Tuesday, November 25, 2014
(Reuters) - "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1" tallied $123 million in ticket sales to top weekend box office charts and score the year's biggest U.S. opening, according to studio estimates.
The third installment of the blockbuster "Hunger Games" action movie series starring Jennifer Lawrence added a further $152 million at overseas box offices for a global opening weekend tally of $275 million, tracking firm Rentrak said.
"Mockingjay" took in $17 million at Thursday night showings for the year's best Thursday total, but the film fell short of industry forecasts for about $148 million through Sunday.
"This weekend will wind up down versus the same frame a year ago, when the previous 'Hunger Games' installment 'Catching Fire' led" with $158.1 million," noted Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at tracking firm Rentrak.
The first "Hunger Games" took in $152.5 million on its opening weekend in 2012, according to Boxofficemojo.
Walt Disney's animated action film "Big Hero 6" was second, with ticket sales of $20.1 million for the three days from Friday through Sunday, pushing its three-week total to $135.7 million.
Director Christopher Nolan's space adventure "Interstellar" was third with $15.1 million at U.S. and Canadian box offices. It has taken in $120.6 million since opening on Nov. 5.
In "Mockingjay," Lawrence plays Katniss Everdeen, the defiant young archer who becomes the face of a mass rebellion in a dystopian post-apocalyptic society.
Lionsgate, the studio behind "The Hunger Games" series, split author Suzanne Collins' final book in her science fiction trilogy into two movies, with the next set for release in 2015.
The latest chapter received "fresh" ratings from two-thirds of reviewers in aggregator site Rottentomatoes, while audiences gave the film an A-minus rating, according to CinemaScore.
Last weekend's top movie "Dumb and Dumber To" fell to fourth with $13.8 million in ticket sales. Director David Fincher's hit "Gone Girl" took in $2.8 million to round out the top five.
"Interstellar" was released by Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom. Universal Pictures, a unit of Comcast, distributed "Dumb and Dumber To".
(Reuters) - Russia's most powerful oil official, Igor Sechin, was due in Vienna on Tuesday for talks with OPEC members as the group's leader Saudi Arabia kept the market guessing about its response to flagging oil prices.
Sechin, the head of state oil company Rosneft (ROSN.MM) and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is expected to meet OPEC officials amid hints from Moscow that Russia could cut output or exports if the producer group does the same.
Oil prices have fallen 30 percent since June to around $80 per barrel as a global oil glut has built up on the back of a U.S. shale boom and lower global demand because of slower economic growth in China and Europe.
Current prices are far below what most OPEC members and rival producers such as Russia need to balance their budgets.
Oil market watchers are divided on the outcome of OPEC's meeting this Thursday in the Austrian capital. Predictions range from a large production cut to revive prices, to a small reduction, or none at all.
Some analysts say an OPEC cut of as much as 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) is needed to support oil prices and avoid a glut aggravating in the first half of 2015.
However, Saudi Arabia has kept the market guessing in recent weeks about its intentions.
Diplomatic and market sources say Saudi officials told briefings in recent months that the kingdom, with its large currency reserves, was prepared to withstand oil prices as low as $70-$80 per barrel for up to a year.
When Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi spoke earlier this month after weeks of silence, he said Riyadh's desire for stable markets had not changed but gave no clue about his potential response.
"Although the objectives of the cartel are unclear today, what is apparent is that investors and companies are being shocked out of the $100 per barrel oil comfort range of the last four years and that volatility looks set to remain a feature in 2015," analysts from Barclays wrote on Tuesday.
In Vienna on Monday and Tuesday, Naimi brushed off reporters' questions about oil prices and surplus supplies. "This is not the first time the market is oversupplied," he said.
The fact that Naimi arrived three days before Thursday's meeting indicates he is gearing up for long talks with fellow ministers and possibly Sechin, who has been targeted by U.S. sanctions over Russia's actions in Ukraine.
The delegations of Venezuela and Iran, usually seen as price hawks, have asked to meet Naimi on Tuesday, an OPEC source said.
Russia's Kommersant newspaper cited sources on Monday as saying Russia might suggest cutting its oil production by around 300,000 bpd from next year and that Moscow expected OPEC to limit its output by another 1.4 million bpd.
If Russia were to agree to cut production, it would effectively side with OPEC hawks, which have been putting pressure on Saudi Arabia to reduce supplies.
Moscow's relations with OPEC were soured by the country's pledge to cut output in tandem with the group in the early 2000s -- Russia failed to follow through, and raised exports instead.
Analysts are sceptical Moscow can offer anything significant this time.
"Russia’s overtures to OPEC ... are not particularly credible," analysts from Commerzbank said, adding that Western sanctions on Russia made it difficult for the country to increase output anyway.
Iranian news agency Shana said Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke by telephone on Monday evening and agreed "on necessary cooperation in favour of oil markets".
The agency did not say where it acquired the information. On Monday, the Kremlin said the presidents discussed Iranian nuclear talks and bilateral issues and made no mention of oil.
On Monday, Iran and six world powers agreed to yet another extension in the talks aimed at resolving a 12-year-old dispute over Tehran's nuclear programme until June 30, 2015.
That made very unlikely any quick revival in Iran's oil exports and removed a potential layer of complication to this week's OPEC meeting.
Ratings agency Fitch said on Tuesday lower oil prices pose the greatest risk to the credit profiles of sovereigns such as Bahrain, Angola, Venezuela and Ecuador, with the least vulnerable being Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, and Norway.
(Reuters) - Some commodity fund managers believe oil prices could slide to $60 per barrel if OPEC does not agree a significant output cut when it meets in Vienna this week.
Brent crude futures LCOc1 have fallen by a third since June, touching a four-year low of $76.76 a barrel on Nov. 14.
They could tumble further if OPEC does not agree to cut at least one million barrels per day (bpd), according to some commodity fund managers' forecasts.
"The market would question the credibility of OPEC and its influence on global oil markets if there was no cut," said Daniel Bathe, of Lupus Alpha Commodity Invest Fund.
That could send Brent down to around $60, Bathe said.
"Herding behaviour and a shift to net negative speculative positions should accelerate the price plunge," he said.
Yet fund managers and brokerage analysts are divided over whether OPEC will reach an agreement on cutting output.
Bathe put the likelihood at no more than 50 percent.
Oil prices have been falling since the summer due to abundant supply, partly from U.S. shale oil, and because of low demand growth, particularly in Europe and Asia.
As a result, some investors believe a small cut of around 500,000 bpd would not be enough to calm the markets.
Doug King, chief investment officer of RCMA Capital, sees Brent falling to $70 per barrel even with a cut of one million bpd.
"With this, I would expect lower prices in the first half of 2015," he said.
If OPEC fails to agree a cut, prices will drop "further and quite quickly", with U.S. crude CLc1 possibly sliding to $60, he said.
U.S. crude closed at $76.51 on Friday, with Brent just above $80.
With member states struggling to balance budgets, many OPEC countries will be pushing for an output cut when OPEC meets in Vienna on Nov. 27.
"Prices below $80 are putting significant strain on the cartel's weakest members such as Venezuela," said Nicolas Robin, a commodities fund manager at Threadneedle.
He said a bigger cut, of one million bpd or more, was an "outlier scenario" but said such a move could rapidly push prices above $85.
"A move higher would likely be accelerated by the lack of liquidity owing to the U.S. (Thanksgiving) holiday next week," Robin added.
Doug Hepworth of Gresham Investment Management said bigger cut was needed to lift prices.
"A surprise significant cut, say of 2 million bpd, is needed to push prices back up to $80. And that would have to be accompanied by some newfound discipline in the non-Saudi members," Hepworth said.
The market has been awash with conspiracy theories as to why Saudi Arabia has not already intervened. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman hinted at "a global oil war under way pitting the United States and Saudi Arabia on one side against Russia and Iran on the other".
Hepworth argued that Saudi Arabia appeared pretty happy with current pricing levels and suggested they were waiting to see where the cut-off point for U.S. production was.
"Time is on their side, they can afford to wait," he said, stressing he was talking months, not years, but added if oil fell below $70 that waiting time "shrinks to weeks".
Tom Nelson, of Investec Global Energy Fund, said he believed Saudi Arabia had allowed the price to fall to incentivise smaller OPEC producers, which often rely on the biggest producer to intervene, to join Riyadh in cutting output.
"They (the Saudis) want to cut but they don't want to cut alone," Nelson said, adding that a cut of between one million and 1.5 million bpd should be sufficient to balance the market.
"The market really wants to see that OPEC is still functioning ... if there is a small cut, with an accompanying statement of coherence from OPEC that presents a united front, and talks about seeing demand recovery, and some moderation of supply growth, then Brent could move up to $80-$90."
Monday, November 24, 2014
Islamabad. The Chinese government and banks will finance Chinese companies to build $45.6 billion worth of energy and infrastructure projects in Pakistan over the next six years, according to new details of the deal seen by Reuters on Friday.
The Chinese companies will be able to operate the projects as profit-making entities, according to the deal signed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a visit to China earlier this month.
At the time, officials provided few details of the projects or the financing for the deal, dubbed the China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The deal further cements ties between Pakistan and China at a time when Pakistan is nervous about waning US support as troops pull out of Afghanistan.
Pakistan and China, both nuclear-armed nations, consider each other close friends. Their ties are underpinned by common wariness of India and a desire to hedge against US influence in South Asia.
Documents seen by Reuters show that China has promised to invest around $33.8 billion in various energy projects and $11.8 billion in infrastructure projects.
Two members of Pakistan’s planning commission, the focal ministry for the CPEC, and a senior official at the ministry of water and power shared the details of the projects.
The deal says the Chinese government and banks, including China Development Bank, and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), one of China’s “Big Four” state-owned commercial banks, will loan funds to Chinese firms, who will invest in the projects as commercial ventures.
“Pakistan will not be taking on any more debt through these projects,” said Pakistan’s minister for water and power, Khawaja Asif.
Major Chinese companies investing in Pakistan’s energy sector will include China’s Three Gorges Corp., which built the world’s biggest hydro power scheme, and China Power International Development.
Sharif signed more than 20 agreements during his trip to China earlier this month, including $622 million for projects related to the deepwater, strategically important Gwadar Port, which China is developing.
The port is close to the Strait of Hormuz, a key oil shipping lane. It could open up an energy and trade corridor from the Gulf across Pakistan to western China that could be used by the
Chinese Navy — potentially upsetting rival India.
Pakistan sees the latest round of Chinese investments as key to its efforts to solve power shortages that have crippled its economy.
Blackouts lasting more than half a day in some areas have sparked violent protests and undermined an economy already beset by high unemployment, widespread poverty, crime and sectarian and insurgent violence.
Under the CPEC agreement, $15.5 billion worth of coal, wind, solar and hydro energy projects will come online by 2017 and add 10,400 megawatts of energy to the national grid, officials said. An additional 6,120 megawatts will be added to the national grid at a cost of $18.2 billion by 2021.
“In total we will add 16,000 MW of electricity through coal, wind, solar and [hydro electric] plants in the next seven years and reduce power shortage by 4,000 to 7,000 megawatts,” Asif said.
The CPEC deal also includes $5.9 billion for road projects and $3.7 billion for railway projects, all to be developed by 2017. A $44 million fiber-optic cable between China and Pakistan is also due to be built.