Monday, March 7, 2011

Opec to lift output as oil crisis deepens: Oil's march towards $120 a barrel sparked a frantic day across financial markets

Fears were intensified as Libya witnessed a day of fierce clashes between forces loyal to Colonel Gaddafi and those trying to topple his dictatorship, while in Saudi Arabia, the region’s biggest oil producer, activists renewed calls for a day of protest later this week.

That helped propel Brent crude as high as $118.50 a barrel, though it later retreated to close down 93 cents at $115.04 in volatile trading. US crude prices briefly jumped to an intra-day high of $107 a barrel.

The unexpected political upheaval sweeping North Africa and the Middle East has caught investors unaware since it erupted at the start of the year. Though an improving world economy had sent oil higher in the final three months of last year, experts say a sustained run at around $120 a barrel risks a serious headwind to the recovery.

“Evolving events in the Middle East have to grip the attention of markets until the uncertainty is resolved,” said Steven Weiting, an economist in New York at Citigroup.

Investors weren’t betting on a quick resolution yesterday, as a flight to safer assets pushed the gold price to a new high of $1,444.30. (read more)

NATO mulls Libyan military action: Obama - 7th Mar 2011

US President Barack Obama on Monday said NATO is considering a number of options to stop the violence in Libya, including military action.

American aircraft carriers are currently stationed off the Libyan coast and Obama warned Colonel Muammar Gaddafi that the international community could still intervene to stop the bloodshed.

He spoke at the White House after meeting Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

“I want to send a very clear message to those who are around Colonel Gaddafi. It is their choice to make how they operate moving forward. And they will be held accountable for whatever violence continues to take place,” said Obama. Read More

Kuwaiti protests on Tuesday aim to remove Prime Minister

KUWAIT (Reuters) – Kuwaiti youth groups will take to the streets on Tuesday to demand the removal of the prime minister and for more political freedom in the Gulf Arab state, the world's fourth largest oil exporter.

The protests, inspired by Arab unrest across the Middle East and North Africa that has toppled leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, will add to pressure for political reforms.

The protest organizers want Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah to be replaced, and some demand the appointment of a politician from outside the al-Sabah family, which has ruled Kuwait for some 250 years.

"We will also distribute watermelons to lawmakers as they enter the parliament on Tuesday, as a symbol of chaos and discontent with their performance," Mubarak Alhaza, a member of the Kafi (Enough) youth movement, told Reuters. (read more)

Syrian mercenaries, warplanes aiding Gaddafi?

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is using paid mercenaries from Serbia, Syria, the Ukraine and Romania to attack rebels, Asharq al-Awsat reported.

According to Al Jazeera, Libyan rebels shot down two Syrian planes in Ras Lanuf.


Syria denied the claims, Israel Radio reported.

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi advanced east of the recaptured town of Bin Jawad on Sunday, heading towards the rebel-held oil town of Ras Lanuf, about 60 km (40 miles) away, witnesses said. (read more)

Ask yourself why: Gaddafi insists al Qaeda is to blame for chaos and killings

Al Qaeda is responsible for the violent uprising in Libya, but Western media has overstated the extent of the political crisis and its casualties, leader Muammar Gaddafi told FRANCE 24's Khalil Beshir in an exclusive interview on Sunday.

“There have been at most 150 to 200 people killed. People should come here and see how many people have been killed. They can come and check among the population, and among the police and the army,” a seemingly collected Gaddafi explained.

Dressed in a long tunic and matching brown headscarf, Gaddafi insisted that international media reports were overlooking the broad support his government enjoys and were misleading people about the events in the country.

At times he appeared to harbour resentment for the criticism and sanction from international leaders. “Libya has very good relations with the United States, with the European Union and with African countries, and Libya plays a crucial role in regional and world peace,” Gaddafi told FRANCE 24.

In characteristic fashion Gaddafi sprinkled odd comparisons in his responses. He likened the clampdown on dissidents to what he called Israel’s crackdown of al Qaeda terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

“Even the Israelis in Gaza, when they moved into the Gaza strip, they moved in with tanks to fight such extremists. It’s the same thing here! We have small armed groups who are fighting us. We did not use force from the outset… Armed units of the Libyan army have had to fight small armed al Qaeda bands. That is what’s happened.” (read more)

10,000 Christchurch homes to be demolished, parts of city to be abandoned

New Zealand's prime minister says some 10,000 houses in Christchurch will have to be demolished because of earthquake damage, and some parts of the city will have to be abandoned altogether.

The magnitude-6.3 temblor that struck on Feb. 22 shattered homes, heritage buildings and office blocks. Officials say the confirmed death toll has climbed to 166, and it is expected to rise to more than 200.

Prime Minister John Key told reporters Monday "there are some parts of Christchurch that can't be rebuilt on" because of liquefaction and other land damage.

On Saturday night, a powerful aftershock with a magnitude of 4.8 rocked Christchurch and caused minor damage, according to the GNS Science monitoring agency. (Source)

Gadhafi could wage protracted civil war: Analysts say Libya’s opposition too weak

Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s well-equipped but poorly trained security forces can wage a protracted battle against rebel fighters, allowing the beleaguered Libyan leader to cling to power for months, according to analysts and former Libyan officials.

“If things go the way they are, I think he could last for more than a month, a few months. That would be disastrous for the rest of Libya,” said Mohamed Yousef Al-Megariaf, a critic of the regime who quit his post as Libya’s ambassador to India in 1980.

“The reason he is hanging on is not because he is popular, but because of the number of troops who belong to his tribe, the volume of his weapons and his willingness to inflict an unimaginable degree of suffering on the Libyan people,” he added.

James Phillips, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said he fears that the regime could hold out for years, at least in a defensive manner.

“It appears that the opposition forces are too weak to liberate Tripoli and other strongholds of support for Gadhafi,” Mr. Phillips said. “We may be headed into a prolonged civil-war-type situation.” (read more)

Libya crisis sends U.S. gas prices up 33 cents in two weeks

U.S. gasoline prices increased nearly 33 cents in two weeks, the second-biggest two-week jump in the history of the gasoline market, according to a new survey of filling stations.

The latest Lundberg Survey of cities in the continental United States was conducted Friday. It showed the national average for a price of self-serve unleaded gasoline at $3.51, an increase of 32.7 cents from the last survey two weeks earlier, survey publisher Trilby Lundberg said.

The jump was the biggest since a 38-cent hike between August and September 2005. At the time, the price increase was driven by damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.

"This time around, the spike comes not from nature, but from people," Lundberg said. "The armed struggle in Libya has shocked international oil markets and here it is at the pump."

As the fighting between opposition forces and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's troops begins to look more like a civil war, expect prices to continue to rise, she said.

Prices have risen nearly 82 cents since September 2010, the survey found. (read more)

Spain's savings banks race to find funds by Thursday

Spain's ailing regional savings banks are scrambling to raise billions of euros of fresh funds to meet strict new capital requirements by a Thursday deadline.

The country's 17 savings banks, known as "cajas," are weighed down by loans that turned sour after the collapse of a housing bubble in 2008 and are at the heart of fears the country could need an Irish-style international rescue.

Last month the government approved stricter rules on the amount of rock-solid core capital that banks must hold on their balance sheets, seeking to shore up confidence in the battered economy.

Under the new rules, savings banks must raise the proportion of core capital they hold to 8.0 percent of total assets from the current six percent, or 10.0 percent if they are unlisted.

The Bank of Spain will determine Thursday which savings banks have met the new core capital requirements and in the case of those that have fallen short, how much capital they need to raise to meet the new requirements.

Up to 11 of Spain's 17 regional savings banks will need additional capital to reach the levels of solvency set by the government, the ratings agency Standard & Poor's said last month.

The government estimates that all the savings banks will need to raise 20 billion euros to meet the new requirements, a figure many analysts describe as too low.

The state is threatening to take temporary stakes -- a form of nationalisation -- in those lenders that fail to abide by the new rules by September. (read more)

Egypt chaos, the sequel: Knives, petrol bombs return to Cairo streets

Men in plain clothes armed with swords and petrol bombs attacked protesters in Cairo on Sunday night during a demonstration demanding reform of security services with a reputation for brutality, witnesses said.

Dozens of men wielding knives and machetes and hurling bricks and petrol bombs confronted protesters at the headquarters of Egypt's state security, a force whose abuses fuelled an uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak, they said.

It appeared to be the first time armed men in plain clothes had deployed in force against reform activists in central Cairo since Mubarak was forced to step down and hand power to the military, which has charted a course to democratic elections. The scenes evoked attacks on protesters in Tahrir Square by men claiming loyalty to Mubarak during the 18-day uprising that led to his downfall. Since then, activists have pressed demands for deeper reform, including a major shake-up of the police.

Egyptian soldiers, on the streets since the start of the uprising, fired into the air for several minutes to disperse the protesters. As they ran, the protesters were confronted by men they described as thugs. (read more)

China's 'Two Suns' Video Unexplained By Science - 7th Mar 2011

Weeks after a story shot across the Web claiming that the imminent explosion of a nearby star would result in the appearance of a second sun in the sky – a story that was later debunked – two suns were caught on camera yesterday in China. The suns – one fuzzy and orange, the other a crisp yellow orb – appeared side-by-side, one slightly higher than the other.

What's going on? Life's Little Mysteries, a sister site to Space.com, asked Jim Kaler, the University of Illinois astronomer who squelched the excitement over the aforementioned exploding Betelgeuse and who has written books on the day and night sky. The double sun image is an effect of optical refraction, Kaler said, but it's a "pretty darn rare" one, and one not fully explained by science.

"I doubt it's been computer modeled," he said. "There must have been some blob of atmosphere somewhere that caused this truly spectacular phenomenon, which in a sense is a mirage." Read More

Ireland. Dead swans in Grand Canal in Dublin NOT AVIAN FLU - 7th Mar 2011

We are getting reports of a number of dead swans in the GC in Dublin. They are concentrated on the 7th level from Portobello to Suir Road Bridge.

A number were taken from the water for analysis last week. A number of sick birds were also found and were taken to the DSPCA depot for treatment.

Another half dozen birds have been found dead this AM.

Initial reports suggest that the problem is NOT Avian Flu but is more likely some form of botulism or other bacterial infection. The source is as yet unknown but a number of dead and rotting sea-fish were found in the area and that is one possible source. Swans are known to be susceptible to this infection and similar cases have been reported from other areas in the past.

There were also suggestions that the dredging programme may have disturbed some bacteria in the sediment but this is seen as unlikely given the infected birds are some distance from the dredging site. Source

2 men rescued after fire on idle oil rig, Gulf of Mexico - 7th Mar 2011

GRAND ISLE, La., March 7 (UPI) -- Two oil-platform workers were plucked from the Gulf of Mexico after a fire broke out on the idle rig, authorities said.

The fire started about 8 a.m. Sunday on Arena Energy's GI 102A rig, located about 50 miles off Grand Isle, La., and was extinguished by about 1:30 p.m., the Houston Chronicle reported Monday.

The U.S. Coast Guard said the men were pulled from the water as they floated in a life-saving capsule they had entered to escape the fire on the platform.

The Coast Guard said the men, whose names were not released, were brought aboard the HDS Stormridge and then airlifted by a helicopter crew to a hospital in Marrero, La. Their conditions were not known.

Coast Guard officials said the company reported the platform had been shut two weeks ago and was not pumping crude when the fire occurred, the Chronicle said.

Officials said no pollution was spotted at the rig site as a result of the fire. Source

Explosion occurred from Caliente crater at Santa Maria volcano in Guatemala. - 3rd Mar 2011

On 3rd March 2011 an explosion occurred from Caliente crater at Santa Maria volcano in Guatemala.

Ash emissions reached 10,800 ft above sea level and produced ashfall in towns to the west and southwest of the volcano. The explosion generated a pyroclastic flow which moved 2.5 km down the southwest flank.

Activity continued on 4th March with moderate explosions ejecting ash to a height of 11,000 ft above sea level, and ash fall on surrounding farms.

Stratovolcano 3772 m (12,375 ft)
Guatemala, 14.76°N / -91.55°W
Current status: erupting (4 of 5)
Typical eruption style: Dominantly explosive, formation of lava domes
Eruptions from Santa María / Santiaguito: 1902 (catastrophic Plinian eruption), 1903, 1922 (from SW flank: Santiaguito), 2002-ongoing

Russia opposes foreign intervention in Libya - 7th Mar 2011

Moscow is against any foreign military intervention in Libya, state-controlled news agency RIA Novosti quoted Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying on Monday.

"We don't see foreign intervention, moreover the military one, as a means of solving the crisis in Libya. The Libyans have to solve their problems by themselves," Lavrov was quoted as saying.

Winter storm pounds southern Quebec: Heavy snowfall arrives after rain-soaked weekend that left 4 dead

A winter storm with heavy snowfall and high winds hammered southern Quebec on Monday morning, creating dangerous conditions on streets and highways.

Environment Canada revised its forecast mid-morning to predict between 15 and 20 centimetres of snow fall in the Montreal area and in southern Quebec along the St. Lawrence River Valley.

About 30 to 50 centimetres of snow is in the forecast for the Eastern Townships and as much as 40 centimetres for the Gaspé.

Many schools closed for the day as a result of the bad weather. However, the English Montreal School Board, the Lester B. Pearson School Board and the Commision Scolaire de Montréal said their schools would remain open. (read more)

Oil jumps to near $107 amid fierce Libya fighting

Oil prices climbed to near $106 a barrel Monday as intense fighting between Libyan government forces and rebels appeared to be turning into a civil war and raised the prospect of a prolonged cut in crude exports from the OPEC nation.

By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude for April delivery was up $2.25 to $106.67 a barrel, the highest since September 2008, in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract had gained $2.51 to settle at $104.42 a barrel on Friday.

In London, Brent crude for April delivery was up $1.80 to $117.77 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

Over the weekend, supporters and opponents of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi fought in several cities, heightening fears that the country is headed for a protracted conflict. Libya's oil output has fallen by at least 1 million barrels per day from 1.6 million since the uprising began last month.

Investors also are concerned violent protests and political upheaval could intensify in the Middle East, where Iran, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia have more than 60 percent of the world's proven oil reserves.

"It is essentially the fear of the unrest spreading across the entire region which is pushing oil prices up," said Commerzbank in Frankfurt. "Northern Africa and the Middle East produce more than one-third of the global supply of crude oil." (read more)

Terror threats rising as FEMA orders $1 Billion in dehydrated food?

Terror threats appear to be on the rise as FEMA has rushed a $1 Billion order of dehydrated food in the event of attacks on domestic targets in the US.

This is also coming on the heels of one of the largest terror drills performed by the US Navy on American soil, as Operation Solid Curtain is taking place this week.

In an article Tuesday from the Beaufort Observer, many of the largest suppliers of dehydrated foods in the country are dropping their distributors and customers to dedicate their resources to supplying a billion dollar FEMA request and purchase. (read more)

Asia Exports Cooling Damps Outlook for Commodity Shippers: Freight Markets

Asian exports that helped power the world recovery last year are poised to grow more slowly as the region’s manufacturing rebound eases and U.S. unemployment restrains consumption after a post-recession spending spree.

Container traffic growth in Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong, the world’s busiest ports, has cooled since the first half of 2010. Singapore exports in 2011 may rise at a third of last year’s pace of as much as 24 percent, according to DBS Group Holdings Ltd. The island’s government joins Taiwan and South Korea in predicting smaller gains in overseas sales.

“2011 is not looking as exuberant as 2010,” said Vishnu Varathan, an economist at Capital Economics (Asia) Pte in Singapore. “The easy part of the trade upswing is over now and demand is getting tighter,” making the outlook for shipping “less bubbly,” he said. (read more)

Governor Rick Perry: $100 a Barrel Oil? Think about $200, $300...

The uncertain situation in the Middle East could send world oil prices to $200 or $300 a barrel even as the Obama Administration fails to promote domestic energy development, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) warned today.

Gov. Perry spoke to bloggers at a briefing in Washington, D.C., this morning. (Present were Rob Bluey of the Heritage Foundation, Jen Rubin of The Washington Post, and your Shopfloor.org correspondent.) The governor, who is chairman of the Republican Governors Association, is in town for the winter meeting of the National Governors Association. (read more)

Is the market telling us that the dollar is finished?

There’s major shift occurring right now in financial markets.

Sure, the food and freedom riots that are spreading across the globe are a major indicator that civil unrest follows very closely behind resource shortages and economic turmoil… but there’s something else that I’ve noticed recently– it’s a sea change in the financial system.

In the past, major crises normally caused investors to seek safe haven assets, and everything else equal, the dollar would rise. They call it a ‘flight to safety’, and investors would flock towards the perceived stability of US Treasury securities.

In 2008, for example, the Lehman collapse spurred the market to go rushing into the dollar. The pound, euro, S&P, oil, and gold all went into freefall, and the dollar surged. Anyone holding cash felt pretty smart, and the market paid tribute to the US dollar as the world’s safe haven currency. (read more)

Florida: Killer bees swarming outside home

African bees -- also known as killer bees -- are swarming around Eric and Deborah Uneberg's central Florida home.

Approximately 10,000 bees swarmed from a beehive in a live oak tree in the couple's backyard on Monday when a pizza delivery man approached their home. No one was injured. And, for now, the bees have settled in a nearby live oak tree in Summerfield, near Ocala. (read more)

Financial terrorism suspected in 2008 economic crash

Evidence outlined in a Pentagon contractor report suggests that financial subversion carried out by unknown parties, such as terrorists or hostile nations, contributed to the 2008 economic crash by covertly using vulnerabilities in the U.S. financial system.

The unclassified 2009 report “Economic Warfare: Risks and Responses” by financial analyst Kevin D. Freeman, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, states that “a three-phased attack was planned and is in the process against the United States economy.”

While economic analysts and a final report from the federal government's Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission blame the crash on such economic factors as high-risk mortgage lending practices and poor federal regulation and supervision, the Pentagon contractor adds a new element: “outside forces,” a factor the commission did not examine. (read more)

Analysis: Russia turns military gaze east to counter China

With warships and missiles, Russia is flexing its muscles in the Far East in a bid to defend its position as an Asian power against China's growing might.

China's rise has forced Russia's leaders to turn their gaze eastward and reassess decades of Soviet-era planning for a land war on the European plain or the nightmare of a nuclear conflict with the United States.

The match between the world's largest energy producer, Russia, and its largest energy consumer, China, might seem ideal. But the speed at which China's military is growing presses the question: how can Moscow feed the Chinese dragon with oil and gas but still contend with its increasing power? (read more)

America's secret plan to arm Libya's rebels - Obama asks Saudis to airlift weapons into Benghazi - 7th Mar 2011

Desperate to avoid US military involvement in Libya in the event of a prolonged struggle between the Gaddafi regime and its opponents, the Americans have asked Saudi Arabia if it can supply weapons to the rebels in Benghazi. The Saudi Kingdom, already facing a "day of rage" from its 10 per cent Shia Muslim community on Friday, with a ban on all demonstrations, has so far failed to respond to Washington's highly classified request, although King Abdullah personally loathes the Libyan leader, who tried to assassinate him just over a year ago.

Washington's request is in line with other US military co-operation with the Saudis. The royal family in Jeddah, which was deeply involved in the Contra scandal during the Reagan administration, gave immediate support to American efforts to arm guerrillas fighting the Soviet army in Afghanistan in 1980 and later – to America's chagrin – also funded and armed the Taliban. Read More

SAS rounded up and booted out as Libyan mission turns to farce - 7th Mar 2011

A joint SAS-MI6 team was kicked out of Libya last night after their mission to link up with rebels fighting Colonel Gaddafi turned to farce.

The eight-man unit was sent to have secret talks with opposition leaders but humiliatingly the team was detained and held by a group of farmhands.

The crack troops, armed with guns, ammunition, explosives and false passports, were mistaken for enemy spies, detained and stripped of their mobile phones and satellite communications devices.

Britain faced further diplomatic humiliation as telephone calls in which officials in London begged opposition figures in Libya for their release were intercepted by Colonel Gaddafi’s security forces and broadcast on Libyan state television.