Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Oil Prices Fall on Weaker US Consumer Demand, China Data

A pump jack drills oil crude from the Yates Oilfield in West Texas’s Permian Basin, near Iraan, Texas, US, March 17, 2023. REUTERS/Bing Guan/File Photo
A pump jack drills oil crude from the Yates Oilfield in West Texas’s Permian Basin, near Iraan, Texas, US, March 17, 2023. REUTERS/Bing Guan/File Photo
TT

Oil Prices Fall on Weaker US Consumer Demand, China Data

A pump jack drills oil crude from the Yates Oilfield in West Texas’s Permian Basin, near Iraan, Texas, US, March 17, 2023. REUTERS/Bing Guan/File Photo
A pump jack drills oil crude from the Yates Oilfield in West Texas’s Permian Basin, near Iraan, Texas, US, March 17, 2023. REUTERS/Bing Guan/File Photo

Oil prices slipped in Asian trading on Monday after a survey on Friday showed weaker US consumer demand and as May crude production rose in China, the world's biggest crude importer.
Global benchmark Brent crude futures for August delivery were down 29 cents, or 0.4%, at $82.33 per barrel at 0330 GMT. US West Texas Intermediate crude futures for July delivery were also down 29 cents at $78.16 a barrel, Reuters reported.
The more-active August delivery WTI contract slipped 0.4% as well at $77.76 per barrel.
That followed prices slipping on Friday after a survey showed US consumer sentiment fell to a seven-month low in June, with households worried about their personal finances and inflation.
However, both benchmark contracts still gained nearly 4% last week, the highest weekly rise in percentage terms since April, on signs of stronger fuel demand.
Meanwhile, China's May domestic crude oil production rose 0.6% on year to 18.15 million tons, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Monday.
Year-to-date output was 89.1 million tons, up 1.8% from a year earlier. National crude oil throughput fell 1.8% in May over the same year-ago level to 60.52 million tons, with year-to-date totaling 301.77 million tons, up 0.3% from a year ago.
The country's May industrial output lagged expectations and a slowdown in the property sector showed no signs of easing, adding pressure on Beijing to shore up growth.
The flurry of data on Monday was largely downbeat, underscoring a bumpy recovery for the world's second-largest economy.
On the geopolitical front, concerns of a wider Middle East war lingered after the Israeli military said on Sunday that intensified cross-border fire from Lebanon's Hezbollah into Israel could trigger serious escalation.
After the relatively heavy exchanges over the past week, Sunday saw a marked drop in Hezbollah fire, while the Israeli military said that it had carried out several airstrikes against the group in southern Lebanon.
Markets in key oil trading hub Singapore and other countries in the region were closed for a public holiday on Monday.



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Saudi SAMA Explores Potential of Digital Currencies to Facilitate Payments Globally

The Saudi Central Bank. (Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt)
The Saudi Central Bank. (Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt)
TT

Saudi SAMA Explores Potential of Digital Currencies to Facilitate Payments Globally

The Saudi Central Bank. (Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt)
The Saudi Central Bank. (Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt)

With many consumers abandoning physical cash, and in light of the accelerating development of crypto-currencies, central banks in the world have started working to ensure a legal and safe cover for the use of digital currencies.

According to the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), 135 countries and monetary unions, representing 98 percent of global GDP, are exploring digital currencies for central banks, compared to only 35 countries in 2020.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) indicates that about two-thirds of the countries in the Middle East and Central Asia are considering adopting digital currencies for their central banks as a means to enhance financial inclusion and improve the efficiency of cross-border payments.

The Central Bank of Saudi Arabia (SAMA) joined as a full participant in a multi-country digital currency initiative, known as the mBridge project, which was positioned as a potential alternative to the SWIFT payment system to enable faster and potentially cheaper international payments.

Head of Development at Binance in Saudi Arabia Bandar Altunisi told Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt that the mBridge project was a cooperative initiative led by the BIS to explore the potential of digital currencies issued by central banks to facilitate trade and instant cross-border payments.

The project includes the central banks of China, Thailand, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

In addition to the five participating central banks, the project includes 27 other official entities with observer status, such as the IMF, the World Bank, and central banks in many countries, including Norway, South Korea, and Türkiye, according to Altunisi.

“The mBridge project, which was launched in 2021, represents an innovative solution to address the gaps and challenges of inequality in the current procedures used for cross-border payments,” he explained.

Altunisi believes that the success of this project will contribute to accelerating cross-border payments and reducing their cost.

As for the importance of this project for Saudi Arabia, he noted that it will provide new settlement solutions for oil and gas exports. On a broader scale, trade will become more efficient, ultimately benefiting all parties involved, including the final consumer, he remarked.

He added that additional expertise in the field of Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies (DLT) provided by the mBridge project will give regulatory authorities in Saudi Arabia more comfort and ease in allowing broader regulation and application of crypto-currencies and other solutions based on Blockchain technology.

Altunisi spoke about the difference between digital currencies that central banks are considering adopting and encrypted ones, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. He noted that the latter are decentralized currencies that use encryption techniques to boost the security of transactions and rely on Blockchain technology to ensure transparency and immutability of transaction records.

Digital currencies are digital copies of paper currencies issued and regulated by central banks, Altunisi stated, adding: “Unlike crypto-currencies, these digital currencies are centralized and usually aim to improve the efficiency of payment systems, bolster financial inclusion, and provide governments with better monetary policy tools.”