Thursday, March 31, 2016

World's Biggest Oil Market Is Too Tied To Mideast To End Addiction -- March 31, 2016

Bloomberg is reporting:
  • producers have cut official selling prices; defend against other suppliers taking their markets
  • Saudi Arabia is selling Arab Light in Asia for 75 cents below benchmark Middle East prices (compare with $2.75 premium in early 2014)
  • Iran offering its oil at a deeper discount than Saudi Arabia for first time in a decade 
  • strategy working; but IEA has warned there is an increased possibility of oil-security surprises in the "not-too-distant" future
  • with non-OPEC supplies falling, Asian refiners have no choice but to buy Middle Eastern oil: cheaper and available in large volumes
Asia likes Mideast oil:
  • shorter shipping times
  • attractive prices
  • type of crude oil the refineries were optimized for
South Korea:
  • imports from the Middle East climbed last year to the highest level since at least 1980
  • wants to diversity purchases to guard against geopolitical risks tied to some of the world's biggest suppliers 
  • imported 845 million bbls in 2015; high since 1980 when that country started compiling the data
  • refiners are shunning shipments from distant ports, taking more cargoes from Persian Gulf
  • wants to diversity purchases to guard against geopolitical risks tied to some of the world's biggest suppliers
  • but, India's Reliance Industries, owner of the worlds biggest refining complex is shifting from crudes tied to Brent to grades priced against Dubai, the Middle East marker
  • Saudi Arabia and Oman have boosted supplies to China this year as volumes from Venezuela and Colombia have shrunk
  • more than half of the top 10 suppliers were from the Middle East last year

Tesla Model 3 Live Stream Now
  • deliveries begin "next year"
  • EPA mileage: 215 miles on a single charge
  • $35,000; base model comes with most "options"
  • single sheet of glass overhead, front to rear
  • relatively short presentation; 15 minutes?

Connecting The Dots: Shell, Brent, And Saudi Aramco -- March 31, 2016


April 19, 2016: Saudi Aramco picks JPMorgan and banker Klein for IPO

April 1, 2016: Saudi Arabia plans $2 trillion megafund for post-oil era. Will begin with Saudi Aramco going public. Sort of. Five percent of Saudi Aramco will be "available" for investors.
Saudi Arabia is getting ready for the twilight of the oil age by creating the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund for the kingdom’s most prized assets.
Over a five-hour conversation, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman laid out his vision for the Public Investment Fund, which will eventually control more than $2 trillion and help wean the kingdom off oil. As part of that strategy, the prince said Saudi will sell shares in Aramco’s parent company and transform the oil giant into an industrial conglomerate. The initial public offering could happen as soon as next year, with the country currently planning to sell less than 5 percent.
The sale of Aramco, or Saudi Arabian Oil Co., is planned for 2018 or even a year earlier, according to the prince. The fund will then play a major role in the economy, investing at home and abroad. It would be big enough to buy Apple Inc., Google parent Alphabet Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Berkshire Hathaway Inc. -- the world’s four largest publicly traded companies.
Original Post
It's being reported that Shell wants to sell some/all of oil producing assets in the North Sea, including it's Brent field. The story is here.

There are very few comments but this one is interesting:
Saudi Aramco should buy all of Shell. Then turn around and sell the global reserves (Saudi doesn't need more oil that's harder to produce than its own). The proceeds from the oil will equal or exceed the costs of the whole Shell company, which means Saudi Aramco gets Shell's refineries, petchem plants and other downstream physical assets at no costs. 
At least one other comment suggested Saudi Aramco was a player.

With Shell and Saudi Aramco recently splitting up their midstream/downstream assets in the US, presumably to make it easier for Saudi Aramco to monetize its assets, one wonders if the comment above "holds water."

I find it all very interesting.

Also, note that in an earlier post (the same link as above):
After the split, Saudi Aramco wants to buy more US refineries. Reuters is reporting:
Saudi Arabia's national oil company wants to buy more U.S. refining and chemical plants to expand its footprint in the world's largest energy market once the break-up of its joint venture with Royal Dutch Shell Plc is complete.
Ending an often rocky nearly 20-year relationship, Shell and Saudi Aramco announced on Wednesday plans to break up Motiva Enterprises LLC after almost two decades, dividing its assets and leaving Aramco with one plant, the nation's largest crude oil refinery, in Port Arthur, Texas.
Officials from Saudi Refining, the downstream arm of Aramco, told employees following the announcement that the state-owned firm was intent on buying more assets once the Motiva break-up is finished.
I find it "hyperbole" to suggest Saudi Aramco would buy Shell, but at least "everyone" is on the same page when it comes to talking about Saudi Aramco acquiring more refining and chemical plants around the world.

Stay tuned.

For the record and for comparison, enterprise value (in round numbers):
  • XOM: $400 billion
  • Shell: $200 billion
  • COP: $75 billion

New Post-Boom Low For Active Rigs In North Dakota: 29 -- March 31, 2016

From the WSJ:
U.S. gasoline demand hit record levels in March. Government estimates released Wednesday show consumption averaged more than 9.4 million barrels a day in the four weeks that ended Friday. That is a level usually found only during peak summer driving season, and it compares with roughly 8.8 million barrels a day in March of both 2014 and 2015.
Drivers’ rising fuel consumption wasn’t enough to halt a retreat when oil prices dropped by more than 7% from a recent peak on March 22. And gasoline demand alone is unlikely to be enough to spark another oil rally. Gasoline matters less for market sentiment than news about crude supply, said investors, some of whom already have factored strong gasoline demand into their oil forecasts.
But gasoline demand may be the most stable contributor to oil prices. A preliminary deal among Saudi Arabia, Russia and other major oil-producing nations to cap output was the biggest catalyst for crude’s recent surge, many analysts said.
Yet, that production freeze has yet to materialize, and Kuwait’s announcement this week that it could restart production at another oil field cast further doubt that a deal can come together.
Even if it does, Iran’s plans to increase production by 500,000 barrels a day could mean global supply increases. Moreover, U.S. producers have spent seven months holding output steady at about nine million barrels a day, defying the conventional wisdom that low prices will force domestic producers to throttle back substantially.
Gasoline demand, meanwhile, is proving a reliable contributor to the supply-demand equation for oil.
Bloomberg reports that the US is a big importer of oil ... again:
In the three months since the U.S. lifted its 40-year ban on crude oil exports, a curious thing has happened. Rather than flooding global markets, U.S. crude shipments to foreign buyers have stalled. At the same time, imports into the U.S. jumped to a three-year high in what looks to be a reversal of a yearslong decline in the amount of foreign crude brought into the American market.As of March 25, the four-week average of imports was running at 7.9 million barrels a day, 9.8 percent higher than the year before. “That’s not a one-week blip,” says Tim Evans, an energy analyst at Citi Futures. “We’re seeing a consistent pattern.”
During the early years of the U.S. shale boom, the millions of barrels of light, sweet crude had one big problem: no affordable access to refiners on the coasts of Texas and Louisiana. To tap into the cheaper oil pooling in Oklahoma, pipelines that used to bring imported oil up from the Gulf were reversed to take shale oil down to the coast. Refiners in Philadelphia and New Jersey also began buying North Dakota crude instead of foreign oil, moving it by train across the country. By October 2014, U.S. imports had fallen by about 40 percent from a high in 2006.
Analysts say that West Texas Intermediate crude has to be $3 to $5 cheaper than imported oil to pay for those pipeline and transportation costs. From 2011 to 2014, U.S. oil was on average $12.61 cheaper than equivalent foreign oil. The discount slowly narrowed as pipeline projects were completed and U.S. crude began to flow more freely from the middle of the country down to the Gulf Coast. A week before the Senate approved lifting the export ban on Dec. 18, WTI traded around $3 below Brent. Over the next month, the discount disappeared, and, for the first time in six years, WTI traded at a premium to Brent for a few days in January. WTI is now less than a dollar cheaper than foreign barrels available on the Gulf Coast.
So refineries along the coasts are choosing to buy imports instead of WTI. One of the biggest winners is Nigeria, which is regaining lost market share. Imports from Nigeria surged to 559,000 barrels a day in mid-March, compared with an average of 52,000 for all of 2015. Refiners are also taking more heavy oil from Mexico and Venezuela. Not only is it about $9 a barrel cheaper than WTI, it’s also what U.S. refineries prefer to handle.
The irony of the shale boom, and all the light crude it unlocked, is that it came just as U.S. refiners were spending billions to process heavy oil.  
And, of course, the writer of that article conveniently forgets to mention why the US did not have a North American source of heavy oil.

Back To The Bakken

Active rigs:

Active Rigs2999194188206

The drop in the number of active rigs between now and the next six may or may not be due to spring thaw / "road restrictions." If due to "road restrictions," the number of active rigs could drop more than expected, but for a relatively short period of time. 

Four wells coming off confidential list Friday:
  • 30969, SI/NC, EOG, Van Hook 47-3626H, Parshall, no production data,
  • 31628, SI/NC, XTO, Ames Federla 31X-13B, Grinnell, no production data,
  • 31699, SI/NC, Statoil, Shorty 4-9F 4TFH, Stony Creek, no production data,
  • 31849, SI/NC, MRO, Ronald 34-33TFH-2B, Reunion Bay, no production data,
Four (4) new permits:
  • Operator: BR (3), EOG
  • Fields: Camel Butte (McKenzie), Parshall (Mountrail)
  • Comments:
Six (6) permits renewed:
  • BR (3), one Gudcadia and two Gudmunson permits, all three in McKenzie County
  • Whiting (2), one Skunk Creek and one Two Shields Butte permit, both in Dunn County
  • Sinclair, a Nelson permit in Mountrail County
  • Twelve (12) oil and gas wells were transferred from North Plains Energy, LLC, to North Plains Energy II, LLC.

More Solar Energy Approved For Minnesota -- March 31, 2016

From The StarTribune:
Two new solar projects have been approved for the state of Minnesota.
Minnesota regulators on Thursday approved a solar power project near Marshall, MN, that will be the second-largest in the state.
NextEra Energy Resources was cleared to build a 62-megawatt solar generator on 515 acres of farmland three miles east of Marshall. One megawatt is 1 million watts of electricity.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission unanimously voted to approve the project, rejecting concerns that it violated state policy against building energy projects on prime farmland.

The other large solar farm, approved in January, is the $180 million, 100-megawatt North Star Solar project on 800 acres southeast of North Branch in Chisago County
Both solar projects are expected to be built this year.
The state is on its way to meeting its citizens' mandate:
By 2020, 1.5 percent of the electricity sold by the state's major utilities — Xcel Energy, Minnesota Power and Otter Tail Power — must come from solar generation.

Back To 30 Active Rigs -- March 31, 2016

Back to 30 active rigs in North Dakota, the post-boom low. I track this data here

The Apple Page

The new Apple iPhone SE was available for pre-order on March 24th -- last week. Today, the phone is available to be seen and touched in Apple retail stores. I don't know if it's yet available for sale in all retail stores.

Dash Buttons

My son-in-law alerted me to these things. Quite incredible. The story here:
After last year rolling out the WiFi-connected plastic tabs that can be mounted to the fridge, washing machine or kitchen cupboard, the online retailing giant is increasing the number of brands that can be re-ordered by pushing a button to more than 100.
Simply brilliant. Beats shopping lists for the well-to-do. 
I have visions of our two-year-old granddaughter pushing these buttons non-stop. She loves anything with buttons.

When I was in the service, the most junior enlisted person in the office was responsible for keeping the break room well stocked with coffee, soft drinks, munchies. It was a huge chore lugging in cases of soft drinks every few days, nothing to say of the pain of going to the commissary (with the long lines) to pick up supplies. Secretaries, office managers, and those responsible for stocking break rooms are going to love these. Can you imagine being on the 20th floor of any skyscraper in New York City and constantly having to re-stock the break room? Problem solved. Dash buttons.

The bosses will also love these things. The cost more than makes up for losing a highly paid IT employee while he/she is gone for a couple of hours shopping for diet Coke and Kit Kat bars. By the way, that's why smart employers put break rooms in their own facilities: employee-provided break rooms ensure employees stick around instead of getting lost in some urban jungle. 

Spin Cycle

From The Boston Globe:
Overall, roughly one of every three workers in the Bay State clocks less than 35 hours a week, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute. While this may seem like a dubious distinction, it’s actually a sign of rare flexibility in the state job market.
For the most part, Massachusetts’ part-time workers aren’t stuck in undesirable gigs, unable to find steady, 40-hour slots. Most of them are content to work less than 35 hours a week, whether to make room for family obligations, deal with a pressing medical issue, or just open more space for the nonwork parts of life.
President Obama understood that -- that folks only wanted to work 35 hours a week. That's why ObamaCare kicks in after 35 hours. LOL. I can't make this stuff up.

I'm going to go look at the new iPhone SE. See you all later.

For The Archives -- Price Of Brent After Saudi Opened The Spigots -- March 31, 2016

I'm posting this not because I'm interested in where Brent is now. I'm posting this for the archives to remind future generations when/how the 2014 price slump played out while it was still playing out.

Occidental's Enhanced Oil Recovery In The Permian -- March 31, 2016

In this update of the Permian, Occidental's enhanced oil recovery was highlighted. Some background from DrillingInfo:
In a conventional reservoir drilled with conventional methods, the expected initial extraction rate of available hydrocarbons maybe as much as 15% – leaving 85+% of hydrocarbons in the reservoir. Pump jacks and initial gas injection or thermal recovery can increase that capture to the 25-30% range. By applying EOR techniques you can extract another 10-15% of the initially available hydrocarbons.

Occidental has been a leader in CO2 flooding in the Permian basin for a number of years, and a number of other big names are involved in Permian EOR.
The Midland Reporter-Telegram reports, back in August, 2014:
Occidental Petroleum this week held a groundbreaking ceremony for its 212,000 square foot Midland Office Complex, now under construction at 6001 Deauville as the first building in the Energy Plaza at Westridge Park.
From an interview reported by that outlet:
Q: Occidental recently spun off its California business, saying it can now focus more on its Texas operations as well as the Middle East and Colombia.  What exactly does this mean for Occidental’s Permian Basin operations?
A: Occidental Petroleum plans to spin off its wholly owned subsidiary, California Resources Corporation, in the fourth quarter of 2014.
The Permian Basin is home to our principal asset, where we have been operating and producing for more than 30 years. Occidental has more than 5 million gross acres with over 12,000 Oxy-operated gross oil and gas wells in the Permian Basin, and we produce from every producible formation here.
Occidental is also the largest operator and largest producer of oil in the Permian Basin thanks to our successful EOR business and continued focus on our unconventional development, which is well positioned to deliver long-term growth. 

Q: What unconventional plays in the Permian Basin is Occidental active in and what emerging plays is the company looking at?
A: We are active at South Curtis Ranch in the Midland Basin, in the Delaware Basin, and in the Wolfcamp A and B benches. We are also transitioning to accelerated development in Barilla Draw.

Q: Occidental has long been one of the Permian Basin’s leading producers and a major operator of tertiary recovery projects. How have the recent shale plays in this region affected those CO2 projects, or have they?
A: Occidental’s recent shale plays have not impacted our CO2 operations. We believe our enhanced oil recovery (EOR) from CO2 will be an ongoing source of cash generation for our unconventional drilling operations. We are applying more than 30 years of experience in CO2 EOR in the Permian Basin in support of our unconventional opportunities. This is a significant competitive advantage for Occidental in our Permian production.
In 2013, Oxy injected more than 650 billion cubic feet of CO2 into oil reservoirs in the Permian. Occidental operates 31 active CO2 projects in the Crossett, Slaughter Field, Welch & Cedar Lake, Wasson Field, Canyon Reef and other areas. We have seen CO2 flooding increase ultimate oil recovery by 10 to 25 percent where applied. Much of our success is due to extensive automation to maximize throughput performance. In recent years, we added a CO2 plant control center, electronic wellhead shutdown devices, an injection distribution system and other features.

Update On The Permian -- March 31, 2016


March 31, 2016: in the article below, note the prices at which operators in the Permian feel they can still make a profit (the sweet spots in the Bakken are said to be even better with regard to profitability). The numbers presented are $40, $50, and $60 oil. None of that matters to Saudi Arabia. For Saudi Arabia, $60 is better than $40 oil, obviously, but unlike oil companies which can show a profit (barely) on $40 oil in some cases, Saudi needs at least $60 oil to meet their 2016 budget. And that's the yearly average. I can see oil getting back to $60 oil by the end of the year, but it seems impossible for oil to average $60 for the entire year. And with a budget based on $60 oil, Saudi Arabia has cut way back on capital investment in its own country:

This does not include expenditures for the on-going war in Yemen, and foreign aid it provides other Arab countries, notably Palestine. Saudi has deferred/delayed/cancelled its huge plans for solar energy; it has huge desalination needs. And with all that, there is deep concern that Saudi could be a net energy importer in the near future.

But it's not just the price of oil that Saudi is facing; it has lost significant market share for undetermined reasons. I was unable to find any reasons in that article why Saudi is losing market share if deals are made simply on price.

These are the "facts" facing Saudi Arabia when they attend the April 17, 2016, OPEC meeting. I can see Saudi Arabia kicking the can down the road until OPEC's regularly scheduled meeting in June by simply agreeing to a production freeze if others agree but nothing more.
Original Post
This is a long, long article, but if you are interested in the Permian, this may be the place to start today. Petroleum Economist provides an update on the Permian.

I don't believe Conoco was mentioned in the article: for a note on Conoco in the Permian, see this link.

I track the Permian, Spraberry, Wolfcamp, and Delaware at the sidebar at the right.

This article mentioned Occidental's enhanced oil recovery program in the Permian; for more on that see this link and/or go to Occidental's web page

Some data points that caught my attention:
  • some folks are worried that what happened to natural gas prices will happen to crude oil prices; experts suggest that is nonsense, based on what they are finding in the Permian
  • of the Big Three (the Bakken, Eagle Ford, and the Permian), the Permian was the last to be hit hard by the slump in oil prices
  • the Permian reached record production (at the time) of 2 million bopd in the 1970s (following the Arab oil embargo); but by the late 2000s, production had fallen to less than 1 million bopd -- mostly from stripper wells producing 10 bbls/day
  • during recent boom, back to 2 million bopd; produces about a fifth of total US production
  • EOG estimates well costs at $11.5 million/well; hopes to get costs down to $6.8 million/well this year (compare with Bakken which is clearly in the $7 million/well range)
  • productivity rising: new-well production per rig has jumped from around 100 bopd in 2013 to more than 400 bopd now
  • operators scaling back: Apache -- one of the three largest landholders in the play, with 3.2 million acres now has 10 rigs but will drop to 4 rigs this summer; Apache will complete a quarter of the wells it completed in 2015; output now at 174,000 bopd will fall off
  • Pioneer Natural Resources: 117,000 bopd; has a new $76 million HQ in Midland; will cut all drilling activity in Eagle Ford this year and focus on west Texas; it will pull 6 rigs out of Spraberry and Wolfcamp, bringing rig count down from 18 to 12 by the middle of this year; with all that, Pioneer suggests it will increase production in 2016
  • Cimarex: will reduce its six rigs to two by June; will bring in only 31 new wells this year vs 60 in 2015
  • Chevron may be leading the new charge: it has amassed a huge 2 million-acre position in the Permian; has identified 4,000 wells it could profitably drill in the Permian at an oil price of $50/bbl; though few would be profitable in the mid-$30s; the figure rises to 5,500 wells with an oil price less than $60/bbl; could see output rise 125,000 bbls to between 250K and 350K boepd by 2020
  • Occidental: Permian's biggest producer -- thanks to its huge conventional enhanced-oil-recovery output; sees drilling getting cheaper; at $40/bbl, OXY sees few profitable prospects; but at $50/bbl, nearly 1,200 of the 8,500 identified drilling locations would "return handsomely"; at $6/bbl, it's 3,400; due to falling costs, that's 700 more wells than last year
  • Concho Resources: a top-three Permian producer; pumping about 95,000 bopd; at today's costs, 5,400 of its 18,000 potential drilling sites generate more than a 20% rate of return at $40/bbl
From the article, regarding the current price slump and Saudi's perspective:
From Caracas to Riyadh, rival producers assumed that low oil prices would force out the high-cost American upstarts, allowing more space for their own cheaper-to-extract oil. That was a central tenet of the Saudi-led Opec decision of 2014 to let the market plunge. The plan would only work if US tight oil producers – source of the bulk of global output growth in recent years – yielded in their stubborn battle to keep the pumps moving.

It has taken longer than Opec would have liked. But the sharp downturn in this West Texas oil frontier in early 2016 shows that even the mighty Permian is not immune to low oil prices. By 11 March, the number of rigs drilling for oil had fallen to 150, down by 50 in just three months, and down 75% from the 562-rig peak hit in October 2014. The Permian’s top producers are finally scaling back investment – though most of them did so only after cutting to the bone in other areas. Permian capital expenditure cuts in 2016 will be less than the 50% expected across the US, but investment will likely fall by at least a third unless oil prices recover soon. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) says output has already flat lined. Petroleum Economist expects the Permian’s production to fall by around 30,000 b/d by the end of 2016 – a sharp reversal of annual growth in recent years of about 200,000 b/d.

Its remarkable rise should have been no surprise, because the Permian has long been at the heart of America’s oil industry. It is vast, stretching through West Texas and into southeastern New Mexico. If a driller imagined his ideal play, this was it. The Permian is flat and sparsely populated; its climate is mostly mild; and the community and political institutions have risen up around the industry. Underground is a complex arrangement of oil-producing rock formations, some stacked one on top of the other, spread out over an area covering around 86,000 square miles, roughly the size of Ghana.

Taken together, the data suggest that oil prices have to rise out of the $30s to see the Permian recover, but not by much. Crude prices around $45/b would likely see roughly flat production. Put the market back in the $60s, though, and activity would go full-bore, and production sharply higher.
Those kinds of numbers will keep rival global producers up at night. But pinning down a price at which the Permian would roar back to life is difficult.  
Much, much more at the link.

Norway Has More Problems Than $40 Oil -- March 31, 2016


June 27, 2020: Norway's giant field pumps "flat out."

February 4, 2019: Bloomberg update.

January 2, 2019: Norwegian production to fall to 30-year low.

December 8, 2018: from Equinor's website, this date -- Johan Sverdrup—the North Sea giant Johan Sverdrup is one of the five largest oil fields on the Norwegian continental shelf.
With expected resources of between 2.1—3.1 billion barrels of oil equivalents, it will also be one of the most important industrial projects in Norway in the next 50 years. The development and operation of this enormous field will generate revenue and provide jobs for coming generations.
August 6, 2017: Lofoten Islands and $65 billion in oil off-limits to oil companies.

Original Post 

There was a long story yesterday about the problems the Norwegian economy has secondary to the oil and gas industry in their neck of the woods. Here are data points from the original article:

First problem: $40 oil.

Second problem: discovery wells disappointing.
  • 2015: discovery wells off Norway averaged 5 million bbls of oil and gas
  • for past 25 years: discovery wells off Norway have averaged 27 million bbls of oil and gas 
  • dismal results due in part to depletion of the reserves in the North Sea
  • Norway's oil production has shrunk by half since 2000
  • Norway has the world's biggest sovereign wealth fund; in January, 2016, the government made its first withdrawal from the fund since it was set up in the 1990s
Third problem: challenges going where the oil is.
  • operators are giving up on the Arctic around Alaska and Greenland
  • operators now looking to the Arctic areas around Norway and bordering Russian waters
  • Norway planning to award licenses in an area known as the Barents Sea Southeast
  • apparently these Arctic waters are less hostile (due to the Gulf Stream); also shallower and mostly ice-free
  • Barents Sea Southeast
  • bilateral border order agreement reached with Russia in 2010
  • drillers have started drilling discovery wells
  • oil companies will cut spending for third consecutive year
  • will drill only half as many exploration wells in 2016 as in 2015
  • CAVE dwellers not happy
Johan Sverdrup field: not in the Barents Sea, but in the North Sea
  • the largest discovery "in" Norway in recent years; discovered by Lundin in 2010
  • could hold as much as 3 billion bbls of oil (I assume that's "recoverable," not OOIP)

Thursday, March 31, 2016. Wow -- Claims Surge 11,000! There's That Word Again: "Unexpectedly"

Active rigs:

Active Rigs3099194188206

RBN Energy: ports and pipelines delivering East Coast refined products.

On glide path for record gasoline demand this summer. WSJ on gasoline demand.

San Antonio Spurs break record for most home wins to start NBA season. Link over at Bleacher Report.
The Golden State Warriors may be dominating headlines as they pursue the NBA's single-season wins record, but the San Antonio Spurs made history of their own Wednesday night when they broke the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' record for the most home wins to start an NBA season. 
The Spurs, who look like a virtual lock to capture the Western Conference's No. 2 seed, improved to 38-0 at with a 100-92 win over the New Orleans Pelicans at AT&T Center and secured a spot in the league's record books.
Unemployment claims, first-time: forecast --  an increase of 2,000 claims; up to 267,000 from last week's 265,000.  Actual: first time claims surge 11,000 -- completely unexpected! The four-week average also jumped significantly: it rose 3,500 to 263,250. From Reuters:
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week, but remained below a level associated with a strong labor market.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 276,000 for the week ended March 26, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The prior week's claims were unrevised. 
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims remaining unchanged at 265,000 in the latest week. 
Applications for unemployment benefits have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with healthy labor market conditions, for 55 weeks, the longest stretch since 1973. With the labor market continuing to tighten, there is little scope for significant further declines in claims. [This is boilerplate; probably written before the numbers were known.]
Tesla Model 3 to be unveiled tonight. Elon Musk promises a car for the masses at $35,000. Will likely come in at higher price than $35,000 initially; doubt "confirmed" price will be announced tonight. No link. Stories everywhere. In fact, it's the headline story over at Yahoo!Finance at the moment.