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Oil washout

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 21.42.31Ed Crooks: 22 April 2016

They wanted a freeze, but all they got was a wash-out. The 18 oil-producing countries that met in Doha on Sunday were supposed to finalise an agreement to hold production at January’s levels, but instead the meeting broke up in acrimony and recriminations. John Kemp at Reuters suggested Saudi Arabia was turning the “oil weapon” on its rival Iran.

The FT’s Roula Khalaf wrote that the failure of the talks highlighted the rise of Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s 30 year-old deputy crown prince. His growing influence and the waning authority of veteran oil minister Ali al-Naimi add a new element of unpredictability to Saudi policy.  Bloomberg Business Week had a long and fascinating interview with Prince Mohammed. As President Barack Obama visited Saudi Arabia, David Gardner wrote that the kingdom’s 70-year bargain with the US, promising security in return for a steady flow of oil, was becoming frayed.

Javier Blas at Bloomberg pointed out one reason for oil-producing emerging economies to want crude prices to rise sooner rather than later: their foreign exchange reserves have fallen by a fifth since November 2014. Saudi Arabia is raising $10bn from global banks in its first international debt issue for 25 years. The good news for the Opec members is that they  can try again at their next meeting on June 2, although their chances of striking a deal that includes Russia, the world’s largest oil producer, do not look any higher.

If the outcome of the Doha meeting was a damp squib, so was the subsequent market reaction. There were warnings of mayhem when the markets opened. As it turned out, there was an initial knee-jerk reaction in crude prices, but they quickly rebounded, helped by some temporary disruptions to supplies. They went on to hit their highest levels since November on Thursday.

SunEdison, the world’s largest renewable energy project developer, became the world’s largest renewable energy bankruptcy, filing for Chapter 11 protection in the US with $16.1bn of debts across the group and its affiliated companies. Stephen Foley and I looked at how financial engineering brought it down.

Representatives of 155 countries gathered in New York to sign the Paris climate accord agreed at the end of last year. The future of the deal is still clouded by uncertainty, however. Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, gave an interesting speech in New York on sustainable development and “finance for the long term”.

The 1986 Chernobyl disaster has spawned a popular gaming culture, with Russians spending their weekends dressing up and pretending to live in the irradiated “dead zone” around the nuclear plant.

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