Global Markets Update:
Last week two events took centre stage: 1) the first congressional testimony by the new US Fed Chairman Powell and b) the opening salvo of a trade war by President Trump. Both triggered a negative reaction on Wall Street, and especially the second caused a rout also in all other major bourses, despite strong retail earnings that had lifted prices early in the week. Wall Street recorded three consecutive days of declines above 1% in wake of Trump’s tariff announcement and the S&P500 ended February with the worst monthly drop (4%) since January 2016. European bourses, where blue chips are heavily dependent on export, suffered a wave of sell orders. In Asia, compounding the trade war tensions, a dismal PMI reading disarrayed Chinese indices. Regional markets felt the contagion from main stock exchanges especially Qatar, but others displayed quite robust gains. Oil prices were not immune to the general turmoil and slid further, as data indicated a higher than expected buildup in US inventories. Surprisingly, despite such a frantic trading week in most asset classes, gold prices remained remarkably stable, an indication that the yellow metal is not considered a safe haven.
Bahrain awarded BHD 143.4mn (USD 378mn) worth projects in January this year; three projects will cover the roads sector, seven the sanitary sector and two the construction sector.
Jordan launched a new mobile money initiative – Mobile Money for Resilience – targeting low-income Jordanians and refugees, to focus on financially empowering these vulnerable groups by providing access to more advanced digital financial services, such as payment transfers, savings and credit.
Lebanon’s 2018 budget will likely be approved by cabinet before mid-March, disclosed the country’s finance minister; he also stated that reducing the deficit and a set of incentives to prop up growth are focus points.
Demand for properties in Lebanon increased by 13.7% to 47.6 points in 2017, as per the Byblos Bank Real Estate Demand Index. However, the index’s average monthly score last year was 56.7% below the annual peak of 109.8 points posted in 2010.
Saudi Arabia approved regulations for licensing cinemas in the country. Three licenses were specified: setting up a cinema hall, license for operating cinemas, and license for operating both kinds of mobile and fixed cinemas.
UAE’s Federal Tax Authority announced that businesses late in registering with the authority would be exempt from administrative penalties until April 30. About 260k companies had registered for VAT, versus an expected 350k entities.
Dubai International Airport welcomed 7.96mn passengers in January (-1% YoY), from fewer flights compared to a year ago. Passenger numbers were also affected by the fact that Chinese New Year was celebrated in January last year versus in February this year.
Indian nationals bought properties worth AED 83.65bn (USD 22.7bn) in Dubai during the 2013-17 period.
The Dubai Gold and Commodities Exchange reported its best month ever in February, trading its highest monthly volume of 2,097,739 contracts (+67% YoY) valued at USD 47.0bn.
Etihad Rail is planning to begin the second phase of the UAE federal railway network – which will connect UAE’s seaports and the first phase. Project management and engineering consultants will be appointed to start the tendering process for construction, according to officials, though no details were provided about a timeline either for tendering or contract awards.
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Global Markets Update: