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Crude oil prices continue to rise on the backdrop of US-Iran tension 

Global oil prices have been on the increase ever since the killing of the top Iranian army Commander, Qasem Soleimani in Bagdad last Thursday.  

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America’s killing of the top Iranian army Commander, Qasem Soleimani, may be controversial, but it has continued to be a gift that keeps on giving as far as the prices of crude oil are concerned. Global oil prices have been on the increase ever since the killing happened in Bagdad last Thursday.

As at 1 pm West African Time on Monday afternoon, Brent Crude was trading at $69.65 per barrel, having increased by 1.53% today alone.

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Crude oil prices continue to rise on the backdrop of US-Iran tension 

Prior to this time, oil prices were gradually gathering momentum, due partly to OPEC+ countries’ agreement on deeper output in early December 2019. The US-Iran tension has now had a more pronounced impact, causing Brent to mark its fifth consecutive week of increase.

CNBC International reported that on Friday, December January 5th, Brent gained as much as 3.55% as prices surged to almost $70 per barrel, the highest ever recorded since April last year.

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It should be noted that tension in the Middle East has always had a way of encouraging crude prices to skyrocket. This is perhaps due mainly to the fact that the region is home to some of the world’s top oil producers. Uncertainties in Iran has particularly been an oil price booster. Recall that US sanctions on the predominantly Shi’a Islamic country back in 2018 also encouraged crude prices to rise.

Following last week’s drone attack on Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian Government has issued repeated threats of revenge and severe consequences for America and its allies. There is an $80 million bounty for President Donald Trump’s head. There are also speculations that Iran might attack Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities, a situation that could all result in oil prices shooting up in the high digits.

[READ MORE: Global oil prices hit $69.16 after US airstrike)

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Iran has also called off a tricky deal with the US and other signatories, which restricted its nuclear enrichment programme. This development could cause America’s Trump to reintroduce heavy economic sanctions on the country, including limiting how much of its crude would be sold in international markets. Further restrictions on Iranian crude will certainly cause the commodity’s prices to spike.

FG battles 6 oil firms for failure to remit N20 trillion , ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron delay $58.4 billion oil and gas investment in Nigeria 

Over here in Nigeria, the crude price increases recorded in recent days is a favourable development. Recall that Nigeria, which is facing a revenue challenge as its Finance Minister has repeatedly admitted, is currently in search of means to boost revenue in order to fund its ambitious 2020 budget. Therefore, any increase in crude prices means more money for the country.

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Indeed, the US-Iran controversy could be the best thing to happened to oil-producing countries like Nigeria this early 2020. That notwithstanding, there is the urgent need to stop the conflict from escalating any further than it already has.

Patricia

Emmanuel covers the financial services sector for Nairametrics. Do you have a scoop for him? Well then, contact him via his email- [email protected]

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UPDATE: President Trump has been sued by MIT, Harvard over foreign students ban

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guidelines for foreign students returning to US schools

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University have sued President Donald Trump over a new policy that restricts foreign students, whose courseworks would be taught online, from entering/remaining in the USA.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the suit was filed today in the US District Court in Boston, Massachusetts. The suit alleges that the modifications that were made to the Student and Exchange Visitor Programme (SEVP) by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), came without warning.

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READ ALSO: America announces modified guidelines for foreign students returning to its schools

The impromptu nature of the modifications, therefore, has left Harvard and MIT with no choice but to think it was “arbitrary and capricious”.

Recall that ICE had on Monday announced the eagerly awaited modifications ahead of foreign students’ return to US campuses for the autumn semester.

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READ ALSO: Rethinking Inclusive Education: COVID-19 realities, post implications on education

One aspect of the modified guidelines, which has thus far proven to be quite controversial, requires foreign students to remain in their home countries if their courses are going be taught online. Foreign students who are already in the US were also directed to leave the country if their courses are online-based.

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Harvard University is one of the ivy league American schools that recently announced plans to teach their courseworks entirely online, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Harvard’s plan is such that students living on campus and off campus would attend classes online. However, the reviewed SEVP guideline by ICE has disrupted that plan.

CNN International quoted Harvard University President, Larry Bacow, to have said:

“The order came down without notice—its cruelty surpassed only by its recklessness. It appears that it was designed purposefully to place pressure on colleges and universities to open their on-campus classrooms for in-person instruction this fall, without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors, and others.

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“This comes at a time when the United States has been setting daily records for the number of new infections, with more than 300,000 new cases reported since July 1.”

Similarly, MIT’s president L. Rafael Reif, issued a strongly-worded statement condemning the development. According to him, ICE’s modified SEVP guidelines “disrupts our international students’ lives and jeopardizes their academic and research pursuits.”

He went further to write that MIT’s “international students now have many questions – about their visas, their health, their families and their ability to continue working toward an MIT degree. Unspoken, but unmistakable, is one more question: Am I welcome? At MIT, the answer, unequivocally, is yes.” 

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Note that this story matters because of its international ramifications. Harvard University alone has about 5,000 foreign students, some of whom are Nigerians. The revised guidelines by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement is bound to disrupt these students autumn semester unless the US Government rescinds the directive.

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Africa’s GDP could fall by 3.4% in 2020 if COVID-19 continues – AfDB 

The bank warns projected GDP losses for 2021 ranges from $27.6 billion to $47 billion.

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Akinwunmi Adesina, Afdb, Africa’s GDP could fall by 3.4% in 2020 if COVID-19 continues – AFDB

The African Development Bank (AFDB) published its African Economic Outlook 20202 Supplement on Tuesday and warned that the continent’s GDP would fall by at least 1.7%, and if the coronavirus pandemic continues into the second half of 2020, it could contract up to 3.4%. 

“Real GDP in Africa is projected to contract by 1.7% in 2020, dropping by 5.6 percentage points from the January 2020 pre-COVID-19 projection of the virus, if the virus has a substantial impact but of short duration. If it continues beyond the first half of 2020, there would be a deeper GDP contraction in 20202 of 3.4% down by 7.3 percentage points from growth projected before the outbreak of COVID-19,” the bank said. 

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AFDB warns that cumulative GDP losses could range between $173.1 billion and $236.7 billion in 2020-2021. 

“Africa could suffer GDP losses in 20202 between $145.5 billion (baseline) and $189.7 billion (worst case) from the pre-COVID-19 estimated GDP of $2.59 trillion for 2020”. 

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The bank warned some losses will be carried over into 2021, as the projected recovery would be partial, and warns projected GDP losses for 2021 ranges from $27.6 billion to $47 billion (worst case). 

READ MORE: Aviation: Aviation sector grasps for stimulus in worst ever crisis

The bank said countries with poor healthcare systems, oil-exporting nations, tourism-dependent nations and other resource-dependent nations will be the hardest hit. 

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The bank calls for countries to reopen economies and advised a “phased and incremental approach that carefully evaluates the trade-off between restarting economic activity to quickly and safeguarding the health of the population”. 

READ ALSO: Recession: Nigerian economy to slide by 3.4% in 2020 – IMF

The Economic Outlook Supplement is a revised projection from an earlier January outlook that projected 3.9% growth from Africa’s largest multilateral bank. 

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America announces modified guidelines for foreign students returning to its schools

As a student already enrolled in a US university or about to be enrolled, you should read this carefully.

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guidelines for foreign students returning to US schools

The U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), on Monday announced a much-needed update regarding the guidelines for foreign students hoping to return to campuses for the autumn semester.

A statement published on ICE’s website clearly spelled out the guidelines. Unfortunately, for some of the foreign students, these guidelines might as well come across as confusing instead of straightforward/explanatory.

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Before we proceed to ICE’s modified guidelines, it is important to first note that some American universities have announced various modalities for class attendance amid the ravaging pandemic. For instance, while some schools said their classes can only be attended online, for now, others said they are committed to regular classroom settings, even as some others have plans to combine both face-to-face lecturing and online classes.

As a foreign student planning to return to school in the USA this autumn, the modality adopted by your school will simply determine how ICE’s new guidelines will affect you. Let us now examine the guidelines.

Modifications to ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Programme (SEVP)

Guidelines on online classes: ICE said that foreign students enrolled in American universities offering only online classes, will not be granted student’s visas to return to the country. Now, this is tricky because even though such students are permitted by the U.S Customs and Border Protection to enter the country, they will not just be granted their student visas by American consulates anywhere in the world. The implication of this, therefore, is that no foreign student is allowed to be in the USA while undertaking online classes offered by an American university.

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Foreign students who wish to return/remain in the USA during the autumn semester must ensure that their classes will not be taught online. If it so happens that a foreign student is enrolled in a school offering only online classes, such a student has the option of transferring to another school that is conducting face-to-face lecturing. Otherwise, the student should stay back in their home country and take the full course online.

Foreign students who are already in the country but enrolled in schools offering only online courses must also ensure that either switch to a different school with the face-to-face lecture option, or leave the country willing. Otherwise, such foreign students risk being deported.

“Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States. The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States. Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings,” part of the guideline said.

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 Guidelines on regular classes: The revised guideline specified that foreign students enrolled in American schools where classes are still taught face-to-face are required to be available on campus to attend classes during the autumn semester. Upon return to campus, such students are allowed to decide whether to combine both physical class attendance and online classes.

Other guidelines: Foreign students attending US schools that are combining online classes with physical lectures will not be allowed to only attend online lectures while on campus. Instead, they must attend both the online classes and face-to-face classes.

Some issues to consider

-It is obvious that ICE is trying to stop some foreign students from trooping to the USA when they can remotely receive lectures online. After all, this will help prevent further trans-border spread of COVID-19. However, online classes come special challenges, especially for students in foreign countries. The time difference is one of such challenges; what happens when an online class is holding by 12 noon at Harvard when a student somewhere in South East Asia supposed to be sleeping?

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-For now, American consulates around the world have suspended visa issuance. This poses a serious challenge to foreign students who were just freshly admitted into American universities and will student visas before they can be on campus for the autumn semester. Now, the saddest part is that any student who does not resume along with the other students, will not be allowed to resume later.

-Meanwhile, Nigerian students hoping to return to the US for their studies would have to grapple with immigration uncertainties mentioned above, along with foreign exchange troubles. Recall that even though the Central Bank of Nigeria announced that it has resumed the sale of dollars to Nigerian students studying abroad, the exchange rate for naira against the dollar remains high. And this is a major challenge to any student who will need to pay the high tuition fees of American universities.

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