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Exclusive: Tanker unloads Iranian fuel oil at China port after near five-month trek – data

SINGAPORE/BEIJING (Reuters) – A tanker carrying Iranian fuel oil in violation of U.S. sanctions has unloaded the cargo into storage tanks near the Chinese city of Zhoushan, according to ship tracking data on Refinitiv Eikon.

The discharging of the nearly 130,000 tonnes of Iranian fuel oil onboard the tanker, the Marshal Z, confirmed by a representative of the oil storage terminal, marks the end of an odyssey for the cargo that began four months ago.

Reuters reported on March 20 that some Iranian fuel oil had managed to evade the United States’ sanctions on petroleum exports by using ship-to-ship transfers involving four different ships, including the Marshal Z, and by using forged documents that masked the cargoes as originating from Iraq.

A second representative from the terminal operator, Zhoushan Jinrun Petroleum Transfer Co, said the cargo could not be Iranian oil, as the terminal had not received official shipments from Iran in at least the past four years. Both Jinrun representatives declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The unloading of the fuel oil comes less than two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration stepped up moves to choke off Iran’s oil exports by scrapping waivers it had granted to big buyers of the country’s crude oil including China.

Refined products like fuel oil, mainly used to power ship engines and generate electricity, were not covered by the temporary waivers granted on the sanctions reintroduced in November 2018 as Washington seeks to pressure Iran into abandoning its nuclear and missile programs.

Reuters followed the movements of the Marshal Z since January using ship-tracking data available daily except when the ship was in deep waters and out of range of satellites.

From March 22 until arriving at the Jinrun terminal on the island of Liuheng on May 8, the vessel maintained a constant draught – how deep the ship sits in the water – of 15.9 meters (52 feet), according to the tracking data. That indicated the cargo was not discharged before reaching the terminal, about 30 km (18 miles) south of Zhoushan, near Shanghai.

Jinrun, owned by Herun Group, offers bonded storage at the terminal, according to its website, meaning that fuel can be stored there without clearing Chinese customs and officially entering the country. Herun officials referred questions back to Jinrun.

On May 12, the ship finished unloading the fuel oil as indicated by a change in its draught to 9 meters, and left the terminal, the tracking data showed. The vessel is headed for the waters just outside Singapore, set to arrive on May 21, the data showed.

The Marshal Z took on the cargo from a larger tanker off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in January. It transferred the fuel oil to a second tanker, the Libya, off the Malaysian port of Malacca later that month, the ship-tracking data showed.

But potential buyers wary of the U.S. sanctions steered clear of the Marshal Z’s cargo. By March 22, the Marshal Z took the fuel oil back from the Libya and anchored off the Malaysian and Singaporean coasts.

The vessel lingered off Singapore and Malaysia in March and April, the ship tracking data shows, before sailing to Hong Kong and finally to Liuheng island, off the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang.

“Transparency has been the thorn in the Marshal Z’s hull for quite some time now and owing to the issues regarding the alleged origin of her cargo nobody has been able to touch it,” said Matt Stanley, an oil broker at StarFuels in Dubai.

Reuters was unable to determine the financial terms surrounding the cargo’s unloading, but industry participants said it would likely have been on offer at a lower price to ensure a sale.

“Somebody in China decided that the steep discount this cargo most likely availed … was a bargain too good to miss,” said StarFuels broker Stanley.

Reuters was unable to confirm who purchased the fuel oil cargo carried by the Marshal Z.

Reuters has not been able to determine the owners of the Marshal Z. According to a shipbroker report dated Jan. 28, the tanker was sold to an undisclosed buyer and intended for use as floating storage.

Exclusive: Tanker unloads Iranian fuel oil at China port after near five-month trek – data

Migrants sleep on ground, rig awnings at Texas Border Patrol station

MCALLEN, Texas (Reuters) – Reuters photos taken on Wednesday show adults and children outside the U.S. Border Patrol station for migrants in McAllen, Texas, sleeping on the ground and rigging up makeshift awnings with reflective blankets to shelter from the sun.

The photos, taken from a helicopter, also show people sleeping in a shaded area of a parking lot and crowded around a military tent.

The ground temperature was about 89 Fahrenheit (32 Celsius) when the pictures were taken around midday.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesman Richard Pauza referred to testimony by U.S. Border Patrol chief Carla Provost when asked for comment. The Border Patrol is the law enforcement arm of the CBP.

During her May 8 testimony to a U.S. Senate committee, Provost said the agency faced an “unprecedented border security and humanitarian crisis” as Central American migrant families headed north and apprehension numbers went “off the charts.”

U.S. border officers apprehended nearly 99,000 people crossing the U.S. southern border in April, the highest monthly figure since 2007, Provost said.

According to the Border Patrol website, McAllen Station is responsible for patrolling a 53-mile (85 km) section of the Rio Grande that runs along the U.S.-Mexican border.

“From what we’ve seen at McAllen, people are sleeping on rocks and stones, and without shelter,” said Erika Andiola, chief advocacy officer at the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), which provides legal services to migrants.

The Border Patrol did not immediately respond to a specific question on why migrants were being held in makeshift conditions by the McAllen Border Patrol station.

The Trump administration on May 1 asked Congress for $4.5 billion in immediate emergency funding, saying a surge in Central American children and families claiming asylum at the U.S. southern border had drained government resources.

The money would come on top of the funding President Donald Trump has redirected to make good on a central pledge of his 2016 election campaign – to build a border wall – ahead of his looming 2020 presidential race.

The emergency funding request would represent a 44% increase in spending for programs that house, feed, transport and oversee record numbers of Central American families seeking asylum, fleeing poverty and violence in their home countries, and straining capacity at migrant shelters in border cities.

This month, the federal government spent $37 million erecting two new temporary shelters in El Paso and Donna, Texas to deal with the crisis.

A number of small border towns have declared emergencies in hopes of receiving government assistance to deal with migrants being diverted to their communities.

Migrants sleep on ground, rig awnings at Texas Border Patrol station

No easy options for China as trade war, U.S. pressure bite

BEIJING (Reuters) – China is running out of options to hit back at the United States without hurting its own interests, as Washington intensifies pressure on Beijing to correct trade imbalances in a challenge to China’s state-led economic model.

China said this week it would impose higher tariffs on most U.S. imports on a revised $60 billion target list. That’s a much shorter list compared with the $200 billion of Chinese products on which Washington has hiked tariffs.

Washington has also turned up the heat on other fronts, from targeting China’s tech firms such as Huawei and ZTE to sending warships through the strategic Taiwan Strait.

As the pressure mounts, Chinese leaders are pressing ahead to seal a deal and avoid a drawn-out trade war that risks stalling China’s long-term economic development, according to people familiar with their thinking.

But Beijing is mindful of a possible nationalistic backlash if it is seen as conceding too much to Washington.

Agreeing to U.S. demands to end subsidies and tax breaks for state-owned firms and strategic sectors would also overturn China’s state-led economic model and weaken the Communist Party’s grip on the economy, they said.

“We still have ammunition but we may not use all of it,” said a policy insider, declining to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.

“The purpose is to reach a deal acceptable to both sides.”

The State Council Information Office, finance ministry and commerce ministry did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.

Of the retaliatory options available to China, none come without potential risks.

Since July last year, China has cumulatively imposed additional retaliatory tariffs of up to 25 percent on about $110 billion of U.S. goods.

Based on 2018 U.S. Census Bureau trade data, China would only have about $10 billion of U.S. products, such as crude oil and big aircraft, left to levy duties on in retaliation for any future U.S. tariffs.

In contrast, U.S. President Donald Trump is threatening tariffs on a further $300 billion of Chinese goods.

The only other items Beijing could tax would be imports of U.S. services. The United States had a services trade surplus with China of $40.5 billion in 2018.

But China does not have as much leverage over the United States as it might seem because large parts of that surplus are in tourism and education, areas that would be more difficult for the Chinese government to significantly roll back, James Green, a senior adviser at McLarty Associates, told Reuters.

China is more likely to further erect non-tariff barriers on U.S. goods, such as delaying regulatory approvals for agricultural products, said Green, who until August was the top U.S. Trade Representative official at the embassy in Beijing.

Trade analysts say China could reward other global companies at the expense of U.S. firms, replacing for example Boeing planes with Airbus jets where possible.

But there is considerable risk for China in transitioning its retaliation from tariffs to non-tariffs barriers on U.S. companies because doing so would intensify perceptions of an uneven playing field in China and incentivise some firms to shift sourcing or investment outside the country, they say.

Trump has called for U.S. firms to move production back to the United States.

“The medium- to long-term ramifications on supply chains are being deeply underestimated. I would be severely concerned if I was China,” Robert Lawrence, a nonresident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, recently told journalists in Beijing, where a group from the think-tank met with senior Chinese officials.

After trade negotiations hit a wall last week and led to the imposition of new tariffs, Chinese state media has stepped up nationalist rhetoric, vowing that China won’t be bullied.

But analysts say Beijing, at least for the time being, is trying to keep the trade war from seeping into the larger political arena.

“I don’t think they see that as in their interests, and are worried that anti-Americanism becomes anti-regime very quickly,” said Green.

A weaker yuan could help mitigate the impact on China’s exports from higher U.S. tariffs, but any sharp yuan depreciation could spur capital flight, analysts say.

Chinese leaders have repeatedly said they will not resort to yuan depreciation to boost exports, and the central bank has said it will not use the currency as a tool to cope with trade frictions.

The yuan has lost just over 2 percent against the dollar so far this month as the trade war intensifies, but analysts said the depreciation is likely to be market-driven.

Investors are concerned that China, which is the largest foreign U.S. creditor, may dump Treasury bonds and send U.S. borrowing costs higher to punish the Trump administration.

But most analysts say such an action by China is unlikely as it risks starting a fire sale that would burn its own portfolio too.

China’s massive Treasury holdings totaled $1.131 trillion in February, according to the latest U.S. data.

The near-term shock to China’s economy from higher U.S. tariffs could be mitigated by increased policy stimulus to spur domestic demand.

Chinese exporters are diversifying overseas sales, helped in part by Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative to recreate the old Silk Road.

To meet its demand for raw materials, China is also seeking alternative overseas suppliers.

Chinese purchases of U.S. soybeans – once China’s biggest import item from the United States – came to a virtual halt after Beijing slapped 25% tariffs on U.S. shipments last year.

Beijing has since scooped up soybeans from Brazil.

No easy options for China as trade war, U.S. pressure bite

Iran halts some commitments under nuclear deal

LONDON (Reuters) – Iran has officially stopped some commitments under a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers following an order from its national security council, an informed official in the country’s atomic energy body told the ISNA news agency on Wednesday.

Last week, Iran notified China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom of its decision to halt some commitments under the nuclear deal, a year after the United States unilaterally withdrew from the accord and re-imposed sanctions.

Under the nuclear deal, Tehran was allowed to produce low-enriched uranium with a 300-kg limit, and produce heavy water with a stock capped around 130 tonnes. Tehran could ship the excess amounts out of the country for storage or sale.

The official said Iran has no limit from now for production of enriched uranium and heavy water.

Iran’s initial moves do not appear to violate the nuclear deal yet. But Iran has warned that unless the world powers protect Iran’s economy from U.S. sanctions within 60 days, Iran would start enriching uranium at higher level.

The European Union and the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain said they were still committed to the deal but would not accept ultimatums from Tehran.

The deal also caps the level of purity to which Iran can enrich uranium at 3.67 percent, far below the 90 percent of weapons grade. It is also well below the 20 percent level to which Iran enriched uranium before the deal.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday that Tehran does not seek war with the United States despite mounting tensions between the two arch-enemies over Iranian nuclear capabilities and its missile program.

Khamenei also said Tehran would not negotiate with the United States on another nuclear deal.

Iran halts some commitments under nuclear deal

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Currency pairsMetalsRaw materialsCrypto
EURUSD1.2286525.1 (0.20%) 1.8
GBPUSD1.4028253.0 (0.38%) 2.5
USDCAD1.2903215.8 (0.12%) 2.6
USDCHF0.957309.3 (0.10%) 2.3
USDJPY106.33742.9 (0.40%) 1.8
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EUR/USD 20 May 2019 13:00 21 May 2019 18:00 Sell 1.1150-40 1.1160-1.1180 1.1110-1.1080
EUR/JPY 17 May 2019 17:25 20 May 2019 18:00 Sell 122.30-10 122.60- 122.80 121.50; 121.00
NZD/USD 7 May 2019 17:45 16 May 2019 18:00 Sell 0.6580-70 0.6600-0.6580 0.6530
GBP/JPY 14 May 2019 17:45 16 May 2019 18:00 Sell 141.00-141.20 141.80-142.00 140.30
GBP/USD 13 May 2019 17:45 15 May 2019 18:00 Sell 1.3000; 1.2980 1.2980-60 1.2920
AUD/USD 8 May 2019 17:45 15 May 2019 18:00 Sell 0.6990-70 0.7020-0.7040 0.6920
AUD/USD 3 May 2019 17:25 7 May 2019 18:00 Sell 0.6990-80 0.7000 0.6950-0.6920
USD/CAD 2 May 2019 17:45 7 May 2019 18:00 Buy 1.3480-70 1.3460 1.3520-1.3550
NZD/USD 30 April 2019 17:45 3 May 2019 18:00 Sell 0.6650-40 0.6630 0.6600-0.6580
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* Ester Holdings Inc. does not bear responsibility for the results of trade decisions, adopted using trading signals of independent analysts. All signals are informative.

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