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Saudi Aramco Pays Dividend Despite 44% Drop in Profit in 2020

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Oil giant Saudi Aramco reported a 44% slump in full-year 2020 results, but maintained its $75 billion dollar dividend payout, with CEO Amin Nasser describing the last twelve months as one of the most “challenging years” in recent history. 

Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s behemoth state oil firm, reported net income of $49 billion in 2020, down from $88.19 billion in 2019. The result was slightly below analysts expectations of $48.1 billion but still represents one of the highest of any public company globally.

“In one of the most challenging years in recent history, Aramco demonstrated its unique value proposition through its considerable financial and operational agility,” Saudi Aramco Chief Executive Amin Nasser said in company statement Sunday.

Aramco said revenues were impacted by lower crude oil prices and volumes sold, and weakened refining and chemicals margins.

The firm also said it expects to cut capital expenditure in the year ahead, and lowered its guidance for spending to around $35 billion from a range of $40 billion to $45 billion previously.

Free cash flow slumped almost 40% to $49 billion, well below the level of its hotly anticipated dividend. Aramco also declared a payout of $75 billion for 2020, despite concern that it would take on additional debt to maintain it.

“Looking ahead, our long-term strategy to optimize our oil and gas portfolio is on track and, as the macro environment improves, we are seeing a pick-up in demand in Asia and also positive signs elsewhere,” he added.

Shares in the top western oil and gas companies including Royal Dutch Shell and BP dropped to multi-year lows in 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic wrecked havoc across the global economy and sparked a historic collapse in the price of oil. Exxon Mobil, the largest U.S. energy company, posted its first annual loss.

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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Global Oil Drops as Coronavirus Infections Rises in India and Other Nations

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Oil prices declined on Monday during the Asian trading session amid rising concerns that the surge in coronavirus in India and other nations could force regulators to enforce stronger measures at curbing its spread and eventually affect economic activity and drag on demand for commodities like crude oil.

Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is priced, declined by 22 cents or 0.33 percent to $66.55 per barrel at 8:19 am Nigerian time on Monday, following a 6 percent surge last week.

The US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) declined by 18 cents or 0.29 percent to $62.95 per barrel, after it gained 6.4 percent last week.

The decline was after India reported 261,500 new coronavirus infections on Sunday, taking the country’s total cases to almost 14.8 million, second to only the United States that has reported over 31 million coronavirus infections.

“With … a resurgence of virus cases in India and Japan, topside ambitions continue to run into walls of profit-taking,” said Stephen Innes, chief market strategist at Axi.

Businesses in Japan believed the world’s third-largest economy will experience a fourth round of coronavirus infections, with many bracing for an additional slow down in economic activity.

While Japan has had fewer COVID-19 cases when compared with other major economies, concerns about a new wave of infections are fast rising, according to responses in Reuters poll.

On Tuesday, April 20, 2020, Hong Kong will suspend all from India, Pakistan and the Philippines because of imported coronavirus infections, authorities stated in a statement released on Sunday.

India’s COVID-19 death rose by a record 1,501 to hit 177,150.

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Oil Rises on Drawdown in U.S. Oil Stocks, OPEC Demand Outlook

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Oil prices rose in early trade on Wednesday, adding to overnight gains, after industry data showed U.S. oil inventories declined more than expected and OPEC raised its outlook for oil demand.

Brent crude futures rose 28 cents, or 0.4%, to $63.95 a barrel at 0057 GMT, after climbing 39 cents on Tuesday.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures similarly climbed 28 cents, or 0.5%, to $60.46 a barrel, adding to Tuesday’s rise of 48 cents.

Oil price gains over the past week have been underpinned by signs of a strong economic recovery in China and the United States, but have been capped by concerns over stalled vaccine rollouts worldwide and soaring COVID-19 infections in India and Brazil.

Nevertheless, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) tweaked up its forecast on Tuesday for world oil demand growth this year, now expecting demand to rise by 5.95 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2021, up by 70,000 bpd from its forecast last month. It is banking on the pandemic to subside and travel curbs to be eased.

“It was a welcome prognosis by the market, which had been fretting about the impact the ongoing pandemic was having on demand,” ANZ Research analysts said in a note.

Further supporting the market on Wednesday, sources said data from the American Petroleum Institute showed crude stocks fell by 3.6 million barrels in the week ended April 9, compared with estimates for a decline of about 2.9 million barrels from analysts polled by Reuters.

Traders are waiting to see if official inventory data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Wednesday matches that view.

Market gains are being capped on concerns about increased oil production in the United States and rising supply from Iran at a time when OPEC and its allies, together called OPEC+, are set to bring on more supply from May.

“They may have to contend with rising U.S. supply,” ANZ analysts said.

EIA said this week oil output from seven major shale formations is expected to rise by 13,000 bpd in May to 7.61 million bpd.

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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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