Oil Prices Rise on Increased Demand

Green Oil Photo by: Sergio Russo

The price of crude oil futures climbed a bit on Monday as demand from Asia and the US edged up as well.

Brent crude surged by 2 cents a barrel to $65.39 at 03:12 GMT. US crude showed a steeper climb, leaving it a bit below Brent crude, at $59.86 per barrel.

Energy Aspects, a London-based publication which discusses  the energy markets, commented on the increased price of oil:

“Global oil demand continues to surprise to the upside, with April data showing no signs of slowdown despite a pick-up in prices.”

Japan’s Ministry of Finance said that crude oil imports to Japan increased by 9.1 percent to 3.62 million barrels per day in April, compared to one year earlier. China hit a new record of crude imports, reaching 7.4 million barrels per day in April. That surge is despite China’s slowing economy which is offset by vigorous car sales.

“We expect Chinese imports to be high in H2 15, potentially averaging 7.5 million barrels per day. This is due to the start-up of 39 mb (million barrels) of commercial storage, five SPR (strategic petroleum reserve) sites and linefill for Kunming refinery—buying for which is ongoing we believe, even though the refinery won’t start up till early 2016,” Energy Aspects said.

On the other side of the globe the United States is now entering its peak season for driving with the Memorial Day weekend just coming to an end. According to the American Automobile Association, road travel in the US is expected to reach a ten-year high over the weekend, tightly correlated with higher oil use.

Trade War with Canada and Mexico Looms Over US

Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) Photo by  Photo: Robert Couse-Baker (flickr)
Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) Photo by  Robert Couse-Baker (flickr)

Angered by US laws requiring that meat sold to consumers be labeled with the name of country to animal was born, grown and killed, Canada and Mexico won a formal complaint they had lodged with the World Trade Organization against the US requirements.

Mexico and Canada say these rules discriminate against imported meat, and are threatening to take steps to retaliate in what could become a full-blown trade war.

“Our governments will be seeking authorization from the WTO to take retaliatory measures against U.S. exports,” stated the Mexican and Canadian ministers for trade and agriculture.

Canada has already published a list of potential products to target for trade sanctions, such as wine, chocolate, ketchup and cereal. Mexico has not released a similar list, yet.

The beef and pork industries in Canada point to the fact that the US restrictions increase their expenses, reducing livestock exports. They say they have lost an estimated $1 billion a year in revenue as a result of this law.

Michael Conaway the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture would like to see Congress do something fast.

“It is more important now than ever to act quickly to avoid a protracted trade war with our two largest trade partners,” Conaway said.

Republicans have a majority in the Congress, but they will most likely come up against a strong Democratic response to leave the labeling regulations in place. The top Democrat in the Committee on Agriculture, Collin Peterson, said he would oppose a change in the law. He added that he believes there are still steps that can be taken at the WTO before making any big changes.

The focus of the dispute is a law enacted in 2009 that requires retail outlets to label meat and pork in a way that gives consumers more information about the safety and the origin of the meat they purchase and eat.

Sonnenfeld of EMBraer Paper Goods: Inspiration from Elio Motors and Others

motor-carVice President of Sales at EMBraer Paper Goods, Beth Sonnenfeld, would like to see her paper goods company become more visionary, trying to achieve great things, like those envisioned by Elio Motors.

Thinking big is one of the qualities Paul Elio is known for, and which inspires Sonnenfeld. Elio has said that: “After five years of sales, we can reduce total US gas consumption by nearly half a percent.” He knows that in order to achieve this kind of gas savings he will need to produce a quarter of a million cars each year, and admits that this is “a big number.” Yet he is not deterred.

Sonnenfeld is thinking big as well, for the sake of EMBraer Paper Goods and the environment too. She is striving to bring her company to the cutting edge of recycling and reuse of paper goods in her industry. She stresses that already a large percentage of the products they sell are made from recycled materials, and every year they are adding to that number. EMBraer Paper Goods, according to Sonnenfeld, is also looking to encourage the after-use product to return to their factory. They are anticipating the launching of a plan to offer reimbursements for the return of the used paper goods after. EMBraer Paper Goods hopes to one day supply large bags to place the used paper goods to be returned to the company for a deposit refund. Sonnenfeld hopes this will encourage recycling, and attract customers who care about the environment but still want to benefit from the convenience of paper goods.

Elio Motors, Paul Elio, and Beth Sonnenfeld, EMBraer Paper Goods, are changing the world by thinking big.


Successful Social Media Giants Fail in Profitability

For Sale.
For Sale.

Despite the importance and influence social media sites have had on the way we journey through the world, as businesses, they are almost universally failures.

Yelp was founded in 2004, and went public in 2012, boosted by the millions of people who were using the site to rate local businesses and read those ratings. Prior to the IPO the company raised $56 million in venture capital investments. The IPO brought in an additional $107 million. Still not able to switch to black ink after all this time, a secondary stock offering raised $250 million. Yet, profitability remained an elusive dream.

Before we judge Yelp to harshly, this is a good moment to point out that profitability for social media sites is the exception and not the rule. Today there are only two such online platforms that can be said to make money rather than lose it. Those two are Facebook, which took years to reach profit-making status, and LinkedIn, which has a paid pro subscription, making it less dependent on advertising. You will be looking long and hard to find another social media company that is in this exclusive club. Not YouTube. Not Twitter. And not Yelp.

Now Yelp is looking for a buyer. But its prospects are not good. This is a quote from the company’s annual report:

“We expect that our revenue growth rate will decline as a result of a variety of factors, including the maturation of our business and the gradual decline in the number of major geographic markets, especially within the United States, to which we have not already expanded.”

Over its lifetime Yelp has raised a total of about $400 million from investors. The company has a market value of $3.51 billion, and in 2014 they did manage to eke out a profit for the first time in their history. Over its lifetime, however, Yelp has reported a total of $34 million in losses.

Who will buy this company is yet to be seen. If they do, it will be not as a source of income, at least not soon, but as a way to provide this service to its otherwise loyal customers.

Geneva Readies for the Art en Vieille-Ville

Mosaic representing the battle of Alexander the Great against Darius (III) the Great, possibly at Battle of Issus or Battle of Gaugamela, perhaps after an earlier Greek painting of Philoxenus of Eretria. This mosaic was found in Pompeii in the House of the Faun and is now in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale (Naples). It is dated first century BC.
Mosaic of the battle of Alexander the Great vs Darius (III), possibly at Battle of Issus. This mosaic was found in Pompeii dated first century BC.

Geneva will soon be the place for art lovers to enjoy (even more than usual) as the Art en Vieille-Ville (AW) starts in Old Town. This is a biannual event that takes place both in May and November where galleries and museums present unique displays. It’s a chance to enjoy antiques, contemporary art and so much more.

A new participant on the scene is Galerie Salomon Lilian. They are a specialist in Dutch Old Master painting. They are having a themed exhibition of Northern Renaissance artists that will take place from May 8 until September 30th. Paintings that will be on display include Roelandt Savery’s Adam and Eve in Paradise and works by Rubens and Abraham Bloemaert.

Phoenix Ancient Art will be presenting Alexander the Great and his World from May 8th through July 31st. The exhibition comes on the heels of its presentation at the Gstaad Palace, Salle Baccarat which took place from February 9-11 2015. This video offers a glimpse of the beauty of the display that took place at the Palace, and of what visitors may expect from the exhibit at Phoenix Ancient Art, owned by Hicham Aboutaam and Ali Aboutaam.

For those who love gouaches, the Galerie Grand-Rue, they will be having the exhibition ‘Voir Naples et rêver’ from May 8 through June 5. They will feature gouaches by Saverio della Gatta and by other 18th and 19th century artists. This year they will feature a pair of gouaches by Della Gatta.

In total, 14 galleries and three museums will have exhibitions and displays, creating a feast for the eyes for anyone able to make it to Geneva.