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OPEC downgrades forecast for oil demand growth in 2019 and 2020

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VIENNA, AUSTRIA – 2018/06/20: OPEC logo is seen at the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) building in Vienna.
The 174th OPEC meeting will be held on the 22th June 2018 in Vienna. (Photo by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

OPEC downwardly revised its forecast for oil demand growth for the second consecutive month on Wednesday, building the case for another round of production cuts from the Middle East-dominated group of producers.

In a closely-watched monthly report, OPEC cut its forecast for global oil demand growth for the remainder of this year to 1.02 million barrels per day (b/d). That’s down 80,000 b/d from its August estimate.

The group, which consists of some of the world’s most powerful oil-producing nations, attributed the downgrade to weaker-than-expected economic data in the first-half of the year and deteriorating growth projections for the remainder of 2019.

In 2020, OPEC said it sees world oil demand increasing by 1.08 million b/d. This represents a downward adjustment of 60,000 b/d from the previous month’s assessment, “mainly to accommodate changes to the world economic outlook.”

The report comes as OPEC and allied non-OPEC partners, sometimes referred to as OPEC+, prepare to meet in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

The meeting is likely to provide crucial clues about how far some of OPEC’s most powerful players are willing to go to get prices on a firmer footing.

Production cuts

International benchmark Brent crude traded at around $63.09 a barrel Wednesday morning, up around 1.1%, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) stood at $58.15, more than 1.2% higher.

The full coalition will gather again in Vienna at the end of the year to decide whether any further action is required for 2020.

OPEC+ is expected to reaffirm its commitment to rebalancing the market at its September 12 meeting, with OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia poised to double down on its “whatever it takes” message.

Alongside Russia and other allied producers, OPEC agreed to reduce output by 1.2 million barrels a day at the beginning of 2019. That deal replaced a previous round of production cuts that began in January 2017.

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We expect a big expansion in trade from China, CEO says

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Parking berth for airplanes at Dubai International Airport, UAE.

SM Rafiq | Moment | Getty Images

DUBAI — Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths isn’t worried about the growth in the Chinese economy — yet. The chief of the United Arab Emirates government-owned airport operator is still seeing positive trajectory in Chinese air travel to and from the major hub of Dubai, he told CNBC at the Dubai Airshow on Sunday.

Asked by CNBC’s Hadley Gamble about slowing traffic from China, Griffiths replied, “I’m not sure that’s the case.”

“We’re still seeing very positive growth on the Chinese routes, so much so that we’ve now introduced specific features throughout the airports — hot water dispensers, Mandarin menus at some of the restaurants, the ability to use Chinese payment services throughout the airport. So we are getting ready for a big expansion in trade from China. And I think as with a lot of markets in the past, we’ve been able to demonstrate we can buck the overall trends and still see growth where the others are not experiencing the same level of growth.”

China’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth was hit by a slowdown to 6% in the third quarter of this year from 6% in the previous quarter, its lowest in three decades. Growth trajectory remains highly uncertain as the trade war between China and the U.S. stretches into its 16th month, with high-stakes negotiations underway.

Dubai International Airport (DXB) posted a 2.4% decline in passenger traffic for this year’s third quarter, handling 23.2 million passengers between July and the end of September.

The first nine months of 2019 saw 4.5% fewer passengers than the same time period a year ago at 64.5 million. Griffiths attributed the declines to a 45-day long closure of a runway at DXB in the spring, and the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX jet since March, the liquidation of major Indian carrier Jet Airways in April, which he said caused a “hiatus in Indian traffic.”

DXB is the world’s busiest airport for international travelers, CNBC reported last year, handling 89.1 million passengers in 2018.

 

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Streaming wars just warming up

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Robert Iger, Chief Executive Officer of Disney, poses in “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” during a media preview event at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, May 29, 2019.

Mario Anzuoni | Reuters

Disney+ is here, ushering in the unofficial kickoff to “The Streaming Wars” — the slew of monthly subscription services that are flooding the market to win your last incremental entertainment dollar.

But in reality, “war” is a misnomer for what’s about to happen in the world of streaming video. Perhaps there will be a day, years from today, when Disney+, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, AT&T‘s HBO Max, a hypothetical melded product from CBS and Viacom, Comcast-NBC Universal’s Peacock, a service from Discovery Communications, Jeffrey Katzenberg’s Quibi, Lionsgate‘s Starz, Apple TV+ and others all fight for your wallet share, with some surviving and others failing.

In the meantime, the average consumer isn’t going to look at a menu of a dozen options and select three or four, thus determining winners and losers. There are too many complicating factors for such a simple calculation. Some services already exist (Netflix, HBO) and will be largely grandfathered in by their existing subscriber bases. Others come with additional benefits (Amazon) that make “losing” extremely unlikely.

Here’s a more realistic vision of what’s about to happen over the next year.

Disney+

The idea of a streaming war suggests conflict, or at least some degree of unpredictability. But when it comes to the streamers, Disney+ can’t lose, if losing means rejection by most consumers. Disney+ is going to be an essential part of any family’s streaming diet.

There’s not much guesswork here. Disney is charging just $6.99 per month for nearly its entire back catalog of Star Wars movies and related series, Marvel movies and series, Pixar movies, old Disney movies, 30 seasons of “The Simpsons,” Disney Channel shows, 35 original movies and shows in year 1, and much more.

If a streaming service were selling just Marvel and Star Wars series and movies, it would a significant player in the “over-the-top” non-cable world. Disney’s offering is simply too robust to fail.

Indeed, Disney signed up more than 10 million subscribers for Disney+ in less than two days!

One way to define success or failure is if Disney hits its own internal subscriber targets. But those numbers are home-cooked, selected by the company to provide achievable benchmarks. Disney estimates it will have 60 million to 90 million subscribers by 2024. Disney has already struck a partnership with Verizon that will give away Disney+ for free to Verizon unlimited data subscribers and new Fios and 5G broadband homes. MoffettNathanson estimates there will be 18 million Disney+ subscribers by the end of Disney’s fiscal year 2020.

Amazon Prime Video

Amazon will be a “winner” by default. Prime Video comes with Amazon Prime subscriptions, and it’s going to make sense for tens of millions of Americans to get free shipping on Amazon. Prime Video, which spends billions each year on original movies and shows including “Fleabag” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” comes as a throw-in for most consumers. It almost definitionally can’t lose, unless Amazon, itself, decides video no longer moves the needle for its Prime subscribers.

NBC’s Peacock

NBC is leaning toward offering an advertising-supported version of Peacock for free to everyone, sources told CNBC earlier this month. While there may be tiers of the service that offer more content (and no ads) for a price, NBC has decided that advertising revenue can make up for subscription revenue. As a result, NBC isn’t really playing the same game as everyone else, and therefore also can’t really lose. A lot of people are going to subscribe to a free service. It’s free.

HBO Max

About 34 million U.S. subscribers already pay for HBO. So when AT&T announced last month that HBO Max would be the exact same price as HBO, it can’t totally lose — at least if “lose” means being totally rejected. As soon as it strikes distribution deals, current HBO customers almost certainly will take the additional HBO Max content for free.

The question then becomes if enough new subscribers will come aboard to cover the billions AT&T plans to spend on new content.

As Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said earlier this month, using customer signups as a metric for success is flawed because it’s too easy to maneuver. AT&T says it wants 50 million U.S. subscribers by 2025. But AT&T is giving away HBO Max to its premium unlimited wireless subscribers and top-tier home broadband customers. And if AT&T finds that few people are subscribing, it can simply offer HBO Max to more AT&T customers for free to meet targets. AT&T has about 160 million total mobility connections and customers

Apple TV+

Apple is giving its streaming video service away for free for a year before charging $4.99 per month to customers. But Apple can easily change this offer if it notices that few customers are paying for its limited library of originals, either bundling the service with its more popular music streaming service or extending the offer indefinitely as consumers buy new Apple products. Apple hasn’t released an internal streaming subscriber goal because the whole point of Apple TV+ isn’t to get you to pay for video — it’s to keep you using Apple electronic devices. Like Amazon, Apple will continue to be in the streaming game as long as it wants to be in the streaming game.

Netflix

So if all these other services will win, or at least comfortably exist, does that mean Netflix will lose? Probably not. Because so many of the services are free or cheap or throw-ins as benefits to products you’re already paying for, Netflix isn’t in any immediate danger of losing its place as the centerpiece of streaming solutions.

Netflix also outspends everyone, paying $15 billion a year for content, and has more than 160 million global subscribers. T-Mobile wireless subscribers get Netflix for free indefinitely.

First-mover advantage, brand recognition and massive content spend on original programming will almost certainly keep Netflix as an essential part of an average consumer’s streaming package.

Eventually, it’s possible that millions of subscribers will conclude that a bundle of, say, Disney+ and HBO Max is a good replacement product for Netflix. But while that decision may impact Netflix’s marginal growth, it probably won’t disrupt the company’s global expansion ambitions.

Everyone else

Finally, we reach the contestants in the actual Streaming Wars, at least in the near term — everyone else. Congratulations, Quibi! I’m not sure you will succeed. Starz and Discovery? Maybe you’ll stick, or maybe you’ll need to merge with CBS and Viacom to gain the necessary scale to compete. Everyone else I didn’t mention? You’re here until you prove yourselves.

These are the players Americans could actually refuse to spend money on, driving them out of business with more choice. This is why Hastings noted that a better metric for success may be time spent on a service instead of subscriber numbers.

These streamers are the junior varsity of available products. Of course there will be cut downs at this level.

There are a lot of streaming services. Most are going to stick around for a while. Investors can dial back the Streaming Wars rhetoric.

There’s good news for consumers, too: You probably already pay for a lot of these services, and many of the new ones are free for a while. Your entertainment budget isn’t going to blow up just yet. Relax.

(Disclosure: Comcast’s NBC Universal is the parent company of CNBC.)

Follow @CNBCtech on Twitter for the latest tech industry news.

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China and US had ‘constructive discussions’ about phase-one trade deal

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US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (R) and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (L) greet Chinese Vice Premier Liu He (C) as he arrives for trade talks at the Office of the US Trade Representative in Washington, DC, October 10, 2019. (

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer about a phase-one trade deal in a phone call Saturday morning, according to Chinese state media. 

The two sides had “constructive discussions” about “each other’s core concerns” and agreed to remain in close contact, Xinhua reported. The call came at the request of Mnuchin and Lighthizer, according to Xinhua. 

White House Economic Advisor Larry Kudlow said Friday that Washington and Beijing were close to a deal. 

“We’re getting close,” Kudlow told an event at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. “The mood music is pretty good, and that has not always been so in these things.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at record highs Friday on renewed optimism about trade talks after Kudlow’s comments. 

There have been conflicting reports about the state of trade negotiations in recent days. The talks hit a stalemate this week as the U.S. pushes Beijing for greater concessions on intellectual property rights and forced technology transfers in exchange for a rollback of tariffs, people familiar with the matter told CNBC Wednesday.

China’s Commerce Ministry said Thursday tariffs should be cancelled in order to end the trade war. 

“If both sides reach a phase one agreement, the level of tariff rollback will fully reflect the importance of the phase one agreement,” Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng said.

The White House is reportedly divided over the idea of rolling back tariffs, and President Donald Trump has said publicly that he hasn’t agreed to lifting any levies. 

Beijing, for its part, is hesitant to include a specific amount of agricultural purchases in a deal, The Wall Street Journal reported. Trump has claimed Beijing agreed to purchase up to $50 billion in U.S. farm goods.

The U.S. and China agreed to a truce in the trade war last month after a summer of escalation in which the world’s two largest economies imposed billions of dollars in tariffs on each other’s goods. 

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