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General news

  • The UK and EU have signed a conditional agreement which sets out terms for a 21-month transition period after Brexit. The markets welcomed the news with the GBP climbing above $1.40 against the USD to its highest level in 3 weeks.
  • Bitcoin prices fell to a 5-week low last week to $7,753, meaning that Bitcoin's value has dropped by nearly a quarter this month. Similarly, the value of Ethereum, the second largest cryptocurrency on market capitalisation, fell almost 5% to $585, the first time the currency has dropped below $600 since early December.

Agriculture

  • Over half of the companies asked by Greenpeace to publish the names of their palm oil suppliers have failed to do so.
    • Ferrero, Hershey, Johnson & Johnson, Kellog's, Kraft Heinz and PepsiCo are amongst the leading consumer goods companies which were called out by Greenpeace to be sourcing the commodity from suppliers that have destroyed tracts of old growth forest in South-East Asia to facilitate production.

    • Western consumer groups continue to face increasing pressure to ensure their raw materials are purchased from suppliers who ensure sound environmental.

Metals

  • Under the Democratic Republic of Congo's new mining code, cobalt has been designated as a "strategic" metal. This means that royalties on cobalt could rise to as much as 10%, compared to the 3.5% royalty on base metals The change in legislation follows output of cobalt from the DCR rising 15.5% in 2017, with the price of the metal tripling over the past 2 years.
  • Chinese-owned GEM has signed an agreement with Glencore for 3-years of supply of cobalt, a move which highlights China's commitment to securing its grip on the global cobalt market. The agreement is expected to supply China's battery manufacturers with 50,000 tonnes of the metal over the next 3 years, a third of Glencore's forecasted output for the period.

Energy - UK 

  • According to the Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF) the UK Government needs to increase its deployment of fracking to improve the UK's energy security and ensure it does not become too reliant on imports of gas from Russia. The statement follows the increasing tensions between Britain and Russia which has highlighted the importance of the UK not becoming dependent on Russia resources.
  • National Grid and RenewableUK have reported that the UK set a new wind energy record over the weekend with 14.3GW of clean electricity being generated for the first time on Saturday.

Energy - International

Oil

  • Shell has announced it will leave New Zealand having operated in the country for over 100 years. Shell is to sell its assets in the region to Australian group OMV, including the Maui field located off the west coast of the North Island. The move is a part of Shell's broader debt-reduction programme which aims to divest $30bn in assets by the end of 2018.
  • The International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned that Trump's steel and aluminium import tariffs could impact  oil demand growth. According to the IEA, Trumps' protectionist actions could result in a slowdown in world trade which will hamper potential worldwide economic growth.

Other

  • According to SolarPower Europe the capacity of the global solar power market grew by over 29% last year. The figures support the sentiment that solar power remains one of the leading alternative sources of green energy.