Macro Snapshot — South Korea inflation at 24-year high; Australia increases interest rate again

South Korea’s inflation last month hit the highest since the Asian financial crisis more than two decades ago.
South Korea’s inflation last month hit the highest since the Asian financial crisis more than two decades ago.
Short Url
Updated 05 July 2022

Macro Snapshot — South Korea inflation at 24-year high; Australia increases interest rate again

Macro Snapshot — South Korea inflation at 24-year high; Australia increases interest rate again

RIYADH: South Korea’s inflation rose to a 24-year high in June, while Australia’s central bank increased the country’s interest rate for the third month in a row. 

Inflation in South Korea

South Korea’s inflation last month hit the highest since the Asian financial crisis more than two decades ago, adding to signs of building strains on the open, trade-dependent economy and fanning expectations of a big rate hike by the central bank.

Data showed on Tuesday the consumer price index grew a slightly faster-than-expected 6 percent in June over a year earlier — the highest since November 1998 — while other data showed foreign exchange reserves shrank by the most since late 2008.

Australia ups interest rates

Australia’s central bank on Tuesday raised interest rates for a third straight month and flagged more ahead as it struggles to contain surging inflation even at the risk of triggering an economic downturn.

Wrapping up its July policy meeting, the Reserve Bank of Australia lifted its cash rate by 50 basis points to 1.35 percent, marking 125 basis points of hikes since May and the fastest series of moves since 1994.

“The Board expects to take further steps in the process of normalizing monetary conditions in Australia over the months ahead,” said RBA Gov. Philip Lowe in a statement.

Japan’s service sector

Japan’s services sector activity expanded at the fastest pace in over eight years in June as the easing of coronavirus curbs boosted sentiment among businesses such as those in tourism.

The pick-up in activity is welcome news for a government betting on domestic demand to put the world’s third-largest economy firmly on a recovery track and help overcome production pressures on the country’s manufacturing industry.

The final au Jibun Bank Japan Services purchasing managers’ index rose to a seasonally adjusted 54, marking the fastest pace of expansion since October 2013.

That was stronger than May’s final 52.6 growth, though it remained below a 54.2 flash reading for June released last month.

Wages in Japan

Japan’s real wages extended a decline in May to post the biggest year-on-year drop in nearly two years, government data showed on Tuesday, as consumer inflation hovering near a seven-year-high outpaced nominal wage growth, reducing households’ spending power.

Higher living costs amid low-wage growth are likely to curb Japan’s consumption-led economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Inflation is also a top issue for voters in an upper house election on Sunday, although Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s ruling party is likely to increase the number of seats it holds, according to an opinion poll published on Monday.

 

 

 

With input from Reuters


Saudi banks shut down 42 branches in 12 months, increase digital presence

Saudi banks shut down 42 branches in 12 months, increase digital presence
Updated 15 August 2022

Saudi banks shut down 42 branches in 12 months, increase digital presence

Saudi banks shut down 42 branches in 12 months, increase digital presence
  • More banks are switching to increased virtual interactions and digitalization, and new banks are opening entirely on that premise

CAIRO: Saudi banks shut down 42 branches over the year ending in June, revealed the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA.

The number of bank branches in Saudi Arabia also inched lower to 1,927 in the second quarter this year from 1,932 in the same quarter last year.

So, what are the reasons behind this decreased number of bank branches, and when did this trend begin?

The most common assumption would be the COVID-19 pandemic and its prolonged effect on the entire economy, including the financial and banking sectors.

Between the fourth quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of 2021, which includes the peak of the pandemic, 68 branches were closed. 

Also, bank branches continued to decrease quarterly long after lifting COVID-19 restrictions, albeit there was no clear trend.

Between May 2020 and June this year, 137 bank branches in the Kingdom shut shop.

It is worth mentioning that branches that have closed are not second-tier or underperforming banks but some of the largest and well-performing ones. For instance, Al Rajhi Bank, which had 543 branches in the fourth quarter of 2020, reduced it to 515 by June this year.

While COVID-19 sparked the digital revolution, advanced and innovative technologies did the job.

The past three years of the pandemic slowly began the transformation toward digital banking, which can be seen closely in the Saudi banking sector.

More banks are switching to increased virtual interactions and digitalization, and new banks are opening entirely on that premise.

Last February, SAMA licensed and welcomed the Kingdom’s third digital bank D360 Bank, following the launch of STC and Saudi Digital Bank in June last year.

Similarly, according to SAMA, 19 Saudi fintech companies have been authorized to provide payment services, consumer microfinance and electronic insurance brokerage over the past few months.

So, what does the future of digital banking in the Kingdom hold and will the population accept this digital revolution?

In a survey conducted by Ipsos in the Kingdom in October 2021, the research major pointed out that 61 percent still trust traditional banks, while 47 percent counted on mobile service providers and 40 percent depended on popular digital brands to carry out financial transactions.

The report added: “63 percent said that they will be making all their financial transactions through digital banking in the future, and 58 percent believe that people would no longer use cash as a payment method.”


Emirates sets date for flagship Airbus A380’s return to Perth route

Emirates sets date for flagship Airbus A380’s return to Perth route
Updated 15 August 2022

Emirates sets date for flagship Airbus A380’s return to Perth route

Emirates sets date for flagship Airbus A380’s return to Perth route
  • The daily A380 flights will replace a Boeing 777-300ER service, increasing seating capacity by nearly 500 seats per flight
  • The announcement comes as the airline celebrates 20 years of flying to the city in Western Australia

LONDON: Emirates announced that it will reintroduce its flagship Airbus A380 on daily flights between Dubai and Perth from Dec. 1, as it ramps up its services to Australia in response to growing demand.

The A380 service to the city in Western Australia will replace the airline’s current daily Boeing 777-300ER service, increasing seating capacity by nearly 500 seats on each flight.

Flight EK420 from Dubai will depart at 2:45 a.m. and arrive in Perth at 5.20 p.m. the same day, while flight EK421 will take off from Perth at 10:20 p.m. and land in Dubai at 5:25 a.m. the following day.

Nearly 6 million passengers have flown with Emirates between Perth and Dubai since its inaugural flight between the cities in August 2002, according to the airline, on more more than 24,000 flights traveling more than 220 million kilometers.

The airline said there has been a significant increase in passenger bookings to and from Australia of late, with significant demand across all cabins, in particular since the introduction on Aug. 1 of a Premium Economy service on one of its daily Sydney services.

It comes as Emirates celebrates 20 years of flying to Perth. During this time, Emirates said it has also been a long-standing supporter of arts, culture and sporting institutions in Western Australia, investing in a variety of initiatives.

The airline added that Emirates SkyCargo, its cargo division, has also been a significant contributor to the local economy, carrying exports of Australian fruit and vegetables, meat and mining equipment to destinations throughout the airline’s global route network, including the Middle East, Europe and beyond.


Heathrow extends passenger cap into October

Heathrow extends passenger cap into October
Updated 15 August 2022

Heathrow extends passenger cap into October

Heathrow extends passenger cap into October

LONDON: Heathrow airport said on Monday it was extending its capacity limit through most of October to reduce the chaos caused by a post-pandemic surge in passengers amid a lack of staff.

Europe’s largest airport introduced a cap of 100,000 departing passengers per day in July, which was originally slated to have expired at the end of September.

“Since the cap was introduced, passenger journeys have improved with fewer last-minute cancelations, better punctuality and shorter wait times for bags,” said Heathrow.

It said the extension through Oct. 29 “will provide passengers with confidence ahead of their half-term getaways.”

Airlines scheduled thousands of flights in Europe this summer season to capture a boom in travel demand following the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions.

But having cut back staff drastically during the pandemic, both airlines and airports found it difficult to hire enough employees.

This led to long waits to check-in, clear security and collect bags in many airports across Europe, as well as to cancelations of flights due to lack of crew.

The Heathrow cap was set at roughly 4,000 passengers per day fewer than scheduled flight capacity.

Airlines have canceled flights in response to the cap, as well as in recognition of their staffing levels.

Heathrow said it was regularly reviewing the situation and would remove the cap early if it sees an improvement.

“We want to remove the cap as soon as possible, but we can only do so when we are confident that everyone operating at the airport has the resources to deliver the service our passengers deserve,” Heathrow Chief Commercial Officer Ross Baker said.

Amsterdam and Frankfurt airports have also instituted caps.


Saudi Arabia’s agricultural sector grew at a rate of 7.8% in 2021

Saudi Arabia’s agricultural sector grew at a rate of 7.8% in 2021
Updated 15 August 2022

Saudi Arabia’s agricultural sector grew at a rate of 7.8% in 2021

Saudi Arabia’s agricultural sector grew at a rate of 7.8% in 2021

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s agricultural sector grew at a rate of 7.8 percent in 2021 as compared to the previous year, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.

The agricultural output during the period was valued at SR72.25 billion ($19.23 billion) — the highest in more than five years — as compared to SR67.05 billion in the previous year.

The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture attributed this growth to its strategies implemented in line with Vision 2030. In addition to that recovery from the coronavirus disease pandemic also helped the sector’s growth, the ministry added.

The Kingdom’s agriculture output in 2017 was estimated at SR65.29 billion, around SR65.49 billion in 2018, and SR66.20 billion in 2019.

It recorded around SR67.05 billion in 2020, noting that the sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product in general amounted to 2.3 percent last year, while the contribution of agricultural output to non-oil GDP was 3.6 percent, an increase of 0.2 percent compared to 2020.

The ministry highlighted that the Kingdom’s balance of trade achieved a surplus of SR462.5 billion, an increase from the year 2020, which recorded SR134.5 billion, due to increased exports during 2021. The agricultural exports amounted to SR13.16 billion.


PIF, Cain International invest $900m in Aman Group to boost its global expansion

PIF, Cain International invest $900m in Aman Group to boost its global expansion
Updated 15 August 2022

PIF, Cain International invest $900m in Aman Group to boost its global expansion

PIF, Cain International invest $900m in Aman Group to boost its global expansion

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and Cain International have invested $900 million in Aman Group to help accelerate the global expansion of the hospitality and lifestyle brand management company.

The investment will be used to enhance the existing portfolio, drive the construction of the pipeline of Aman and Janu destinations, as well as support the acquisition and development of additional sites, according to a statement issued on Monday. 

Following the new funding, the company is now valued at over $3billion.

Aman is a renowned collection of 34 hotels across 20 countries, 12 of which include Aman Branded Residences, with nine further hotels and residences projects under construction and a committed pipeline of additional destinations in countries including USA, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and European destinations, among others. 

Vlad Doronin, owner, chairman and CEO of Aman Group, said: “The investment from PIF and Cain International is a vote of confidence in my vision and the work the team has done over the last eight years, cementing the brand’s evolution and ability to deliver this vision at pace.”

Commenting on the investment, Turqi Al-Nowaiser, deputy governor and head of International Investments Division at PIF, said: “The investment is in line with PIF’s strategy to invest in promising sectors to achieve sustainable, attractive returns in Saudi Arabia and globally.”

“We are excited to be investing in this phenomenal brand and look forward to building upon our longstanding partnership with Vlad and his team,” said Jonathan Goldstein, CEO and co- founder of Cain International.