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South Africa Rate on Hold as Central Bank Warns of Rand Risk

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  • South Africa Rate on Hold as Central Bank Warns of Rand Risk

The South African Reserve Bank left its key rate unchanged for a seventh straight meeting as policy makers warned politics and ratings downgrades could still knock the rand and scupper an improving inflation outlook.

The Monetary Policy Committee maintained the benchmark repurchase rate at 7 percent, Governor Lesetja Kganyago told reporters Thursday in the capital, Pretoria. The decision was in line with the estimates of all 21 economists in a survey.

The key rate hasn’t changed for 14 months after the central bank raised it by two percentage points since 2014. The MPC has had to contend with swings in the rand after two ratings companies cut the debt of Africa’s most-industrialized economy to junk. This came after President Jacob Zuma fired Pravin Gordhan as finance minister, raising questions about political stability and stoking policy uncertainty before the ruling African National Congress elects new leadership in December.

“A reduction in rates would be possible should inflation continue to surprise on the downside and the forecast over the policy horizon be sustainably within the target range,” Kganyago said. “In the current environment of high levels of uncertainty, the risks to the outlook could easily deteriorate.”

Consumer inflation eased to 5.3 percent in April, the slowest pace in 17 months and the first time it’s been in the 3 percent to 6 percent target range since August. Price growth in March and April were below expectations, Kganyago said. The bank cut its forecast for the year to 5.7 percent from 5.9 percent and sees inflation remaining within the target range through 2019, he said.

As with the previous meeting, five MPC members voted for the rate to stay unchanged and one favored a 25 basis-point cut, Kganyago said.

“The Reserve Bank will probably only ease policy next year, because the forecast risk
is so high this year,” Elna Moolman, an economist at Macquarie Group in Johannesburg, said by phone. “It all comes down to the currency and the effect that will have on inflation.”

The rand strengthened 0.4 percent to 12.8568 per dollar by 4:49 p.m. in Johannesburg on Thursday. Yields on rand-denominated government bonds due December 2026 rose one basis point to 8.51 percent.

Political Uncertainty

While the rand is at a stronger level than a year ago, the outlook for the currency “and therefore the risks to the inflation outlook, will be highly sensitive to unfolding domestic political uncertainty, as well as decisions by the credit-ratings agencies,” Kganyago said.

South Africa’s economy expanded by 0.3 percent last year, the least since a 2009 recession. The MPC reduced its forecast for growth this year to 1 percent from 1.2 percent, and trimmed the outlook for 2018 to 1.5 percent from 1.7 percent. The reduction is because of the anticipated impact of the downgrades, he said.

Inflation expectations, as measured by the five-year breakeven rate, are near the lowest in more than two years.

Forward-rate agreements, used to speculate on borrowing costs, dropped as traders priced in a greater chance of policy easing. Contracts starting in a year fell to 6.86 percent, showing expectations of 47 basis points of rate cuts by the end of the period.

“It would be very brave to cut rates in a year that a reasonable person would expect that there would be turmoil, both locally and internationally,” Nicky Weimar, an economist at Nedbank Ltd. in Johannesburg, said by phone. “If there is a political resolution and the ANC heals itself, the rand could come roaring back” and there could be scope for cutting rates.

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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Oil Inches Higher But Rangebound as COVID-19 Cases Soar

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Oil prices edged higher in rangebound trade on Monday on optimism about a rebound in the U.S. economy as vaccinations accelerate, but rising COVID-19 cases in other parts of the world kept a lid on prices.

Brent was up 22 cents, or 0.4%, at $63.17 a barrel by 0843 GMT. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) U.S. crude rose 12 cents, or 0.2%, to $59.44 a barrel.

The prices have remained rangebound in the last three weeks, with Brent between $60 and $65 per barrel and WTI at $57 to $62.

“Oil prices are entering a consolidation phase after swinging wildly last month,” Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.

“While there are still plenty of reasons to be bullish, market players have become more cautious as infections have surged in Europe, India and some emerging markets, while vaccine rollouts have proved slower than anticipated,” he added.

India now accounts for one in every six daily infections worldwide, and other parts of Asia are seeing infection rates rise.

Asian oil demand remained weak and some buyers asked for lower volumes in May partly because of refinery maintenance and higher prices.

The United States has fully vaccinated more than 70 million people but U.S. gasoline demand has not picked up as much as expected.

The U.S. economy is at an “inflection point” amid expectations that growth and hiring will accelerate in the months ahead, but faces the risk of reopening too quickly and sparking a resurgence in coronavirus cases, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said in an interview broadcast on Sunday.

“There really are risks out there. And the principal one just is that we will reopen too quickly, people will too quickly return to their old practices, and we’ll see another spike in cases,” Powell said in a CBS interview, recorded on Wednesday.

On the production side, no new oil drilling rigs were started in the United States in the most recent week, a report published by Baker Hughes showed.

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Equatorial Guinea to Launch Vision on Post-COVID Energy Transition Plans with Report and Film

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The Africa Energy Series (AES): Equatorial Guinea 2021 campaign – comprising a report and a documentary – will serve as a critical tool to navigate the energy investment landscape in one of Africa’s more mature petroleum producing markets; Equatorial Guinea has largely been able to sustain its pace of engagement with global investors in the face of COVID-19, forecasting $1.1 billion in FDI in oil and gas activities in 2021; The third edition of the AES: Equatorial Guinea 2021 report will be released at Africa Oil & Power’s U.S. Africa Energy Forum 2021 networking event in Washington, D.C. this July.

Africa Oil & Power is proud to announce the upcoming launch of its Africa Energy Series (AES): Equatorial Guinea 2021 investment report and documentary, as part of a multimedia campaign set to champion the domestic energy sector and shape the West and Central African energy narrative.

The dual-language publication will target key developments driving a post-COVID-19 recovery in Equatorial Guinea – namely, the growth of petroleum and power industries; regional gas monetization initiatives; a clean energy transition; the impact of environmental, social and governance criteria; and expansion of the national diversification agenda.

A 30-minute documentary will provide a visual complement to the publication, featuring first-hand interviews with government officials, private sector players, industry regulators and energy experts discussing Equatorial Guinea’s unparalleled ambition and future plans.

“From spearheading regional gas monetization initiatives to drilling new exploration wells as early as Q2 2021, Equatorial Guinea continues to cement its reputation as a progressive, dynamic force on the African energy stage,” said H.E. Gabriel Obiang Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons. “The Africa Energy Series publication in conjunction with a detailed documentary format, gives us the voice to showcase the depth of our full-stream investment opportunities to a global audience.”

Since the onset of COVID-19, Equatorial Guinea has been proactive in safeguarding opportunities for foreign investors and continuing to drive capital into its hydrocarbon resources. In February, Chevron achieved first gas flow from the successful execution of its Alen Gas Monetization project, a $475-million investment representing the first phase of Equatorial Guinea’s Gas Mega Hub masterplan.

The Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons is currently promoting several capital-intensive projects – including the construction of modular oil refineries, a gold refinery, liquefied petroleum gas strategic tanks, a urea plant and the expansion of a compressed natural gas project – which are open for investment. Last December, the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons announced a forecast of $1.1 billion in foreign direct investment in oil and gas activities in 2021.

Active in Equatorial Guinea since 2015, AOP released its first AES documentary on the country in 2016, followed by investment reports in 2018 and 2019.

The AES: Equatorial Guinea 2021 investment report will be launched at the U.S. Africa Energy Forum 2021 online seminar and in-person networking event in Washington, DC. (July 12). The documentary will be launched at the U.S. Africa Energy Forum conference in Houston (October 4-5) and broadcast globally on news networks.

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U.S. Africa Energy Forum 2021 Launches: Promotes U.S. Role as Primary Investor in African Energy

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The U.S. Africa Energy Forum 2021 – organized by Africa Oil & Power, in partnership with the African Energy Chamber’s U.S.-Africa Committee – will foster alignment between U.S. and African governments’ energy policies and highlight African oil, gas, power and renewable projects across the energy value chain for U.S. investors; the multi-day forum unites U.S. and African policymakers, energy executives and industry leaders to create new linkages and foster discussions that drive long-term policy formation and project execution; the in-person, two-day summit and gala dinner will be hosted in Houston, Texas (October 4-5, 2021) and an online seminar and in-person networking event will be held in Washington D.C. (July 12).

Africa Oil & Power (AOP) and the African Energy Chamber are excited to announce the launch of the first-ever U.S. Africa Energy Forum (USAEF). This event aims to create deeper cooperation between the U.S. and Africa on energy policy, to reach alignment on long term sustainability goals, to stimulate greater American investment in the African oil, gas and power sectors, and to engage and reposition the U.S. as the primary partner of choice for African energy developments.

Under the theme “New Horizons for U.S. Africa Energy Investment” the forum will explore diverse foreign investment and export opportunities across the continent, including natural gas as a vital fuel for the energy transition; energy storage and battery minerals; Africa’s place in global energy supply chains; the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area; evolving energy technologies and how they relate to the future role of petroleum resources; and on-and off-grid power developments.

An online seminar and in-person networking event will be held in Washington D.C. on July 12, 2021, building up to the in-person U.S. Africa Energy Forum summit and gala dinner, to be hosted in Houston, Texas, on October 4-5, 2021. Africa Oil & Power and the African Energy Chamber invite all U.S.-based companies with an interest in engaging with African industry leaders and project developers to participate in the USAEF Houston summit.

This initiative comes at an important juncture in U.S.-Africa relations. The Biden Administration’s announcements of its intentions to proactively build a stronger U.S.-Africa partnership coincides with the fact that African projects are seeing rising interest from U.S. companies and lending institutions alike. The USAEF event is thus dedicated to enabling dialogue between its participants that advances these developments.

“Our mission has always been to showcase the resource potential that Africa has to offer while at the same time showing its growing preference for sustainable energy policies and technologies. Toward that end, we hope it becomes evident that Africa does not just want investment capital: it wants smart capital and an accompanying partnership with the investors,” says James Chester, Senior Director of Africa Oil & Power. “The U.S. Africa Energy Forum represents the first-of-its-kind opportunity to catalyze U.S. participation in Africa’s energy transformation – via technology, policy support, capital injection and skills development – and turns a new page in the chapter on global energy investment.”

In partnership with the African Energy Chamber’s U.S.-Africa Committee, AOP will introduce American companies to African opportunities and advance an agenda of sustainable, long-term investment in African energy and other sectors by U.S. organizations.

“The rise in support from the U.S. to the continent is a credit to Africa itself, which is increasingly viewed as a favored destination for global investors, multilaterals and export credit agencies,” says Jude Kearney, President of Kearney Africa and former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Service Industries and Finance at the U.S. Department of Commerce during the Clinton Administration. “Africa continues to command a healthy share of global FDI in oil and gas industries. It has for decades shown that investment in those sectors is favorable compared to other jurisdictions and can be successful by many measures. Even as Africa and the rest of the world wrestles with a global pandemic, Africa’s energy sector shows vitality and resiliency – not only in hydrocarbons but in regard to new opportunities in mining, liquefied natural gas, and agriculture.”

Both African governments and private sector sponsors of African energy projects value highly the combination of investment and partnership that US investors famously convey. The USAEF seeks to enable successful partnerships between its participants such that the energy development goals of U.S. investors and strategic partners and their African counterparts can be achieved.

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