Macro Snapshot — French unemployment slips to 14-year low; US retail sales increase strongly

Britain’s unemployment rate fell to its lowest since 1974 at 3.7 percent in the first three months of this year. Reuters/File
Britain’s unemployment rate fell to its lowest since 1974 at 3.7 percent in the first three months of this year. Reuters/File
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Updated 17 May 2022

Macro Snapshot — French unemployment slips to 14-year low; US retail sales increase strongly

Macro Snapshot — French unemployment slips to 14-year low; US retail sales increase strongly

RIYADH: Unemployment in France and Britain fell to their lowest since 2008 and 1974 respectively, whereas the Dutch economy recorded no growth as consumption levels dropped. 

French unemployment slips

Unemployment in France dipped slightly in the first quarter to the lowest rate in 14 years, official data showed on Tuesday, giving President Emmanuel Macron a boost ahead of legislative elections.

The unemployment rate slipped to 7.3 percent from 7.4 percent in the previous three months, the INSEE statistics agency said. A Reuters poll of 10 economists had on average expected the rate to remain unchanged.

It was the lowest level of unemployment since the second quarter of 2008, apart from an anomalous, unrepresentative drop at the start of the pandemic when job seekers could not look for work during a nationwide lockdown.

Apart from during that period, unemployment has come down steadily since Macron first took office in 2017, when the jobless rate stood at 9.5 percent.

Beyond the headline decrease in joblessness, INSEE’s quarterly employment report showed that youth unemployment rose to 16.3 percent from 16.0 percent in the final quarter of last year, when it hit the lowest level since early 1981.

Meanwhile, the employment rate, the share of the workforce in work, rose to 68 percent from 67.8 percent in the previous quarter, reaching the highest level since INSEE began keeping records in 1975.

UK unemployment falls to lowest

Britain’s unemployment rate fell to its lowest since 1974 at 3.7 percent in the first three months of this year, official figures showed on Tuesday, below economists’ forecasts for it to hold steady at 3.8 percent.

Average earnings, excluding bonuses, were 4.2 percent higher than a year earlier in the three months to March, above the average forecast in a Reuters poll for wage growth to hold at 4.1 percent.

Turkish house sales rise 

Turkish house sales rose 38.8 percent in April on the year to 133,058 houses, data from the Turkish Statistical Institute showed on Tuesday, with more than double the houses sold to Russians compared to a month ago as they sought a financial haven.

Sales to foreigners rose 58.1 percent, the institute said. Russian citizens rose to the top of the list in April with 1,152 houses from 547 in March. They were followed by Iranians and Iraqis.

Wealthy Russians are pouring money into real estate in Turkey and the UAE, seeking a financial haven in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and Western sanctions, many property companies say. 

The data also showed April mortgaged sales rose 82.9 percent from a year earlier to 32,030, accounting for 24.1 percent of the total sales in the period.

Dutch Q1 economic growth 

Growth of the Dutch economy stalled in the first three months of 2022, as consumer and government spending dropped compared with the previous quarter, a first estimate released on Tuesday showed.

The first quarter gross domestic product was unchanged from the last three months of 2021.

Nonetheless, the eurozone’s fifth largest economy was 7 percent larger than it had been in the same period a year earlier, when demand was crippled by a broad COVID-19 lockdown.

Economists on average had expected quarterly growth of 0.2 percent.

Government spending fell 4 percent in the first quarter, while consumer spending was 0.1 percent lower.

Indonesia posts trade surplus 

Indonesia’s trade surplus jumped to its largest ever at $7.56 billion in April, as exports rose to a record high while imports grew slower than expected, data from the statistics bureau showed on Tuesday.

Indonesia, a major exporter of many commodities such as thermal coal, palm oil and nickel, has reported a trade surplus every month in the past two years, enjoying an export boom and rising prices of commodities.

A Reuters poll had expected a trade surplus of $3.25 billion for April, following a $4.53 billion surplus the previous month.

Spain’s March trade deficit soars 

Spain’s trade deficit jumped 11-fold in March compared to the same month a year earlier to €4.64 billion ($4.86 billion), the Industry Ministry said on Tuesday.

Exports rose 17 percent to €33 billion, while imports increased 32 percent to €37.3 billion, the ministry said.

India’s WPI inflation  

India’s wholesale prices accelerated at the fastest pace in at least 17 years as the Ukraine war and a weak rupee pushed up energy and raw material costs, raising risks for businesses that are unable to pass on costs.

While big retailers, food makers and consumer product companies including Hindustan Unilever, Britania and Procter & Gamble are passing along higher costs to consumers, small companies are finding it hard to raise prices, industry leaders said.

Annual wholesale price inflation, a proxy for producers’ prices, climbed to 15.08 percent in April, remaining in double-digits for the 13th month in a row, and higher than 14.48 percent forecast in a Reuters poll of analysts.

Wholesale prices are at the highest since at least April 2005, according to Refinitiv data. Some private economists said WPI inflation in April was the highest since 1991, according to an earlier series.

Economists said that with wholesale inflation picking up along with retail inflation at 7.79 percent in April — an eight-year high — the central bank was likely to push for aggressive rate hikes to tame prices. Higher rates will pose a drag on economic growth as well, they said.

“With WPI inflation remaining solidly in double-digits, the probability of a repo hike in the June 2022 review of monetary policy has risen further,” said Aditi Nayar, chief economist at ICRA, the Indian arm of ratings agency Moody’s.

US retail sales increase 

US retail sales increased solidly in April as consumers bought motor vehicles amid an improvement in supply and frequented restaurants, showing no signs of demand letting up despite high inflation.

Retail sales rose 0.9 percent last month, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday. Data for March was revised higher to show sales advancing 1.4 percent instead of 0.7 percent as previously reported.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales accelerating 0.9 percent, with estimates ranging from as low as 0.2 percent to as high as 2.0 percent. Last month’s increase reflects both strong demand and higher prices.

Retail sales are mostly goods, and are not adjusted for inflation, which appears to have peaked in April. Bars and restaurants are the only services category in the report.

 

(With input from Reuters) 


Saudi-Uzbek trade exceeds $95m in the first half of 2022

Saudi-Uzbek trade exceeds $95m in the first half of 2022
Updated 17 August 2022

Saudi-Uzbek trade exceeds $95m in the first half of 2022

Saudi-Uzbek trade exceeds $95m in the first half of 2022
  • The two countries will bolster ties further with the signing of 12 new deals this week

RIYADH: The mutual trade between Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Uzbekistan reached $95 million in the first half of 2022, a substantial increase considering that bilateral trade barely exceeded $17 million last year.

According to a joint news statement, the value is expected to grow rapidly by the end of 2022. The numbers assume significance in the aftermath of the pandemic.

In fact, the number of Uzbek companies running on Saudi funds increased from about nine to 38 in the last five years. Of the 38, 19 are sole proprietors, and the rest are joint ventures.

The two nations will bolster the ties further by signing 12 new agreements on Wednesday and Thursday when Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev visits the Kingdom.

According to an Uzbek state agency, high-level talks will take place in Jeddah, where the two nations will discuss opportunities to enhance multilateral cooperation further.

The discussion will focus on the green economy, technology and digitalization, innovations, small business and entrepreneurship. 

Following the meeting, new agreements are expected to be signed in the energy, telecommunications, agriculture, chemical and petrochemical industries, besides encouraging ties in culture, sports and education.

The Kingdom has become one of the largest foreign investors in energy infrastructure and one of Uzbekistan’s most significant developers of green energy projects.

ACWA Power’s Uzbek interests

Recently, the Ministry of Energy of Uzbekistan and Saudi energy company ACWA Power signed several investment agreements for about $3 billion.

ACWA Power will develop and operate a wind energy project with a production capacity of 1,500 MW in the Karakalpakstan region of Uzbekistan.

When commissioned, the plant will become the largest of its kind in Central Asia and one of the largest wind power plants in the world. 

FASTFACTS

• The number of Uzbek companies running on Saudi funds increased from about nine to 38 in the last five years.

• Recently, the Ministry of Energy of Uzbekistan and Saudi energy company ACWA Power signed several investment agreements for about $3 billion.

• The Saudi Fund for Development has contributed to the implementation of many projects in Uzbekistan, including funding the Samarkand-Gozar Road project, with a total value of $30 million.

ACWA Power also signed an agreement to establish the 100MW Nokus wind farm project, the first renewable energy project to be implemented in partnership with Uzbekistan’s public and private sectors.

The power generating company also won a $108 million wind contract after proposing a tariff of 2.56 cents per kilowatt-hour, the lowest in Uzbekistan.

Additionally, the Ministry of Energy of Uzbekistan signed a 25-year power purchase agreement with ACWA Power to establish a combined-cycle gas turbine power plant in Shirin, located in Syrdarya, Uzbekistan. The deal amounts to $1.2 billion.

According to the statement, these projects will contribute to achieving Uzbekistan’s national goal of raising the total renewable energy generation capacity to 30 percent by 2030.

Saudi Fund for Development

Moreover, the Saudi Fund for Development has contributed to the implementation of many projects in Uzbekistan, including funding the Samarkand-Gozar Road project, with a total value of $30 million.

The fund also contributed to 20 projects in the republic, including building pumping stations and other projects involving sewage, chemicals, mining, building materials, water and agriculture.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture of Uzbekistan, the Saudi and Uzbek delegations have discussed issues of cooperation in agriculture, including the prospects for enhancing mutual trade in agricultural products.

Both parties will likely sign memorandums of cooperation in agriculture, veterinary medicine and livestock development at the meeting.

They also agreed to deepen cooperation in the agricultural sector to enhance trade in farming, livestock and other products between the countries.

After signing the memoranda, action plans will be prepared, including specific measures and areas for developing cooperation and joint projects.

The Saudi side invited the Uzbekistan delegation to attend its most prominent exhibition of the agro-industrial complex, which will be held at the end of October in Riyadh.


American Airlines bets on supersonic travel with Boom jet deal

American Airlines bets on supersonic travel with Boom jet deal
Updated 16 August 2022

American Airlines bets on supersonic travel with Boom jet deal

American Airlines bets on supersonic travel with Boom jet deal

CHICAGO: American Airlines Group Inc. on Tuesday agreed to buy up to 20 jets from aircraft maker Boom Supersonic, becoming the second major US airline to bet on ultra-fast passenger travel in the last two years.

The deal brings Boom’s order book to 130 airplanes, including options, valued at about $26 billion, Boom Chief Executive Blake Scholl said in an interview.

The return of interest in supersonic jets comes nearly two decades after Concorde, flown by Air France and British Airways, was retired following a deadly crash and high costs of fuel and maintenance.

Last year, United Airlines Holdings Inc agreed to buy 15 Boom Overture aircraft provided they meet certain safety, operating and sustainability requirements. A similar condition was part of the American Airlines agreement as well.

American also has an option to purchase 40 more of the jets, each of which can carry 65 to 80 passengers, the companies said.

The four-engine Overture jet can fly from Miami to London in just under five hours, cutting the nearly nine-hour flight time between the cities by about half.

American Airlines spokesperson Matt Miller said it was too early to discuss ticket prices, given the aircraft isn't expected to carry its first passengers until 2029.

Supersonic jets have come under criticism from environmentalists for burning more fuel per passenger than comparable subsonic planes.

The Overture jet, being designed to run fully on sustainable aviation fuel or a blend, will be rolled out of Boom’s Greensboro, North Carolina factory in 2025, followed by test flights in 2026.

Third Bridge senior analyst Christopher Raite sounded a word of caution on Boom’s delivery target, saying the delay in conducting test flights for Boom’s other jet, the XB-1, signaled that delivery of the Overture will be delayed.


87,467 families benefit from Saudi housing program in 2022

87,467 families benefit from Saudi housing program in 2022
Updated 16 August 2022

87,467 families benefit from Saudi housing program in 2022

87,467 families benefit from Saudi housing program in 2022

RIYADH: The number of families benefiting from Saudi Arabia’s Sakani housing options and financing solutions has reached 87,467 since the beginning of the year until the end of July. 

Some 104,492 families also received possession of their first homes during that period, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

The program seeks to raise the proportion of housing ownership for Saudi families to 70 percent by 2030.

The Ministry of Housing and the Real Estate Development Fund formed Sakani in 2017 to facilitate homeownership in the Kingdom through the creation of new housing stock, allocating plots and homes to nationals, and financing their purchase.

Earlier this year, Sakani program announced that it aims to enable 180,000 new families to benefit from the program’s housing options and solutions during 2022. 


Oil prices drop over 1% on potential global recession concerns

Oil prices drop over 1% on potential global recession concerns
Updated 16 August 2022

Oil prices drop over 1% on potential global recession concerns

Oil prices drop over 1% on potential global recession concerns

NEW YORK: Oil prices fell over 1 percent on Tuesday in volatile trading as economic data spurred concerns about a potential global recession, while the market awaited clarity on talks to revive a deal that could allow more Iranian oil exports.

Brent crude futures fell $1.41, or 1.5 percent, to $93.69 a barrel, after hitting a session high of $95.95. West Texas Intermediate crude decreased $1.33, or 1.5 percent, to $88.08 a barrel, after rising to $90.65.

The contracts fell about 3 percent in their previous sessions.

The EU is assessing Iran’s response to what the bloc has called its “final” proposal to save a 2015 nuclear deal, and consulting with the US, an EU spokesperson said on Tuesday.

Iran responded to the proposal late on Monday but neither Tehran nor the EU provided any details on the content of the reply.

“It is still unclear what Iran has told the EU last night, so some tricky items might impact the outcome of the nuclear deal,” UBS analyst Giovanni Staunovo said.

Weak economic indicators weighed on prices.

US homebuilding fell to the lowest level in nearly 1-1/2 years in July, weighed down by higher mortgage rates and prices for construction materials, suggesting the housing market could contract further in the third quarter.

“Oil traders reacted because of concerns about an economic slowdown and housing uses energy,” said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Price Futures group. “That caught us by surprise.”

China’s central bank cut lending rates to try to revive demand as the nation’s economy slowed unexpectedly in July after Beijing’s zero-COVID policy and a property crisis slowed factory and retail activity.

State media quoted Premier Li Keqiang as saying that China will reasonably step up macro policy support for the economy.

Barclays lowered its Brent price forecasts by $8 per barrel for this year and next, as it expects a large surplus of crude oil over the near-term due to “resilient” Russian supplies.


Saudi Cabinet authorizes transport minister to discuss MoUs with Bahrain

Saudi Cabinet authorizes transport minister to discuss MoUs with Bahrain
Updated 51 min 18 sec ago

Saudi Cabinet authorizes transport minister to discuss MoUs with Bahrain

Saudi Cabinet authorizes transport minister to discuss MoUs with Bahrain

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet on Tuesday authorized the minister of transport and logistic services to discuss with Bahrain two draft agreements to boost cooperation in the fields of road safety and maintenance. 

During the meeting, the council of ministers also authorized the chairman of Education and Training Evaluation Commission to discuss with the UAE a draft initial agreement to cooperate in the development of assessment, measurement and accreditation tools.

The ministers also approved two agreements in the fields of employment and domestic workers with Burundi, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

The Cabinet has also authorized the health minister to discuss a draft memorandum of understanding with the Uzbek side for cooperation in the field. 

It also approved the rules governing the competency and contractor program.