Global Markets Update:
After experiencing the worst week in two years, in the last week of the quarter, US equity markets enjoyed a respite. The S&P500 was almost unchanged, while the Dow Jones had a strong performance. News about M&A activity (Renault in talks to merge with Nissan) led to some upward movements in Europe’s equity markets. However, Q1 saw stocks in the US posting the first quarterly loss since 2015 while STOXX 600 posted its worst quarter in the past 2 years. In the region, Qatar stocks took another hit, while the FTSE’s decision to include Kuwait and Saudi Arabia among the emerging markets, had ephemeral effect due to profit-taking towards the end of the week. The dollar index fell to a 16-month low earlier in the week after trade war talks unsettled markets, and ended the quarter down 5.7%. Despite the unexpected increase in US oil inventories by 1.643 mn barrels (marking the 3rd increase in the past 10 weeks), Brent prices ended close to USD 70 on rising geopolitical uncertainty. Gold prices lost some ground after days of directionless trade, but continue to hover above USD 1300 per ounce.
Egypt’s President Sisi won the elections with more than 90% of the vote with state media reporting a 40% turnout. Official results will be released April 2 by the elections authority.
Iraq’s oil reserves may be double the current estimated level, stated the oil minister – most likely associated with potential increases in the future. Iraq had last year upgraded its reserve estimates to 153bn barrels from their previous level of 143bn.
Kuwait is inching closer to finalize an agreement to purchase Iraqi gas in the next two months, revealed Kuwait’s minister of oil, electricity and water.
Saudi Aramco will be ready for an IPO in the second half of this year, stated its CEO on Bloomberg, while also acknowledging that the venue and the timing will depend on the government.
Saudi Arabia and the US signed 46 deals – including 13 in the oil and gas sector and 6 each in the defense and technology sectors – worth USD 400bn, set to create 750k jobs, during the US visit of the Saudi Crown Prince.
Saudi Arabia unveiled plans to build the world’s largest solar power project: the USD 200bn plan, in partnership with Softbank, will reach a capacity of 200 gigawatts. The first of the two solar parks will begin construction this year, and will start rolling out electricity by 2019. The plan will transform its solar power production, could see Saudi become a major solar power exporter, and create up to 100k jobs in solar power schemes alone.
Exports from UAE’s free zones increased by 6.6% YoY to AED 225.5bn (USD 61.4bn) in 2017, accounting for 19.5% of UAE’s total exports.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies will help UAE to increase its GDP by 35% by 2031, according to a Ministry of Economy report. UAE’s AI strategy will generate an annual economic return, in many sectors, of around AED 22bn (USD 5.98bn), through raising individual productivity by 13%, and also saving 396mn hours annually from commuting, reducing transportation costs by 44% (equivalent to AED 900mn) among others.
The value of contracts awarded to Emirati-owned SMEs in Dubai touched AED 1.5bn in 2017 – taking the total value to AED 5bn since the launch of the Government Procurement Programme in 2002.
The volume of spending during the Dubai Shopping Festival increased by 6.75% YoY in 2018, according to Network International (a payment solutions provider in the Middle East; processes more than 50% of all transactions across UAE). Spending using credit, debit, prepaid and other types of cards surged by 10.21% in 2015, followed by increases of 5.39% in 2016 and 10.76% in 2017.
UAE has pledged AED 1.84bn (USD 500mn) to support the United Nations 2018 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan; UAE has provided close to AED 10.4bn since April 2015.
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Global Markets Update: