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Fed Raises Rates, Maintains Forecast for One More Hike

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Janet Yellen
  • Fed Raises Rates, Maintains Forecast for One More Hike

Federal Reserve officials forged ahead with an interest-rate increase and additional plans to tighten monetary policy despite growing concerns over weak inflation.

Policy makers agreed to raise their benchmark lending rate for the third time in six months, maintained their outlook for one more hike in 2017 and set out some details for how they intend to shrink their $4.5 trillion balance sheet this year. In a press conference after the decision was announced, Fed Chair Janet Yellen said the unwinding plan could be put into effect “relatively soon” if the economy evolves as the central bank expects.

“Near-term risks to the economic outlook appear roughly balanced, but the committee is monitoring inflation developments closely,” the Federal Open Market Committee said in a statement Wednesday following a two-day meeting in Washington. “The committee currently expects to begin implementing a balance sheet normalization program this year, provided that the economy evolves broadly as anticipated.”

Policy makers also issued forecasts showing another three quarter-point rate increases in 2018, similar to the previous projections in March.

The Fed’s actions and words struck a careful balance between showing resolve to continue tightening in response to falling unemployment while acknowledging the persistence of unexpectedly low inflation this year.

“Inflation on a 12-month basis is expected to remain somewhat below 2 percent in the near term but to stabilize around the committee’s 2 percent objective over the medium term,” the statement said.

The committee had previously described inflation as close to its goal.

Treasuries rose, the dollar trimmed losses and U.S. stocks turned lower after Yellen suggested weak readings on inflation won’t persist amid a tightening labor market.

Economic Data

Data released earlier Wednesday showed that, on a year-over-year basis, the core version of consumer price inflation, which strips out food and energy components, slowed for the fourth straight month, to 1.7 percent in May. Following that news, the probability that the June hike would be followed by another increase this year dropped to about 28 percent from 48 percent, according to pricing in fed funds futures contracts.

“They are in no hurry to move again,” said Stuart Hoffman, senior economic adviser at PNC Financial Services Group Inc. in Pittsburgh. “Inflation has moved away from target and taken a step back. They need to wait beyond September to make a determination.”

In a separate statement on Wednesday, the Fed spelled out the details of its plan to allow the balance sheet to shrink by gradually rolling off a fixed amount of assets on a monthly basis. The initial cap will be set at $10 billion a month: $6 billion from Treasuries and $4 billion from mortgage-backed securities.

The caps will increase every three months by $6 billion for Treasuries and $4 billion for MBS until they reach $30 billion and $20 billion, respectively.

Officials didn’t reveal the exact timing of when the process will begin this year, as well as specifically how large the portfolio might be when finished.

The FOMC retained language that it expects to keep raising interest rates at a “gradual” pace if economic data play out in line with forecasts.

Yellen Remarks

Wednesday’s decision brings the Fed’s target for the federal funds rate, which covers overnight loans between banks, to a range of 1 percent to 1.25 percent.

The vote was 8-1, with Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari dissenting from a rate increase for the second time this year, preferring no change.

Quarterly projections for 2018 and 2019 showed Fed policy makers largely maintained their expected path for borrowing costs. The median forecast still has the central bank making three quarter-point increases in 2018; the end-2019 rate is seen at 2.9 percent, a slight change from 3 percent in the March projections.

The new forecasts may in part reflect changes in the FOMC since the last meeting, including the departures of Governor Daniel Tarullo and Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker, and the arrival of new Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic.

In any event, interest-rate projections for 2018 and 2019 are becoming less reliable guides to future policy amid the likelihood that the Fed’s Board of Governors will see a major makeover in the next year.

The Fed has in recent weeks wrestled with contradictory signals from unemployment and inflation. Joblessness in the U.S. dropped to a 16-year low at 4.3 percent in May. Despite that, the Fed’s favorite measure of price pressures, excluding food and energy components, rose just 1.5 percent in the 12 months through April, down from 1.8 percent in February. The Fed’s target for inflation is 2 percent.

Inflation Projections

The recent economic developments prompted FOMC members to drop their median projection for inflation to 1.6 percent in 2017, from 1.9 percent forecast in March. The median forecasts for 2018 and 2019, however, were unchanged at 2 percent.

They also reduced slightly their estimate for the lowest sustainable level of long-run unemployment to 4.6 percent from 4.7 percent. That change, and the reduction in the 2017 inflation forecast, could reduce the urgency policy makers feel to hike rates again in coming months, especially if inflation remains soft.

“Job gains have moderated but have been solid, on average, since the beginning of the year, and the unemployment rate has declined,” the FOMC statement said.

Economic-growth projections were little changed, with the median forecast for 2017 moving to 2.2 percent from 2.1 percent.

The FOMC next meets in six weeks, on July 25-26. A Bloomberg survey of 43 economists conducted June 5-8 showed a median expectation for rate hikes in June and September, followed by the start of balance-sheet unwinding in the fourth quarter.

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.

Energy

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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Angola’s Petroleum Agency Outlines Timeline for Ongoing Bid-round

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Angola’s National Oil, Gas and Biofuel’s Agency (ANPG) has outlined its timetable for the evaluation of its ongoing 2020 bid round, as interest in the acreage on offer continues to grow.

In line with its statutory duties as national concessionaire in charge of the attribution of petroleum exploration blocks, the ANPG has sought to adjust its processes to remain competitive in the current market environment, which is dominated by concerns around COVID-19, long-term demand considerations and stiff competition from new and promising frontiers like Guyana and Suriname.

The ongoing bid-round is a manifestation of Angola’s strategy for the continuous attribution of petroleum concessions 2019-2025 which was approved and codified by Presidential Decree no. 52/19, of 18 February 2019. The aim of the strategy is to provide access to promising acreage to competent explorers in an effort to increase geological knowledge about Angola’s hydrocarbons potential and ultimately increase proven reserves.

A hybrid online and physical roadshow for the current bid-round is scheduled for April 6 in at the Talatona Convention Centre in Luanda. This event will provide the opportunity for investors to engage with the agency regarding the blocks on offer, the data packages and the accessibility studies, as well as touch upon environmental, logistical and local content issues.

This will kickstart a series of both digital and in-person roadshows and technical presentations to promote the blocks to be awarded in key international markets. The acreages on offer include:

  • Three blocks of the lower Congo onshore Basin CON1, CON5 and CON6
  • Six of the Kwanza onshore Basin (KON5, KON6, KON8, KON9, KON17 and KON20)

In line with the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 86/18, of 2 April 2019, which establishes the rules for the organization of bid rounds, the ongoing 2020 bid round will unfold as follows:

  • Tender Launch
  • Proposal submission
  • The opening of offers from potential suitors in a public setting
  • The evaluation and qualification of proposals
  • The submission of the evaluation report to the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Petroleum and Gas
  • Contract negotiation with the winners of the bid-round
  • Signature

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