JEDDAH: The National Program for Exhibitions and Conferences in Saudi Arabia revealed it had approved 90 initiatives in the first quarter of 2018, of which 76 percent had been implemented as of March. The report stated that 3,013 activities were approved during the first quarter of 2018 — an increase of 21 percent over the same period last year. It also recorded 65 field visits to evaluate the exhibitions and conferences, 31 legal cases and the cessation of 16 unauthorized activities. The report also stated that the program had launched accounts on Twitter, Linkedin and Youtube and had “received a large amount of interaction.”
Explosion at German chemical complex declared extreme threat
Germany’s Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance classified the explosion as “an extreme threat” and asked residents to stay inside and keep windows and doors closed, German news agency dpa reported.
Operators of the Chempark site in Leverkusen, about 20 kilometers (13 miles) north of Cologne on the Rhine river, said the cause of the explosion was unclear.
They said on Twitter that firefighters and pollution detection vans had been deployed.
Police in nearby Cologne said they did not have any information on the cause or size of the explosion and were not aware of any injuries at this point. They asked all residents to stay inside and warned people from outside of Leverkusen to avoid the region.
They also shut down several nearby major highways.
Daily Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger reported that the explosion took place in the Buerrig neigbborhood at a garbage incineration plant of the chemical park.
The paper reported that the smoke cloud was moving in a northwestern direction toward the towns of Burscheid and Leichlingen. It said firefighters from all over the region had been called in to help extinguish the fire.
Leverkusen is home to Bayer, one of Germany’s biggest chemical companies.
US Defense Secretary says committed to stable, constructive relationship with China
- A top Chinese diplomat took a confrontational tone on Monday in rare high-level talks with the United States
SINGAPORE: US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Tuesday he was committed to having a constructive relationship with China and working on common challenges as he laid out his vision for ties with Beijing, which have sunk to their lowest point in decades.
The United States has put countering China at the heart of its national security policy for years and President Joe Biden’s administration has called rivalry with Beijing “the biggest geopolitical test” of this century.
While Austin’s speech in Singapore will touch on the usual list of behavior Washington describes as destabilizing, from Taiwan to the South China Sea, his comments about seeking a stable relationship could provide an opening for the two countries to start to reduce tension.
“We will not flinch when our interests are threatened. Yet we do not seek confrontation,” Austin said, according to excerpts of his speech.
“I am committed to pursuing a constructive, stable relationship with China, including stronger crisis communications with the People’s Liberation Army.”
Austin has been unable to speak with any senior Chinese official despite repeated attempts since starting as defense secretary in January.
Even with the tension and heated rhetoric, US military officials have long sought to keep open lines of communication with their Chinese counterparts, to be able to mitigate potential flare-ups or tackle any accidents.
A top Chinese diplomat took a confrontational tone on Monday in rare high-level talks with the United States, accusing it of creating an “imaginary enemy” to divert attention from domestic problems and suppress China.
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, the second-ranked US diplomat, had arrived on Sunday for the face-to-face meetings in China’s northern city of Tianjin.
“Big powers need to model transparency and communication,” Austin said.
Austin’s speech, which was postponed by a month because of Singapore’s COVID-19 outbreak, is being closely watched by regional nations concerned about China’s increasingly assertive behavior but heavily reliant on access to its large markets.
He is set to visit Vietnam and the Philippines later this week to emphasize the importance of alliances.
Gulf rebound set as Saudi Arabia, UAE seen topping 4% growth in 2022 - Reuters poll
- Saudi 2022 growth seen at 4.3 percent, 2023 at 3.3 percent
- UAE expected to grow 4.2 percent next year and 3.4 percent in 2023
RIYADH: The six economies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are set to rebound and grow 2 percent to nearly 3 percent this year while the region’s two largest economies, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are forecast to grow over 4 percent next year, a quarterly Reuters survey showed.
That outlook follows steep declines last year following an oil price crash and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, while analysts expected Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait to benefit from an OPEC+ deal to boost oil production.
“Our core assumption was that a longer-term deal would be secured, and we raise our 2022 forecasts on the back of the baseline adjustments, which will enable the UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to raise oil output and their global market share from May 2022,” said Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.
Medians in the July 5-26 poll pegged Saudi Arabia’s growth at 2.3 percent this year, down slightly from a forecast of 2.4 percent in a similar poll three months ago.
In 2022, the Middle East’s largest economy and world’s largest oil exporter’s gross domestic product was seen growing 4.3 percent, an upward revision of 100 basis points (bps). Growth for 2023 was revised up 30 bps to 3.3 percent.
The UAE was expected to grow 2.3 percent this year, unchanged, and 4.2 percent next year and 3.4 percent in 2023, revised up 60 bps and 10 bps respectively.
Expectations for Kuwait’s 2021 GDP growth were lifted 60 bps to 2.4 percent, while growth next year was boosted 110 bps to 4.6 percent. Growth was seen 10 bps higher in 2023 at 3.0 percent.
Qatar’s 2021 growth forecast was scaled back 30 bps to 2.5 percent. The expectation for growth next year was unchanged at 3.6 percent and down 40 bps to 2.7 percent for 2023.
Oman was revised up 20 bps to 2.1 percent expected growth this year, up 10 bps to 3.3 percent next year and down 20 bps in 2023 to 2.2 percent. Bahrain’s outlook was unchanged for this year and next at 2.9 percent, while 2023 growth was seen 30 bps lower at 2.4 percent.
At least half of the GCC’s state revenues come from hydrocarbons, and diversification away from that will “likely take many years to achieve,” with fiscal diversification likely to follow with additional lag, Moody’s said in a report last month.
“The announced plans to boost hydrocarbon production capacity and government commitments to zero or very low taxes make it unlikely that this reliance will diminish significantly in the coming years, even with some progress in economic diversification, which we expect.”
NATO chief urges ‘negotiated settlement’ in Afghanistan
- Country faces a ‘deeply challenging’ security situation as foreign troops leave
BRUSSELS: NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday reiterated calls for a “negotiated settlement” with the Taliban in Afghanistan, admitting the country faced a “deeply challenging” security situation as foreign troops leave.
“The security situation in Afghanistan remains deeply challenging, and requires a negotiated settlement. NATO will continue to support Afghanistan, including with funding; civilian presence; and out-of-country training,” Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter after speaking to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Saudi resilient as emerging markets shares hit 7-month lows on China rout
- China blue-chip index drops 3.5 percent to 8-month low
- Saudi Arabia's Tadawul rose 0.2 percent, while Abu Dhabi is up 0.5 percent
RIYADH: Emerging market stocks slid 2 percent to a seven-month low on Tuesday, extending heavy losses to a third session, as a sharp sell-off in Chinese stocks continued.
Saudi Arabia's Tadawul rose 0.2 percent, while the Dubai Financial Market Index was little changed and Abu Dhabi's Securities Exchange General Index was up 0.6 percent.
China’s blue-chip index dropped 3.5 percent to its lowest in nearly eight months as worries lingered about regulatory crackdowns in the education and property sectors.
Hong Kong’s benchmark sank almost 4.5 percent, with losses over the past three days pushing the index more than 8 percent into the red for the year.
The Chinese yuan hit its lowest since April, weakening 0.4 percent to trade at 6.504 to the dollar.
“The question for investors is whether the sell-off presents an attractive opportunity to bottom fish,” said analysts at BCA Research.
“We argue otherwise and expect further pressure from regulators to continue to weigh down on Chinese stocks over a six- to 12-month horizon,” they said, adding that the medical industry could be the next target.
Adding to worries around China, profit growth at industrial firms slowed for a fourth straight month in June, while a surge in the Delta variant COVID-19 cases centered on the eastern city of Nanjing.
MSCI’s index of Asia shares excluding Japan hit its lowest so far this year, as did a broader index of EM equities as China stocks have the biggest weightage on both. Western European bourses traded well in the red, while US stock indexes looked set to retreat from all-time highs.
South Africa’s main index lost 1.7 percent, moving sharply away from 1-1/2-month highs, while Turkey’s index extended losses to day four. Polish stocks led losses across eastern Europe.
Tunisian bonds stabilized after their worst slide in a month on Monday following the government’s ouster by President Kais Saied.
Saied extended existing COVID-19 restrictions on movement on Monday and vowed any violent opposition would be met with force.
In currency markets, the South African rand slid 0.7 percent against a strengthening dollar ahead of the US Federal Reserve’s policy decision on Wednesday.
Investors are hoping to get clues on the world’s largest economy’s standing, as well as any hints on the timeline for stimulus tapering and interest rate hikes.
Massive support from major central banks and ultra-loose monetary policy to stimulate economic activity and growth has helped inflows into riskier assets of emerging markets.
Turkey’s lira and Russia’s rouble were broadly flat. Hungary’s forint was steady against the euro, staying near three-month lows ahead of a central bank meeting. An extension of a hiking cycle with a 20 basis-point increase in its base rate to 1.1 percent is expected.