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US APPROVES TRANSCANADA KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE

US President Donald Trump’s administration approved TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL pipeline on Friday, cheering the oil industry and angering environmentalists even as further hurdles for the controversial project loom.

The approval reverses a decision by former President Barack Obama to reject the project, but the company still needs to win financing, acquire local permits, and fend off likely legal challenges for the pipeline to be built.

“TransCanada will finally be allowed to complete this long-overdue project with efficiency and with speed,” Trump said in the Oval Office before turning to ask TransCanada Chief Executive Officer Russell Girling when construction would start.

The project would lower consumer fuel prices, create jobs and reduce US dependence on foreign oil. TransCanada’s US-listed shares dipped 5 cents to close at $46.21 on Friday.

Trump has claimed the project would create 28,000 jobs in the United States. But a 2014 State Department study predicted just 3,900 construction jobs and 35 permanent jobs.

GOLD PRICES STEADY

Gold prices held steady on Friday amid a firmer dollar as markets waited to see if US President Donald Trump will face hurdles on his economic agenda after US lawmakers delayed a vote on a healthcare bill.

Spot gold was down 0.1 percent at $1,243.60 per ounce by 0058 GMT. On Thursday, it touched its strongest since Feb. 28 at $1,253.12.

US gold futures were down 0.3 percent at $1,243.80.

Palladium climbed to a peak of $808.70 in the prior session, its highest since March 2015.

OIL PRICES EDGE HIGHER

Oil prices edged up on Friday, supported by a fall in Saudi exports to the United States, but overall markets remained under pressure on the back of a world market awash with fuel.

Prices for front-month Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil, were at $50.66 per barrel at 0027 GMT, up 10 cents from their last close. In the United States, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 12 cents at $47.82 a barrel.

Traders said the slight lift in prices came as a report that Saudi Arabia’s crude exports to the United States in March would fall by around 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) from February, in line with OPEC’s agreement to reduce supply.

The United States imported about 1.3 million bpd of Saudi oil in February, according to US Energy Information Administration data.

In the United States, overseas oil suppliers like Saudi Arabia have to compete against rising shale drilling, which has pushed up US oil production C-OUT-T-EIA by over 8 percent since mid-2016 to more than 9.1 million bpd.

To other major consumer regions, however, Saudi exports remain high despite an effort led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and supported by other producers including Russia, to cut output by almost 1.8 million bpd during the first half of the year to rein in a global supply glut.

US RAW SUGAR RATES SOAR

Raw sugar futures were higher on Friday, continuing their gains from the prior session amid short-term, bullish technical buy signals.

US sugar futures were recently up about 0.9 percent, at 17.77 cents per lb. The commodity has gained some support since falling below 18 cents even though on Wednesday the commodity crashed to 17.02 cents, its lowest price point since May 2016. Short-term technical indicators are bullish, ranking the commodity as a Strong Buy. Support is at 17.72 and resistance at 17.87. Longer term, bearish pressures remain, but the commodity is finding support at 17.60 – and resistance at 18.64, suggesting that over the longer term with the commodity trading close to its support level that it may trade with upside bias.

NATURAL GAS RATE HIKE FOR ONTARIO

Natural gas customers in Ontario will be paying more to heat their homes. The Ontario Energy Board approved rate increases for Enbridge Gas Distribution Inc., Natural Resource Gas Ltd. and Union Gas Ltd. It estimates that the impact on typical Enbridge customers will be an increase of about $25 per year and Natural Resource Gas customers will be paying about $22 more per year.

The impact on Union Gas customers in southern Ontario will be about $24 per year, while customers in the rest of the province will see average increases of between $38 and $40. The rates are effective Oct. 1.

WV COAL PRODUCTION UP 17.3PC

The EIA says West Virginia mines produced about 19.7 million tons through the week of March 18, up 17.3 percent from 16.8 million tons last year.

Mines in northern West Virginia produced 11.36 million tons, up 26.6 percent from 8.97 million tons a year ago. Mines in the southern counties produced 8.35 million tons, up 6.6 percent from 2015.

MILK RATES INCREASE IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Milk prices last January increased by 7.48p/L (9c/L) in Northern Ireland compared to January 2016 levels. Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) also show that milk production on dairy farms in the North decreased by 1.1 percent in the first month of 2017.

In January of this year, the average farm-gate price of milk in Northern Ireland was 25.98p/L (30c/L). This price included all retrospective bonuses and was considerably higher than the 18.5p/L (21c/L) on offer 12 months previously. The average farm-gate price of milk did drop by 1.1p/L (1c/L) from December to January; milk prices stood at 27.08p/L (31c/L) in December 2016.

The volume of milk produced from dairy farms in the North totaled 186.47m litres in January 2017, 1.1 percent lower than the previous year. Despite the slight drop in milk production figures compared to January 2016, production did increase considerably in January on the previous month’s levels. Some 10.59m litres of additional milk was produced in January on farms in the North than what was produced during the month of December. This represented the fourth consecutive month of milk production increases in Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, the weighted average farm-gate price of milk during all of 2016 was 20.21p/L (31c/L), 0.6p/L (0.1c/L) lower than the same period in 2015.

IRON ORE EXTENDS LOSSES

Iron ore is getting beaten down after a flurry of warnings that gains may be vulnerable. Futures in China have posted an unprecedented weekly loss; the most-active contract in Singapore is lower for a sixth day; and spot prices had the biggest slump since November.

It’s an overdue correction in prices, which have risen too much. Fundamentals for iron ore remain very strong at present. Iron ore rallied last year on stronger-than-expected demand and extended gains into 2017, benefiting miners from Brazil’s Vale to BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto Group, as China bought record volumes.

UGANDA SEES QUALITY IN TEA PRODUCTION

Rwanda’s determination to ensure quality and promote value-addition in the tea sector is driven by the need to improve exports and ensure sustainable development, Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, said Dr Geraldine Mukeshimana.

The minister was meeting a delegation of Ugandan Members of Parliament who paid her a courtesy call on Tuesday. The MPs on the parliamentary committee on tourism, trade, industry and co-operatives were on a four-day visit to learn best practices that can help boost tea quality in the neighboring country, as well as work on mechanisms to enhance tea production in the two countries.

Rwanda produced over 108.3 million kilograms of tea in 2016, up from 106.4 million kilos the previous year. However, the sector’s export receipts dropped to $63.42 million, down from $72.86 million in 2015. The tea sector employs about 46,132 farmers.

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