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Get ready for $100 a barrel oil and the conflict it represents

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Having said that, U.S. oil output approaches 11 million barrels per day, and crude oil production exceeds that of Saudi Arabia and could surpass the world’s largest producer, Russia, sometime next year.

Despite that, the geopolitical risk premium in oil has driven crude prices to nearly four-year highs and shows no signs of abating. And so many interests benefit from higher oil prices; it appears there is a part of the world ready, and willing, to accept much more expensive energy.

This array of developments comes just as the summer driving season begins in the U.S., meaning that consumers should expect higher prices at the pump, certainly in excess of $3 per gallon, on average, and possibly much higher.

The U.S. exit from the Iranian nuclear deal, the unprecedented exchange of rocket attacks between Iranian and Israeli forces and the general belief among the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israel that Iran’s regional expansion needs to be stopped all argue for a continued rise in the price of crude.

The Trump Administration’s plan to re-impose sanctions on Iran, and apply additional pressure on the Iranian regime, has heightened the fear that Iran will sponsor more terror attacks against Western targets, while its surrogates in both Syria and Lebanon (Hezbollah), will work to further destabilize the region, leading to an outright military confrontation between the sides.

It is becoming increasingly clear that Washington, Jerusalem and Riyadh are united in their desire to thwart any further territorial, or nuclear, ambitions Tehran may, or may not, harbor.

Certainly, Iran was said by U.S. intelligence and by U.S. allies, to be in compliance with the nuclear accord, but the U.S. walked away anyway.

Indeed, there is growing speculation among foreign policy experts that this administration wants to foment rebellion within Iran, by crippling its already weak economy and ushering in regime change.

It’s a notion that seems to be supported by the words and actions of Israel’s president, Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, Mohammad bin Salman.

Despite President Trump’s criticism of the Bush administration’s “nation building” in Iraq, the newly installed hawks in this White House, some would argue, harbor no such hesitation when it comes to Iran.

However, unlike Iraq, the Iranian regime has not just greater control over the nation as a whole, but also control of a much more skilled military in the form of the Revolutionary Guard, Iran’s most elite and lethal force.

Regime change in Iran, if indeed that is the goal of this triumvirate, is not a given by any means.

Russia backs the mullahs in Tehran. China is somewhat dependent on Middle Eastern oil.

Even Europe, which until recently had been a solid American ally on foreign policy, is breaking with this White House openly, and has no appetite for an unsettling event in the Middle East.

How this plays out is anyone’s guess. But we are seeing the gloves come off as Iran and Israel have tested each other’s military prowess just days ago in the Golan Heights.

This ancient battleground may have been on slightly firmer footing with respect to the prospects for peace until President Trump assumed office.

His position on Iran has emboldened both Israel and Saudi Arabia, together, to challenge Iran more openly than at any time in the last four decades.

During the 1970s, the Arab oil embargo and the Iranian revolution brought the world to its knees economically, with two massive oil shocks that helped ignite hyperinflation and recession.

While a repeat of that outcome is not yet a forgone conclusion, as a wise man once said, history often rhymes.

War is hardly poetic, but one can already hear the meter of the past playing out in modern times.

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Qualcomm chip market share plunges in China after U.S. sanctions on Huawei

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Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 chip will be used in premium Android devices that could cost over $1000.

Qualcomm

Qualcomm’s market share of China’s smartphone chip market plunged in 2020 due to U.S. sanctions on Huawei, according to a new report.

As a result, the country’s domestic mobile players turned to alternatives such as Taiwan’s MediaTek, according to CINNO Research.

Last year, 307 million smartphone so-called system on chips (SOC) were shipped in China, down 20.8% year-on-year, the report said.

SOC is a type of semiconductor that contains many components required for a device to work on a single chip, such as a processor. They are a critical component for smartphones.

Qualcomm’s shipments in China shrank 48.1% year-on-year, CINNO Research said without releasing details on the number of Qualcomm chips shipped. The U.S. giant’s market share in China fell to 25.4% in 2020 versus 37.9% in 2019.

MediaTek No. 1

Taiwan’s MediaTek benefited from all that pent-up demand. The chip designer took advantage of Huawei and Qualcomm’s woes, and also got major Chinese smartphone makers to use its chips.

“As far as we know, (for) OPPO, Vivo and Xiaomi and Huawei, the MediaTek share has increased a lot,” CINNO Research told CNBC in a statement from its analysts.

Huawei is China’s largest smartphone maker by market share, followed by Vivo, Oppo and Xiaomi.

Many of these players make phones priced at the mid-range but with high specs. This is where MediaTek has performed well in gaining share.

The U.S. sanctions on Huawei have also forced other Chinese players to look for alternatives should they find themselves cut off from the likes of Qualcomm.

“This (is) not only because (of) the excellent performance of MediaTek’s mid-end platform, but also, it is undeniable that the U.S. has imposed a series of sanctions on Huawei & Hisilicon, forcing major manufacturers to seek more diversified, stable and reliable sources of supply,” CINNO Research said in a press release.

Xiaomi was recently added to a U.S. blacklist of alleged Chinese military companies, though its unclear if this will affect their ability to procure certain components.

5G market up for grabs

China is the world’s largest market for 5G smartphones. 5G refers to next-generation mobile internet, and chipmakers are battling it out for a slice of the pie.

“After the first year of 5G, let’s take a view of the changes in China’s smartphone SOC market. It shows that the market pattern has changed from a single dominant Qualcomm company in the 4G era, to a three-party pattern of Hisilicon, Qualcomm and MediaTek in 2020,” CINNO Research said.

Last year, Qualcomm launched a new series of 5G smartphones chips known as the 6 series and 4 series, which could eat into MediaTek’s market share in China.

“Qualcomm launching 6 and 4 series 5G chipset will help to take share away from MediaTek in the fast growing 5G smartphone segment in China,” said Neil Shah, a partner at Counterpoint Research.

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LinkedIn says these are the fastest growing job sectors in the UK

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Biden’s first world leader call to be to Canada’s Trudeau: White House

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday told reporters that President Joe Biden’s first world leader call would be to Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“His first call, foreign leader call will be on Friday with Prime Minister Trudeau,” she said during her first press briefing at the White House after Biden’s inauguration.

“I expect they will certainly discuss the important relationship with Canada, as well as his decision on the Keystone Pipeline that we announced today,” said Psaki.

Biden officially revoked the presidential permit that the Trump administration granted to the contentious cross-border oil pipeline project.

The press secretary added that Biden is likely to prioritize speaking with U.S. allies.

“I would expect his early calls will be with partners and allies,” she said. “He feels it’s important to rebuild those relationships and to address the challenges and threats we’re facing in the world.”

Psaki was also asked if Biden will be speaking to Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, and whether they would discuss possible retaliation to the SolarWinds hack.

Russians were likely behind the hack that breached U.S. government networks, according to a joint statement by several U.S. agencies including the FBI and the National Security Agency.

“I don’t have any plans … to read out for you in terms of a call with President Putin,” she said.

Regarding the SolarWinds hack, she said “we reserve the right to respond at a time and in a manner of our choosing to any cyberattack.”

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