U.S. Housing Starts Tumble in August
U.S. housing starts fell more than expected in August likely as bad weather disrupted building activity in the South, but a solid increase in permits for single-family dwellings suggested demand for housing remained intact.
Tuesday’s weak housing report came as officials from the Federal Reserve were due to gather for a two-day meeting to assess the economy and deliberate on monetary policy.
It joined a stream of recent soft economic data such as retail sales, nonfarm payrolls and industrial production, which, together with low inflation are expected to encourage the U.S. central bank to leave interest rates unchanged on Wednesday.
Groundbreaking decreased 5.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.14 million units after two straight months of strong gains, the Commerce Department said.
Single-family housing starts in the South, which accounts for the bulk of home building, tumbled 13.1 percent to their lowest level since May 2015. Economists said flooding in Texas and Louisiana was probably behind the drop in starts last month.
“We believe that the slowdown in August starts likely owes to a temporary weather effect rather than a substantive shift in the underlying trend,” said Rob Martin, an economist at Barclays in New York. “Excluding the South, housing starts increased a robust 4.2 percent.”
Permits for future construction slipped 0.4 percent to a 1.14 million-unit rate last month as approvals for the volatile multi-family homes segment tumbled 7.2 percent to a 402,000 unit-rate. Permits for single-family homes, the largest segment of the market, surged 3.7 percent to a 737,000-unit pace.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast housing starts falling to a 1.19 million-unit pace last month and building permits rising to a 1.17 million-unit rate.
U.S. financial markets were little moved by the data as investors awaited Wednesday’s outcome of the Fed’s meeting. The broader PHLX housing index .HGX, which includes builders, building products and mortgage companies, fell 0.76 percent.
STRONG HOUSING FUNDAMENTALS
Last month’s decline in starts was largely anticipated as groundbreaking activity has been running well ahead of permits approvals over the past several months, especially in the single-family housing segment.
The drop left starts just below their second-quarter average, suggesting little or no contribution from residential construction to economic growth in the third quarter.
Spending on home building was a small drag on output in the April-June period. Following the report, the Atlanta Fed trimmed its third-quarter gross domestic product estimate by one-tenth of a percentage point to a 2.9 percent annual rate. The economy grew at a 1.1 percent rate in the second quarter.
Demand for housing is being driven by a tightening labor market, which is lifting wages. A survey of homebuilders published on Monday showed confidence hitting an 11-month high in September, with builders bullish about current sales now and over the next six months, as well as prospective buyer traffic.
Housing market strength boosted Lennar Corp’s (LEN.N) profits in the third quarter. Lennar, the second-largest U.S. homebuilder, said it sold 6,779 homes in the three months ended Aug. 31, up 7.3 percent from a year earlier, while its average sales price rose more than 3 percent.
“Conditions seem well aligned for strong new home building. Borrowing costs remain low, the inventory of homes for sale, both new and existing, are relatively low and failing to make meaningful progress,” said Kristin Reynolds, a U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts.
Groundbreaking on single-family homes dropped 6.0 percent to a 722,000-unit pace in August, the lowest level since last October. But with permits for the construction of single-family homes rising last month, single-family home building could rebound in the months ahead.
The single-family housing market is being supported by a dearth of previously owned homes available for sale.
Housing starts for the volatile multi-family segment fell 5.4 percent to a 420,000-unit pace. The multi-family segment of the market has been buoyed by strong demand for rental accommodation as some Americans shun homeownership in the aftermath of the housing market collapse.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)
Sirius Petroleum and Baker Hughes Collaborate on OML 65 Drilling in Nigeria
Sirius Petroleum, the Africa-focused oil and gas production and development company, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Baker Hughes. The MoU names Baker Hughes as the approved service provider for Phase 1 of the Approved Work Program (AWP) of the OML 65 permit, a large onshore block in the western Niger Delta, Nigeria. Baker Hughes will provide a range of drilling and related services at a mutually agreed upon pricing structure to deliver the initial nine-well program.
Sirius has signed various legal agreements with COPDC, a Nigerian joint venture, to implement this program. COPDC has signed a Financial and Technical Services Agreement (FTSA) with the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) for the development and production of petroleum reserves and resources on OML 65. The FTSA includes an AWP which provides for development in three phases of the block. and Sirius has entered into an agreement with the joint venture to provide financing and technical services for the execution of the PTA.
The joint venture will initially focus on the redevelopment of the Abura field, involving the drilling and completion of up to nine development wells, intended to produce the remaining 2P reserves of 16.2 Mbbl, as certified by Gaffney Cline and Associates (GCA) in a CPR dated June 2021.
Commenting, Toks Azeez, Sales & Commercial Executive of Baker Hughes, said: “We are extremely happy to have been selected for this project with Sirius and their JV partners. This project represents an important step towards providing our world-class integrated well-service solutions in one of the most prolific fields in the Niger Delta. Baker Hughes’ technological efficiency and execution excellence will help Sirius improve its profitability and competitiveness in the energy market.”
Bobo Kuti, CEO of Sirius, commented: “We are delighted to have secured the services of one of the world’s leading energy technology companies to work with our joint venture team to deliver the approved work program on the block. OML 65. We look forward to building a long and mutually beneficial partnership with Baker Hughes.”
Egbin Decries N388B NBET Debt, Idle Capacity
Egbin Power Plc, the biggest power station in Nigeria, has said it is owed N388bn by the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc for electricity generated and fed into the national grid.
The company disclosed this on Tuesday during an oversight visit by the Senate Committee on Privatisation, led by its Chairman, Senator Theodore Orji, to the power station, located in Ikorodu, Lagos.
The government-owned NBET buys electricity in bulk from generation companies through Power Purchase Agreements and sells it to the distribution companies, which then supply it to the consumers.
The Group Managing Director, Sahara Power Group, Mr. Kola Adesina, told the lawmakers that the total amount owed to Egbin by NBET included money for actual energy wheeled out, interest for late payments and available capacity payments.
Egbin is one of the operating entities of Sahara Power Group, which is an affiliate of Sahara Group. The plant has an installed capacity of 1,320MW consisting of six turbines of 220 megawatts each.
The company said from 2020 till date, the plant had been unable to utilize 175MW of its available capacity due to gas and transmission constraints.
Adesina said, “At the time when we took over this asset, we were generating averagely 400MW of electricity; today, we are averaging about 800MW. At a point in time, we went as high as 1,100MW. Invariably, this is an asset of strategic importance to Nigeria.
“The plant needs to be nurtured and maintained. If you don’t give this plant gas, there won’t be electricity. Gas is not within our control.
“Our availability is limited to the regularity of gas that we receive. The more irregular the gas supply, the less likely there will be electricity.”
He noted that if the power generated at the station was not evacuated by the Transmission Company of Nigeria, it would be useless.
Adesina said, “Unfortunately, as of today, technology has not allowed the power of this size to be stored; so, we can’t keep it anywhere.
“So, invariably, we will have to switch off the plant, and when we switch off the plant, we have to pay our workers irrespective of whether there is gas or transmission.
“Sadly, the plant is aging. So, this plant requires more nurturing and maintenance for it to remain readily available for Nigerians.
“Now, where you have exchange rate move from N157/$1 during acquisition in 2013 to N502-N505/$1 in 2021, and the revenue profile is not in any way commensurate to that significant change, then we have a very serious problem.”
He said at the meeting of the Association of Power Generation Companies on Monday, members raised concern about the debts owed to them.
He added, “All the owners were there, and the concern that was expressed was that this money that is being owed, when are we going to get paid?
“The longer it takes us to be paid, the more detrimental to the health and wellbeing our machines and more importantly, to our staff.”
Adesina lamented that the country’s power generation had been hovering around 4,000MW in recent years.
Oil Rises on U.S. Fuel Drawdowns Despite Surging Coronavirus Cases
Oil prices climbed on Wednesday after industry data showed U.S. crude and product inventories fell more sharply than expected last week, reinforcing expectations that demand will outstrip supply growth even amid a surge in Covid-19 cases.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 48 cents, or 0.7%, to $72.13 a barrel, reversing Tuesday’s 0.4% decline.
Brent crude futures rose 34 cents, or 0.5%, to $74.82 a barrel, after shedding 2 cents on Tuesday in the first decline in six days.
Data from the American Petroleum Institute industry group showed U.S. crude stocks fell by 4.7 million barrels for the week ended July 23, gasoline inventories dropped by 6.2 million barrels and distillate stocks were down 1.9 million barrels, according to two market sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
That compared with analysts’ expectations for a 2.9 million fall in crude stocks, following a surprise rise in crude inventories the previous week in what was the first increase since May.
Traders are awaiting data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Wednesday to confirm the drop in stocks.
“Most energy traders were unfazed by last week’s build, so expectations should be high for the EIA crude oil inventory data to confirm inventories resumed their declining trend,” OANDA analyst Edward Moya said in a research note.
On gasoline stocks, analysts had expected a 900,000 barrel decline drop in the week to July 23.
“The U.S. is still in peak driving season and everyone is trying to make the most of this summer,” Moya said.
Fuel demand expectations are undented by soaring cases of the highly infectious delta variant of the coronavirus in the United States, where the seven-day average for new cases has risen to 57,126. That is about a quarter of the pandemic peak.
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