UAE’s PMI increased at the fastest pace since December 2017, to post 57.6 in April (March: 55.7); both output and new orders sub-indices surged – 65.3 and 64.6 respectively (March: 63 and 59) and new export orders to a near four-year high. However, the offers of discounts in a competitive market resulted in a 7th consecutive monthly fall in output prices. Business confidence was the highest since the series began seven years ago, given expectations of higher new orders and a positive 12-month outlook for activity: approximately 82% predicted a rise in output over the coming year, in connection with the Expo 2020 event.
The Dubai Economy Tracker inched up to the highest reading since February 2015 – to 57.9 in April (Mar: 57.6). The wholesale & retail sector improved to 60.1 – a series record – more due to sharp price discounting and promotional activity than underlying demand, while the travel and tourism sector reading was the 2nd highest on record (58.8, below March’s peak of 59.8). The level of incoming new business increased at the fastest rate since January 2015 in April (66.6) while new sales growth at wholesalers and retailers hit a new record high (70.8).
The value of Abu Dhabi’s non-oil trade increased 11.5% to AED 35.8bn (USD9.7bn) in January-February 2019. Re-exports surged by 47% to AED 8.8bn, and imports were up 5.6% while non-oil exports dipped 0.3%.
Dubai Department of Economic Development announced a 45.4% YoY increase in Instant licenses issued during Q1 to 509. The service – which helps companies secure their commercial license in one-step within five minutes – reduces the time required for business registration procedures and license issuance by 90%.
Dubai welcomed 4.75mn international overnight tourists in Q1, up 2% YoY; average hotel occupancy rate in March was 84% (87% a year ago) and the average revenue per available room fell 14.6% YoY to AED 417. India remained the top source market (11.9% of total), followed by Saudi Arabia (8.7%) and UK (6.9%). (More:https://www.visitdubai.com/en/tourism-performance-report)
Abu Dhabi has committed AED 535mn for a new Ghadan Ventures Fund to invest in start-ups as part of the government’s Ghadan 21 programme to diversify the economy. Under the fund – which aims to attract 100 companies over the next three to five years – the Start-Up Matching Fund will increase capital available for seed and early-stage companies.
The UAE provided financial aid worth AED 19.2bn (USD 5bn) in 2018, accounting for 5% of the government’s total financial expenditure.
Saudi Arabia approved a programme that offers permanent residency for some foreigners to attract investments, the latest sign of how the quest for non-oil revenue is prompting Gulf Arab countries to rethink the role of expats in their societies.
Under the law, which allows foreigners to own property, those eligible can apply for an indefinite stay or a one-year renewable residency
Bahrain plans to increase nationalization in the public sector by more than 95% within 3 years. Currently, expats account for about 16% of the public sector employees.
Egypt seeks to raise the proceeds of VAT by 13.9% YoY to EGP 364.7bn in fiscal year 2019-2020, thanks to the expansion of the taxation base as well as improvements in tax allocation. The government aims at boosting its total tax proceeds in the coming fiscal year by 12.7% YoY to around EGP 856.6bn.
Jordan’s Cabinet approved of several measures to revive the flailing real estate market: this includes lowering the basic price offering of real estate by 20% to be in line with market value, as well as exemption from fees levied on ownership transfer and the consensual parceling out of land for citizens.
Saudi Arabia’s “Special Privilege Iqama” system was approved by the Shura Council last week. This would allow for freedom of movement to and from Saudi Arabia without the need for consent from a sponsor in addition to extending family privileges (including obtaining visas for relatives) and owning real estate. There will be 2 types of Iqamas – a permanent residence permit & a temporary residence permit with specific fees.
Saudi Arabia plans to build a new amusement park, along with six cinemas and 3 new “entertainment destinations” on a 100-hectare site in the Eastern province (which is home to a population of about 4.9mn).
The GCC real estate slump is likely to continue given the oversupply in the market and amidst regional tensions, according to a new research report from the Institute of International Finance (IIF). By December 2018, real estate prices in the GCC had declined by approximately 20% from peak levels, with an especially sharp fall in the UAE.
Global equity markets were mostly down on the sudden souring and shift in US-China trade talks, which resulted in Trump raising tariffs on USD 200bn of Chinese goods from 10% to 25% and China pledging to retaliate. Though at the end of trade negotiations on Fri both sides sounded optimistic (Steven Mnuchin calling it “constructive discussions” and Liu He stating talks had gone “fairly well”), the S&P 500 posted the heaviest loss since December, and in China the market was down 4% for the week. The US yield curve briefly inverted for the first time since March (a sustained inversion is a recession signal) and German yields are near 6-week lows. In the region, all markets edged down on Thursday, with most ending in the red over the week. Safe haven assets were popular: investors were buying yen (which strengthened vis-à-vis the dollar), and gold price ticked up. Oil price was slightly down during the week, though increasing geo-political concerns (Iran, North Korea) are likely to weigh in, going forward.
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