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Halliburton lifts dividend for first time in over seven years



Shale-oil companies are using almost all of the fracking equipment and crews available as exploration expands, accelerating cost inflation and pointing to worsening supply-chain disruptions across the industry.

North American oil drillers appear likely to expand spending by more than 25% this year while overseas explorers are on course for a more modest increase in the mid teens, Halliburton Co. executives said on Monday after reporting their biggest quarterly profit in seven years.

The world’s top provider of fracking services already is seeing tightening labor, trucking and raw-material supplies, and in some regions as much as 80% of workers are transplants recruited from other areas. Even something as mundane as the sand Halliburton blasts into wells to help fracture oil-soaked rocks is getting harder to source, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Miller said during a conference call with analysts.

The squeeze is proving a boon to Halliburton, which lifted its dividend for the first time since 2014 and said orders for pumping gear have more than doubled. The company’s fracking business is working at full capacity and oil companies are paying higher prices for so-called completion work. ConocoPhillips and peers such as Devon Energy Corp. have been warning since last year that oilfield inflation was a burgeoning threat.

“This is a fantastic set of conditions for Halliburton,” Miller said. “Our current completion tool order book has more than doubled from a year ago signaling strong growth and profitability again in 2022.”

Oil and natural gas explorers are paying record costs as the economic growth that underpins energy demand rebounds from the pandemic-driven collapse, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas said in recent weeks. Supply-chain snarls in the Permian Basin — the biggest U.S. oil field — are making drilling projects more complicated, prolonged and expensive.

Miller said there’s little reason to expect things to change any time soon.

“I don’t see 2023 as an endpoint by any means,” Miller said. “I think the road goes on well beyond on that.”

Expansion Cycle
Halliburton joined larger rivals Schlumberger and Baker Hughes Co. in predicting a new multi-year expansion cycle for oilfield contractors, although Halliburton was the only one among the trio to boost shareholder payouts. The stock dropped 1.4% to $27.15 at 11:03 a.m. in New York amid a broader equity-market slide stemming from geopolitical tensions in Eastern Europe.

Schlumberger said last week it’s boosting spending as much as 18% to $2 billion to gear up for the several years of growth it expects from clients around the world.

As the biggest oilfield contractor in the U.S. and Canada, Halliburton stands to gain the most from a spending recovery that’s led by North America, which larger rival Schlumberger said last week should grow by at least 20%.

Baker Hughes is also seeing waves of growth thanks to a revival in U.S. shale drilling. The Houston-based company last week posted orders that were up 28%, led by the business line that cranks out massive turbines used to liquefy natural gas for export.

Excluding one-time items, Halliburton reported fourth-quarter profit of 36 cents a share, 2 cents more than the average estimate among analysts in a Bloomberg survey.

The dividend hike to 12 cents a share was the company’s first payout increase since late 2014, when crude prices were tumbling from more than $100 a barrel earlier in the year.

On a sequential basis, sales in the final three months of 2021 jumped by double digits in North America and overseas, respectively. The biggest revenue surprise came from the Middle East and Asia, where sales exceeded estimates by 8%.


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US stocks suffer biggest daily drop in almost two years



US stocks posted the biggest daily drop in almost two years as investors assess the impact of higher prices on earnings and prospects for monetary policy tightening on economic growth. The dollar and Treasuries gained amid a pickup in haven bids.

The selloff sent the S&P 500 down 4%, with the plunge in consumer shares surpassing 6%. Target Corp. tumbled more than 20% in its worst rout since 1987, after trimming its profit forecast due to a surge in costs. Shares of retailers from Walmart Inc. to Macy’s Inc. were caught in the downdraft. The Nasdaq 100 fell the most among major benchmarks, dropping more than 5% as growth-related tech stocks sank. Megacaps Apple Inc. and Inc. slid at least 5%.

Treasuries rose across the board, sending the 10- and 30-year Treasury yields down as much as 11 basis points. The dollar rose against all of its Group-of-10 counterparts, except the yen and Swiss franc. Gold caught bids in the move into havens.

The benchmark S&P 500 is emerging from the longest weekly slump since 2011, but any rebounds in risk sentiment are proving fragile amid tightening monetary settings, Russia’s war in Ukraine and China’s Covid lockdowns.

In some of his most hawkish remarks to date, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said Tuesday that the US central bank will raise interest rates until there is “clear and convincing” evidence that inflation is in retreat. Chicago Fed President Charles Evans said Wednesday he sees a half-point rate increase at next month’s meeting and “probably thereafter.”

In Europe, new-vehicle sales shrank for a 10th month in a row as the industry remains mired in supply-chain crises, while euro-area inflation plateaued at a record high. Meanwhile, UK inflation rose to its highest level since Margaret Thatcher was prime minister 40 years ago, adding to pressure for action from the government and central bank.

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Netflix lays off 150 employees due to slow revenue growth and business needs



Netflix is reportedly laying off nearly 150 employees in the coming days due to disappointing earnings and slow revenue growth.

According to a Variety report, the Amazon Prime Video rival might also terminate its contract with contractual contributors.

The layoffs are about 2 per cent of Netflix’s US workforce. “As we explained [in reporting Q1] earnings, our slowing revenue growth means we are also having to slow our cost growth as a company. So sadly, we are letting around 150 employees go today, mostly U.S.-based,” a Netflix spokesperson said.

The statement further revealed that the decision was primarily driven by business needs rather than individual performance. Netflix reported $7.87 billion in Q1, which was short of Wall Street’s estimates of $7.93 billion.

The report further reveals that nearly 70 part-time employees in Netflix’s animation studio will have to pack up and leave. A report by The Verge stated that about 26 contractors working on Netflix’s fan-focused Tudum website might see a termination.

“A number of agency contractors have also been impacted by the news announced this morning. We are grateful for their contributions to Netflix,” the company said.

Netflix, in its recent earnings call, revealed that it lost thousands of subscribers, which is a first for the company in over a decade.

The company expects to lose an additional 2 million in the next quarter due to the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. Netflix has shut shop in Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Dollar breaks N600/$ ceiling ahead of party’s presidential primaries



Less than two weeks to the presidential primaries of the political parties ahead of the 2023 elections, the US dollar has broken the N600/$ mark at the parallel market and set the tone for a possible uptick in the coming days.

The black market rate had traded between N570/$ and N590/$ since the beginning of the year while the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s intervention at the Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange (NAFEX) has kept its rate under N420/$.

With the latest slump of the naira, the arbitrage between the parallel and NAFEX, which is regarded as the official window, is now inching close to N200/$. The spread measures the deviation of the controlled official rate from the real rate of exchange, with experts calling for liberalisation of the market to enable naira to find its true value.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have also warned of the repercussions of sustaining an artificially high naira while calling on the CBN to embark on market reform.

But the CBN has maintained that Nigeria, with the current high level of importation and underperformance of the industrial sector, cannot afford to float the naira completely as the exchange rate could spill out of control.

At the Lagos street market, yesterday, naira traded between N595/$ and N600/$ band. With the presidential primaries of the two leading political parties scheduled for Abuja next weekend, there is an expectation the demand pressure has not peaked, suggesting that naira is in for a protracted pressure.

At peer-to-peer (P2P) trading platforms, the dollar has been trading above N600 in the past three weeks, which had signaled that the black market rate could break through the psychological ceiling.

With that eventually happening, naira could be on a renewed free fall.

But there is also hope that it is a season to offload warehoused hard currencies for political campaigns to possibly shore up supply.

Experts are not sure where rising demand and supply of foreign exchange would lead the naira to, but the interplay between the movements of the two variables is a key factor in predicting the value of the naira in the tense political season. Godwin Owoh, a professor of applied economics, advised Nigerians to prepare for a steeper fall of the local currency, saying partisan politics and intra-party meetings, which are highly dollarised would bring much pressure to bear.

The CBN has promised to continue to protect the naira but its ability could be constrained by the equally falling reserve. For the first time in eight months, the gross reserves dropped below N39 billion on Monday, when CBN data put the figures at N38.92 billion. Effectively, the country’s reserves have depleted by $160 billion year-to-date.

Bismarck Rewane, an economist, had projected the reserve to collapse to $32 billion in the year as he expected the CBN to spend $8 to $10 billion defending the naira, which is taking much pressure from excessive importation.

The value of Nigeria’s imports increased by 64 per cent last year to N20.84 trillion. Sadly, the value of exports increased at a slower rate – 51 per cent – to N18. 91 trillion in the same period. The falling reserves and rising imports have put the apex bank in dire straits in its efforts to continue to defend the naira.

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