Saudi private sector rebounds with growth at 10-month high

An easing of pandemic restrictions in the Kingdom and hopes of a breakthrough in the development of a vaccine helped strengthen the business outlook for the year ahead. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 04 December 2020

Saudi private sector rebounds with growth at 10-month high

Saudi private sector rebounds with growth at 10-month high
  • Steep rise in sales and growing business confidence spark jump in purchasing, hiring activity

RIYADH: Business activity in Saudi Arabia has risen to its highest level since January this year, showing the Kingdom’s economy is beginning to overcome the worst effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to IHS Markit’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) Survey, the acceleration of output growth in the Saudi economy in November was driven by a steep rise in sales and strengthening business confidence.

The survey found that input purchasing rose, while employment growth also returned for the first time since January. Input cost inflation also quickened, leading to a stronger increase in average output charges.

The index has now registered above the 50.0 no-change mark for three months in a row, highlighting a sustained recovery after the economic downturn due to the pandemic.

The Saudi PMI rose to 54.7 in November from 51 the previous month — the strongest improvement since January. The indices vary between 0 and 100, with a reading above 50 indicating an overall increase compared with the previous month, and below 50 an overall decrease.

Both domestic and foreign sales rose last month, marking only the second upturn in new export orders since February.

Business confidence for the year ahead also improved notably during the month. In particular, firms were encouraged by the Saudi government’s easing of lockdown curbs and news of a breakthrough in the development of a vaccine.

Accelerated rises in output and new orders led Saudi firms to sharply expand purchasing activity during November. In addition, hiring activity turned positive and a number of companies linked increased employment to rising demand.

Commenting on the latest survey, David Owen, an economist at IHS Markit, said: “A third successive rise in the Saudi Arabia PMI pointed to an economy getting back on its feet in November. Supported by output and new business growth reaching 10-month highs, the data suggests a strong end to the year for the non-oil private sector. Notably, employment started to rise, while business confidence strengthened in the wake of encouraging vaccine news and sharper demand growth.”

Saudi economist and financial analyst Talat Zaki Hafiz told Arab News: “The improvement is due to many factors, such as the reopening of the market with the ease in lockdown and, finally, the lifting of the curfew. The return to normality has had a significant impact on private sector performance.”

Hafiz added: “Things will get much better by the next year. We have also noticed an improvement in oil prices recently and this will improve things significantly.”


Qatar has no need to sell bonds after first quarter surplus, says finance minister

Qatar has no need to sell bonds after first quarter surplus, says finance minister
Updated 41 sec ago

Qatar has no need to sell bonds after first quarter surplus, says finance minister

Qatar has no need to sell bonds after first quarter surplus, says finance minister
  • The minister said the country continued to focus on diversification and was studying the possible future introduction of value added tax

DOHA: Qatar has no need to tap bond markets for budget-balancing reasons after a better than expected oil price boosted its revenues, Finance Minister Ali Al-Kuwari said.
He told Bloomberg TV that the country would only consider raising fresh debt for opportunistic reasons such as attractive yields.
“When we did the budget we ran very conservative numbers (based on) $40 oil and the expectation was around 34 billion Qatari riyals of deficit for the year however we had an excellent first quarter and oil prices moved in the right direction,” he said.
The minister said the country continued to focus on diversification and was studying the possible future introduction of value added tax.
Al-Kuwairi said that investigations into former finance minister Ali Shareef Al-Emadi were continuing and that once the outcome of those enquiries was known it would be made public.
Al-Emadi was arrested earlier this year over allegations of abuse of power and misuse of public funds.
“Qatar has a very transparent legal system and once we have the full details of the investigation and outcome I am sure the public will know what is going on,” said Al-Kuwari.


Oil rises on optimism of quick recovery in global demand

Oil rises on optimism of quick recovery in global demand
Updated 13 min 22 sec ago

Oil rises on optimism of quick recovery in global demand

Oil rises on optimism of quick recovery in global demand
  • Both benchmarks have risen for the past four weeks on optimism over the pace of global COVID-19 vaccinations and expected pick-up in summer travel

TOKYO: Crude oil prices rose on Tuesday, with Brent hitting $75 a barrel for the first time since April 2019, as investors remained bullish about a quick recovery in global oil demand and as concerns eased over an early return of Iranian crude.
Brent crude futures for August climbed 26 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $75.16 a barrel by 0400 GMT, paring earlier losses. It rose as high as $75.23 a barrel, the strongest since April 25, 2019, earlier in the session.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for July was at $73.70 a barrel, up 4 cents, or 0.1 percent. WTI for August climbed 11 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $73.23 a barrel.
Brent gained 1.9 percent and WTI jumped 2.8 percent on Monday.
Both benchmarks have risen for the past four weeks on optimism over the pace of global COVID-19 vaccinations and expected pick-up in summer travel. The rebound has pushed up spot premiums for crude in Asia and Europe to multi-month highs.
“The market sentiment stays strong with improved outlook for global demand,” said Satoru Yoshida, a commodity analyst with Rakuten Securities, adding that a rally in Asian stock markets is also helping boost risk appetite among investors.
Global shares extended their recovery on Tuesday, with Asian markets bouncing from four-weeks lows as investor focus on economic growth partly offset worries about the US Federal Reserve raising rates sooner than expected.
BofA Global Research raised its Brent crude price forecasts for this year and next, saying that tighter oil supply and recovering demand could push oil briefly to $100 per barrel in 2022.
Investors are looking to weekly US inventory data as crude oil stockpiles have fallen for four weeks, said Toshitaka Tazawa, analyst at commodities broker Fujitomi Co.
US crude stocks were expected to drop for the fifth consecutive week, while distillate and gasoline were seen rising last week, a preliminary Reuters poll showed on Monday.
“The oil prices are expected to hold a firm tone amid expectations that fuel demand will pick up quickly along with economic recovery in Europe and the United States,” Tazawa said.
The price gap between the world’s two most actively traded oil contracts narrowed to its lowest in more than seven months, demonstrating that US oil output is still in the COVID-19 doldrums with the market likely to remain undersupplied.
Negotiations to revive the Iran nuclear deal took a pause on Sunday after hard-line judge Ebrahim Raisi won the country’s presidential election.
Raisi on Monday backed talks between Iran and six world powers to revive a 2015 nuclear deal but flatly rejected meeting US President Joe Biden, even if Washington removed all sanctions.
“The lower probability of Iranian crude oil returning to the market due to the new hard-line president is also supporting the market,” Fujitomi’s Tazawa said.


Maple Invest delays buyout of Dubai developer DAMAC

Maple Invest delays buyout of Dubai developer DAMAC
Updated 27 min 45 sec ago

Maple Invest delays buyout of Dubai developer DAMAC

Maple Invest delays buyout of Dubai developer DAMAC
  • It has appointed an independent valuer and financial adviser to help determine the fairness of the offer from the perspective of shareholders

DUBAI: Investment company Maple Invest, owned by tycoon Hussain Sajwani, has delayed the potential buyout of DAMAC, the developer said in a bourse filing.

It earlier offered to take the Dubai developer, which is behind some of the emirate’s glitziest property projects, private at a 45 percent discount to its offer price in 2015 when it went public.

On Monday, the investment company said it hired advisers following the $599m plan.
The company founded by tycoon Hussein Sajwani said on Sunday it has appointed an independent valuer and financial adviser to help determine the fairness of the offer from the perspective of shareholders, the company said in a filing to the Dubai Financial Market.
DAMAC said on Sunday it had also appointed Al Tamimi & Co. as an external legal adviser and that the supplemental offer document would be published by the end of the month.
The developer said that there would be no change to the rights of customers who had paid for projects that had not yet been delivered.
The planned de-listing of DAMAC is seen as a blow for the Dubai Financial Market amid amid increased competition from other regional bourses in Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia.


US seeks to extradite Turkish businessman over fraud charges

US seeks to extradite Turkish businessman over fraud charges
Updated 43 min 57 sec ago

US seeks to extradite Turkish businessman over fraud charges

US seeks to extradite Turkish businessman over fraud charges
  • Korkmaz and co-conspirators allegedly used the proceeds from the scheme to buy the Turkish airline Borajet, hotels in Turkey and Switzerland and a yacht named the Queen Anne

WASHINGTON: The United States will seek to extradite a Turkish businessman from Austria so he can appear before a US judge in Utah, where he is facing charges of conspiring to commit money laundering and wire fraud, the US Justice Department said.
Sezgin Baran Korkmaz laundered more than $133 million in fraud proceeds through bank accounts that he controlled in Turkey and Luxembourg, the Justice Department said in a statement.
Korkmaz, it said, was arrested in Austria on Saturday at the department’s request following the unsealing of a superseding indictment charging him with conspiracy to commit money laundering, wire fraud and obstruction of an official proceeding.
Reuters was not immediately able to identify Korkmaz’s lawyers for comment.
The businessman is also being investigated by Turkey, where prosecutors in December detained 10 executives working at Korkmaz’s companies, after Turkey’s Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK) said the companies were used for money laundering, Turkish state-news agency Anadolu reported.
The Turkish ambassador to Austria told Dogan News agency on Sunday that Korkmaz was detained on Saturday in a town about 260 km (160 miles) from Vienna and that Turkey had initiated an extradition process with Austrian authorities.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry did not return a call for comment.
It was not immediately clear where Korkmaz would be extradited. He is believed to have left Turkey in December before the police raids.
US prosecutors say the fraud proceeds stemmed from a scheme involving the filing of false claims for more than $1 billion in renewable fuel tax credits for the production and sale of biodiesel by Utah-based Washakie Renewable Energy.
Washakie could not immediately be reached for comment.
Korkmaz and co-conspirators allegedly used the proceeds from the scheme to buy the Turkish airline Borajet, hotels in Turkey and Switzerland, a yacht named the Queen Anne and a villa and an apartment on the Bosphorus in Istanbul, the Justice Department said.

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Global stocks, US yields recoup some losses

Global stocks, US yields recoup some losses
Updated 22 June 2021

Global stocks, US yields recoup some losses

Global stocks, US yields recoup some losses
  • Investors still digesting last week’s surprise hawkish shift by the US Federal Reserve

WASHINGTON: US stocks were higher on Monday and global stocks advanced in choppy trade after hitting a four-week low earlier in the session, with investors still digesting last week’s surprise hawkish shift by the US Federal Reserve.

The US dollar retreated from Friday’s 10-week high. Yields on 10-year Treasuries turned higher after sliding overnight to a four-month low of 1.354 percent. But the benchmark note was still trading well below its recent mid-point range of about 1.6 percent after traders reacted to Federal Reserve expectations for a rate hike.

Shares of banks, energy firms and other companies that tend to be sensitive to the economy’s fluctuations were higher, recovering some losses after have fallen sharply since the Fed’s meeting on Wednesday, when the central bank caught investors off guard by anticipating two quarter-percentage-point rate increases in 2023.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.45 percent, the S&P 500 gained 1 percent and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.2 percent.

“Bulls are attempting to regroup this morning after last Friday’s plunge,” Paul Hickey of Bespoke Investment Group said in a market note.

Stocks in Asia took their cue from Wall Street’s falls on Friday but European shares bucked the trend, with the pan-European STOXX 600 index up 0.6 percent.

“The situation in reality is actually pretty good — the Fed is stabilizing inflation,” said Sebastien Galy, senior macro strategist at Nordea Asset Management in Luxembourg. “Cyclical sectors may have overshot the market in the short term and so you may have a bit of pressure on the sector.”

Galy noted the “interesting part” of the correction was that it lagged as traders digested the news.

MSCI’s All Country World Index, which tracks shares across 49 countries, was up 0.5 percent after hitting its lowest since May 24.

Earlier in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei led declines with an over 3 percent drop and dipped below 28,000 for the first time in a month, while MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 1.2 percent.

The US dollar index was down 0.4 percent, off Friday’s 10-week high of 92.408, following its biggest weekly advance in more than a year.

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard further fueled the sell-off on Friday by saying the shift toward faster policy tightening was a “natural” response to economic growth and particularly inflation moving quicker than anticipated as the country reopens from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We believe there is a limit to how much more hawkish the Fed can be given its inflation projections relative to the catch-up rates range,” BlackRock analysts said in a note.

“Our bottom line: We believe the Fed’s new outlook will not translate into significantly higher policy rates any time soon.”

Several Fed officials have speaking duties this week, including Chair Jerome Powell, who testifies before Congress on Tuesday. 

The euro was up 0.46 percent to $1.1915. Sterling recovered some ground, to trade 0.9 percent higher after sliding to its lowest since April 16.

Commodity-linked currencies have also suffered, with the Australian dollar hovering above a six-month low at $0.7495.

A stronger greenback has pressured cryptocurrencies, too, with Bitcoin falling 7.7 percent, while smaller rival Ether lost 11 percent.

In commodities, gold rebounded 1.0 percent to $1,781.41 an ounce on Monday, looking to snap a six-day losing streak, but remained near the lowest since early May.

Copper continued to fall on Monday, hitting its lowest level since mid-April after moves by China to rein in commodities price rallies and signals from the US Federal Reserve it will tighten monetary policy sooner than expected. 

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) was down 0.8 percent at $9,070 a ton in official trading, after touching $9,011.

Crude oil rose, underpinned by strong demand during the summer driving season and a pause in talks to revive the Iran nuclear deal that could indicate a delay in resumption of supplies from the OPEC producer. Brent crude futures rose to $74.48 a barrel, up 1.32 percent on the day, as Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 1.9 percent to $73.