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King Salman of Saudi Arabia has reinstated bonuses and special allowances for civil servants and military personnel that had been cut in September 2016 as part of austerity measures when oil revenues were low.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud fired his civil service minister and put him under investigation for abuse of office.

The king also named his son Prince Khalid as new ambassador to Washington.

King Salman’s decrees saw a new national security centre created under the Royal Court.

Photo Getty Images

He also ordered two months extra salary be paid to frontline military personnel taking part in Saudi-led operations in Yemen.

Prince Khalid is a fighter pilot who has trained in the US and carried out air strikes against ISIS in Syria.

The decree said the pay cuts for ministers and government employees – the first in Saudi Arabia, where about two-thirds of working Saudis are employed in the public sector – had been in response to falling oil prices, which sank to a low of $28 a barrel in January 2017.

The oil price has since risen to about $52 a barrel and ministers said budgetary performance had been better than expected in Q1 of 2017.

Under the cuts, ministers had their salaries reduced by 20% and housing and car allowances for members of the advisory Shura Council were cut by 15%.

Wage increases for lower-ranking civil servants were suspended, and overtime payments and annual leave capped.

Salaries and allowances accounted for 45% of government spending in 2015, or $128 billion, and contributed to a record budget deficit of $98 billion.


Oil price has surged after reports that OPEC members have agreed some details of a production cut.

Oil prices rose nearly 7% as energy ministers attended November 30 OPEC meeting in Vienna.

Ahead of the meeting Saudi energy minister Khalid Al-Falih had said “there are good chances” a formal deal could be struck.

Two months ago, oil ministers had said full details of the agreement would be finalized at the meeting.

OPEC pledged to limit production by about 700,000 barrels a day, but said Iran would be allowed to increase production.

Oil prices rose then, but the absence of detail prompted some traders to have second thoughts about whether the cartel would actually take firm action.Oil prices fall below 28

Saudi Arabia has agreed to cut output by about 500,000 barrels per day at the meeting, Reuters reported.

That would take its output to 10.06 million barrels per day.

Reuters also reported that OPEC has agreed to suspend Indonesia’s membership to allow Iran to set new production levels at 3.797 million barrels per day.

Ahead of November 30meeting, Khalid Al-Falih said “there are good chances” that a detailed deal can be brokered, and that “the spirit is good”.

The Saudi energy minister said his country would have to “take a big cut and a big hit” to current production – and its 2017 forecast – if OPEC production were limited to 32.5 million barrels per day.

“So we will not do it unless we make sure that there is consensus,” Khalid Al-Falih added.

A production freeze for Iran at pre-sanctions levels would be “very considerate of other OPEC members when they’re having to cut,” he said.

“Iran has recovered to its pre-sanctions levels,” Khalid Al-Falih said.

Saudi Arabia has also been discussing a production cut with Russia, he added.

Brent crude rose 6.9% to $50.58 per barrel, while US crude also rose 6.7% to $48.25.

Traders said markets were jittery and prices could swing sharply in either direction depending on developments in Vienna.

A decision to cut has been hindered by a rivalry between Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s top producer, and Iran.

The Saudis have been hesitant to shoulder the lion’s share of a cut, while Iran has resisted reducing its own production, arguing it has yet to recover its output levels after years of sanctions.


Oil price has climbed by about 3% after Russia and Saudi Arabia reached an agreement to look for ways to stabilize the oil market.

The announcement was made by energy ministers Alexander Novak and Khalid al-Falih.

The price of Brent crude oil rose by $1.28 on the news to $48.11 a barrel.

A statement said the plan was to support the “stability of the oil market… ensuring a stable level of investment in the long term.”

The start of 2016 saw the price of oil fell to its lowest level in nearly 13 years due to a production glut and is still far below the $110 a barrel price recorded just two years ago.Oil prices fall below 28

Russian energy minister Alexander Novak said the agreement, which might include attempts to limit oil output, was a “historical moment” between members of OPEC, which is the traditional oil producers’ cartel, and non-members, of which Russia is one.

He said that Russia was willing to join an oil output “freeze”.

His Saudi counterpart Khalid al-Falih told Al Arabiya TV: “Freezing [production levels] is one of the preferred possibilities but it’s not necessary today.

“The market is getting better and we have noticed that prices reflect this [improvement].”

Strategies to keep prices high by limiting production are usually the preserve of OPEC and are often not successful.

However, Russia and Saudi Arabia are the world’s two largest oil producers.

Alexander Novak and Khalid al-Falih will meet again later this month and again in October and November.

The outline agreement, to set up a joint task force, was publicized at a news conference at the G20 summit taking place in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou.

The agreement to talk about a deal, despite the lack of detail, was welcomed by two other oil producers.

Kuwait’s acting oil minister Anas al-Saleh: “This dialogue confirms that the main oil producers are watching the oil market… to help achieve stability.”

UAE’s energy minister Suhail al-Mazroui tweeted: “UAE, as an active and responsible member of OPEC will always support any joint efforts which will benefit market stability.”


Halliburton and Baker Hughes have abandoned their proposed merger after resistance from regulators in the US and Europe.

The deal would have seen a $34.6 billion takeover by Halliburton of Baker Hughes, creating a powerful rival to global leader Schlumberger.

The US companies are the second and third biggest oil services companies.Halliburton and Baker Hughes merger called off

That raised concerns about higher prices and reduced competition.

Baker Hughes stands to receive a $3.5 billion break-up fee as a result of the deal falling through.

Failure to satisfy regulatory concerns was not the only reason for abandoning the merger.

The fall in the oil price since the proposal was announced in 2014 changed the financial attractiveness of the cash and shares deal.

The DoJ filed a lawsuit to stop the merger in April, arguing it would leave only two dominant suppliers in the well drilling and oil construction services industry.

The European Commission also expressed concerns that the deal might reduce competition and innovation.

Halliburton and Baker Hughes have been hit by a fall in business as oil and gas giants rein back on projects and investments.

Last week, Baker Hughes reported a bigger-than-expected loss for Q1 of 2016.

In April, Halliburton announced 6,000 job cuts.


Oil prices have dropped sharply after a meeting of oil producers in Qatar failed to agree a cap on output.

Brent crude fell 7% at one point, but then recovered slightly to stand down $1.87, or 4.3%, at $41.23 a barrel.

The meeting was attended by most members of oil producers’ group OPEC, including Saudi Arabia, but not Iran.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest exporter, had been prepared to freeze output if all OPEC members had agreed.

However, Iran is continuing to increase output following the lifting of sanctions against it.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

“As we’re not going to sign anything, and as we’re not part of the decision to freeze output, we ultimately decided it was not necessary to send a representative,” the Iranian government said.

After hours of talks in Qatar, energy minister Mohammed bin Saleh al-Sada said that the oil producers needed “more time”.

Mohammed bin Saleh al-Sada told reporters after the meeting: “We of course respect [Iran’s] position… The freeze could be more effective definitely if major producers, be it from OPEC members like Iran and others, as well as non-OPEC members, are included in the freeze.”

As well as the fall in Brent, the price of US crude oil fell nearly 7% before recovering some ground to stand $1.88 lower at $38.48 a barrel.

The meeting in Qatar was not formally an OPEC event, though most of the group’s members were represented.

OPEC has been slow to respond to the sharp fall in oil prices, which are still less than half the peak of $115 a barrel seen in June 2014.

Oil prices had risen in recent weeks, largely due to speculation that some major exporters would limit supply.


Oil price has reached $40 a barrel for the first time this year as commodities continue to rally.

Brent crude later fell slightly and was trading at $39.81 a barrel.Oil price March 2016

Oil dropped below $28 in January, but has since risen as part of a wider recovery in energy and metal prices.

The price of iron also shot up, rising 19% amid greater optimism about Chinese economic growth and demand for the metal in the country’s refineries.

Iron ore is heading for the biggest price increase in a single day since 2009, according to data from MetalBulletin.

The price of copper has increased by 6.9% in 2016 and aluminum is up 5.3%.

Oil prices soared as much as 12% on February 12 after new suggestions that OPEC nations were set to cut oil production.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the United Arab Emirates’ energy minister said that OPEC members were ready to reduce output.

Meanwhile, Venezuela’s oil minister said oil-producing nations were on a “very good path” to clinch a deal.

However, traders said sharp falls on February 11 may have triggered some bargain-hunting.

Eulogio Del Pino, the Venezuelan minister, who recently visited Russia and Saudi Arabia as part of a global tour to drum up support among both OPEC and non-OPEC producers, said “we’re on a very, very, very good path” to reducing production.Oil prices February 2016

Brent crude closed up $3.30 at $33.36 a barrel in New York after falling below $30 on February 11.

After sinking to a 12-year low of $26.05 on February 11, US crude settled up 12%, or $3.23, to $29.44 a barrel – its biggest one-day rise since 2009.

Many traders were skeptical about the Journal‘s report, pointing out that Venezuela and Russia had tried in vain earlier this week to stir Saudi Arabia and other major producers into agreeing to output cuts.

However, some believe that prices would rebound sooner or later if production tightened or demand rose.

Commerzbank analysts said: “We expect declining US oil production, in particular, to drive the oil price back up to $50 per barrel by the end of the year.”

Friday’s price rises were also aided by figures from oil services company Baker Hughes, which said that US energy companies cut the number of oil rigs for the eighth consecutive week to the lowest levels since January 2010.

Drillers removed 28 oil rigs, bringing the total rig count down to 439, Baker Hughes said.

The jump in oil prices helped to boost sentiment on stock markets.

Wall Street was trading higher on February 12, with the S&P 500 rising 1.8% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average up close to 2% in late trading.


Shell has confirmed it would cut 10,000 jobs after a sharp fall in its annual profits.

The Royal Dutch Shell shares rose 4% as it said it made $1.8 billion for Q4 of 2015, compared with a $4.2 billion profit for the same period the year before.

Full-year earnings have seen their steepest fall in 13 years, from $19 billion in 2014 to $3.8 billion in 2015.

Oil prices have fallen steadily, from more than $100 a barrel 18 months ago to around $30 a barrel now.

Nevertheless, Shell has maintained its dividend payout to shareholders, a move that relieved investors.

Oil companies and their suppliers have been cutting back hard on investment and jobs as the low price eats into profits and makes investment less worthwhile.

Shell’s rival, BP, announced a profits slump of 51% to $5.9bn for 2015 and a further 3,000 job cuts earlier this week.

Shell had already made clear when investors were preparing to vote on its planned takeover of BG that its profit figures for 2015 would be hit.

The company also said thousands of job would go, because of its takeover of BG.Shell job cut 2016

Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said the company was entering a new phase: “The completion of the BG transaction, which we are expecting in a matter of weeks, marks the start of a new chapter in Shell, rejuvenating the company and improving shareholder returns.

“We are making substantial changes in the company… as we refocus Shell, and respond to lower oil prices. As we have previously indicated, this will include a reduction of some 10,000 staff and direct contractor positions in 2015-16 across both companies.”

Ben van Beurden added he would take further action if necessary: “Shell will take further impactful decisions to manage through the oil price downturn, should conditions warrant that.”

Some analysts question whether Shell can continue to keep paying investors at the rate it does on the back of a shrinking business.

At the time of the proposed BG tie-up, oil was trading at about $55 a barrel, but it is currently trading at about $35 a barrel, leading some shareholders to oppose the plan.

Standard Life, a key investor in Royal Dutch Shell, said last month that the price of oil needed to be $60 a barrel for the takeover to make financial sense, but in January, the majority of shareholders in Shell, which is Europe’s largest oil company, voted in favor of that deal.

Shell said it had cut operating costs over the year by $4 billion, or around 10%, and expected to cut costs by a further $3 billion in 2016.

The company also cut back hard on investment over the year, with capital spending slashed by $8.4 billion from a year ago to $28.9 billion.

Shell sold $5.5 billion worth of assets in the course of 2015 and is planning to sell another $30 billion of assets.

Asian stock markets were trading largely lower on February 2 following a lackluster lead from the US overnight and as oil prices fell again.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 closed down 0.64% at 17,750.68 points.

Tokyo’s benchmark index closed up nearly 2% on February 1, its highest close since early January, after a surprise move by the Bank of Japan cut rates to -0.1%.

In Australia, energy-related stocks weighed on the market, hurt by oil price worries.

Australia’s benchmark ASX 200 shed 1%, dragged down by shares in energy giants including BHP, Woodside and Santos.Asian stock markets decline February 2016

Investors also reacted to a move by ratings agency S&P to lower its rating for BHP to “A” from “A+” due to falls in commodity prices, among other issues.

Shares in Woodside closed down 3.2%, Santos lost 4.26%, and BHP ended the trading day down 2.16%.

As widely expected, the Reserve Bank of Australia kept its rates on hold on February 2 at a record low of 2%, where they have been since May 2015.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was down 0.81% at 19,441.95 in afternoon trade, while the Shanghai Composite was bucking the regional trend to be up 1.93% to 2,741.39.

South Korea’s Kospi index closed down 1% to 1,906.60, in line with the rest of the region.

Europe’s stock markets have cut their losses after oil rose back above $30 a barrel, despite another slide in Asia on January 26.

London’s FTSE 100 was down 0.5% at 5,847.5 points, with declines of about 0.4% in both Frankfurt and Paris.

Shanghai tumbled 6.4% to its lowest close since December 2014, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong fell 2.4%.

Brent crude rose 1.2% to $30.87 a barrel, reversing earlier falls, while US oil was up 1% at $30.63.

Stock markets have made the rockiest start to the year in recent memory as worries over the economic strength of China- considered for years the engine of world economic growth – have intensified.Europe stock markets January 26

Other investment prices have been buffeted by falling confidence.

Although China is still growing the pace is slowing, and as demand for key industrial products such as oil and iron ore slips back, so do their prices.

Oil prices were hit again earlier on January 26 by figures from China showing annual rail freight volume – a key economic indicator – fell 11.9% last year, compared with a decline of 3.9% in 2014.

The Shanghai index has already fallen about 17% this year.

On the FTSE 100, among the top risers were Randgold Resources and Fresnillo.

Gold rallied to its highest level since November at $1,112.86 an ounce. The safe-haven commodity has risen nearly 5% this year, after sliding more than 10% in 2015.

The US Federal Reserve’s rate-setting committee starts a two-day policy meeting on January 26 and is not expected to make any change.

Meanwhile, Chinese state media have warned billionaire investor George Soros against betting on falls in the yuan or the Hong Kong dollar.

George Soros, who made more than $1 billion from shorting sterling in 1992, has said he was betting against the S&P 500, commodity-producing countries and Asian currencies, although he has not specifically mentioned the yuan or Hong Kong dollar.

China’s central bank has been making plenty of liquidity available to the banking system to avoid any cash squeeze ahead of the long Lunar New Year holiday early next month.

Traders said that the bank would inject 440 billion yuan into the money markets, the biggest daily injection in three years.


Chinese shares saw steep losses in late trade on January 26 as investors worried about oil prices, and despite an injection of liquidity into the mainland market by the central bank.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite closed down 6.42% at 2,749.79.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 2.48% to 18,860.8 points in afternoon trade.

Elsewhere, markets in Asia followed US stocks lower as further falls in the price of oil continued to unsettle investors.

Brent crude prices dropped below $30 a barrel ending a short-lived rebound as persistent concerns of oversupply were exacerbated by news that Iraq’s output reached a record high last month.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

Wall Street also fell, wiping out most of its gains from the past two days.

Asia’s biggest index, Japan’s Nikkei 225, followed the US, dropping 2.4% to close at 16,708.90 points.

The ongoing slump in the oil price has investors worried that slowing growth in the global economy, and China in particular, is far from any substantial recovery.

South Korean stocks also fell, with the Kospi index closing 1.2% lower at 1,871.42 points.

Investor sentiment in Seoul was also dampened by data showing the country’s economy grew at a slightly lower rate in Q4 of 2015 from the previous three months.

Q4 growth rose 0.6% in seasonally-adjusted terms from the third quarter, slowing from its 1.3% expansion in the previous quarter.

In Australia, markets remained closed for a national holiday.

Oil prices fell again on January 25, eroding last week’s gains, as OPEC called for co-operation from oil-producing nations outside the cartel.

Brent crude fell 2.6% to $31.34 a barrel following a 10% rise on January 22, while US oil shed 95 cents to $31.24.

The slide came as the head of OPEC called for all oil-producing nations to work together.

Abdalla Salem el-Badri said both OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers needed to tackle oversupply to help prices rise.

“It is vital the market addresses the issue of the stock overhang. As you can see from previous cycles, once this overhang starts falling then prices start to rise,” he told a conference in London.

Photo AP

Photo AP

Despite the ongoing refusal of Saudi Arabia, the dominant OPEC member, to cut production, Abdalla Salem el-Badrinevertheless blamed countries outside the cartel for the huge global oil glut.

“Yes, OPEC provided some of the additional supply last year, but the majority of this has come from non-OPEC countries,” he said.

The organization accounts for almost 42% of the world’s oil production.

The OPEC secretary-general said all major producers should agree on methods to reduce stockpiles and thus help prices recover.

“The current environment is putting this future at risk. At current price levels, it is clear that not all of the necessary future investment is viable,” Abdullah al-Badri said.

Oil prices briefly fell to less than $28 a barrel earlier this month.

HSBC has lowered its forecast for the average price of Brent crude in 2016 from $60 to $45 a barrel, while UniCredit lowered it from $52.50 to $37 a barrel.

The prospect of OPEC members cutting production remains unlikely. Indonesia’s OPEC representative said that only one member of the cartel supported calling an emergency meeting to discuss ways of boosting oil prices.

The chairman of Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil giant, said on January 25 that prices would ultimately rise to a moderate level as global demand increased.

The Iraqi government said on the same day that oil output reached a record high in December, producing as much as 4.13 million barrels a day.

Iran, which has the world’s fourth-biggest oil reserves, is also preparing to resume exports now that sanctions have been lifted.

A fall in the number of oil rigs in the US, one of OPEC’s biggest production rivals, could reduce output, with Goldman Sachs predicting a decline of 95,000 barrels per day this year.

According to preliminary figures published by Russia’s statistics service, the country’s economy contracted by 3.7% in 2015.

Retail sales plunged by 10% and capital investment fell by 8.4% in the economy’s worst performance since 2009.

In contrast, Russian GDP increased by 0.6% in 2014.

Russia’s economy has been hit hard by the extraordinary collapse in oil prices, which have fallen by 70% in the past 15 months.

Sanctions imposed by the West after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014 have also had an impact.

Photo AP

Photo AP

PM Dmitry Medvedev warned earlier this month that the fall could force Russia’s 2016 budget to be revised.

President Vladimir Putin said in December that the budget had been calculated based on oil at $50 a barrel. Oil is trading at just over $30 a barrel.

The state-controlled media blames the crisis, principally, on low oil prices and, to a lesser extent, on western sanctions.

In 15 years that Vladimir Putin has ruled Russia as president or prime minister, Russia failed to prepare for the possibility of low oil prices and did little to diversify its economy and reduce its reliance on energy exports.

Russian citizens are increasingly concerned. Inflation is rising, so is the fear of job losses. Meanwhile, real incomes in Russia are falling and social benefits are being cut.

Earlier this month senior citizens blocked streets in Sochi and Krasnodar to protest against the scrapping of free travel passes for pensioners. People power persuaded the local authorities to reverse the decision. The longer Russia’s economic woes continue, the greater the likelihood that social protest here will spread.

Taxes from oil and gas generate about half the Russian government’s revenue.

The ruble fell to record lows against the US dollar last week, before regaining some ground as oil prices recovered slightly.

The currency was down more than 1% on January 25 at 78.87 after oil prices fell about 3%.

Economy minister Alexei Ulyukayev said he expected the Russian central bank to leave interest rates on hold at 11%.

Elvira Nabiullina, the head of the central bank, said last week that authorities had “all the means” needed to keep the economy stable.

Unemployment in Russia was steady at 5.8% in December, meaning that 4.4 million people were out of work, and real wages fell by 10%.

Despite the gloomy economic news, McDonald’s said on January 25 it planned to open more than 60 restaurants in Russia in 2016.

Khamzat Khasbulatov, chief executive of McDonald’s Russia, said sanctions and the weak ruble had forced the fast food giant to make “serious adjustments” to its business model, but focusing on local suppliers and affordable menus had proved successful.


Schlumberger has cut 10,000 jobs in Q4 of 2015 amid the plunge in oil prices.

News of the near-10% jobs cull came as the oilfield services giant unveiled a net loss for the last three months of $1 billion – its first quarterly loss in 12 years.

Schlumberger’s revenues fell 39% to $7.74 billion, with CEO Paal Kibsgaard warning that there was “no signs” of an oil price recovery on the horizon.

The company also announced a $10 billion share buy-back program.Schlumberger job cut 2016

This news pushed Schlumberger’s shares 4% higher in after-hours trading. The stock price fell almost 20% is 2015 as investor worried that customers were cancelling projects as the oil price tumbled.

The profit figures were better than many analysts had expected, helped by heavy cuts to offset the slump in oil prices.

The latest job cuts added to the 20,000 redundancies Schlumberger had already announced earlier in 2015.

Paal Kibsgaard warned that there were “no signs of pricing recovery in the short to medium term”.

“Negative market sentiments intensified in the fourth quarter, with oil over-production continuing and extending the bearish trend in global inventories,” Schlumberger said in its report.

The dramatic fall in prices “prompted customers to make further cuts to already significantly lower investment levels,” the company said, pointing to “unscheduled and abrupt activity cancellations.”

Oil prices have dipped below $28 a barrel in a drawn-out slump since mid-2014.

Many analysts have slashed their 2016 oil price forecasts, with Morgan Stanley analysts saying that “oil in the $20s is possible”.

Economists at the Royal Bank of Scotland say that oil could fall to $16, while Standard Chartered predicts that prices could hit just $10 a barrel.


Global stock markets have tumbled with investors unsettled by the continued slide in oil prices and fears about the impact on global growth.

Germany’s Dax, the UK’s FTSE 100, and the Cac 40 in Paris were all down by about 3%, wiping out the gains recorded on January 19.

The drop in the FTSE puts it on the brink of a so called “bear market” – a 20% fall from April’s all-time high.

The falls came after Asian stocks closed sharply lower.

Dubai markets closed at a 28-month low, while in Japan shares fell to their lowest level since October 2014.Global stock markets fall

Top emerging market shares and currencies were also caught up in the turmoil, with the Russian ruble hitting a new record low of 80.295 against the dollar.

The downwards move came after oil prices continued to slide, with the price of international benchmark Brent Crude down 2.4% at $28.08 a barrel, around a 12-year low.

The oil price has plummeted 75% since mid-2014 as oversupply, mainly due to US shale oil flooding the market, has driven down the cost of the commodity.

At the same time, demand has fallen because of a slowdown in economic growth in China and Europe.

The world’s energy watchdog warned on January 19 that the market could “drown in oversupply”.

The International Energy Agency, which advises countries on energy policy, said it expected the global glut to last until at least late 2016.

The IMF’s decision on January 19 to downgrade its global growth forecast for this year and issue a warning about the outlook added to the dark mood among investors.

World stocks are now at their lowest levels since 2013, with the MSCI world equity index down 9.9% in January, its biggest drop since 2009.

Analysts said they expected the volatility to continue.


Oil prices have fallen below $28 a barrel amid fears the lifting of international sanctions on Iran could worsen the existing oversupply problem.

Brent crude, used as an international benchmark, fell as low as $27.67 a barrel, its lowest since 2003, before recovering slightly to trade at $28.17.

The price of US crude fell below $29 a barrel to $28.86.

The lifting of the Iran sanctions mean half a million barrels more oil per day could be produced, say analysts.

The decision to lift the sanctions against Iran came on January 17 after the international nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, said Iran had complied with a deal designed to prevent it developing nuclear weapons.Oil prices fall below 28

Iran has the fourth largest proven oil reserves in the world, according to the US Energy Information Agency and any additional oil would add to the one million barrels a day of over-supply that has led to a more than 70% collapse in oil prices since the middle of 2014.

Analysts said Iran already had quite a lot of oil ready to sell.

The drop in the price of oil has been driven by oversupply, mainly due to US shale oil flooding the market.

At the same time, demand has fallen because of a slowdown in economic growth in China and Europe.

Historically, OPEC has cut production to support prices. But led by Saudi Arabia, by far the group’s most powerful member, the group has resolutely refused to trim supply this time.

Analysts expect supply to continue to outstrip demand over the next two years, which would keep prices low.

Saudi Arabia government has decided to cut spending and delay some state projects after the recent decline in the price of oil, Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf has announced.

Talking to broadcaster CNBC Arabia, Ibrahim al-Assaf said Saudi Arabia was in a good position to manage low oil prices.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporting country, has maintained its production levels despite a collapse in the price of oil.

Oil is trading at less than $50 per barrel, half the price of a year ago.

“We have built reserves, cut public debt to near-zero levels and we are now working on cutting unnecessary expenses while focusing on main development projects and on building human resources in the kingdom,” Ibrahim al-Assaf said in the interview.Saudi Arabia economy 2015

Some areas of the economy will still receive investment, the finance minister said, as Saudi Arabia tries to improve industries outside energy.

“Projects in sectors such as education, health and infrastructure are not only important for the private sector but also for the long-term growth of the Saudi economy,” he said.

Ibrahim al-Assaf did not give details of where cuts would happen.

It may issue bonds, or Islamic bonds known as sukuk to finance some spending, Ibrahim al-Assaf said.

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has more than $600 billion in reserves it can draw upon should expenditure outstrip income from oil exports.

The Russian ruble has regained some ground from yesterday’s all-time low, although trading remains edgy and volatile.

The currency opened 4% lower on December 17, but then edged up. By early afternoon, one US dollar bought 68 rubles, far fewer than the record low of 79 on December 16.

The ruble has been hit by worries over the Russian economy, which has been affected by cheaper oil and sanctions.

Russia’s Finance Ministry said the currency was “undervalued” and that it was intervening in the market.

It also gave details of the amount it spent on such action, saying it had spent almost $2 billion on December 15 in an attempt to stop the ruble sliding.

Deputy finance minister Alexei Moiseyev said Russia was going to sell foreign currency from its treasury accounts “as much as necessary and as long as necessary”.Russian ruble crisis 2014

The drastic 6.5 percentage point rise in Russian interest rates to 17% early on December 16 failed to halt the slide in the currency.

The rate rise, which was meant to strengthen the ruble, helped it to hit 58 to the dollar early on Tuesday but the rate then collapsed to a record low of 79.

There is not much more Russia can do to prop up its currency, which has only been allowed to move in line with the world’s currency markets in the past year.

Capital controls, where money is restricted from moving out of the country, are the main, final option.

Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev ruled that out. Speaking at an emergency meeting of ministers and industry leaders, he said he was confident that Moscow could contain the crisis: “Central bank and the government have worked out a package of measures to stabilize the situation. What we are seeing today is mainly emotional games.

“It is in our interests to bring order to the markets, no one gains from instability. But at the same time, there is no need for tough regulations, as used to happen in the past. It does not bring anything good – we shall use market tools.”

The ruble has lost more than half its value against the dollar this year, hit by Western sanctions and the fall in the oil price which have both weakened the Russian economy.

Russia’s economy is expected to shrink next year, although the amount by which it does is closely linked to the price of oil, with the economy rising or falling in line with that.

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The Russian ruble went into free-fall in December 16 trading, falling repeatedly to hit record lows, despite the central bank’s dramatic decision to raise interest rates from 10.5% to 17%.

The rate rise was meant to strengthen the currency.

It helped it to 58 to the dollar early on Tuesday, but the dollar at one stage bought as many as 79 rubles.

The ruble has lost more than half its value against the dollar this year, hit by cheaper oil and Western sanctions.

Both of these have weakened the Russian economy.

Russia’s central bank has now pledged fresh further measures to try to stabilize its currency, with First Deputy Governor Sergei Shvetsov describing the situation as “critical”.

However, the Russian stock market was higher, with the main Micex index up 2% in afternoon trading.

Last week, Russia raised rates to 10.5% from 9.5%, a move that had little impact. The ruble’s slide this week was prompted by fears that the US was considering a fresh set of sanctions against the country for its support for separatists in Ukraine.Russian ruble crisis 2014

Russian oil giant Rosneft’s decision to issue 625 billion rubles ($9.9 billion) worth of bonds late last week at lower rates than Russian bonds has been blamed by some for exacerbating the currency’s decline.

However, Rosneft denied it was trying to dump rubles, saying “not a single ruble” would be used to buy foreign currency.

The chairwoman of the Russian central bank, Elvira Nabiullina, said the latest rate rise should curb inflation and encourage Russians to put more rubles into interest rate-bearing accounts.

However, she said she did not expect the ruble’s value to be immediately influenced by the rate rise.

“The ruble is currently undervalued according to all fundamental parameters and the state of the economy… and the current account,” she said.

“But for the ruble to return to its fundamental exchange rate it would take time.”

Russia’s central bank has previously tried unsuccessfully to stabilize the currency, buying rubles in the markets.

It has spent more than $70 billion supporting the ruble since the start of the year.

“This decision is aimed at limiting substantially increased rouble depreciation risks and inflation risks,” the central bank said in a statement.

Last week, the World Bank warned that Russia’s economy would shrink by at least 0.7% in 2015 if oil prices did not recover. It says an oil price of $70 a barrel would leave it with a fall of 1.5%.

Raising interest rates has its own risks, as more expensive borrowing can itself slow growth. But it may also stem the tide of money leaving the country.

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Russia’s economy will fall into recession in 2015 as Western sanctions, in response to the country’s role in eastern Ukraine, and falling oil prices begin to bite, the Russian government has warned.

The country’s economic development ministry estimates the economy will contract by 0.8% next year.

It had previously estimated the economy would grow by 1.2% in 2015.

Russia’s reliance on tax revenues from the oil industry makes it particularly sensitive to price movements.

Household disposable incomes are also forecast to decline by as much as 2.8%, compared with a previous estimate that they would grow by 0.4%.

The sharp revision in Russia’s economic forecast is the first admission from the government that the economy will contract.Russian economy

“The current prognosis is based on a drop in GDP by 0.8% in 2015, against the previous prognosis of growth by 1.2%,” deputy PM Alexi Vedev said.

On December 1, the rouble suffered its biggest one-day fall since 1998.

The currency slid almost 9% against the dollar before rallying after suspected central bank intervention. The currency has already lost 40% in value this year.

The Russian finance ministry has also not ruled out spending more than 500 billion roubles from the budget’s Reserve Fund next year.

The 2015-2017 budget allows for spending of up to 500 billion roubles next year from the Reserve Fund, but Maxim Oreshkin, head of the finance ministry’s long-term strategic planning department, said it was possible the government could spend more to support the economy.

Maxim Oreshkin added that if the average oil price were $80 per barrel in 2015, the finance ministry’s forecast for a fall in GDP was in line with the economy ministry’s prediction of a 0.8% contraction.

He also said that a scenario in which the oil price averaged $60 a barrel in 2015 was pessimistic, and at that price, the Russian economy would contract as forecast in the central bank’s “stress scenario”.

The bank published its stress scenario last month, saying that at $60 per barrel, GDP would decline by 3.5% to 4%.

The price of oil has fallen nearly 40% since the summer because of oversupply caused by rising US shale oil production.

Demand has also fallen, particularly in China, the world’s second largest consumer of the commodity, where industrial production has slowed in recent months.

The fall in the oil price has been causing concern for several members of the oil cartel, as most require a price above $80 a barrel to balance their government budgets and many need prices to be above $100 a barrel.

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Brent crude oil price has fallen at a four-year low, from $3.60 or 4.4% to $77.52.

The benchmark US crude oil price is also at a four-year low, after losing $2.57 to close at $74.28.

The price has fallen sharply since the summer and is 30% below its June price.

The drop comes as traders believe members of the OPEC oil exporting countries, which control about 40% of world oil exports, will not cut production.

Brent crude oil price has fallen below $80 a barrel

Brent crude oil price has fallen below $80 a barrel

OPEC’s 12 member countries will meet later this month to discuss the global oil market.

Lower oil prices typically prompt OPEC nations, which include the biggest oil exporting nation in the world, Saudi Arabia, to rein back output in order to limit supply and boost prices and income.

Most need higher oil prices to fund rising government spending.

Recent comments by oil ministers from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait suggest the group is unlikely to agree to a cut.

The US energy department said this week that it expected low fuel prices to last into next year.

Global oil prices dropped and European shares rose in early trading Monday morning after Iran agreed a deal to curb some of its nuclear activities in return for an easing of international sanctions.

Iran holds the world’s fourth-largest oil reserves, but its exports have been hurt by the tough sanctions against it.

Though Iran will not be allowed to increase its oil sales for six months, the deal has eased tensions in the Middle East – a key oil-producing area.

Brent crude fell more than 2% in early Asian trade on Monday.

Global oil prices dropped after Iran agreed the nuclear deal

Global oil prices dropped after Iran agreed the nuclear deal

It dropped by $2.42 to $108.63 per barrel, while US light sweet crude fell 84 cents to $93.64 per barrel.

Fuel-intensive companies, such as airlines and travel firms, received a boost on the stock markets as a result.

International Airlines Group, the owner of British Airways and Iberia, was up 2.87% in lunchtime trading, while Air France KLM rose 3.11%. Travel operator Thomas Cook lifted 3.68%.

World powers suspect Iran’s nuclear programme is secretly aimed at developing a nuclear bomb – a charge Iran has consistently denied.

In an attempt to force Tehran to curb its programme, the US and other leading economies have imposed a series of tough sanctions aimed at Iran’s oil exports – a key driver of its economy.

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Oil prices rose for the eighth session in a row, with Brent crude trading near a four-month high, boosted by the Federal Reserve’s move last week to stimulate the US economy.

The central bank said on Thursday that it would inject $40 billion a month into the economy.

Brent crude for November delivery was up 26 cents at $116.92 a barrel, while US crude was up 1 cent to $99.01.

There are fears that high oil prices could hamper economic recovery.

The Fed’s announcement that it would start a third round of bond-buying, known as quantitative easing, has been dubbed QE3.

Oil prices rose for the eighth session in a row, with Brent crude trading near a four-month high

Oil prices rose for the eighth session in a row, with Brent crude trading near a four-month high

“The big question is how long this Fed-inspired rally will continue, as QE3 was the last bazooka to be used in the central bank’s arsenal,” IG markets said in a report.

“For the time being, [the oil price] has given a powerful shot in the arm for global markets.”

But Victor Shum, managing director of consultancy IHS Purvin & Gertz, said the current price “doesn’t do any favors” for a global economy that is struggling to get back on track.

“A price rally like we are seeing now is only going to do more damage,” he said.

But he added that he did not expect this level of trading to last.

“Fundamentals at the moment are not indicative of these prices, and I don’t see oil being able to sustain this rally.”