War, inflation hit eurozone recovery hopes; US job openings hit record high — Macro Snapshot

In France, the INSEE official statistics agency said its consumer confidence index fell to 91 points from 97 in February, falling short of economists’ expectations in a Reuters poll for 94 and the worst headline figure since February 2021. Reuters/File
In France, the INSEE official statistics agency said its consumer confidence index fell to 91 points from 97 in February, falling short of economists’ expectations in a Reuters poll for 94 and the worst headline figure since February 2021. Reuters/File
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Updated 29 March 2022

War, inflation hit eurozone recovery hopes; US job openings hit record high — Macro Snapshot

War, inflation hit eurozone recovery hopes; US job openings hit record high — Macro Snapshot

RIYADH: France and Germany saw bigger than expected drops in consumer confidence this month as rising inflation and concern about the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine took their toll, surveys showed on Tuesday.

The European Central Bank insists the eurozone can avoid recession, but the collapse in consumer morale in its two top economies is a setback. Italy, the third largest economy, is due to downgrade its growth targets, sources in Rome said.

In Germany, the GfK institute said its consumer sentiment index, based on a survey of around 2,000 people, dropped to -15.5 points heading into April from a revised -8.5 points a month earlier and the lowest since February 2021.

“In February, hopes were still high that consumer sentiment would recover with the easing of pandemic-related restrictions. However, the war in Ukraine caused these hopes to vanish into thin air,” GfK consumer expert Rolf Buerkl said in a statement.

In France, the INSEE official statistics agency said its consumer confidence index fell to 91 points from 97 in February, falling short of economists’ expectations in a Reuters poll for 94 and the worst headline figure since February 2021.

“A fall of that extent is rare,” BNP analysts commented in a note that observed that sharper monthly drops had only previously occurred around the 1993 recession and the 2020 lockdown.

US job openings 

US job openings slipped in February, but remained near record highs as companies continued to struggle to find scarce workers.

Job openings, a measure of labor demand, fell 17,000 to 11.266 million on the last day of February, the Labor Department said in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS report on Tuesday.

Despite the second straight monthly decline, job openings were not too far from a record high of 11.448 million set in December. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 11 million vacancies.

Ghana approves e-tax 

Ghana’s parliament approved a new 1.5 percent tax on electronic payments, known as the “e-levy,” on Tuesday after the opposition walked out in protest.

Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta proposed the e-levy in November to widen the tax net, but opposition was so fierce that it caused a brawl in parliament a month later.

Critics believe the e-levy will price lower income people and small business owners out of the digital economy.

Ruling MPs re-introduced the bill as a surprise on Tuesday, when many opposition MPs were not present, a move analysts have previously said would be one of the only ways for the tax to pass. 

Kenya’s benchmark lending rate 

Kenya’s central bank held its benchmark lending rate at 7 percent on Tuesday, its monetary policy committee said, in line with market expectations.

In a Reuters poll of eight analysts, five predicted a “hold” decision and three had forecast a hike of up to 50 basis points.

Tuesday’s decision was the 12th in a row to keep rates steady, extending a holding pattern which policymakers adopted shortly after the coronavirus crisis reached the East African nation.

Inflation expectations were well anchored within the government’s target range, policymakers said in a statement, adding that they stood ready to take further action if the situation changes rapidly.

Brazil’s job growth 

Brazil created a net 328,507 formal jobs in February, Labor Ministry figures showed on Tuesday, well above market expectations, amid positive data in all sectors and a substantial contribution from service activities.

Economists in a Reuters poll forecast 210,000 jobs would be created in Latin America’s largest economy last month.

The figure, however, came below the 397,463 jobs created in February 2021, according to adjusted figures.

Italy’s budget deficit 

Italy plans to confirm its 2022 budget deficit target at 5.6 percent of national output, two sources close to the matter told Reuters, despite coalition pressure to sharply hike borrowing as the growth outlook deteriorates.

Mario Draghi’s government is preparing to slash its growth forecast for this year to 2.8 percent from a previous 4.7 percent goal made in September, the sources said, amid surging energy costs and turmoil linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In confirming the 5.6 percent deficit goal, Draghi is helped by the fact that on current trends the deficit is on track for 5.3 percent, according to the sources, allowing potential leeway of €4 billion to €5 billion ($4.4 billion to $5.5 billion) of additional spending without increasing the current target. Last year’s deficit came in at 7.2 percent.

Paying roubles for gas

The Kremlin on Tuesday said foreign companies need to understand that the “economic war” against Russia has changed the situation, meaning they need to buy roubles and pay for gas in the Russian currency, as Moscow seeks to shield itself from sanctions.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov reiterated that Russia would not export its gas for free and said Russia was drawing up ways to make gas payments simple, clear and practical, with all options due to be worked out by March 31.

“Companies should take into account the changing conditions and the absolute change in the situation that arose with the economic war against Russia,” Peskov told reporters.

With the election looming next month, the government has budgeted more than €25 billion ($27 billion) in measures to cap gas and power prices, make inflation offsetting handouts to low-income households and offer a rebate on fuel prices.


King Abdulaziz Port welcomes first ever Grimaldi car carrier

King Abdulaziz Port welcomes first ever Grimaldi car carrier
Updated 30 November 2022

King Abdulaziz Port welcomes first ever Grimaldi car carrier

King Abdulaziz Port welcomes first ever Grimaldi car carrier

RIYADH: The Saudi Ports Authority, or Mawani, has announced the arrival of MSC Cristiana, a 4,250-vehicle car carrier owned by automobile shipping giant Grimaldi Group, at Dammam’s King Abdulaziz Port from the Chinese port of MCID.

With major shipping lines sailing toward Saudi waters, the national maritime regulator has scaled yet another milestone as it looks to boost the Kingdom’s liner connectivity with the rest of the world. It also seeks to reinforce its presence as a competitive force on the global scale while bolstering national economic growth and foreign trade in line with the objectives of the National Transport and Logistics Strategy.

King Abdulaziz Port is a highly rated trade and investment hub in the Arabian Gulf, thanks to its close proximity to Jubail’s ports and industrial complex as well as its rail linkages to Riyadh Dry Port and the Saudi railway network.

With its suite of world-class operating capabilities and best-in-class infrastructure, which includes 43 berths, the port was ranked 14th in the World Bank’s Container Port Performance Index for 2021.

The port has recently added a series of new shipping services to its roster, including the Jebel Ali Bahrain Shuwaikh Service by the Emirates Shipping Line, the Far East to Middle East service by Sea Lead Shipping in partnership with Saudi Global Ports, and the Gulf-India Express 2 service by Aladin Express. These are in addition to the latest expansion of the Gulf China Service by Pacific International Lines through the introduction of Shanghai and Singapore as new ports of call.

The shipping services lend their part in enabling a greater market capture of the regional maritime freight market while at the same time positioning King Abdulaziz Port as a global destination.


TASI closes on a positive note, gains 144 points

TASI closes on a positive note, gains 144 points
Updated 30 November 2022

TASI closes on a positive note, gains 144 points

TASI closes on a positive note, gains 144 points

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s benchmark index gained ground on Wednesday, with 148 of the 219 listed companies closing higher as investors came in droves to kick-start a bull run.

The Tadawul All Share Index added 142 points to close at 10,896.91, while the parallel market Nomu soared 473 points to finish at 18,866.

The total trading turnover closed at SR8 billion ($2.13 billion), an encouraging figure from the SR2.58 billion clocked on Sunday.

Saudi utility major ACWA Power announced that it signed a power purchase agreement with the Water and Electricity Holding Co. to develop the largest solar photovoltaic plant in the Middle East.

Based in Makkah, the 2,060-megawatt project will be ready by the fourth quarter of 2025 and is expected to power 350,000 homes.

The news led to a flurry among investors to purchase the shares, leading to a 4.32 percent increase in share price while closing at SR140.20.

Saudi Arabian food delivery app Jahez announced a share purchase agreement to acquire 134,620 shares in The Chefz SPV Ltd., representing a 100 percent stake, for SR325 million. The share price closed 12 points higher to SR602.

Saudi Telecom Co. revealed the repurchase of 11.59 million shares for SR453 million at an average price of SR39.16 to facilitate its employee stock incentive plan. The stock opened at SR38.10 and closed at SR38.45, up 1.1 percent.

The stock exchange also witnessed a slew of dividends and bonus shares that steamed up the market.

Healthcare player Al Hammadi Holding on Tuesday recommended a 3.5 percent cash dividend of SR0.35 per share for the fourth quarter this year, amounting to a total of SR56 million. Its share barely inched up to close at SR42.

Nafiyat Finance Co. also recommended a 20 percent increase in capital through a bonus issue of one-for-five shares, leading to a marginal increase in its share price, which closed at SR20.70.

International Human Resources Co.’s shareholders approved a recommendation to distribute cash dividends at 7.5 percent of the company’s capital, or SR0.75 per share, for the first half of 2022. The share price gained 3 percent to close at SR64.

The topmost grosser of the day was Dallah Healthcare Co., with its share price increasing 9.8 percent to end at SR173.60.

Other companies reigning the market included the National Company for Learning and Education, Amlak International for Real Estate Finance Co., Arabian Internet and Communications Services Co. and Almasane Alkobra Mining Co, which clocked on average a 7.54 percent increase.

The top losers were Tourism Enterprise Co., Jadwa REIT Saudi Fund, Riyad REIT Fund, Yanbu Cement Co. and Ash-Sharqiyah Development Co.


Middle East carriers see 15% fall in air cargo volumes in October: IATA

Middle East carriers see 15% fall in air cargo volumes in October: IATA
Updated 30 November 2022

Middle East carriers see 15% fall in air cargo volumes in October: IATA

Middle East carriers see 15% fall in air cargo volumes in October: IATA

RIYADH: Economic headwinds across the globe continued to affect air cargo demand in October, as Middle Eastern carriers witnessed a 15 percent fall in air cargo volumes compared to the same period last year, according to the International Air Transport Association.

The October report from the organization, which represents some 290 airlines comprising 83 percent of global air traffic, revealed the impact of the economic headwinds on the aviation sector could even follow into 2023.

“Air cargo continues to demonstrate resilience as headwinds persist. Cargo demand in October — while tracking below the exceptional performance of October 2021 — saw a 3.5 percent increase in demand compared to September. This indicates that the year-end will still bring a traditional peak-season boost despite economic uncertainties,” said IATA’s Director General Willie Walsh. 

He added: “As 2022 closes out it appears that the current economic uncertainties will follow into the New Year and need continued close monitoring.” 

In October 2022, air cargo volumes in Asia-Pacific airlines decreased by 14.7 percent compared to the same month in 2021. 

The report noted that the fall of air cargo volumes in the Asia Pacific was impacted by conflict in Europe, and lower levels of trade and manufacturing activity due to omicron-related restrictions in China

North American carriers posted an 8.6 percent decrease in cargo volumes in October 2022, while European carriers saw an 18.8 percent decrease compared to the same month last year, primarily due to the war in Ukraine and high inflation levels. 

Latin American and African carriers also witnessed a fall in cargo volumes by 1.4 percent and 8.3 percent over the same period.

The report also suggested that the global demand for air cargo measured in cargo ton-kilometers fell 13.6 percent in October 2022 from the same month last year. 

“Capacity was 0.6 percent below October 2021. This was the first year-on-year contraction since April 2022, however, month-on-month capacity increased by 2.4 percent in preparation for the year-end peak season,” said IATA in the report. 

International cargo capacity grew 2.4 percent in October 2022, compared to the same month in the previous year. 


Saudi PIF secures record-breaking $17bn seven-year senior unsecured term loan

Saudi PIF secures record-breaking $17bn seven-year senior unsecured term loan
Updated 30 November 2022

Saudi PIF secures record-breaking $17bn seven-year senior unsecured term loan

Saudi PIF secures record-breaking $17bn seven-year senior unsecured term loan

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has announced that it has secured a new $17 billion seven-year senior unsecured term loan, according to a statement.

The loan is the largest-of-its-kind general corporate purpose loan worldwide and was twice oversubscribed.

The new loan falls in line with the sovereign wealth fund’s strategy of diversifying its funding sources in an attempt to prompt effective investment in the Kingdom and globally.

The new loan also aligns well with the PIF’s medium-term capital raising strategy as well as its 2022 Annual Capital Raising Plan.

“It is a significant achievement for PIF, raising a record-sized term facility in the longest tenor ever for a loan of its size that is subscribed to by an unprecedentedly diversified number of lenders. PIF will continue to explore a variety of debt funding sources as it delivers on its strategic objectives,” said Head of Global Capital Finance Division at PIF Fahad AlSaif in a statement.

The PIF’s $11 billion five-year loan which was arranged back in 2018 is set to be repaid early, the statement disclosed.

While the new transaction recorded the support of 25 financial institutions across Europe, America, the Middle East, and Asia, the $11 billion loan of 2018 was supported by just 15 financial institutions.

In February 2022, the PIF received strong international credit ratings from US credit firm Moody’s as well as US finance and insurance company Fitch, reflecting the creditworthiness and quality of the sovereign wealth fund’s investments.


Saudi airports focus on sustainability through infrastructure projects: Leading official

Saudi airports focus on sustainability through infrastructure projects: Leading official
Updated 30 November 2022

Saudi airports focus on sustainability through infrastructure projects: Leading official

Saudi airports focus on sustainability through infrastructure projects: Leading official

RIYADH: The aviation sector in Saudi Arabia is pushing toward a sustainable model by building infrastructure for the future to deliver a seamless passenger experience, according to Abdulaziz Al-Duailej, president of the Kingdom's General Authority of Civil Aviation.

Picking up the threads from the universal pandemic that marred the airline industry, the sector is bolstering the infrastructure by addressing core issues such as staff shortage, health mandates and climate change concerns. 

Fresh from the pandemic, the industry had to endure a hiring process that took almost 16 weeks from recruiting a skilled worker to finally deploying him or her to the job, leading to a clogged supply of staff members in the airports. The situation, however, is fast changing. 

“We tried to support the airports by accelerating the training, certification and security clearance of the ground handlers and other players of the ecosystem through digitization programs that have minimized the process,” said Al-Duailej, while speaking at the World Travel and Tourism Global Summit in Riyadh. 

The aviation authority last month also submitted the ‘Harmonizing Air Travel' policy guidelines to the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization Council for its approval, encouraging the use of a unified health document that could alleviate traveler concerns that global travelers encountered during the universal pandemic. 

There is also a concerted effort in the Saudi aviation sector to cut the dwell time or time passengers spend in the airport before boarding their flights. 

NEOM Airport, for instance, is working toward developing a high-speed “green” rail system that will transfer air travelers to the city without the need of even finding a parked vehicle, meaning there will be no parking at the NEOM airport. 

“Instead of focusing necessarily on the airport and being a destination, we want to facilitate getting you into the city as fast as we can,” said John Selden, CEO of NEOM Airport. 

The airport is also considering using electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, or EVTOL, to expedite the mobility of incoming passengers. 

“The last two years were incredibly tough for the industry. The check-in process, which usually takes five minutes, took 20 minutes per passenger. We need to find a way to put all the passenger touchpoints together to make travel seamless,” said Luis Felipe de Oliveira, director-general of the Airports Council International, while speaking at the event. 

Airports are also toying with the idea of running the infrastructure to support sustainability, which includes 100 percent green or battery-powered equipment throughout the airport expanse. 

“We need to have systems where passengers don’t leave gates, and we don’t burn fuel on taxiways until we are ready for take-off. We don’t need a queue at the end of the runway,” said Pagano while sharing his vision of a green hydrogen-fueled ecosystem that will power the airports of the future.