Global Markets Update:
US stock market paused after a few weeks of upward trend with the S&P almost unchanged, as investors digest the Republican tax reform proposal. However, European, Asian and emerging market equities displayed markedly better performances reflecting an improving macroeconomic outlook. Emerging Asian stocks hit an all-time record surpassing the 2007 top. Regional markets were mixed as the rebound in oil prices is still not sufficient to reignite strong growth. In currency markets the yen was a touch lower on major crosses, but the euro-dollar ended the week almost unchanged. The British pound plunged after the BoE’s rate hike because markets were expecting a more hawkish stance paving the way to further tightening. The market had largely priced in the likelihood of a hike, the key factor was the tone of associated policy statement and inflation report. BoE governor Mark Carney insisted rates were raised because of concerns about where inflation was heading. The UK’s Brexit divorce is the biggest factor in the uncertainty about the outlook. The pound plummeted as traders who had anticipated further monetary tightening unwound their positions and decided against holding sterling positions.Oil prices touched a record high since Jul 2015 as the compliance with OPEC production cuts improved and crude oil inventories were down by 2.4 m/b against analyst predictions of a 0.87 m/b decrease. Gold prices continued to slip.
Recent political developments: Saudi Arabia disclosed that 11 princes, four ministers and dozens of former ministers were arrested on orders of an anti-corruption committee headed by the Crown Prince: the major changes include the National Head Guard and the Economy Minister. Lebanon’s PM, in a televised address from Saudi Arabia, revealed that he had resigned as he feared for his life, and also blaming Iran for interference. Iraq plans to hold parliamentary elections on May 15 to choose a prime minister.
The IMF released its MENAP regional economic outlook: for the oil exporters, growth is estimated at 1.7%, slower thanks to the OPEC-led cuts in oil output while budget deficits are expected to halve this year (to 5.2% from 2016’s 10.6% of GDP). For the oil importers, it is a faster growth story (4.3% this year, from 2016’s 3.6%), accompanied by high public debt (more than 50% of GDP in most countries). The IMF also disclosed that while the GCC remained committed to the introduction of VAT, the preparation and speed of implementation may differ across the nations.
China’s Ambassador to Oman announced a further commitment of USD 2bn for projects in Duqm, cementing the relation between Oman and China as strategic partners.
Saudi Arabia’s government approved a plan to begin issuing tourist visas for the country, reported the Al Watan At the initial stage, such visas will only be available to groups of visitors through authorized tour operators.
UAE’s Minister of Economy disclosed that the new investment law – granting foreign companies to increase their stake by more than 49% in some specific business sectors – could be ready as early as next year.
UAE took the top spot in the GCC, and was ranked 21st globally, in the World Bank’s latest issue of the Doing Business report. A highlight was that the UAE had implemented the highest number of reforms (33) in the region in the past 15 years. UAE emerged a global leader in the Getting Electricity category – taking approximately 10 days to obtain an electricity connection, compared to the global and OECD “high-income” averages of 92 and 78 days respectively.
Fuel prices for Nov in the UAE: petrol prices were lower by 4.2-4.6% mom in Nov – the first drop in 4 months – while diesel prices were up by 2.11%.
Dubai’s Department of Economic Development issued 15,268 new business licenses during the first nine months of this year; in Sep alone, 1152 licenses were issued. Commercial license accounted for 65% of the total, followed by professional licenses.
Abu Dhabi welcomed over 3.5mn hotel guests till Sep this year (+7% yoy), with 415,985 visitors checking in this Sep alone. India remained the largest source market with 33,000 hotel guests during the month.
Dubai Road and Transport Authority (RTA)’s USD 20bn investment in infrastructure, over the 2006-2016 period, resulted in saving USD 34bn from time and fuel wasted by traffic congestions, disclosed the Director-General and Chairman of the Board.
Mobile phone subscriptions in the UAE grew by 2.2% to 19.7mn by end-Sep, with a total of 10.6mn Etisalat subscribers and 9.11mn for du.
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Global Markets Update: