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Eurozone Suspends Short-Term Debt Relief for Greece Amid Growing Friction

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  • Eurozone Suspends Short-Term Debt Relief for Greece Amid Growing Friction

Greece’s European creditors suspended proposed debt-relief measures for the country after the Greek government surprised them by announcing it would boost welfare benefits for low-income pensioners, a sign of escalating tensions over the country’s bailout.

The moves come as Athens and its international creditors—which include the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund—are struggling to conclude their latest review of the country’s rescue plan of as much as €86 billion ($92 billion) in loans.

“The institutions have concluded that the actions of the Greek government appear to not be in line with our agreements,” a spokesman for Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who presides over the group of his eurozone counterparts, said in a statement on Twitter.

“No unanimity now for implementing short-term debt measures,” he added.

The step puts further pressure on Greece’s government, which is considering calling snap elections in 2017 as it grapples with slumping popularity and is losing hope of winning concessions on deeper debt relief or austerity from the eurozone and the IMF.

Greece’s embattled Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras surprised Greeks and the country’s creditors last week with handouts that his government hadn’t previously discussed with bailout supervisors, which represent eurozone governments and the IMF.

Mr. Tsipras promised 1.6 million pensioners a Christmas bonus of between €300 and €800. He also suspended a planned increase in sales tax for Aegean islands that have received large numbers of refugees from the Middle East and elsewhere.

Eurozone officials expressed frustration that the country’s creditors were not told in advance by Greece of its plans—widely seen as a lure to voters ahead of elections—and said the new measures would have to be assessed to determine whether they were in line with the country’s bailout commitments.

“We will adhere to the [bailout] program to the letter, but whatever outperformance in revenue arises by following to the program, we will not ask anyone in order to give this money to those most in need,” Mr. Tsipras said Tuesday from the small island of Nisyros.

He stressed that the Greek government wouldn’t ask for permission to support those in need and spoke of “fool technocrats…who can’t even get their numbers right.”

Greece registered a primary budget surplus of €7.4 billion in the year to November, data from the finance ministry showed Wednesday, beating its target by nearly €4 billion because of lower spending and higher revenues.

Greek officials resumed talks with officials representing the country’s creditors earlier this week. The two sides remain apart on key overhauls, including a revamping of the labor market, as well as on further austerity aimed at reaching the country’s primary surplus target—its budget balance excluding interest payments—from 2018 onward.

But eurozone officials cautioned that the recent escalation would likely lead to further delays in the negotiations, which are already expected to go into the new year.

The situation has been further complicated by disagreements among Greece’s creditors over the level of the surplus that Greece must sustain and the economic overhauls it should be required to undertake.

The IMF has pressed Europe to reduce Greece’s budget target to a primary surplus of 1.5% of gross domestic product, instead of the current goal of 3.5%. But European governments, led by Germany, are unwilling to agree, partly because Greece would then need even more debt relief.

This month, eurozone finance ministers agreed on a package of debt-relief measures to be implemented in the short term that could ease the country’s debt load by around a fifth by 2060.

Germany’s finance ministry criticized Greece for the unexpected new spending earlier on Wednesday, indicating that it supported putting the agreed-upon debt relief on hold.

“In order to turn the bailout program into a success, it is imperative that measures should not be unilaterally decided or reversed without notice,” the ministry said.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Energy

U.S. and Ghana Inaugurate New $64.7 Million Energy Infrastructure Investment at Pokuase

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U.S. Ambassador to Ghana Stephanie Sullivan joined the President of Ghana H.E. Nana Akufo-Addo and other Ghana government officials to formally inaugurate the Pokuase Bulk Supply Point (BSP) in Accra today.  The U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) funded the $64.7 million (GH₵ 391.9 million) electrical infrastructure project under the Ghana Power Compact.

“The Pokuase Bulk Supply Point represents sustainable infrastructure investment by the United States with Ghana that will benefit hundreds of thousands of Ghanaians now and into the future,” remarked Ambassador Sullivan at the inaugural event. “It will help deliver more reliable power to the people, places, and businesses of Accra that drive increased economic activity benefitting families, businesses, and communities.”

This represents a flagship investment under the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Ghana Power Compact.  The Pokuase BSP will reduce outages in the power system, help stabilize voltages, and improve the quality and reliability of power supplied to the northern parts of the capital city of Accra.  It will also reduce technical losses in the power transmission and distribution system, contributing to the financial viability of the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and the Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCo) in the long term.  The Pokuase BSP is now the largest-capacity BSP in Ghana at 580 megavolt amperes (MVA) and will directly benefit 350,000 utility customers.

The Government of Ghana implemented the project through the Millennium Development Authority (MiDA).  MiDA formally handed over the new power substation to ECG and GRIDCo in today’s ceremony.

The Pokuase BSP is the first major construction project to be completed under the Ghana Power Compact. The $316 million compact is helping the Government of Ghana improve the power sector through investments that will provide more reliable and affordable electricity to Ghana’s businesses and households. The compact is also funding a BSP at Kasoa and two primary substations at Kanda and Legon, in addition to other power sector investments, energy efficiency programs, and women’s empowerment programs within the power sector. The compact program will officially close on June 6, 2022.

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Crude Oil

Oil Falls Slightly as China Steps in to Curb Rising Coal Prices

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Global oil prices moderated slightly on Wednesday following the Chinese government’s decision to curb high coal prices and ensure coal mines function at maximum capacity.

Brent crude, against which Nigerian oil is priced, dropped to $83.98 per barrel at 11:00 am Nigerian time. While the U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude fell by 80 cents or 1 percent to $81.20 a barrel.

“China is planning to take steps to combat the steep rises in the domestic coal market … which could put considerable pressure on the coal price there and reverse the fuel switch to oil,” Commerzbank said.

Prices for Chinese coal and other commodities slumped in early trade, which in turn pulled oil down from an uptick earlier in the day.

China’s National Development and Reform Commission said on Tuesday it would bring coal prices back to a reasonable range and crack down on any irregularities that disturb market order or malicious speculation on thermal coal futures. read more

Oil markets in general remain supported on the back of a global coal and gas crunch, which has driven a switch to diesel and fuel oil for power generation.

But the market on Wednesday was also pressured by data from the American Petroleum Institute industry group which showed U.S. crude stocks rose by 3.3 million barrels for the week ended Oct. 15, according to market sources.

That was well above nine analysts’ forecasts for a rise of 1.9 million barrels in crude stocks, in a Reuters poll.

However, U.S. gasoline and distillate inventories, which include diesel, heating oil and jet fuel, fell much more than analysts had expected, pointing to strong demand.

Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration is due later on Wednesday.

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Crude Oil

Oil Prices Hit Multi-year Highs on Monday

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Crude oil - Investors King

Oil prices hit multi-year highs on Monday buoyed by recovering demand and high natural gas and coal prices encouraging users to switch to fuel oil and diesel for power generation.

Brent crude oil futures were up 59 cents, or 0.7%, to $85.45 a barrel by 0900 GMT, after hitting $86.04, their highest level since October 2018.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures climbed 90 cents, or 1.1%, to $83.18 a barrel, after hitting a $83.73, their highest since October 2014.

Both contracts rose by at least 3% last week.

“Easing restrictions around the world are likely to help the recovery in fuel consumption,” analysts at ANZ bank said in a note, adding that gas-to-oil switching for power generation alone could boost demand by as much as 450,000 barrels per day in the fourth quarter.

Cold temperatures in the northern hemisphere are also expected to worsen an oil supply deficit, said Edward Moya, senior analyst at OANDA.

“The oil market deficit seems poised to get worse as the energy crunch will intensify as the weather in the north has already started to get colder,” he said.

“As coal, electricity, and natural gas shortages lead to additional demand for crude, it appears that won’t be accompanied by significantly extra barrels from OPEC+ or the U.S.,” he said.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Monday that Japan would urge oil producers to increase output and take steps to cushion the impact of surging energy costs on industry.

Chinese data showed third-quarter economic growth fell to its lowest level in a year hurt by power shortages, supply bottlenecks and sporadic COVID-19 outbreaks.

China’s daily crude processing rate in September also fell its lowest level since May 2020 as a feedstock shortage and environmental inspections crippled operations at refineries, while independent refiners faced tightening crude import quotas.

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