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Oil Rises As Saudi Arabia Says Producers Will Cooperate Beyond 2018

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SINGAPORE – Oil prices climbed on Monday, pushed higher by comments from Saudi Arabia that cooperation between oil producers who are currently withholding supplies would continue beyond 2018.

Strong global economic growth and a drop in U.S. drilling activity also supported crude, traders said.

Brent crude futures were at $68.89 a barrel at 0315 GMT, up 25 cents, or 0.4 percent, from their last close. Brent on Jan. 15 rose to $70.37, its highest since December 2014.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $63.61 a barrel, up 24 cents, or 0.4 percent, from their last settlement. WTI climbed to $64.89 on Jan. 16, also its highest since December 2014.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter and de-facto leader of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), said on Sunday major oil producers were in agreement they should continue cooperating on production after their deal on supply cuts expires this year.

“There is a readiness to continue cooperation beyond 2018…The mechanism hasn’t been determined yet, but there is a consensus to continue,” Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said in Oman.

A group of oil producers including OPEC and Russia, the world’s biggest crude producer, started to withhold production in January last year to prop up prices. The deal is set to expire at the end of 2018.

In the United States, declining drilling activity for new oil production further supported crude.

U.S. drillers cut five oil rigs in the week to Jan. 19, bringing the count down to 747, energy services firm Baker Hughes said on Friday.

Despite this, the rig count in 2017 and early this year remains much higher than in 2016, resulting in a 16 percent rise in U.S. production since mid-2016, to 9.75 million barrels per day.

Beyond supplies, strong global economic growth was also supporting oil prices.

“During the last four quarters, the underlying global growth dynamic began to shift… Global growth has become synchronized and accelerated above trend,” U.S. bank Morgan Stanley said over the weekend in a note.

In the latest indicator, Japanese manufacturing sentiment in January jumped to an 11-year high, the Reuters Tankan poll showed on Monday, highlighting the optimism driven by nearly two years of economic expansion.

Despite the well supported market, analysts warned oil markets had lost some steam since their peak early last week.

Bernstein Energy said on Monday that oil inventories might start rising soon due to a slowdown in demand which typically happens at the end of the northern hemisphere winter.

“We expect… an end to the strong (inventory) draws we have seen… With the strong correlation between inventories and crude prices, this perhaps means we should expect crude prices to moderate in the near term,” Bernstein said.

Reporting by Henning Gloystein;

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Rarest White Diamond Ever To Be Sold In London

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LONDON – A flawless diamond, the size of a large strawberry, is expected to fetch a world record price when it comes to market at Sotheby’s in London this month.

Weighing just over 102 carats, the round, brilliant white stone is smaller than a 118-carat oval diamond sold in Hong Kong in 2013, which currently holds the record price per carat.

But Sotheby‘s, which also handled that Hong Kong sale, expects the smaller stone’s rarity and high quality will see it attract an even higher price.

Slideshow (5 Images)

“That (stone sold in Hong Kong) fetched $260,000 a carat, currently the world record for any colorless diamond. This one being a round brilliant cut – the asking price will be north of that,” Patti Wong, chairman of Sotheby’s Diamonds told Reuters.

The diamond is the only stone over 100 carats to have been given the highest grades in every criteria by the Gemological Institute of America, which judges a precious stone’s quality, Sotheby’s said.

It has not disclosed the asking price for the stone, which will be sold in a private sale.

(This story corrects weight of other diamond to 118, not 163, carats in second paragraph and specifies throughout this is private sale, not auction.)

Writing by Mark Hanrahan in London;

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Rarest White Diamond Ever To Be Auctioned In London

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LONDON – A flawless diamond, the size of a large strawberry, is expected to fetch a world record price when it goes on sale at Sotheby’s in London this month.

Weighing just over 102 carats, the round, brilliant white stone is smaller than a 163-carat oval diamond sold in Hong Kong in 2013, which currently holds the record price per carat.

But Sotheby‘s, which also handled that Hong Kong sale, expects the smaller stone’s rarity and high quality will see it attract an even higher price.

Slideshow (5 Images)

“That (stone sold in Hong Kong) fetched $260,000 a carat, currently the world record for any colorless diamond. This one being a round brilliant cut – the asking price will be north of that,” Patti Wong, chairman of Sotheby’s Diamonds told Reuters.

The diamond is the only stone over 100 carats to have been given the highest grades in every criteria by the Gemological Institute of America, which judges a precious stone’s quality, Sotheby’s said.

It has not disclosed the asking price for the stone, which will be sold in a private sale.

Writing by Mark Hanrahan in London;

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Israeli Archaeologists Unearth 1800-year-old Mosaic

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CAESAREA, Israel – A 1,800-year-old mosaic of toga-clad men dating back to the Roman era has been unearthed in Israel, archaeologists said on Thursday.

The mosaic was discovered during the excavation of a building from the Byzantine period – some 300 years younger than the mosaic it was on top of – in the coastal city of Caesarea.

“The surprise was actually that we found two beautiful monuments from the glorious days of Caesarea,” Peter Gendelman, co-director of excavation for the Israel Antiquities Authority, told Reuters of the building and mosaic.

Caesarea was a vibrant Roman metropolis built in honor of Emperor Augustus Caesar by King Herod, who ruled Judea from 37 BC until his death in 4 BC.

Slideshow (5 Images)

The excavated portion of the mosaic, which the antiquities authority said was 3.5 meters by 8 meters in size, depicts three toga-clad men, as well as geometric patterns and an inscription in Greek, which is damaged.

If the mosaic came from a mansion, the figures could have been the owners, or if it was a public building, they may have been the mosaic’s donors or members of the city council, Gendelman said.

The mosaic was of a high artistic standard, with about 12,000 stones per square meter, the antiquities authority said.

Israel is undertaking the largest conservation and reconstruction project in the country in the Caesarea National Park, the antiquities team said. The project aims to reconstruct a Crusaders-era bridge.

Reporting by Rami Amichai; Writing by Mark Hanrahan in London;

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