Saturday, February 25, 2017
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After OPEC cuts heavy oil, China teapot refiners pull U.S. supply to Asia


Chinese independent, or teapot, refiners are bringing in rare cargoes of North American heavy crude in a new long-distance flow that traders say has only been made possible by OPEC’s output cuts and ample supplies in Canada and the United States.

In April, at least 1 million barrels of the heavy crude Mars, pumped from the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, are expected to land in China‘s Shandong province and 1 million barrels of a second unidentified heavy grade will arrive in China, trade and shipping sources said last week. This follows the arrival in January of 600,000 barrels of U.S. Gulf Blend, a heavy crude made up of a blend of various U.S. and Canadian grades loaded onto ships on the U.S. Gulf Coast, according to the sources and shipping data.

Heavy crude is typically more dense and viscous than other oil grades. Refiners with facilities that can process these grades value heavy crude because its lower cost results in higher margins from producing fuels from these grades.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ (OPEC) output cuts have targeted heavy crude, with linchpin producer Saudi Arabia and Venezuela reducing their exports of heavy crude. That has increased the price of Middle East heavy crudes for Asian delivery, making it economical for traders to ship crude from Russia, the Atlantic Basin and the United States to Asia.

“The OPEC cuts started from medium and heavy grades and Venezuela (a key supplier to China) is exporting less,” said a Singapore-based crude oil trader.

The tightening heavy crude supplies are occurring at a time when demand for these types has increased after refiners upgraded their plants, the trader said. Heavy crude typically yields a higher percentage of residue fuels when first processed at a refinery and that residue is then reformulated into higher-value fuels such as gasoline and diesel fuel in so-called cracking units.

Since late last year, China, the world’s second-largest oil consumer, has stepped up imports from North America, one of the few regions where oil production is growing.

Asia’s strong pull for heavy sour crude from the Americas led Mars to hit its highest level in a year relative to North American price benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) as traders forecast increased export demand from Asia.

The Ligurian Sea, a Suezmax tanker, loaded 600,000 barrels of U.S. Gulf Coast Blend from Port Arthur in Texas. The tanker then went around South Africa to arrive at Lanshan port in Shandong in early January after a 55-day journey, shipping data on Thomson Reuters Eikon showed.

The cargo contained Canadian Access Western Blend, a heavy sour grade with an API gravity of about 22 degrees and nearly 4 percent sulfur, said two trade sources who track oil flows.

Chinese agent Sinoenergy sold the bulk of the cargo to Shandong Tianhong Chemical and the rest went to Shandong Haiyou Petrochemical Group, they said.

The Mars cargo may go to Chinese independent refiner Shandong Wonfull Petrochemical Group, who are close to buying the heavy-sour grade for the first time for April delivery, said a source with knowledge of the proposed deal. The source declined to be named due to company policy.

Wonfull will likely buy the cargo from Swiss trader Trafigura [TRAFG.UL], an active seller of U.S. crude in Asia, said a second trader who closely tracks oil deals in Shangdong.

Castleton Commodities International (CCI) also plans to ship 1 million barrels of an unknown heavy crude grade from the United States to China onboard the Suezmax tanker Erviken which is scheduled to load on Feb. 20, according to one trader, a source in the shipping industry and shipping data.

Sinoenergy, Trafigura, Wonfull, CCI and Haiyou declined to comment. Tianhong could not be reached for comment.

China’s largest refiner Sinopec imported heavy crude from the U.S. Gulf late last year, a source with knowledge of the matter said, confirming an earlier Reuters story.

(Reporting by Liz Hampton in HOUSTON, Catherine Ngai in NEW YORK, Florence Tan and Mark Tay in SINGAPORE; Additional reporting by Jane Chung in SEOUL and Osamu Tsukimori in TOKYO)

The Latest: Trump invites Panama, Trinidad-Tobago leaders


WASHINGTON — The Latest on President Donald Trump (all times EST):

10:50 p.m.

President Donald Trump discussed what the White House calls “shared priorities” in phone calls to the leaders of Panama and the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago.

In statements late Sunday, the White House says Trump spoke to President Juan Carlos Varela of Panama and Prime Minister Keith Rowley of Trinidad and Tobago.

Trump invited both leaders to visit Washington, D.C., in the coming months.


6:50 p.m.

The leader of Panama says he has spoken by phone with President Donald Trump ahead of an official visit to Washington.

Juan Carlos Varela says via his verified Twitter account that the two presidents discussed their countries’ ”excellent bilateral relationship on economic, security and regional matters.”

Varela adds that they agreed to hold talks between high-level officials ahead of his trip to Washington, “which I will do at his invitation.” He did not say when he is to visit.

Varela tweeted that he received the call from Trump on Sunday afternoon.


5:40 p.m.

Swedes have been scratching their heads since President Donald Trump suggested that some kind of major incident had taken place in their country Friday night. Trump is now clarifying his comments, saying he was referring to something he saw on television.

Trump first referenced Sweden during a Florida rally on Saturday as he talked about past terror attacks in Europe. He told supporters, “Look what’s happening last night in Sweden.”

In Sweden, the remark raised eyebrows and sparked derision about a fact-challenged president. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Catarina Axelsson said that the government wasn’t aware of any “terror-linked major incidents.”

On Sunday, Trump tweeted that his statement was in reference to a story broadcast on Fox News concerning immigrants and Sweden.

The president may be referring to a segment aired Friday night on the Fox News show “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that reported Sweden had accepted more than 160,000 asylum-seekers last year but that only 500 had found jobs. The report went on to say that a surge in gun violence and rape had followed the influx of immigrants.

A White House spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, says that Trump was talking about rising crime and recent incidents in general, not referring to a specific issue.


5:20 p.m.

President Donald Trump’s meetings with potential candidates to be his new national security adviser are continuing Sunday afternoon.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Trump is meeting with four candidates at his private Palm Beach club.

On the schedule were his acting adviser, retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg; John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster and the superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen.

Sanders said Trump may interview more candidates and hopes to make the decision soon.

Trump also discussed strategies for repealing and replacing President Barack Obama’s health care law with top advisers, including Health Secretary Tom Price and Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House budget office.


4:35 p.m.

The Homeland Security Department has drafted sweeping new guidelines aimed at aggressively detaining and deporting immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

A pair of memoranda signed by DHS Secretary John Kelly outline the plans under consideration. The memos dated Friday seek to implement President Donald Trump’s broad directive to crack down on illegal immigration.

Kelly outlines plans to hire thousands of additional enforcement agents, expand on the priority list for immigrants marked for immediate removal and enlist local law enforcement to help make arrests. Those details were confirmed to The Associated Press by a person briefed on the documents.

A White House official says the White House has raised objections with the documents and is working with DHS to finalize the policy.


1:15 p.m.

The Congressional Black Caucus says it will meet with President Donald Trump after all.

Rep. Elijah Cummings is a senior member of the group. He told CBS’ ”Face the Nation” that Trump answered the caucus’ Jan. 19 request for a meeting “a day or so ago.” The Maryland Democrat says he expects the two parties will meet when Congress returns from a weeklong break and discuss prescription drugs and urban issues.

The possible meeting stirred controversy during Trump’s press conference last week. Responding to a reporter’s inquiry, Trump suggested that Cummings had declined a meeting and asked the reporter, who is black, to set up a meeting.

Cummings says he never rejected a meeting. On Sunday, he attributed the late acceptance to Trump apparently not being “in contact with his staff properly.”


11:30 a.m.

President Donald Trump plans to speak Sunday with leaders from Panama and Trinidad and Tobago.

A White House official says Trump will speak to leaders of both countries. The official requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the president’s schedule.

Trump has been speaking to foreign leaders since he took office four weeks ago.

The calls come on a busy day for Trump. He is also interviewing candidates to be his new national security adviser and is planning a health care policy meeting.


10:55 a.m.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says he has no issues with the media, despite his boss’ condemnation that the “fake news media” is “the enemy of the American people.”

The Pentagon chief says he’s had some contentious times with members of the media, but adds the press is a constituency he deals with.

He also rebuffed suggestions that disarray at the White House is affecting the military. His comments came days after the White House national security adviser was forced to resign.

Mattis says at a news conference in the United Arab Emirates that at times democracy is “quite sporting.” But he says the military’s job is to hold the line while the government sorts out the way ahead.

Says Mattis: “We don’t have any disarray inside the military, and that’s where my responsibility lies.”


10:50 a.m.

A top adviser to President Donald Trump says campaign aides didn’t have any contact with Russia before the election.

Chief of staff Reince Priebus (ryns PREE’-bus) tells NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “we don’t know of any contacts with Russian agents.”

Priebus says he had “talked to the top levels of the intelligence community.” He denies a New York Times report that multiple Trump advisers were in touch with Russian intelligence advisers during the election campaign.

During a news conference last week, Trump gave a lawyerly denial that his campaign aides had been in touch with Russian officials before last fall’s election. He said: “nobody that I know of.”

Trump and Putin are discussing military cooperation in Syria. Mattis says Russia must


Trump and Putin are discussing military cooperation in Syria. Mattis says Russia must ‘prove itself first’.

BRUSSELS – Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday that Russia will need to “prove itself first” before the United States and other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are willing to let their armed forces collaborate – a

Donald Trump Just Launched A War On Whistleblowers


President Donald Trump is launching a war on leakers, attempting to turn a story about the firing of his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, into a campaign to purge and clean out intelligence agencies.

Donald Trump Just Launched A War On Whistleblowers


N.Y. Times reprimands reporter for sharing ‘unfounded rumor’ about Melania Trump


Editors at the New York Times have reprimanded a reporter for referring to first lady Melania Trump as a “hooker” at an event Sunday night, calling the remarks “completely inappropriate.”

The reporter in question, who has not been identified by the paper, came under fire Monday morning after supermodel Emily Ratajkowski made the reporter’s remarks public in a series of tweets. Ratajkowski, who said the reporter made the remarks while sitting next to her at a New York Fashion Week event, called the comment “disgusting sexist bull—t.”

“At a party last night, a Times reporter who does not cover Washington or politics, referred to an unfounded rumor regarding Melania Trump,” a Times spokesperson said in a statement to POLITICO. “The comment was not intended to be public, but it was nonetheless completely inappropriate and should not have occurred. Editors have talked to the reporter in question about the lapse.”

Trump is suing the U.K.-based media company Daily Mail for running an article that included the unfounded rumor that she had once been a “high-end escort.” Trump recently settled a defamation suit with a Maryland-based blogger, who has since retracted and issued a lengthy apology for repeating two rumors about the first lady on his blog.

BAI, United Arab Emirates—Donald Trump was everywhere and nowhere


His name came up almost constantly—in side conversations, in pointed questions to panelists, in broadsides from the main stage. And even when the new American president wasn’t invoked by name, his putative threat to world order was very much on people’s minds: Is trade dead? Is globalization over? What does “America First” mean for the rest of us?

Here at the World Government Summit—a sort of Middle Eastern Davos-in-the-making put on by the United Arab Emirates, and the first major international confab since Trump took office—the mood among the 4,000 or so attendees was one of confusion mixed with concern.

After all, this was a gathering of precisely the kind of cosmopolitan elites Trump ran against on the campaign trail, and has vowed to disempower as president. His chief strategist, Steve Bannon, blasted these villains in a blunt post-election interview that previewed Trump’s inaugural address weeks later: “The globalists gutted the American working class and created a middle class in Asia. The issue now is about Americans looking to not get fucked over.”

If there’s anyone who embodies the idea of globalism, it’s Klaus Schwab, founder of the Switzerland-based World Economic Forum, who opened the conference with a grim assessment of the populist wave led by Trump. “People in some parts of the world are angry. Facts do not anymore count. Fake news may become more important than reality,” he said.

Schwab, whose organization has come to symbolize the idea of a borderless world that Trump rails against, also offered something of an apology. “We should not go back to neoliberalism, and say we want to fix the system by making it more inclusive,” he declared. “What we have seen is a revolution against the system, so fixing the system is not enough.”

“We should not look at globalism and nationalism as enemies. We are a global society with a shared future,” he said. “At the same time, we need a national identity.”

But like others struggling to understand Trumpism, Schwab offered more in the way of slogans than answers, and proceeded to plug his most recent book—The Fourth Industrial Revolution, a techno-optimist look at advances like artificial intelligence, genome editing and cryptography—when in all likelihood the acceleration of existing technological trends is only going to widen those divides and create more Trumps. (“We need to move out from this negativism,” Schwab said, “and move to a place where we again have trust in the future.”)

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, faced a barrage of questions about Trump, and while she deflected them—the IMF is optimistic about his tax reform and infrastructure plans, she revealed—she also grappled with elites’ failure to anticipate the populist backlash that Trump represents.

“We’ve been saying internationalization is great, global trade is great,” Lagarde acknowledged. “But we haven’t been so focused on sharing the benefits.” Asked why she and others missed the Trump phenomenon, she said: “Because it was insidious. Because it happened over time.”

How might globalization’s defenders retool? “I know it’s not fashionable at the moment, but I think facts, figures,” she said, in another unmistakable shot at Trump and his penchant for misrepresenting reality. (“We are facing a real challenge,” the left-leaning economist Joseph Stiglitz added during a later session, “undermining the common agreement of what is truth.”)

The hits on Trump kept coming, as did the mea culpas from the globalists.

“Globalization has brought increasing wealth and improved welfare in general, but it also had its losses,” said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. “Many people feel that they have been left behind, and that the political establishments of their countries have not taken care of them.”

As for Trump, who has threatened to slash the U.N.’s funding and shown little appreciation for its value, Guterres said: “My position about the way the United Nations needs to deal with the U.S. administration is simple: Respect its principles.”

Guterres suffered his first black eye at the hands of the Trump administration this week when U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley blocked the appointment of former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad as envoy to Libya, but he held his rhetorical ground, at least. “I deeply regret this opposition and I see no validity in it,” he said.

Using the kind of language usually applied to problems like terrorism, Jim Yong Kim, the World Bank chief appointed by Barack Obama, suggested that global institutions had a responsibility to address the anger that led to Trump. “It’s not enough to condemn xenophobia and populism; we need to engage with the root causes that make them fester.”

It was ironic to watch all this globalist soul-searching on display in Dubai, a city that has benefited from globalization perhaps more than any other—importing labor from all over the world and positioning itself as a symbol of openness in the closed-off Middle East, and a gateway between East and West.

Gulf Arab leaders openly cheered the departure of Obama, whose dealings with Iran and embrace of the Arab Spring both infuriated and alarmed them. Now, they’re trying to figure out what to make of Trump, whose promises to get tough on Tehran and attacks on Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood have undeniable appeal here.

They may have to keep guessing for now. Last year, Obama gave the WGS keynote address via video, but the Trump administration sent nobody to this year’s conference to explain its positions—perhaps understandable given all the chaos back at the White House, but an unmistakable sign of its insularity nonetheless.

The UAE (which, through the U.N. Foundation, paid for my travel and lodging here) was the only Arab country to defend Trump’s executive order on immigration, rejecting the idea that it was a “Muslim ban,” and its ambassador in Washington has cozied up to top White House officials including Jared Kushner. But this is realpolitik, not love. When asked about dealing with Trump, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Dubai’s absolute ruler and the UAE’s vice president, was characteristically unsentimental. “We have relationships with governments and states, not individuals,” he said. “Our relations are based on the interests of our country.”

Privately, some will admit to worrying that Trump will unleash a global trade war that will make everyone worse off. An Emirati close to the royal family told me that the official stiff upper lip masked real concern: “If globalization dries up, Dubai is finished.”

For now, the world goes on—and much of the conference had nothing to do with America or Trump whatsoever. There were booths on blockchain technology and the UAE’s plans to visit Mars, and a “Museum of the Future” showcasing sci-fi technologies like robotic gardens and a jellyfish-mangrove hybrid that could generate fresh water. The prime minister of Bhutan flitted from panel to panel, promoting the idea of “gross national happiness” as a better barometer of a country’s well-being than GDP.

Parag Khanna, a Singapore-based author and proud globalist who gave a talk here on “liquid borders,” laughed at the idea that Trump can roll back globalization, as many here fear. Pointing to reams of statistics showing the explosion of new trade ties with little or no involvement from the United States, he told me that Trump would merely act as an “accelerant” of existing trends. As for the U.S., “America First” or no, “people will care a lot less about what we do,” he predicted.

Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, the head of DP World, a UAE-based ports conglomerate that operates in 40 countries, also disputed the assumption that Trump threatens global trade, noting that some 75 percent of the world’s economic growth is in emerging markets. Sulayem has his business down to a science—he rattled off statistics, such as how 1 percent growth in a country means a 3 percent growth in shipping containers. His company is focused on cracking open markets in hard-to-reach places like the interior of Africa, and doesn’t much worry about what the United States is doing.

As for Trump and his populist allies in Europe and around the world, “I think this is a phase,” he said. “This is something that will pass.”

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