US consumer prices unchanged in July as cost of gasoline plunges

Inflation pressures until recently had been concentrated in goods, but consumers have refocused spending on services as the pandemic eased.
Inflation pressures until recently had been concentrated in goods, but consumers have refocused spending on services as the pandemic eased.
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Updated 10 August 2022

US consumer prices unchanged in July as cost of gasoline plunges

US consumer prices unchanged in July as cost of gasoline plunges

WASHINGTON: US consumer prices were unchanged in July due to a sharp drop in the cost of gasoline, delivering the first notable sign of relief for weary Americans who have watched inflation climb over the past two years.

The Consumer Price Index was flat last month after advancing 1.3 percent in June, the Labor Department said on Wednesday in a closely watched report that nevertheless showed underlying inflation pressures remain elevated as the Federal Reserve mulls whether to embrace another super-sized interest rate hike in September.

The reading was the largest month-on-month deceleration of price increases since 1973 and followed on the heels of a roughly 20 percent drop in the cost of gasoline. Prices at the pump spiked in the first half of this year due to the war in Ukraine, hitting a record-high average of more than $5 per gallon in mid-June, according to motorist advocacy group AAA.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a 0.2 percent rise in the monthly CPI in July. The Fed has indicated that several monthly declines in CPI growth would be needed before it lets up on the aggressive monetary policy tightening it has delivered to tame inflation currently running at a four-decade high.

HIGHLIGHTS

The Consumer Price Index was flat last month after advancing 1.3 percent in June.

Food is one component of the CPI that remained elevated in July.

Real average weekly earnings rose 0.5 percent in July.

But the lower-than-expected CPI data ignited a strong rally in equity markets, with the S&P 500 index up 1.5 percent in mid-morning trading. Investors immediately pared bets the Fed would deliver a third straight 75-basis-point rate hike at its Sept. 20-21 meeting, instead seeing the US central bank likely to opt for a half-percentage-point hike.

“This is not yet the meaningful decline in inflation the Fed is looking for. But its a start and we expect to see broader signs of easing price pressures over the next few months,” said Paul Ashworth, chief US economist at Capital Economics.

US consumer prices have been surging due to a number of factors, including snarled global supply chains, massive government stimulus early in the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Food is one component of the CPI that remained elevated in July, rising 1.1 percent last month after climbing 1 percent in June.

In the 12 months through July, the CPI increased by a weaker-than-expected 8.5 percent following a 9.1 percent rise in June. Underlying inflation pressures, which exclude volatile food and energy components, also showed some green shoots despite remaining strong.

The so-called core CPI rose 0.3 percent in July, a 10-month low, after climbing 0.7 percent in June, helped by an almost 8 percent fall in the cost of airline fares, but still increased 5.9 percent in the 12 months through July, matching the pace in June.

Inflation in the cost of rent and owners’ equivalent rent of primary residence, which is what a homeowner would receive from renting a home, rose at almost the same pace as in June. Shelter costs comprise about 40 percent of the core CPI measure.

Tight labor market 

A separate Labor Department report on Wednesday showed real average weekly earnings rose 0.5 percent in July, the first monthly increase since last September and largest gain since January 2021.

Inflation pressures until recently had been concentrated in goods, but consumers have refocused spending on services as the pandemic eased. Fed policymakers are fearful that accelerating service-sector inflation will be more difficult to unravel.

There was little relief on that front, with prices for services excluding energy-related items rising at a 5.5 percent annual rate in July, the same pace as in the prior month, although there was a decline in the monthly reading.

Wednesday’s inflation reading followed the release last Friday of the Labor Department’s monthly employment report, which showed stronger-than-expected job growth and wage gains in July. The economy created 528,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate fell back to its pre-pandemic low. That employment data will make it harder for the Fed to bring the economy into balance soon.

Labor market tightness is also underscored by the fact that, although US job openings fell to a nine-month low in June, there were still almost two jobs for every unemployed person.


Oil up $2 per barrel from multi-month low

Oil up $2 per barrel from multi-month low
Updated 27 September 2022

Oil up $2 per barrel from multi-month low

Oil up $2 per barrel from multi-month low

NEW YORK: Oil rose by $2 a barrel on Tuesday from a nine-month low a day earlier, supported by supply curbs in the US Gulf of Mexico ahead of Hurricane Ian and a slight softening in the US dollar.
Prices also drew support from analyst expectations of possible supply cuts from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, which meets to set policy on Oct. 5.
Brent crude was up $2.35, or 2.8 percent, to $86.41 a barrel at 10:52 a.m. EDT (1452 GMT). On Monday it fell as low as $83.65, the lowest since January. US West Texas Intermediate  crude was up $2.04, or 2.7 percent, at $78.74.
Crude soared after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, with Brent coming close to its all-time high of $147 in March. Recently, worries about recession, high interest rates and dollar strength have weighed.
“Oil is currently under the influence of financial forces,” said Tamas Varga of oil broker PVM. “In the meantime, relief rallies, like the one this morning caused by Hurricane Ian in the US Gulf, are viewed as temporary phenomena.”
The dollar edged back from a 20-year high, which also supported oil. A strong dollar makes crude more expensive for buyers using other currencies.
Supply cuts also lent support. BP and Chevron said on Monday they had shut production at offshore platforms in the Gulf of Mexico as Hurricane Ian approached.
The outages may only provide a momentary reprieve for oil prices, Jim Ritterbusch, of Ritterbusch and Associates, said in a note.
“Outages are apt to prove brief,” Ritterbusch said, adding that the Gulf of Mexico represents “only about 15 percent of total US production amid this shale age” so the effect “is apt to be minimal.”
The oil price drop has raised speculation that OPEC+ could intervene. Iraq’s oil minister on Monday said the group was monitoring prices and did not want a sharp increase or a collapse.


Moody’s assigns stable outlook to PIF-owned firm’s EMTN program

Moody’s assigns stable outlook to PIF-owned firm’s EMTN program
Updated 27 September 2022

Moody’s assigns stable outlook to PIF-owned firm’s EMTN program

Moody’s assigns stable outlook to PIF-owned firm’s EMTN program

RIYADH: Global rating agency Moody’s has assigned the Public Investment Fund-owned GACI First Investment Co.’s EMTN program  a (P) A1 rating.

The euro medium-term note program has been established under the special purpose company incorporated in the Cayman Islands.

The firm has been assigned a stable outlook in line with the stable outlook on existing ratings of PIF.

The rating decision reflects Moody’s view that note holders will effectively be exposed to PIF’s senior unsecured credit risk.

In February, Moody’s Investors Service assigned an A1 long-term issuer rating to the PIF. As one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds, PIF is one of the main vehicles to grow the Kingdom’s non-oil economy and reduce its reliance on the hydrocarbon sector.


UAE In-Focus — Hospitality market to expand by 25% by 2030; Dubai to announce hydrogen strategy soon

UAE In-Focus —  Hospitality market to expand by 25% by 2030; Dubai to announce hydrogen strategy soon
Updated 27 September 2022

UAE In-Focus — Hospitality market to expand by 25% by 2030; Dubai to announce hydrogen strategy soon

UAE In-Focus —  Hospitality market to expand by 25% by 2030; Dubai to announce hydrogen strategy soon

DUBAI: The UAE’s hospitality market is set to expand by 25 percent by 2030, with a further 48,000 rooms adding to the nation’s extensive 200,000 key portfolio, according to a study conducted by Knight Frank.

The global property consultancy said in its report that Dubai will account for the lion’s share of these new rooms, with 76 percent coming to the emirate, which already boasts more than 130,000 rooms.

“The emirate has cemented its status as a city with universal appeal, in large part to the world-leading government response to the pandemic and some of the world’s most visited and incredible attractions,” Faisal Durrani, partner and head of Middle East Research at Knight Frank said.

It is estimated that the hotel room supply will cost approximately 117.5 billion dirhams ($32 billion).

Dubai develops hydrogen strategy

Dubai will soon unveil its green hydrogen strategy, MEED reported quoting the managing director of the Dubai Electricity & Water Authority as saying.

Saeed Mohammed Al-Tayer made the revelation at a press conference held to announce the World Green Economy Summit on Sept. 28-29.

Rental market

The Dubai Land Department has signed a memorandum of understanding with Dubai Chambers to enhance the emirate’s rental market’s investment environment, according to Dubai Media Office.

As a result of the MoU, Dubai Chambers will be able to offer real estate and office space to business councils and groups.

It will also facilitate market research and joint training workshops related to the rental sector in Dubai.

In a statement, Abdul Aziz Al-Ghurair, chairman of Dubai Chambers, said the partnership complements Dubai Chambers’ 2022-2024 strategy and the ongoing efforts to boost confidence in the real estate sector, which remains a key contributor to the emirate’s economy.

A constructive dialogue between the public and private sectors is essential to Dubai’s sustainable economic growth and development, he said.

 


Saudi Arabia agrees to fund $63m Senegal road project

Saudi Arabia agrees to fund $63m Senegal road project
Updated 27 September 2022

Saudi Arabia agrees to fund $63m Senegal road project

Saudi Arabia agrees to fund $63m Senegal road project

RIYADH: The Saudi Fund for Development is pumping $63 million into a coastal road project in Senegal, it has been announced.

The agreement with the African country will see the construction of a 12 km, two-lane highway in Dakar.

The project will also contribute to raising the level of road safety, meeting the needs of residents of cities and villages, and reducing the rates of injuries and deaths resulting from traffic accidents.

The move is the latest cash injection the Saudi Fund for Development into Senegal, having previously financed 27 loans to contribute to 25 projects and programs, with a value of about $447 million.

It has also awarded grants worth $19 million in the sectors of transportation, transportation, infrastructure, health, housing, urban development, energy, education, water and sanitation.

In August, the Fund signed an agreement with the Cameroonian government to finance the construction of the Mbalmayo Regional Hospital Project, by providing a soft development loan of $12 million.

The agreement was signed by SFD CEO Sultan Al-Marshad, and the Cameroonian Minister of Economy, Planning, and Regional Development, Alamine Ousmane Mey.

The agreement will help to build and equip the hospital with 200 beds and develop specialized medical departments, centers, and buildings spanning a total area of 14,000 sq. meters. 

The development plan also comprises rehabilitating the roads that connect the hospital to the main roads to ensure easy access.


Kuwait Central Bank appoints Sahar Al-Rumaih as its first female deputy governor 

Kuwait Central Bank appoints Sahar Al-Rumaih as its first female deputy governor 
Updated 27 September 2022

Kuwait Central Bank appoints Sahar Al-Rumaih as its first female deputy governor 

Kuwait Central Bank appoints Sahar Al-Rumaih as its first female deputy governor 

RIYADH: The Central Bank of Kuwait has named Sahar Al-Rumaih as its deputy governor in a first-ever such appointment of a woman to this position in the Gulf state.

Al-Rumaih, who was the deputy CEO for corporate banking at Ahli Bank of Kuwait, replaced Yousef Al-Obaid as his term had expired, according to Bloomberg. 

With this new appointment, the central bank’s board now includes two women. 

This comes following a similar development in Saudi Arabia in June when the Kingdom’s Central Bank named Sheila Al-Rowaily, who worked as a financier with Saudi Aramco, as its first woman board of directors. 

In recent years, Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 has focused on women’s empowerment and workforce, with efforts directed towards increasing female employment in diplomatic and governmental services. 

Women joining the workforce in Saudi Arabia has been a key development of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 social and economic reforms, which has seen their participation jump from 19 percent in 2016 to 33 percent last year.