1 Anxiety drags down markets (BBC) London’s top shares have fallen nearly 3%, while other European markets have seen even bigger falls, amid anxiety about the health of the global economy. In morning trading, the FTSE 100 index fell 165.16 points to 5,507.14. At the same time, share indexes in Frankfurt and Paris were down 3.2% and 3.9% respectively.
Analysts said US Federal Reserve boss Janet Yellen’s gloomy economic assessment on Wednesday had added to investors’ worries. In testimony to Congress, Ms Yellen said financial conditions in the US had become “less supportive” of growth and warned of the “increased volatility” in global financial markets.
On the FTSE 100, the biggest losers were a mix of banks, mining firms and energy stocks.
Mining giant Rio Tinto fell 4.7% after it revealed that it had made an annual loss of £596m. On the commodities markets, Brent crude was down 1.6% to $30.36, while US light crude fell 2.8% to $26.67.
2 Syria’s 11.5% killed or injured (Ian Black in The Guardian) Syria’s national wealth, infrastructure and institutions have been “almost obliterated” by the “catastrophic impact” of nearly five years of conflict, a new report has found.
Fatalities caused by war, directly and indirectly, amount to 470,000, according to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research (SCPR) – a far higher total than the figure of 250,000 used by the United Nations until it stopped collecting statistics 18 months ago.
In all, 11.5% of the country’s population have been killed or injured since the crisis erupted in March 2011, the report estimates. The number of wounded is put at 1.9 million. Life expectancy has dropped from 70 in 2010 to 55.4 in 2015. Overall economic losses are estimated at $255bn (£175bn).
The stark account of the war’s toll came as warnings multiplied about Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, which is in danger of being cut off by a government advance aided by Russian airstrikes and Iranian militiamen. The Syrian opposition is demanding urgent action to relieve the suffering of tens of thousands of civilians.
Of the 470,000 war dead counted by the SCPR, about 400,000 were directly due to violence, while the remaining 70,000 fell victim to lack of adequate health services, medicine, especially for chronic diseases, lack of food, clean water, sanitation and proper housing, especially for those displaced within conflict zones.
In statistical terms, Syria’s mortality rate increase from 4.4 per thousand in 2010 to 10.9 per thousand in 2015. The UN high commissioner for human rights – which manages conflict death tolls – stopped counting Syria’s dead in mid-2014, citing lack of access and diminishing confidence in data sources.
The shrinking of the population by 21% helps explain the waves of refugees reaching Turkey and Europe. In all, 45% of the population have been displaced, 6.36 million internally and more than 4 million abroad. Health, education and income standards have all deteriorated sharply. Poverty increased by 85% in 2015 alone.
3 Oil rebound unlikely in near future (Ian Bremmer in Straits Times) Oil prices are now down nearly 70 per cent from a high of $115 per barrel in 2014, and we must adjust to the reality that a strong rebound is unlikely for the foreseeable future.
Brent will probably climb back towards $45 a barrel this year as lower prices push some North American production offline, but only a bolt from the blue that cuts deeply into supply will boost the price much higher than that.
US production is slowing, but not as quickly or to the degree that many analysts expected, and new technologies ensure US production can be quickly ramped back up to take advantage of any price surge, limiting the lifespan of any major price recovery. In addition, the end of sanctions might well allow Iran to boost oil exports by one million barrels per day (bpd) by the end of this year. Iraq is producing more too. Despite its troubles, Libya will probably add 200,000 to 300,000 bpd in the spring.
Here’s the real bottom line: No government has an incentive to slow production in hopes of pushing the price higher. A Saudi cut is more likely to reduce Saudi market share than to boost prices, because others will step in to produce more. Russia, burdened with sanctions and in recession, has no reason to slow production. Iran has been waiting for years to sell more oil, and that’s exactly what it’ll do, even at the lower price.
Finally, at a moment when the world is chin deep in crude oil, demand growth is likely to slow from about 1.7 million bpd last year to 1.1 million to 1.2 million bpd this year. That’s mainly a result of the economic slowdown in China and other emerging market importers.