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Why Russian oil and gas price cap is easier said than done

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Model of petrol pump is seen in front of EU and Russian flag colors in this illustration taken March 25, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) – G7 leaders have agreed to study possible price caps on Russian oil and gas to try to limit Moscow’s ability to fund its invasion of Ukraine, G7 officials said on Tuesday.

The officials, who include U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, say the measure will limit the price that Russia receives for energy while allowing Western consumers to continue getting supply.

Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about the price cap and challenges it could face.

HAS IT BEEN DONE BEFORE?

A somewhat similar mechanism was established as part of the oil-for-food programme by the United Nations in 1995 to allow Iraq to sell oil in exchange for food and medicine.

The programme, introduced by U.S. President Bill Clinton’s administration was meant to meet the humanitarian needs of ordinary Iraqis while preventing Saddam Hussein’s government from boosting military capabilities.

Oil buyers paid money into an escrow account run by BNP Paribas (OTC:BNPQY) bank. The money was used to pay for war reparations to Kuwait, U.N. operations in Iraq and Iraq was allowed to purchase regulated items with any remaining funds.

The programme suffered from widespread corruption and abuse.

While the United Nations was united in opposing Saddam Hussein’s government, the body is divided over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Russia calls a “special military operation”.

China, India and Pakistan are among 35 countries that have refused to condemn Russia. China and India have become the biggest buyers of heavily-discounted Russian oil as Europe cut imports.

WHAT’S THE GOAL OF A BUYERS’ CARTEL?

Western officials say they want to encourage sales of Russian oil at levels slightly above production costs to ensure Russia’s earnings are reduced while it maintains production.

Today, Russia receives more revenue than before the invasion began on Feb. 24 as global price rises have offset the impact of sanctions.

Tamas Varga from oil broker PVM said the price cap idea amounted to evidence that outright bans on Russian oil have been counterproductive as Russian revenues have increased.

But creating a buyers’ cartel to starve Russia of petrodollars while alleviating inflationary pressure from oil prices is challenging.

“The big unknown is Vladimir Putin’s reaction,” said Varga.

If Russian President Vladimir Putin decides to reduce oil or gas exports the plan will backfire and lead to a rise in prices: “It is a nightmare scenario – both for Europe and Russia.”

The Kremlin said on Tuesday that Russian gas giant Gazprom (MCX:GAZP) could seek to revise its delivery contracts if Western countries implemented a price cap on Russian gas.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said he could not comment on how much the move would cost Russia.

WHAT LEVEL FOR THE CAP?

With benchmark Brent prices at $110-$120 per barrel, Russian oil sells at heavy discounts of $30-$40 per barrel and Chinese and Indian buyers are snapping it up.

“G7 countries want to reduce Russian oil revenues and this implies a price cap well below what buyers are currently paying. Some campaigners advocate for a very aggressive reduction, pointing to Russia’s low production costs and arguing it would continue to sell oil at any price above this level,” said Richard Mallinson from Energy Aspects.

Russian production costs are $3-$4 per barrel and Russian firms could probably profit even if oil prices were $25-$30 per barrel.

The Dutch wholesale gas price for July, the European benchmark, has risen around 43% since the start of the year to $127.60 euros per megawatt hour.

European imports of Russian pipeline gas have dropped sharply after Gazprom this month reduced capacity of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which rus under the Baltic Sea to Germany, capacity to 40%.

The EU energy chief said on Monday that “serious disruption” to gas supplies from Russia is likely.

CAN THE CAP WORK VIA SHIPPING INSURANCE?

Imposing a price cap on Russian oil sales could be done via shipping insurance, Louise Dickson from Rystad and Mallinson said.

The International Group of Protection & Indemnity Clubs in London covers around 95% of the global oil shipping fleet.

Russian oil buyers could be offered a waiver from the ban on European shipping insurance, which takes effect in early December, if they are paying at or below the price cap.

However, there are many obstacles.

“The most obvious is that Russia might not agree to sell at those prices, particularly if the cap is very low and close to production cost,” said Dickson.

“In fact, Putin has already shown his willingness to withhold supplies of natural gas to EU countries that refused to meet payment demands”.

The next obstacle would be China, which could accept Russian insurance, said Dickson.

State-controlled Russian National Reinsurance Company (RNRC) has become the main reinsurer of Russian ships.

WILL CHINA AND INDIA COOPERATE?

India has provided safety certification for dozens of ships, enabling Russian oil exports.

“Russia and some buyers are already finding alternatives to European insurance markets, using a combination of local insurers and sovereign guarantees. So this mechanism would not force full participation in a price cap,” said Mallinson.

In addition, European insurers might not want to be responsible for monitoring the price cap and could decide to avoid covering such deals even if waivers are available, he said.

The EU would also need to amend the sanctions it passed at the end of May, which would require unanimous support.

“Given the difficult negotiations in May, some countries are worried about reopening this issue and giving Hungary and others another opportunity to push for concessions,” Mallinson said.

Commodities

Price of gold falls on expectations of further US Federal Reserve rate hike

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price of gold falls

Price of gold falls: the price of the precious metal on Monday morning slightly decreased on the prospects of further interest rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve, according to trading data.

The December gold futures price on the New York Comex Exchange is down $2.75, or 0.15%, to $1,788.7 a troy ounce. September silver futures went up 0.24% to $19.89 an ounce.

The precious metals market showed a negative trend on Monday morning, fueled by expectations of further interest rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve after the release of the country’s labor market data.

Thus, the unemployment rate in July fell to 3.5% from the June level of 3.6%, while the number of the employed in non-farm industries increased by 528,000. Analysts had expected the figure to remain at June’s level. The increase in nonfarm payrolls was forecast at 250,000.

“Support from geopolitical tensions “was countered by the resilience of the U.S. dollar after the release of a credible U.S. jobs report and hawkish comments from Fed officials,” Ravindra Rao, vice president of commodities at Kotak Securities, told Bloomberg news agency.

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Commodities

Goldman Sachs oil price forecast 2022: Oil price forecast worsens in Q3 and Q4

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goldman sachs oil price forecast 2022

Current Goldman Sachs oil price forecast 2022: Analysts (NYSE:GS) believe another drop in Brent prices has been driven by low liquidity and growing multiple concerns, including the recession, China’s “zero tolerance” coronavirus policy and the country’s real estate sector, the release of strategic reserves in the US and Russia’s production recovery.

“We believe the possibility of higher oil prices remains high, even given all these negative factors, as the market is in a state of greater deficit than we have expected in recent months,” experts said.

Nevertheless, they worsened their forecasts for oil prices in the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2022 – to $110 and $125 per barrel, respectively, from $140 and $130 per barrel. The forecast for 2023 remained unchanged at $125/bbl.

The previous week the price of Brent had fallen by almost 9%; WTI had fallen by almost 10%. At the moment, futures are near the minimum marks for six months.

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Commodities

Why is oil rising in price today after a decline last week

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why is oil rising in price

Why is oil rising in price? The price of October futures on London’s ICE Futures Exchange for Brent amounted to $95.22 per barrel, which was $0.3 (0.32%) above the previous session’s closing price. At the end of previous trading these contracts grew by $0.8 (0.85%) up to $94.92 per barrel.

The price of WTI futures for September at electronic trades on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) was $89.26 per barrel at that time, which was $0.25 (0.28%) above the final value of the previous session. By market close on Friday, the cost of these contracts grew by $0.47 (0.5%) up to $89.01 per barrel.

The previous week Brent had dropped almost 9% and WTI had fallen almost 10%. Currently, futures are near six-month lows.

The fall in Brent prices was caused by low liquidity and “a growing wave of concerns,” including the recession. China’s “zero tolerance” policy for the coronavirus, the release of strategic reserves in the U.S. and the recovery of production in Russia, experts wrote to Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS).

They worsened their oil price forecasts for Q3 and Q4 2022 to $110 and $125 a barrel, respectively, from $140 and $130 a barrel. The 2023 forecast remained unchanged at $125 a barrel.

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