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US Unemployment Rate Worries Bank Chief

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The U.S. economy needs to grow more quickly to bring the unemployment rate down further, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said on Monday, defending the central bank’s policy of very low interest rates.

While he offered no indication the Fed is keen to embark on a third round of bond purchases, Bernanke also made clear the central bank is in no rush to reverse course after responding aggressively to a deep recession.

The jobless rate has dropped to 8.3 percent from 9.1 percent last summer, a move Bernanke said was “somewhat out of sync” with the rather modest pace of economic growth.

He said the decline could reflect an effort by businesses to recalibrate their payrolls after unusually heavy job cuts during the recession. If this is the case, he said, progress may stall.

“To the extent that this reversal has been complete, further significant improvements in the unemployment rate will likely require a more rapid expansion of production and demand from consumers and businesses, a process that can be supported by continued accommodative policies,” Bernanke told the National Association for Business Economics.

U.S. stocks climbed on hopes that Bernanke’s speech could be a precursor to more Fed bond purchases, with each of the major indexes up at least 1 percent. The dollar fell against the euro, but prices for U.S. government debt also slipped as worries about Europe’s debt crisis eased, sapping a safe-haven bid.

The U.S. central bank lowered overnight interest rates to near zero in December 2008 and has bought $2.3 trillion in debt securities to drive other borrowing costs lower in an effort to spur faster growth and cut unemployment.

“Reading between the lines, it sounds like he’s pushing the ball forward toward having a discussion about doing more,” said Chris Rupkey, economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, on the sidelines of the NABE conference.

After its last two meetings, the Fed said it would likely keep rates near zero at least through late 2014, but upbeat economic signs, including solid employment growth, have led investors to bet on a move as early as the middle of next year.

Bernanke’s speech appeared aimed at pushing back against those expectations.

U.S. gross domestic product grew 3 percent in the fourth quarter, but is expected to have slowed to just below 2 percent in the first three months of this year. For all of last year, it grew only 1.7 percent, which would normally be too slow to move the unemployment rate lower.

Sluggish economic demand has kept alive the potential for more Fed bond purchases, despite the signs of improvement in the labor market.

The policy does have detractors, including some inside the central bank. Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank President Charles Plosser on Monday said central banks should not have unfettered ability to purchase assets because that violates the traditional separation of monetary and fiscal policymaking and can allow governments to inflate away debts.

“Granting vast amounts of discretion to our central banks in the expectation that they can cure our economic ills or substitute for our lack of fiscal discipline is a dangerous road to follow,” Plosser told a conference in Paris.

That discomfort and differences over the outlook for the economy have led to an unusually wide range of views among policymakers over the proper course.

While a few officials are pushing for a further easing of monetary policy and some think rates might not need to rise until 2016, a hawkish minority believe the Fed would do well to reverse course this year. Bernanke is likely in the middle, biding his time to determine whether more bond purchases are needed but resolute in his thinking that any rate hikes can wait until 2014, analysts say.

The Fed chief reiterated his concern about long-term unemployment, which he said could cause workers’ skills to atrophy, but he argued against the notion that much of the problem was due to shifts in the economy that had made workers’ skills obsolete. If that were the case, the Fed might need to tighten policy sooner rather than later.

“The continued weakness in aggregate demand is likely the predominant factor. Consequently, the Federal Reserve’s accommodative monetary policies, by providing support for demand and for the recovery, should help, over time, to reduce long-term unemployment as well,” he said.

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Oil & Energy

Partners Execute Shareholder Agreement For Brass Products Terminal

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The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, (NNPC), along with their partner, the Nigerian Content Development & Monitoring Board, NCDMB, and Zed Energy have executed a shareholders’ agreement for the establishment of a 50 million litre Petroleum Products Terminal in Brass, Bayelsa State.
The N10.5 billion Brass Petroleum Products Terminal project is expected to deliver an automated 50 million litre depot with two-way product jetty, automated loading bay, and 6 automated tanks for storage of 30 million litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS)and 20 million litres of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) and Dual Purpose Kerosene (DPK).
While speaking at the signing ceremony, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his giant strides in the Niger Delta which is making a huge impact on the people of the area.
“I make bold to say today without any fear of contradiction that no President has impacted the people of the Niger Delta like President Muhammadu Buhari. Aside from what we are witnessing today, remember there is also the Brass Fertilizer & Petrochemical Company, the Oloibiri Oil and Gas Museum and the Oil & Gas Park in Ogbia, all under Mr. President,” the Minister stated.
Sylva added that the establishment of the Terminal further demonstrates Mr. President’s commitment to the enhancement of the livelihood of the Niger Delta people particularly, the riverine communities in Bayelsa State where people purchase products at exorbitant prices due to logistics challenges associated with transporting products to that area.
Speaking shortly after signing the agreement, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mallam Mele Kyari said the Corporation was proud to be part of the project which aside ensuring products availability in all nooks and crannies of the Niger Delta, will also guarantee the nation’s energy security and generate employment.
“This Terminal will create 1,000 direct jobs during the construction phase, and over 5,000 indirect jobs during its operation. Considering the potential for employment when completed, this will definitely reduce youth restiveness in the Niger Delta area and will also address the problem of illegal refining in the area,” Kyari stated.
In his remarks, the Executive Secretary of NCDMB, Simbi Wabote stated that this milestone was as a result of strong interagency collaboration and public-private sector partnership.
“The NCDMB will continue to drive such partnerships across the industry to bring development in Nigeria,” he noted.
Earlier, the Coordinator of the Project and Group General Manager, National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS), Mr. Bala Wunti stated that the project would enhance the economics of marine petroleum products distribution.

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Oil & Energy

Senate Hails NNPC’s Drive Towards Profitability

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The senate has commended the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for its efforts towards attaining profitability and stamping out corruption from its system.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Anti-corruption and Financial Crimes, Suleiman Abdu Kwari, gave the commendation at a hearing which was held at the national assembly complex, Abuja.
Kwari said it was heart-warming to learn that the NNPC was making great strides towards profitability and urged the corporation to sustain the gains recorded so far for the good of the country.
In his presentation at the hearing, Mele Kyari, the group managing director of NNPC, said the corporation was championing the fight against corruption in the oil and gas industry by placing measures to curb incidences of corruption across its various business portfolios and by enlisting as a partner company of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).
He also said that the corporation has reported several incidences of infractions such as products diversion and crude oil theft to the police, EFCC and other investigating agencies of the federal government to stem corruption within the oil and gas industry.
In an effort to clampdown on fuel smuggling, the ministry of petroleum resources launched the operation white project in October 2019 to monitor and track the movement of petroleum products in the country.
Also in February 2021, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) launched the downstream remote monitoring system (DRMS) to track the movement of petroleum products from depots to retail outlets.
“We have created an anti-corruption desk in NNPC that engages the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other anti-corruption agencies on a regular basis,” NNPC GMD said.
“The desk ensures that in all our operations, every staff complies to the code of conduct procedures with consequence management.
“We have established a regulatory compliant governance charter and transparency policy; this is a mark of our compliance to the anti-corruption strategy.
“For the first time in 43 years, NNPC, as a part of the evolving culture of transparency and accountability, published its Audited Financial Statements (AFS) for 2018 and 2019. We are going to publish that of 2020.
“The AFS is the only document that tells how a company does its transaction. We are happy that by the time the 2020 AFS will be published, Nigerians will see the dividends of our accountability.”

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Oil & Energy

Chevron Spends $10bn On Nigerian Suppliers, Service Providers

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Chairman/Managing Director, Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL), Rick Kennedy, said the company has in the last 10 years spent an estimated annual average of $1 billion on Nigerian suppliers and service providers in line with its commitment to Nigerian Content Development.
Highlighting the opportunities and new approaches to the future of hydrocarbons at the ongoing 2021 NIPS in Abuja, Kennedy stressed the need for robust policies and regulations to address and remedy existing challenges in the oil and gas industry; digital technology/innovations; cost efficiency initiatives; sustained social investments as well as continued support for Nigerian Content Development.
Kennedy, who was represented by Monday Ovuede, director, NNPC/CNL Joint Venture, identified opportunities in lowering carbon emissions and harnessing Nigeria’s gas resources as key enablers in complementing the new approaches to future of hydrocarbons in the Nigerian oil and gas industry in the post COVID-19 era.
According to him, the global community has continued to scale up the collaboration towards lower carbon emissions, adding that Chevron supports global efforts to reduce carbon emissions and is actively investing in operations to improve environmental performance while also working with industry to develop new innovative technology and best practices to achieve these objectives.
He emphasised that CNL’s gas strategy is to end routine gas flaring and build a profitable gas business through a portfolio of projects, and stated that in Nigeria, CNL, with its joint venture (JV) partners, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), has progressively reduced routine gas flaring by over 95% in the past 10 years and remained ahead in terms of maximising supply of on-spec gas into the Nigerian domestic market.
He also highlighted the NNPC/CNL’s Gas Sales and Aggregation Agreements with Egbin Power Plc, Dangote Fertilizer Limited, and Olorunsogo Generation Company Limited, while mentioning the positive impact of the West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) through which Nigeria supplies gas to countries in the West African sub-region – specifically, Ghana, Togo, and Benin – thus, helping to boost economic development in West Africa.
Kennedy also noted that Chevron has joined other energy companies supporting the Methane Guiding Principles to reduce methane emissions from natural gas exploration and production operations through digital innovation and deployment of best practices, which include designing, constructing, and operating its facilities in a manner to reduce emissions from its operations.

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