Global Markets update:
Last week trading on global equity markets started peacefully but by Wednesday a frenzy propagated due to security concerns in the Middle East, increasing risks in several emerging markets (mainly Turkey and Argentina), tumbling Italian assets (as a new populist government seems ready for a fight with the EU), Trump describing China as “very spoiled on trade” and a step back in the peace process between the two Koreas. Moreover, US macro data beat expectations and renewed worries that the US Fed might be more hawkish than anticipated. Government bonds were hit by a wave of selling orders which lifted the 10-year Treasury yield above 3.1%, a level last seen in 2011. The spread between the US and German 10-y government bonds widened to 250 bps. The contagion from Wall Street was more severe on emerging markets shares, while the bourses in Europe and Japan withstood the impact. In our region, stock markets of oil producing countries were mostly up or unchanged (with the exception of Oman affected by the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal) in response to higher oil prices, while the other bourses were hit by the global weakness. In currency markets the US dollar continued to advance on major crosses pulled by higher long term interest rates. The oil price uptrend intensified after US crude oil inventories fell by 1.4 m/b and the Brent came within striking distance from USD 80 per barrel. The gold price, despite geopolitical tensions, fell sharply below USD 1300 per ounce.
According to Jordan’s deputy PM, the new amendments to the Income Tax Law will “effectively” combat tax evasion and enhance collection as it seeks to expand the taxpayer base to include 10% instead of 5% of its citizens.
Jordan-based startup Liwwa, a peer-to-peer lending platform, announced the issuance of over USD $11mn in debt to small businesses across more than 300 loans since its operations started in 2015.
Kuwait will not implement value added tax (VAT) before 2021, disclosed the parliament’s budget committee. However, it will expedite the introduction of excise taxes on select products like tobacco and energy drinks – no details about timeline were provided. The new excise tax is expected to boost revenues by KWD 200mn (USD 662.6mn).
S&P Dow Jones, which ranks Saudi Arabia as a “standalone country”, is consulting investors on whether to upgrade the nation to emerging market status. S&P Dow Jones estimated Saudi Arabia could ultimately have a 2.57% weighting in its emerging benchmark index (excluding the potential privatisation of Aramco).
Saudi Aramco’s trading arm has started supplying US condensate – an ultra-light crude oil – to the UAE, reported Reuters, citing unnamed sources. Aramco sells almost all its crude under long-term contracts, but decided last year to trade in non-Saudi crude in the short-term spot market.
Saudi British Bank and Alawwal Bank have agreed on a merger – the first major banking tie-up in almost 20 years – and will create Saudi’s third largest bank with assets around USD 77bn.
Saudi Arabia has announced that females holding a foreign or international driving license will be exempted from the driving test for beginners.
In a boost to the country’s economic competitiveness, the UAE Cabinet approved a new long-term 10 year visa for international investors and talented professionals and is set to introduce an investment law allowing 100 per cent foreign ownership later this year.
UAE is expected to post a fiscal surplus of about 0.5% of GDP this year, and a slightly higher 1% of GDP next year, according to the IMF. This is as a result of the higher-than-expected oil prices which offset an increase in government spending. Oil prices are estimated to come down below USD 60 per barrel.
Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA) generated 29.4mn metric tonnes of trade last year, valued at USD 83.1bn (up +4%), accounting for 23% of total value of Dubai’s trade and 70% of Dubai’s free zone trade. Over 77% of JAFZA’s trade volume was generated by three sectors, oil and gas, foodstuff, livestock and agricultural products, and metal, steel and construction material.
The UAE Cabinet approved a resolution on VAT refunds for exhibitions and conferences, in a bid to support the country’s status as a meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) hub. As per recent statistics, MICE’s annual contribution to UAE economy stood at AED 2.39bn and is anticipated to grow to AED 5.1bn by 2020.
Bilateral trade between the UAE and India is expected to reach USD 100bn by 2020, disclosed the director of Investment Promotion in Dubai Investment Development Agency. India has been ranked as the second largest investor in Dubai over the last three years, including in the property sector.
The Islamic economy generated 8.3% of Dubai’s GDP in 2016, rising from 7.6% in 2014, according to the Dubai Statistics Centre.
Electronic media outlets including news websites, digital content providers and social media influencers who are paid for promotions need to register their activities by end of the month, as per the National Media Council of the UAE. Licensing fees range from AED 1,000 (USD 272) up to AED 15,000, depending on the category.
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Global Markets update: