China’s factories fall deeper into contraction, more policy support expected

China’s factories fall deeper into contraction, more policy support expected
The official purchasing managers’ index fell to 49.4 in November from 49.5 in October, National Bureau of Statistics data showed on Thursday. Shutterstock
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Updated 30 November 2023
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China’s factories fall deeper into contraction, more policy support expected

China’s factories fall deeper into contraction, more policy support expected

BEIJING: China’s manufacturing activity shrank for a second straight month in November and at a quicker pace, suggesting more stimulus will be needed to shore up economic growth and restore confidence that the authorities can ably support industry.

Economists upgraded their forecasts for the world’s second-largest economy after better-than-expected third-quarter data, but despite a flurry of policy support measures, negative sentiment among factory managers appears to have become entrenched in the face of weak demand both at home and abroad.

The official purchasing managers’ index fell to 49.4 in November from 49.5 in October, National Bureau of Statistics data showed on Thursday, missing economists’ forecast of 49.7. The 50-point mark demarcates contraction from expansion.

“The domestic market cannot make up for losses in Europe and the United States. The data shows that factories are producing less and hiring fewer people,” said Dan Wang, chief economist at Hang Seng Bank China.

“(The data) could also show a loss of confidence in government policy,” she added, warning factory activity was unlikely to improve anytime soon as other economic problems dominate. “The priority now is clearly containing the local government debt risk and the risk posed by regional banks.”

The new orders sub-index contracted for a second consecutive month, while the new export orders component extended its decline for a ninth month.

In another worrying sign, the vast services sector contracted for the first time in 12 months. The non-manufacturing PMI, which includes services and construction, eased to 50.2 in November from 50.6 last month.

China’s economy has struggled this year to mount a strong post-pandemic recovery, held back by a deepening crisis in the property market, local government debt risks, slow global growth and geopolitical tensions.

The factory PMI has contracted for seven out of the past eight months — rising above the 50-point mark only in September. The last time the indicator was negative for more than three consecutive months was in the six months to October 2019.

“The hard data have held up better than the survey-based measures lately... (which) may be overstating the extent of slowdown due to sentiment effects,” Sheana Yue, China economist at Capital Economics, said in a note.

“But if that starts to change, policy support will need to be ramped up further to prevent the economy from backsliding.”

The patchy recovery has prompted many analysts to warn that China may decline into Japanese-style stagnation later this decade unless policymakers take steps to reorient the economy toward household consumption and market allocation of resources.

“Today’s PMI reading will further raise expectations towards policy support,” said Zhou Hao, economist at Guotai Junan International. “Fiscal policy will be under the spotlight and take centre stage over the coming year and will be closely monitored by the market.”

Oil prices fell in early Asia following weaker-than-expected manufacturing activity in China, the world’s largest energy consumer, while the offshore yuan also slipped.

MORE SUPPORT NEEDED

China’s central bank governor on Tuesday said he was “confident that China will enjoy healthy and sustainable growth in 2024 and beyond,” but urged structural reforms to reduce reliance on infrastructure and property for growth.

Policy advisers say the government will need to implement further stimulus should it wish to sustain an annual economic growth target of “around 5 percent” next year, which would match this year’s goal.

But the People’s Bank of China is constrained when it comes to implementing further monetary stimulus over concerns a widening interest rate differential with the West may weaken the currency and spur capital outflows.

In October, China unveiled a plan to issue 1 trillion yuan ($138.7 billion) in sovereign bonds by the end of the year, raising the 2023 budget deficit target to 3.8 percent of GDP from the original 3 percent.

The PBOC has also implemented modest interest rate cuts and pumped more cash into the economy in recent months, pledging to sustain policy support.

China still channels more funds into infrastructure projects to drive growth, which likely lifted the construction index to 55.0 from 53.5 in October, though the government has been trying to reduce the economy's reliance on property.

“Despite the raft of stimulus measures announced over the past several months, we believe it is still too early to call the bottom,” Ting Lu, chief China economist at Nomura, said in a note. “We expect another economic dip towards end-2023 and spring 2024.”


More opportunities for women awaiting in the petrochemical industry: SABIC official

More opportunities for women awaiting in the petrochemical industry: SABIC official
Updated 8 sec ago
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More opportunities for women awaiting in the petrochemical industry: SABIC official

More opportunities for women awaiting in the petrochemical industry: SABIC official

RIYADH: Saudi women should explore more opportunities in the petrochemical industry, as only 25 percent of the sector’s workforce are female, said a top official. 

Speaking at the Human Capability Initiative in Riyadh on Feb. 28, Faisal Al-Suwailem, executive vice president of corporate human resources at Saudi Basic Industries Corp., said that the industrial sector in the Kingdom has been witnessing a sharp rise in female employment over the past three years. 

“If we take a look at the petrochemical industry, in the last 20 years, I have seen a great increase in the participation of females in the petrochemical industry. However, if you look at the number of women in the petrochemical industry, it is still about 25 percent. So, I believe we still have room to grow,” said Al-Suwailem. 

He added: “In the industrial sector, the hiring of females has increased 93 percent over the last three years. We have right now over 63,000 females working in plants around the Kingdom.” 

Al-Suwailem further pointed out that Saudi Arabia has surpassed the female workforce target outlined in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. 

“Let us first look at Vision 2030, and under the thriving economy for female participation in the labor market, the baseline target was set at 22.8 percent, and now we are at 34.5 percent,” said Al-Suwailem. 

He added that SABIC stands out as one of the companies offering structured training programs aimed at nurturing and enhancing the skills of young individuals.

Al-Suwailem also underscored that SABIC offers scholarship programs that provide equal opportunities for both men and women. 

“SABIC is a national champion for sure in petrochemicals, but it also has a proven record of being a national champion for development, job creation, learning and contribution to the gross domestic product,” said Al-Suwailem. 

He added: “SABIC’s scholarship program, which is meant for Saudi bright young talents, is right now equally split between men and women.” 

For her part, during the same panel discussion, Cabinet Secretary and Minister of Labor and Social Protection of Kenya Florence Bore said that the country is preparing its youth to adapt themselves to procure jobs in the international market. 

“Our focus currently is on labor migration, and even as you focus on labor migration, it is one of the areas where we get foreign remittances,” said Bore. 

She added: “Kenya has been undergoing lots of changes in the workplace. We have both the informal and formal jobs. The informal sector is really growing at a faster rate than the formal jobs. And because of that, you will find most of our Kenyans are now venturing out for jobs in the international market.”


More opportunities for women awaiting in the petrochemical industry: SABIC official

More opportunities for women awaiting in the petrochemical industry: SABIC official
Updated 12 sec ago
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More opportunities for women awaiting in the petrochemical industry: SABIC official

More opportunities for women awaiting in the petrochemical industry: SABIC official

RIYADH: Saudi women should explore more opportunities in the petrochemical industry, as only 25 percent of the sector’s workforce are female, said a top official. 

Speaking at the Human Capability Initiative in Riyadh on Feb. 28, Faisal Al-Suwailem, executive vice president of corporate human resources at Saudi Basic Industries Corp., said that the industrial sector in the Kingdom has been witnessing a sharp rise in female employment over the past three years. 

“If we take a look at the petrochemical industry, in the last 20 years, I have seen a great increase in the participation of females in the petrochemical industry. However, if you look at the number of women in the petrochemical industry, it is still about 25 percent. So, I believe we still have room to grow,” said Al-Suwailem. 

He added: “In the industrial sector, the hiring of females has increased 93 percent over the last three years. We have right now over 63,000 females working in plants around the Kingdom.” 

Al-Suwailem further pointed out that Saudi Arabia has surpassed the female workforce target outlined in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. 

“Let us first look at Vision 2030, and under the thriving economy for female participation in the labor market, the baseline target was set at 22.8 percent, and now we are at 34.5 percent,” said Al-Suwailem. 

He added that SABIC stands out as one of the companies offering structured training programs aimed at nurturing and enhancing the skills of young individuals.

Al-Suwailem also underscored that SABIC offers scholarship programs that provide equal opportunities for both men and women. 

“SABIC is a national champion for sure in petrochemicals, but it also has a proven record of being a national champion for development, job creation, learning and contribution to the gross domestic product,” said Al-Suwailem. 

He added: “SABIC’s scholarship program, which is meant for Saudi bright young talents, is right now equally split between men and women.” 

For her part, during the same panel discussion, Cabinet Secretary and Minister of Labor and Social Protection of Kenya Florence Bore said that the country is preparing its youth to adapt themselves to procure jobs in the international market. 

“Our focus currently is on labor migration, and even as you focus on labor migration, it is one of the areas where we get foreign remittances,” said Bore. 

She added: “Kenya has been undergoing lots of changes in the workplace. We have both the informal and formal jobs. The informal sector is really growing at a faster rate than the formal jobs. And because of that, you will find most of our Kenyans are now venturing out for jobs in the international market.”


Saudi Arabia’s tourism fund signs agreement with New Murabba  

Saudi Arabia’s tourism fund signs agreement with New Murabba  
Updated 13 min 26 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia’s tourism fund signs agreement with New Murabba  

Saudi Arabia’s tourism fund signs agreement with New Murabba  

RIYADH: Financing and investment opportunities are set to rise in Saudi Arabia’s new downtown project, with the Tourism Development Fund signing an agreement with New Murabba Development Co.   

This memorandum of understanding aims to foster cooperation and contribute to the Kingdom’s social and economic growth by developing New Murabba, situated northwest of Riyadh.  

According to the agreement, the fund will explore direct financing or investment opportunities in the project through its partners, investors, or contractors, aligning with its policies and procedures, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

The MoU was signed by Qusai Al-Fakhri, CEO of TDF, and Michael Dyke, CEO of New Murabba Development Co., a subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund. 

The collaboration will also include workshops to discuss potential cooperation opportunities, while New Murabba Development Co. will be responsible for qualifying the project’s infrastructure and foundation.  

Al-Fakhri emphasized the deal's significance in achieving the goals of Saudi Vision 2030, noting that New Murabba aims to provide an exceptional lifestyle, work, and entertainment experience.  

The MoU is an extension of several memoranda and cooperation agreements the fund has signed with the private sector, emphasizing the importance of collaborative work to achieve shared goals.   

Al-Fakhri noted that these agreements would support the TDF’s efforts to promote the tourism sector’s growth and diversity, attracting domestic and foreign investments to make tourist destinations a modern lifestyle model that attracts tourists and offers quality experiences.  

Dyke said that the deal aims to develop a modern downtown in line with Saudi Vision 2030’s goals noting that New Murabba’s design focuses on sustainability standards and life quality improvement, including green spaces, walking paths, and promoting health and sports concepts.   

He added that the project also aims to offer a unique living, working, and entertainment experience within a 15-minute walking radius, along with internal transportation means.  

Established in 2022 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, New Murabba Development Co. plays a crucial role in realizing Saudi Vision 2030. It focuses on developing a modern downtown centered around the iconic Cube building, redefining Riyadh’s cityscape. 

This initiative is designed to be a cultural symbol for Riyadh, featuring hotel and residential units, office spaces, and entertainment facilities, all incorporating the latest digital technologies. 


Central Bank of Jordan introduces new Shariah-compliant monetary policy tools 

Central Bank of Jordan introduces new Shariah-compliant monetary policy tools 
Updated 28 February 2024
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Central Bank of Jordan introduces new Shariah-compliant monetary policy tools 

Central Bank of Jordan introduces new Shariah-compliant monetary policy tools 

RIYADH: Liquidity management in Jordan’s cash market is set to undergo a significant transformation as the country’s central bank introduces new tools for monetary policy. 

Aligned with Shariah laws, the Central Bank of Jordan has introduced these instruments in collaboration with Islamic banks operating within the country. The goal is to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of liquidity management in the cash market, the Jordan News Agency reported. 

These new measures will not only assist Islamic banks in achieving more flexible liquidity management but also contribute to the establishment of an effective interbank market among them. 

Under the framework of these tools, the central bank will be able to provide Islamic banks with daytime liquidity, overnight liquidity, and liquidity extending up to one week.

This will be done based on the banks’ requests or at the apex bank’s initiative, allowing flexibility in terms of timing, amount, and duration. The Central Bank of Jordan will determine these parameters to align with its operational objectives in implementing monetary policy.  

This move by the central bank comes as part of its efforts to develop the operational framework of monetary policy and diversify the tools at its disposal. The decision is in line with the best practices of central banks and addresses the specific needs of the local cash and banking market, as reported by PETRA. 

In a related development, earlier in January, 16 Jordanian banks jointly launched the first private sector investment fund, committing $388 million to foster the growth of local businesses. 

The Jordan Capital and Investment Fund, established in 2021 with a capital commitment of 275 million dinars ($387.6 million), was officially registered under the 2022 Investment Environment Law, the state news agency reported. 

The instrument aims to inject money into emerging firms with growth, development, and expansion prospects, providing financing to enhance job opportunities and propel nationwide growth, as stated in an official statement reported by the Jordan News Agency. 

As the country’s first and largest private sector investment fund, it is designed to allocate funds to vital and promising sectors, such as food and health security, manufacturing, and information and communication technology. The objective is to harness Jordan’s potential in building the future, it added. 

At that time, Hani Al-Qadi, the chairman of the Jordan Capital and Investment Fund, had said the fund is crucial for achieving “accelerated growth” by fully leveraging Jordan’s economic potential. 


Oil Updates – prices ease as Fed caution, stock build outweigh OPEC+ news

Oil Updates – prices ease as Fed caution, stock build outweigh OPEC+ news
Updated 28 February 2024
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Oil Updates – prices ease as Fed caution, stock build outweigh OPEC+ news

Oil Updates – prices ease as Fed caution, stock build outweigh OPEC+ news

NEW DELHI: Oil prices pulled back in Asia on Wednesday as the prospect of a delay in Washington’s rate-cutting cycle and a rise in US crude stocks offset a boost on Tuesday from news OPEC and its allies might extend its output cuts, according to Reuters.

Brent crude futures fell 30 cents, or 0.36 percent, to $83.35 a barrel by 6:02 a.m. Saudi time, while US West Texas Intermediate futures dropped 28 cents to $78.59 a barrel.

On Tuesday, Federal Reserve Governor Michelle Bowman signalled she is in no rush to cut US interest rates, particularly given upside risks to inflation that could stall progress on controlling price pressures or even lead to their resurgence.

Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank President Jeffrey Schmid made similar remarks on Monday. Their remarks underlined concern in financial markets that the potential economic benefits of lower rates will be pushed back.

“There is some profit-taking this morning after the past two sessions recouped the $2 per barrel of Mideast risk premium that crude shed on Friday,” said Vandana Hari, founder of oil market analysis provider Vanda Insights.

“It’s a combined response to the weekly US crude stock surge in the API data this morning and continuing hope that a Gaza ceasefire deal will be reached in the next few days,” Hari added.

On Tuesday, US President Biden said Israel has agreed to halt military activities in Gaza for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. However, Israel and Hamas as well as Qatari mediators all sounded notes of caution about progress toward a truce in Gaza.

US crude stocks rose 8.43 million barrels in the week ended Feb. 23, according to market sources citing American Petroleum Institute figures on Tuesday.

Gasoline inventories fell by 3.27 million barrels, and distillate stocks fell by 523,000 barrels, the data showed.

Brent and WTO futures rose more than $1 per barrel on Tuesday after Reuters reported the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, including Russia, will consider extending voluntary oil output cuts into the second quarter.

Extending the output cuts into the second quarter is “likely,” one of the OPEC+ sources said. Two said a longer extension to the end of 2024 was possible.

Last November, OPEC+ agreed to voluntary cuts totalling about 2.2 million barrels per day for the first quarter this year, led by Saudi Arabia rolling over its own voluntary cut.

Analysts at ANZ Research wrote in a note that such a move by the OPEC+ alliance would likely tighten the market.

Russian authorities announced on Tuesday a six-month ban on gasoline exports from March 1 to compensate for rising demand from consumers and farmers and to allow for planned maintenance of refineries.