Saudi Central Bank to launch new 24/7 instant payments system

Saudi Central Bank to launch new 24/7 instant payments system
Recent figures showed that digital payment transactions in the Kingdom jumped by 75 percent last year as Saudis embraced online shopping. (Reuters)
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Updated 11 February 2021

Saudi Central Bank to launch new 24/7 instant payments system

Saudi Central Bank to launch new 24/7 instant payments system
  • SAMA will supervise the new system which, it said, would contribute to the country’s economic development by increasing the speed and efficiency of financial transactions
  • Other benefits would include improved transparency of payments between companies and individuals, and options for customers to carry out immediate transfers between accounts

RIYADH: The Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) on Thursday announced the launch date for a new electronic instant payments system designed to make the Kingdom less dependent on cash.

Following the successful completion of trials, the digital transactions scheme will be activated with participating banks on Feb. 21, according to Asharq Business.

SAMA will supervise the new system which, it said, would contribute to the country’s economic development by increasing the speed and efficiency of financial transactions in the corporate and retail sectors.

Other benefits would include improved transparency of payments between companies and individuals, and options for customers to carry out immediate financial transfers between accounts in local banks, with lower fees than current interbank transfers, the central bank added.

Talat Zaki Hafiz, an economist and board member of the Saudi Financial Association, told Arab News that the processing of local payments had previously been confined to banking business hours, which did not include weekends and holidays. Under the new system, transactions would be able to take place 24 hours a day, seven days a week, he said.

Recent figures showed that digital payment transactions in the Kingdom jumped by 75 percent last year as Saudis embraced online shopping in the wake of restrictions brought in to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.


Saudi Arabia to reach net carbon neutrality by 2060: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Saudi Arabia to reach net carbon neutrality by 2060: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Updated 13 sec ago

Saudi Arabia to reach net carbon neutrality by 2060: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Saudi Arabia to reach net carbon neutrality by 2060: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the Kingdom aims to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2060, during the Saudi Green Initiative forum in Riyadh on Saturday.


What to expect at the Saudi Green Initiative forum today 

What to expect at the Saudi Green Initiative forum today 
Updated 23 October 2021

What to expect at the Saudi Green Initiative forum today 

What to expect at the Saudi Green Initiative forum today 
  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is launching the forum to announce the Kingdom’s new “green” objectives

DUBAI: The Saudi Green Initiative forum in Riyadh is happening today, with high-profile government leaders and international personalities taking the stage to discuss the Kingdom’s environmental efforts. 

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is opening the forum to announce the Kingdom’s new “green” objectives. 

His remarks will be followed by fireside chat with Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saudi, the Kingdom’s energy minister. 

Other Saudi ministers are also speaking at the forum, exploring specific themes around business and the environment, marine and ocean life, and the oil and gas industry. 

Big corporate icons, including Paddy Padmanathan of ACWA Power and Jasper Graf of Daystar Power US, are also participating in the forum.  


Bitcoin slips from record high as ETF mania subsides

Bitcoin slips from record high as ETF mania subsides
Updated 22 October 2021

Bitcoin slips from record high as ETF mania subsides

Bitcoin slips from record high as ETF mania subsides
  • JPMorgan analysts doubted whether the ETF will attract much new money into bitcoin

RIYADH: Cryptocurrencies declined on Friday following an ETF-fueled rally that saw it reach a record $67,016 on Wednesday, as investors questioned whether the new investment vehicle will attract as much new money to the assets as some have speculated.

Bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency, was trading at $63,498.16 as of 3:36 p.m. in Riyadh, a drop of 2.5 percent over the previous 24 hours. Ethereum, was 2.0 percent lower at $4,125.40 after approaching its all-time high of $4,380 from May.

Bitcoin’s recent rally — six-months after its previous top of $64,895 — was fueled by the debut of the ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF.

A dozen other futures-based bitcoin ETFs could launch in the coming months, with The Valkyrie Bitcoin Strategy ETF set to begin trading on Friday under the ticker BTF. The VanEck Bitcoin Strategy ETF expected to begin trading next week under the ticker XBTF.

Investors have bet the long-awaited launch of bitcoin ETFs will lead to greater investment from both retail and institutional investors, but analysts at JPMorgan suggested in a note that the ProShares ETF could have limited effect on investment volumes because there are so many options for investors already.

The ProShares ETF has created a significant shift in the balance of power among cryptocurrency exchanges. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), host to the ETF, has replaced Binance as the world’s biggest bitcoin futures platform this week.

As of 2 p.m. Riyadh time, the CME accounted for 22 percent, or $5.68 billion, of the total global futures open interest of $25.7 billion, while Binance contributed $5.66 billion, CoinDesk reported.

The value of funds held in CME-based futures contracts have tripled this month, with more than $1.5 billion flowing into the market after ProShares’ bitcoin ETF went live on Tuesday, CoinDesk said.

Elsewhere in the cryptoverse, Worldcoin said yesterday it raised $25 million from investors including Andreessen Horowitz, CoinBase Ventures and Digital Currency Group, valuing it at $1 billion.

The rather unique proposition is that coins are distributed in exchange for staring into an orb, which takes a scan of your retinas.

Based in Berlin, Worldcoin was founded by former Y Combinator President Sam Altman. It currently has 70 employees and 30 orbs, which it takes out into the world to offer worldcoins. It plans to ramp up orb production to 4,000 per month from November.

So far, about 130,000 people have stared into the orb, has a cap of 10 billion coins with the aim of giving one to every person on earth with the remaining 2 billion set aside for the Worldcoin Foundation and investors.


Oil stays near $85 a barrel, Brent set for seventh weekly gain

Oil stays near $85 a barrel, Brent set for seventh weekly gain
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 22 October 2021

Oil stays near $85 a barrel, Brent set for seventh weekly gain

Oil stays near $85 a barrel, Brent set for seventh weekly gain
  • Prices have been boosted by worries about coal and gas shortages in China, India and Europe

Oil prices stayed near multi-year highs on Friday, erasing some earlier losses in Asian trading hours, with concerns about tight supply and stockpiles fuelling bullish sentiment.


Brent crude futures rose 23 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $84.84 a barrel at 0933 GMT, after Thursday's three-year high of $86.10. The benchmark is set for its seventh weekly gain.


U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures gained 20 cents, or 0.2%, to reach $82.70 a barrel, not far off a seven-year high hit this week.


Prices have been boosted by worries about coal and gas shortages in China, India and Europe, spurring some power generators to switch from gas to fuel oil and diesel.


Winter weather in much of the United States is expected to be warmer than average, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast.


"Crude oil's sharp rise may make it vulnerable to profit taking, however, a substantial correction may not happen unless global energy crisis subsides," said Ravindra Rao, vice president for commodities at Kotak Securities.


"Global gas and coal prices have eased but concerns persist with tighter market and higher demand winter season around the corner."


U.S. crude found support this week as investors eyed low crude stocks at the U.S. storage hub in Cushing, Oklahoma.


U.S. Energy Information Administration data on Wednesday showed crude stocks at Cushing fell to 31.2 million barrels, their lowest level since October 2018.


"America’s gasoline demand appears to be experiencing an Indian summer," PVM analysts said in a note, pointing to the highest implied demand for this time of year since 2007 despite high pump prices.

 

 

 


Equities eye third week of gains after tech boost, S&P 500 hits new record

Equities eye third week of gains after tech boost, S&P 500 hits new record
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 22 October 2021

Equities eye third week of gains after tech boost, S&P 500 hits new record

Equities eye third week of gains after tech boost, S&P 500 hits new record

Global shares were on course for their third straight week of gains on Friday, buoyed by tech stocks in Asia overnight, while the dollar dipped and oil prices held steady.


MSCI's broadest gauge of global shares was up 0.1 percent in early European trade, 1.4 percent higher on the week and just 0.8 percent off its all-time high.

Germany's DAX gained 0.4 percent to 15,535.16. In Paris, the CAC 40 jumped 1.1 percent to 6,759.46, while Britain's FTSE 100 added 0.4 percent to 7,220.57.

The future for the S&P 500 was nearly unchanged while the future for the Dow industrials gained less than 0.1 percent.


On Thursday, the S&P 500 rose 0.3 percent to 4,549.78, its seventh straight gain. That eclipsed the record high it set on Sept. 2. 


That followed gains in Asia, where equity bulls were also comforted by news that heavily indebted Chinese property firm China Evergrande Group had made a surprise interest payment, averting a default for now.


Japan's Nikkei advanced 0.3 percent, led by the technology sector, while energy and basic materials shares were the biggest drags as coal futures extended their losses after Beijing signalled it would intervene to cool surging prices that contributed to the country's electricity shortage.


More broadly, investors have become increasingly concerned that persistent inflation could force central bankers to tighten monetary policy at a point where global economic growth remains fragile.


Mark Haefele, Chief Investment Officer, UBS Global Wealth Management, said in a note to clients that equities could still move higher, despite growing concerns around the impact of inflation and the potential for central banks to tighten policy.


"With current issues still appearing more temporary than structural, we believe equity markets will continue to move higher," Haefele said.


"Indeed, small increases in inflation expectations can be positive for markets if it helps to banish fears of deflation. Furthermore, by our assessment, global growth remains strong, supply chain challenges should recede into 2022, and corporate earnings should continue to grow."


U.S. stock futures point to a 0.1 percent lower open, after the cash index posted a record closing high overnight, led by surging tech shares.


Next week, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Google-owner Alphabet all report, with bulls hoping they can follow forecast-beating earnings this week from Netflix.


Meanwhile, yields on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes were at 1.6828 percent, easing back from a five-month high of 1.7050 percent reached overnight.


The dollar index, which gauges the greenback against six major rivals, was down 0.1 percent to 93.639 on Friday, despite initially bouncing off recent lows after U.S. jobless claims fell to a 19-month low, pointing to a tighter labor market.


The Fed has signalled it could start to taper stimulus as soon as next month, with rate hikes to follow late next year. Full employment is among the Fed's stated requirements for rates lift-off.


Fed Chair Jerome Powell speaks later on Friday in a panel discussion.


Across commodities, oil was flat with Brent crude set for its first losing week in seven and West Texas Intermediate its first in nine.


Gold was up 0.5 percent on the back of the weaker dollar, on course for its second week of gains.