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Oil-related stocks in Asia rise after US inventories decline

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Pump jacks and wells are seen in an oil field on the Monterey Shale formation, March 23, 2014, near McKittrick, Calif.

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Pump jacks and wells are seen in an oil field on the Monterey Shale formation, March 23, 2014, near McKittrick, Calif.

Oil-related stocks in Asia traded higher on Friday as oil prices recorded slight gains after touching two-week highs in the previous session.

Those gains in oil prices had come after U.S. crude stocks unexpectedly declined by 1.6 million barrels in the week ending Feb. 16, Reuters said, citing data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That compared to the 1.8 million-barrel rise in inventories forecast by experts.

Woodside Petroleum, Australia’s largest oil and gas company, was up 0.56 percent following those increases in prices. Other oil producers also gained: Santos rose 0.39 percent and Oil Search rose 1.46 percent.

More broadly, the S&P/ASX 200 energy sub-index traded higher by 0.68 percent in the afternoon Sydney time.

Energy stocks in Japan saw sharper gains, with oil producer Inpex trading higher by 2.55 percent and Cosmo Energy gaining 4.59 percent. JXTG Holdings, Japan’s largest refiner, was up 3.58 percent.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong-listed shares of Chinese oil producer CNOOC rose 0.88 percent in late morning trade local time. Oil giant China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation, or Sinopec, added 1.11 percent.

Oil prices were mostly steady on Friday. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures advanced 0.05 percent to trade at $62.80 per barrel and Brent crude futures were off by 0.02 percent at $66.38.

“The unexpected fall in oil inventories in the U.S. should see support for crude oil prices remain strong,” said ANZ Research analysts in a Friday morning note.

“Prices were also supported by comments from UAE Energy Minister Suhail Al Mazrouei, who said the worry is undersupply, not oversupply, as demand remains strong amid the constraints on output,” they added.

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EU demands vaccine makers ‘deliver’ supplies

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Employee Jessica Mueller puts the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 corona virus vaccine into an ultra-low freezer at the vaccine warehouse where the doses will be preserved before their distribution on January 08, 2021 in Irxleben, near Magdeburg, eastern Germany.

RONNY HARTMANN | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON — European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday called on coronavirus vaccine makers to “deliver” on their pledges to supply millions of doses to the bloc, and beyond.

Her comments come amid an unprecedented challenge for the EU when it comes to the rollout of vaccines to each of the 27 member states. The EU’s vaccination drive began on Dec. 27, a later start than the U.K. or the U.S., and the patchy, sluggish rollouts across many of its members have perturbed officials and the public.

“Europe invested billions to help develop the world’s first Covid-19 vaccines. To create a truly global common good,” von der Leyen told the virtual Davos Agenda summit. “And now, the companies must deliver. They must honor their obligations.”

“Europe is determined to contribute to this global common good, but it also means business,” she said

‘We were inward-looking’

A few hours later and at the same event, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for more cooperation and multilateralism when it comes to the life-saving jabs.

She told the World Economic Forum that “it has become even clearer to me than it was before that we need to choose a multilateral approach, that a self-isolating approach won’t solve our problems.”

The coronavirus pandemic had illustrated the high degree of interdependence and interconnection in the world, she added, and that Germany had initially made the mistake of looking inward to try to beat the pandemic, rather than working with others.

“We were inward-looking, shutting ourselves off against each other, but very quickly we learned the lesson (not to do that)” she said.

Vaccine shortages

With surging infections and associated lockdowns, the EU is now facing the challenge of vaccine shortages. Both PfizerBioNTech and AstraZeneca have warned of production issues that will either mean a temporary reduction in production, and the supplies that the EU gets, and in AstraZeneca’s case, could mean that it will not be able to fulfil a pledge to deliver 80 million doses by the end of March.

An unnamed official told Reuters last week that AstraZeneca had said the supply would instead be around 31 million doses, around 60% fewer doses than envisaged by the EU, which is expected to approve the vaccine for emergency use by the end of this week.

The news has understandably enraged the bloc, which has threatened to put limits on vaccine exports from the EU. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is manufactured in Belgium.

Talks between the EU and AstraZeneca are set to resume on Wednesday, the former having asked the drugmaker to provide it with detailed plans over its vaccine production and distribution so far. EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in a statement Monday that an “export transparency mechanism” would be put in place to assess the export of vaccines from the EU.

Haves vs. have-nots

Vaccine supplies are a hot topic of conversation even beyond Europe, which, like other wealthy nations, has at least embarked upon its vaccination drives. Poorer countries say they are at the back of the line when it comes to accessing life-saving shots.

Last week, the head of the World Health Organization said that the equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines was at “serious risk” and he warned of a “catastrophic moral failure” if vaccines were not distributed fairly.

That point was reiterated on Tuesday by Angel Gurria, secretary general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

“This is the greatest test for mankind as a whole, and for the OECD countries in particular because most of these countries have bought three, five, even 10 times as many vaccines as their whole population,” Gurria told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe.”

Those vaccines are “sorely needed” in the developing world and therefore could be “a very important source of support and international cooperation of overseas development assistance,” he added. “We will not get rid of this pandemic until it’s gone everywhere,” he said.

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Last-mile delivery problems hampering pace of Covid vaccine rollout, distributors say

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North Korean hackers targeting security researchers Twitter, LinkedIn

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Google believes that hackers in North Korea are pretending to be cybersecurity bloggers and targeting researchers in the field on social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn.

The search giant announced that its Threat Analysis Group has “identified an ongoing campaign targeting security researchers working on vulnerability research and development at different companies and organizations.”

It attributed the campaign to a government-backed entity based in North Korea. The nation’s cooperation office with South Korea did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment..

Google said the actors have targeted specific security researchers with a “novel social engineering” technique, although it didn’t specify which researchers have been targeted.

Google’s Adam Weidemann said in a blog on Monday that the hackers set up a research blog and created multiple Twitter profiles to engage with security researchers.

The hackers used these accounts to post links to the blog and share videos of software exploits that they claimed to have found, Google said. 

They also used LinkedIn, Telegram, Discord, Keybase and email to engage with security researchers, Google said.

“After establishing initial communications, the actors would ask the targeted researcher if they wanted to collaborate on vulnerability research together,” wrote Weidemann.

The actors then shared a group of files with the researchers that contained malware — software that is intentionally designed to cause damage to a computer, server, client, or computer network.

Google listed several accounts and websites that it believes are controlled by the hackers. The list includes 10 Twitter profiles and five LinkedIn profiles.

Google said it also observed instances of security researchers being compromised after visiting the actors’ blog.

“In each of these cases, the researchers have followed a link on Twitter to a write-up hosted on blog.br0vvnn[.]io, and shortly thereafter, a malicious service was installed on the researcher’s system and an in-memory backdoor would begin beaconing to an actor-owned command and control server,” wrote Weidemann.

Google said the victims were running fully patched and up-to-date versions of Windows 10 and its own Chrome browser.

“At this time we’re unable to confirm the mechanism of compromise, but we welcome any information others might have,” Weidemann wrote.

“Chrome vulnerabilities, including those being exploited in the wild, are eligible for reward payout under Chrome’s Vulnerability Reward Program. We encourage anyone who discovers a Chrome vulnerability to report that activity.”

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