Global Markets update:
US-China trade negotiations dragged on, with no clear-cut outcomes though officials said progress had been made. Contrast this with the EU-Japan bilateral free trade agreement, which came into force February 1st, and is likely to start reaping the benefits immediately as the pact removes almost all tariffs (and smooths away regulatory barriers to trade gradually). Brexit is fast approaching (in less than two months’ time) and while Plan B is to be detailed by mid-February, the market is betting that a hard Brexit is still likely to be avoided.Equity markets rose in the US, supported by the Fed’s indications of a “pause” in hiking rates as well as the strong ISM and US non-farm payrolls reports. In Europe, the FTSE and Stoxx also gained in spite of weak bank earnings and weaker than expected macro data. In the region, Egypt’s shares jumped on expectations of a rate cut, while UAE markets gained on bank earnings and announcement of the bank merger. The dollar index held steady, while oil prices surged on tightening supply and strong US data weighed on gold prices which closed lower in spite of touching a 9-month peak during the week.
Iraq is close to finalizing a trade deal with Jordan– to cut the price of oil it sells Jordan in return for receiving preferential tariffs on goods Jordan ships to Iraq via the Aqaba port.
Loans for SMEs in Jordan grew by 10.4% YoY to JOD 2.34bn by end-September, up from 6.4% a year ago. The share of SMEs’ loans during January-September 2018 rose to 10.2% from 9.6% during the same period a year earlier.
Kuwait’s new expat fees, to be imposed from June 2019, stands at KWD 300 (USD 991.7) for each working license provided to expatriate workers in non-governmental bodies (not subject to the Kuwaitisation policy).
China’s President called for a return to “unity and harmony” while welcoming Qatar’s emir to Beijing.
Saudi Arabia launched the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program under the Vision 2030 reform plan across 4 key sectors: mining industry, logistics and energy. By 2030, the program aims to stimulate investments worth more than USD 453bn, increase the value of non-oil exports to USD 260bn, and add 1.6mn jobs. Already, deals worth SAR 204bn (USD54.4bn) were signed.
About 99% of the Saudi private sector consists of SMEs, and these SMEs absorb about 70% of the workforce, disclosed the secretary-general of the National Entrepreneurship Initiative.
Demand for gold grew by 4% YoY to 4,345.1 tonnes in 2018, supported by a 50-year high in central bank buying while global jewellery demand remained stable at 2200 tonnes.
The launch of the common digital currency project (labelled “Aber”) between UAE and Saudi Arabia is in the “Proof of Concept” stage and will see the currency being used in financial settlements, using Blockchain and Distributed Ledger technologies.
The IMF issued the latest Article IV report for the UAE, highlighting growth of around 2.9% last year and forecasting real GDP growth at around 3.7% for 2019-20.
Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Union National Bank and Al Hilal Bank have agreed to a merger, which will create the third-largest bank in the UAE with assets worth AED 420bn (USD 114.35bn).
The First Abu Dhabi Bank has proposed raising its foreign ownership limit to 40% from 25% previously. This move could boost investor appetite going forward.
UAE’s petrol prices were reduced by five fils to between AED 1.84-1.95 per litre, depending on the grade of the petrol. Diesel price was lowered by 0.86% mom to AED 2.28.
Passenger traffic in Dubai touched 89.1mn in 2018, missing its target of 90.3mn, but remaining the world’s busiest airport for international travelers. Dubai airport passenger traffic in December alone fell by 1.7% to 7.7mn.
In a bid to reduce costs, Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing announced that hotel establishments, tourism companies and event organisers will no longer require a public relations officer card to conduct business in the emirate.
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Global Markets update: