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Russia Has Exported $1 Billion In Fossil Fuels Per Day Since The Ukraine War Despite Sanctions And Boycotts

Russia Has Exported $1 Billion In Fossil Fuels Per Day Since The Ukraine War Despite Sanctions And Boycotts

By Alex Kimani of OilPrice.com

Despite…

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Russia Has Exported $1 Billion In Fossil Fuels Per Day Since The Ukraine War Despite Sanctions And Boycotts

By Alex Kimani of OilPrice.com

Despite wide-ranging sanctions and import bans, Russia's vast energy sector continues to thrive, with the country managing to export nearly a billion dollars worth of fossil fuels per day in the first 100 days since its invasion of Ukraine. Indeed, higher crude oil and fuel prices have allowed Russian oil and gas revenues to climb even after the sanctions forced export volumes to dip.

Ultimately, there is no shortage of willing buyers lining up for cheap Russian Urals, nor is there a dearth of middlemen connecting them with Russian energy companies.

Lurking behind the scenes are Switzerland's giant trading houses Vitol, Glencore, and Gunvor as well as Singapore's Trafigura, all of which have continued lifting large volumes of Russian crude and products, including diesel, amid wide-ranging Western Sanctions on Russia.

Vitol has pledged to stop buying Russian crude by the end of this year, but that's still a long way from today. Trafigura promised it would stop buying crude from Russia's state-run Rosneft by May 15th but is free to buy cargoes of Russian crude from other suppliers. Glencore has promised it wouldn't enter any "new" trading business with Russia, but appears willing to maintain previous deals.

Meanwhile, India and China have been making up for much of the lost markets for Russian fuels.

Source: Visual Capitalist

Surging Imports From Russia

India has never been a big buyer of Russian crude despite having to import 80% of its needs. In a typical year, India imports just 2-5% of its crude from Russia, roughly the same proportion as the United States did before it announced a 100% ban on Russian energy commodities.  Indeed, India imported only 12 million barrels of Russian crude in 2021, with the majority of its oil sourced from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Nigeria.

But back in May, reports emerged of a "significant uptick" in Russian oil deliveries bound for India.

According to a Bloomberg report, India spent a good $5.1 billion on Russian oil, gas, and coal in the first three months after the invasion, more than five times the value of a year ago. However, China remains the biggest buyer of Russian energy commodities, spending $18.9 billion in the three months to the end of May, almost double the amount a year earlier.

And, it's all about the money.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), Urals crude from Russia has been offered at record discounts. Ellen Wald, president of Transversal Consulting, has told CNBC that a couple of commodity trading firms--such as Glencore and Vitol--were offering discounts of $30 and $25 per barrel, respectively, for the Urals blend. Urals is the main blend exported by Russia.

The experts say simple economics is the biggest reason why White House pressure to curb purchases of crude oil from Russia have fallen on deaf ears in Delhi.

"Today, the Government of India's motivations are economic, not political. India will always look for a deal in their oil import strategy. It's hard not to take a 20% discount on crude when you import 80-85% of your oil, particularly on the heels of the pandemic and global growth slowdown," Samir N. Kapadia, head of trade at government relations consulting firm Vogel Group, has told CNBC via email.

Still, it will not be lost on many readers that India has maintained a cozy relationship with Russia over the years, with Russia supplying the Asian nation with as much as 60% of its military and defense-related equipment. Russia has also been a key ally on crucial issues such as India's dispute with China and Pakistan surrounding the territory of Kashmir.

Source: Bloomberg

Source: Bloomberg

Smaller trading firms

India's energy business with Russia has been booming, so much so that dozens of middlemen are muscling in, hoping to profit from the rapidly growing sector.

However, it's not the Trafiguras, Glencores, and Gunvors of this world doing the work; this time around, it's smaller, less well-known trading houses cutting supply deals with Indian refineries.

Bloomberg has reported that numerous mid-level commodity trading and energy firms, including Dubai's Wellbred and Coral Energy, as well as Singapore's Montfort and U.S.' Everest Energy, have entered the race to market Russian oil to Indian buyers.

And Indian oil buyers are loving it.

Bloomberg says that state-run refiners such as Indian Oil Corp. are warming to the idea of buying from lesser-known traders, while refinery officials say they are easier to work with due to less bureaucracy that slows negotiations with energy firms such as Rosneft PJSC. Trading houses usually serve the function of middlemen by bridging differences between sellers and buyers, and even offer different payment terms to assist in the movement of funds.

Switzerland's Golden Calf

That said, a lot of the companies helping finance Putin's war are based in Switzerland, with the lion's share of Russian raw materials traded via Switzerland and its nearly 1,000 commodity firms.

Switzerland is an important global financial hub with a thriving commodities sector, despite the fact that it is far from all the global trade routes and has no access to the sea, no former colonial territories, and no significant raw materials of its own. 

Oliver Classen, media officer at the Swiss NGO Public Eye, says that "this sector accounts for a much larger part of the GDP in Switzerland than tourism or the machinery industry". According to a 2018 Swiss government report, commodity trading volume reaches almost $1 trillion ($903.8 billion). 

Deutsche Welle has reported that 80% of Russian raw materials are traded via Switzerland, according to a report by the Swiss embassy in Moscow. About a third of those materials are oil and gas, while two-thirds are base metals such as zinc, copper, and aluminum. In other words, deals signed on Swiss desks are directly facilitating Russian oil and gas to continue flowing freely.

With gas and oil exports coming in as the main source of income for Russia, accounting for 30 to 40% of the Russian budget, Switzerland's role cannot be overlooked in this war-time equation.  In 2021, Russian state corporations earned around $180 billion (€163 billion) from oil exports alone.

Again, unfortunately, Switzerland has been handling its commodities trade with kid gloves.

According to DW, raw materials are often traded directly between governments and via commodities exchanges. However, they can also be traded freely, and Swiss companies have specialized in direct sales thanks to an abundance of capital.

In raw materials transactions, Swiss commodity traders have adopted letters of credits or L/Cs as their preferred instruments. A bank will give a loan to a trader and as collateral, receive a document making it the owner of the commodity. As soon as the buyer pays the bank, the document (and ownership of the commodity) is transferred to the trader. The system gives traders more credit lines without their creditworthiness having to be checked, and the bank has the value of the commodity as security.

This is a prime example of transit trade, where only the money flows through Switzerland, but actual raw materials usually do not touch Swiss soil. Thus, no details about the magnitude of the transaction land on the desk of the Swiss customs authorities leading to highly imprecise information about the flow volumes of raw materials. 

"The whole commodities trade is under-recorded and underregulated. You have to dig around to collect data and not all information is available," Elisabeth Bürgi Bonanomi, a senior lecturer in law and sustainability at Bern University, has told DW.

Obviously, the lack of regulation is very appealing to commodity traders - especially those that deal with raw materials mined in non-democratic countries such as the DRC.

 "Unlike the financial market, where there are rules for tackling money laundering and illegal or illegitimate financial flows, and a financial market supervisory authority, there is currently no such thing for commodity trading," financial and legal expert at Public Eye David Mühlemann told the German broadcaster ARD.

But don't expect things to change any time soon.

Calls for a supervisory body for the commodities sector based on the model of the one for the financial market by the likes of Swiss NGO Public Eye and Swiss Green Party proposal have so far failed to bear fruit. Thomas Mattern from the Swiss People's Party (SVP) has spoken out against such a move, insisting that Switzerland should retain its neutrality, "We do not need even more regulation, and not in the commodities sector either."

Tyler Durden Thu, 08/04/2022 - 02:00

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Spread & Containment

$265 Billion In Added Value To Evaporate From Germany Economy Amid Energy Crisis, Study Warns

$265 Billion In Added Value To Evaporate From Germany Economy Amid Energy Crisis, Study Warns

A new report published by the Employment Research…

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$265 Billion In Added Value To Evaporate From Germany Economy Amid Energy Crisis, Study Warns

A new report published by the Employment Research (IAB) on Tuesday outlines how Germany's economy will lose a whopping 260 billion euros ($265 billion) in added value by the end of the decade due to high energy prices sparked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine which will have severe ramifications on the labor market, according to Reuters

IAB said Germany's price-adjusted GDP could be 1.7% lower in 2023, with approximately 240,000 job losses, adding labor market turmoil could last through 2026. It expects the labor market will begin rehealing by 2030 with 60,000 job additions.

The report pointed out the hospitality industry will be one of the biggest losers in the coming downturn that the coronavirus pandemic has already hit. Consumers who have seen their purchasing power collapse due to negative real wage growth as the highest inflation in decades runs rampant through the economy will reduce spending. 

IAB said energy-intensive industries, such as chemical and metal industries, will be significantly affected by soaring power prices. 

In one scenario, IAB said if energy prices, already up 160%, were to double again, Germany's economic output would crater by nearly 4% than it would have without energy supply disruptions from Russia. Under this assumption, 660,000 fewer people would be employed after three years and still 60,000 fewer in 2030. 

This week alone, German power prices hit record highs as a heat wave increased demand, putting pressure on energy supplies ahead of winter. 

Rising power costs are putting German households in economic misery as economic sentiment across the euro-area economy tumbled to a new record low. What happens in Germany tends to spread to the rest of the EU. 

There are concerns that a sharp weakening of growth in Germany could trigger stagflation as German inflation unexpectedly re-accelerated in July, with EU-Harmonized CPI rising 8.5% YoY. 

Germany is facing an unprecedented energy crisis as Russian natural gas cuts via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline will reverse the prosperity many have been accustomed to as the largest economy in Europe. 

"We are facing the biggest crisis the country has ever had. We have to be honest and say: First of all, we will lose the prosperity that we have had for years," Rainer Dulger, head of the Confederation of German Employers' Associations, warned last month. 

Besides Dulger, Economy Minister Robert Habeck warned of a "catastrophic winter" ahead over Russian NatGas cut fears.

Other officials and experts forecast bankruptcies, inflation, and energy rationing this winter that could unleash a tsunami of shockwaves across the German economy.  

Yasmin Fahimi, the head of the German Federation of Trade Unions, warned last month:

"Because of the NatGas bottlenecks, entire industries are in danger of permanently collapsing: aluminum, glass, the chemical industry." 

IAB's report appears to be on point as the German economy seems to be diving head first into an economic crisis. Much of this could've been prevented, but Europe and the US have been so adamant about slapping Russia with sanctions that have embarrassingly backfired. 

Tyler Durden Wed, 08/10/2022 - 04:15

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International

“Anything But A Cashless Society”: Physical Money Makes Comeback As UK Households Battle Inflation

"Anything But A Cashless Society": Physical Money Makes Comeback As UK Households Battle Inflation

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has been…

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"Anything But A Cashless Society": Physical Money Makes Comeback As UK Households Battle Inflation

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has been pushing hard for a 'cashless society' in a post-pandemic world, though physical money has made a comeback in at least one European country as consumers increasingly use notes and coins to help them balance household budgets amid an inflationary storm

Britain's Post Office released a report Monday that revealed even though the recent accelerated use of cards and digital payments on smartphones, demand for cash surged this summer, according to The Guardian. It said branches handled £801mln in personal cash withdrawals in July, an increase of 8% over June. The yearly change on last month's figures was up 20% versus the July 2021 figure of £665mln.

Across the Post Office's 11,500 branches, £3.31bln in cash was deposited and withdrawn in July -- a record high for any month dating back over three centuries of operations. 

The report pointed out that increasing physical cash demand was primarily due to more people managing their budgets via notes and coins on a "day-by-day basis." It said some withdrawals were from vacationers needing cash for "staycations" in the UK. About 600,000 cash payouts totaling £90mln were from people who received power bill support from the government, the Post Office noted. 

Britain is "anything but a cashless society," according to the Post Office's banking director Martin Kearsley.

"We're seeing more and more people increasingly reliant on cash as the tried and tested way to manage a budget. Whether that's for a staycation in the UK or if it's to help prepare for financial pressures expected in the autumn, cash access in every community is critical," Kearsley said.

We noted in February 2021, UK's largest ATM network saw plummeting demand as consumers reduced cash usage. At the time, we asked this question: "How long will the desire for good old-fashioned bank notes last?

... and the answer is not long per the Post Office's new report as The Guardian explains: "inflation going up and many bills expected to rise further – has led a growing numbers of people to turn once again to cash to help them plan their spending." 

So much for WEF, central banks, and major corporations pushing for cashless societies worldwide, more importantly, trying to usher in a hyper-centralized CBDC dystopia. With physical cash back in style in the UK, the move towards a cashless society could be a much more challenging task for elites than previously thought. 

Tyler Durden Wed, 08/10/2022 - 02:45

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International

Something Just Doesn’t Add Up In Chinese Trade Data

Something Just Doesn’t Add Up In Chinese Trade Data

By Ye Xie, Bloomberg markets live commentator and reporter

An unusual discrepancy has…

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Something Just Doesn’t Add Up In Chinese Trade Data

By Ye Xie, Bloomberg markets live commentator and reporter

An unusual discrepancy has showed up in two sets of trade data in China. Depending on which official sources you use, China’s trade surplus, could either be overstated or under-reported by a staggering $166 billion over the past year.

China watchers cannot fully explain the mystery. It’s as if Chinese residents bought a lot of stuff overseas, and instead of shipping the items home, they were kept abroad for some reason.  

China’s exports have been surprisingly resilient, despite a slowing global economy and Covid disruptions. On Monday, General Administration of Customs data showed China’s exports increased 18% in July from a year earlier. In contrast, imports grew only 2.3%, reflecting weak domestic demand.

The result is China’s trade surplus keeps swelling, which has underpinned the yuan by offsetting capital outflows. The surplus over the past year amounted to a record $864 billion, more than double the level at the end of 2019.

But when comparing the Customs data with that from the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE), a different picture emerges. The SAFE data shows the surplus is growing at a much slower pace -- about 20% less than the customs figure

The two data sets used to track each other closely. SAFE typically reports fewer imports, thus a higher surplus, because it excludes costs, insurance and freight from the value of goods imported, in line with the international standard practice, Adam Wolfe, an economist at Absolute Strategy Research, noted.

The other adjustments that SAFE does include:

  • It only records transactions that involve a change of ownership;
  • It adjusts for returned items;
  • It adds goods bought and resold abroad that don’t cross China’s border, but result in income for a Chinese entity -- a practice known  as “merchanting.”

The relationship between the two data sets has flipped since 2021, as SAFE reported higher imports, resulting in a smaller surplus than the Customs data.

It’s particularly odd because it happened at a time when shipping costs skyrocketed. When SAFE removes freight and insurance costs, it would have resulted in even lower, not higher, imports.

Taken at face value, the discrepancy suggests that somebody in China “bought” lots of goods from abroad, but they have never arrived in China. These transactions would be recorded by SAFE as imports, but not at the Customs office.

Craig Botham at Pantheon Macroeconomics, suspects that Covid-19 may be playing a role here. Foreign firms unable to manufacture in factories elsewhere during the pandemic might have transferred materials to China for assembly, a transaction excluded by SAFE.

Could Chinese buyers overstate their foreign purchases to SAFE, which regulates the capital account, so they can move money out of the country? The cross-border transactions show there was widespread overpaying for imports in 2014-2015, during a period of intense capital flight, but not at the moment, Wolfe pointed out.

Source: Absolute Strategy Research

The bottom line is that there aren’t many good explanations. As Alex Etra, a senior strategist at Exante Data, said, there’s “no smoking gun” to suggest something fishy is going on.

It’s another mysterious puzzle waiting to be solved.

Tyler Durden Tue, 08/09/2022 - 22:28

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