrels per day (mb/d) – may only buy time as the oil market continues to collapse. 

    Estimates of demand destruction now top 20 mb/d. Some estimates even put the global glut at 35 mb/d. 

    A supply cut would delay the time at which global inventories fill to the brim, but as long as the pandemic continues to keep a few billion people on lockdown, the oil surplus will remain. 

    Related: This Gulf State Faces An Impossible Decision As Oil War Rages On

    “Even if there was 10m b/d of cuts in our view we could still see a building of stocks of 15m b/d,” Mr Birol said. “I see that there is a growing consensus that this is the forum to address this problem.”

    The cuts of around 10 mb/d would also likely occur against a baseline of today’s rate of output, which is 3 mb/d or so higher than it was a month ago on the eve of the OPEC+ meeting. Since then, Saudi Arabia has ramped up production and may offer cuts against that new, higher level of output. 

    That means the proposed 10 mb/d of cuts is more like 6.5 mb/d of cuts, Commerzbank says. “Under these circumstances, it is likely to prove difficult to reach any agreement,” Commerzbank analysts said, referring to the negotiations between multiple parties, including the mercurial U.S. president. “And in any case, a reduction of 6.5 million barrels would do little to help in view of an oversupply of over 20 million barrels per day,” Commerzbank wrote in a report on Monday. 

    By Nick Cunningham of

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