Stocks pare losses but economic concerns linger

Traders and financial professionals work at the opening bell on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), January 2, 2019 in New York City. (AFP)
Updated 03 January 2019
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Stocks pare losses but economic concerns linger

NEW YORK: Stocks recovered much of their losses on Wednesday as investors took advantage of cheaper shares to ring in the new year, but lingering economic concerns from weak Chinese and European data boosted safe-haven assets including benchmark US Treasury notes and the Japanese yen.

Data showed Chinese factory activity contracting for the first time in more than two years. The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for the euro zone also reached its lowest level since February 2016, and France’s PMI fell in December for the first time in two years. Concerns about the flagging global economy contributed to US stocks posting a loss in 2018 for the first time in a decade.

The US benchmark S&P 500 stock index dropped as much as 1.6 percent on the data, but moved higher to fluctuate between positive and negative territory as the session continued. Bank and energy shares, which have been especially hard-hit in recent sell-offs, were among the biggest gainers.

Energy shares also benefited from a jump in oil prices, which climbed as US stocks recovered.

“We’re at levels that are really, really oversold, and that’s where bounces really come from,” said Michael Antonelli, managing director of institutional sales trading at Robert W. Baird in Milwaukee. “Slowing China growth isn’t anything new, and that’s what led to today’s bounce.”

Still, MSCI’s gauge of stocks around the globe dropped 0.45 percent. Asian markets as well as the pan-European STOXX 600 closed lower.

Reflecting lingering investor nervousness, yields on US 10-year Treasury notes fell, earlier hitting an 11-month low. However, the boost in oil prices pushed up yields on short-dated maturities, flattening the yield curve. An inverted yield curve is widely seen as an indicator of a future recession.

“The yield curve is signaling that something is wrong,” said Matt Miskin, market strategist at John Hancock Investments in Boston. “The underlying economic data continues to suggest
a slowdown.”


Dubai property developer Damac on hunt for land in Saudi Arabia

Hussain Sajwani
Updated 18 March 2019
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Dubai property developer Damac on hunt for land in Saudi Arabia

  • Brexit a “concern” for UK property market says Sajwani
  • Developer mulls investing “up to £500 million” on London project

LONDON: The Dubai-listed developer Damac says it is scouting for additional plots of land in Saudi Arabia, both in established cities and the Kingdom’s emerging giga-projects such as Neom.
Hussain Sajwani, chairman of Damac Properties, also said the company would look to invest up to £500 million ($660 million) on a second development in the UK, and that it is on track to deliver a record 7,000 or more units this year.
Amid a slowing property market in Dubai, Damac’s base, the developer is eying Saudi Arabia as a potential ground for expansion for its high-spec residential projects.
Damac has one development in Jeddah, and a twin-tower project in Riyadh — and Sajwani said it is looking for additional plots in the Kingdom.
“It’s a big market. It is changing, it is opening up, so we see a potential there … We are looking,” he said.
“In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is the biggest economy … They have some very ambitious projects, like the Neom city and other large projects. We’re watching those and studying them very carefully.”
The $500 billion Neom project, which was announced in 2017, is set to be a huge economic zone with residential, commercial and tourist facilities on the Red Sea coast.
Sajwani said doing business in Saudi Arabia was “a bit more difficult or complicated” that the UAE, but said the country is opening up, citing moves to allow women to drive and reopen cinemas.
He was speaking to Arab News in Damac’s London sales office, opposite the Harrods department store in Knightsbridge. The office, kitted out in plush Versace furnishings, is selling units at Damac’s first development in the UK, the Damac Tower Nine Elms London.
The 50-storey development is in a new urban district south of the River Thames, which is also home to the US Embassy and the famous Battersea Power Station, which is being redeveloped as a residential and commercial property.
Work on Damac's tower is underway and is due to complete in late 2020 or early 2021, Sajwani said.
“We have sold more than 60 percent of the project,” he said. “It’s very mixed, we have (buyers) from the UK, from Asia, the Middle East.”
Damac’s first London project was launched in 2015, the year before the referendum on the UK exiting the EU — the result of which has had a knock-on effect on the London property market.
“Definitely Brexit has cause a lot of concern, people are not clear where the situation will go. Overall, the market has suffered because of Brexit,” Sajwani said.
“It’s going to be difficult for the coming two years at least … unless (the UK decides) to stay in the EU.”
Despite the ongoing uncertainty over Brexit, Sajwani said Damac was looking for additional plots of land in London, both in the “golden triangle” — the pricey areas of Mayfair, Belgravia and Knightsbridge, which are popular with Gulf investors — and new residential districts like Nine Elms.
Sajwani is considering an investment of “up to £500 million” on a new project in the UK capital.
“We are looking aggressively, and spending a lot of time … finding other opportunities,” he said. “Our appetite for London is there.”
Damac is also considering other international property markets for expansion, including parts of Europe and North American cities like Toronto, Boston, New York and Miami, Sajwani said.
The international drive by Damac comes, however, amid a tough property market in the developer’s home market of Dubai.
Damac in February reported that its 2018 profits fell by nearly 60 percent, with its fourth-quarter profit tumbling by 87 percent, according to Reuters calculations.
Sajwani — whose company attracted headlines for its partnership with the Trump Organization for two golf courses in Dubai — does not see any immediate recovery in the emirate’s property market, or Damac’s financial results.
“(With) the market being soft, prices being under pressure, we are part of the market — we are not going to do better than last year,” he said. “This year and next year are going to be difficult years. But it’s a great opportunity for the buyers.”
But the developer said Dubai was “very strong fundamentally,” citing factors like its advanced infrastructure, safety and security, and low taxes.
In 2018, Damac delivered over 4,100 units — a record for the company — and this year, despite the difficult market, it plans to hand over even more.
“We’re expecting north of 7,000,” Sajwani said. “This year will be another record.”