Oil Updates – prices dip as demand worries outweigh Mideast supply fears

Oil Updates – prices dip as demand worries outweigh Mideast supply fears
Brent futures for June fell 40 cents, or 0.44 percent, to $89.62 a barrel by 9:32 a.m. Saudi time. Shutterstock
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Updated 17 April 2024
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Oil Updates – prices dip as demand worries outweigh Mideast supply fears

Oil Updates – prices dip as demand worries outweigh Mideast supply fears

TOKYO/SINGAPORE: Oil prices extended losses on Wednesday as worries about global demand due to weak economic momentum in China and a likely rise in US commercial stockpiles outweighed supply fears from heightened tensions in the Middle East, according to Reuters.

Brent futures for June fell 40 cents, or 0.44 percent, to $89.62 a barrel by 9:32 a.m. Saudi time, while US crude futures for May fell 48 cents, or 0.56 percent, to $84.88 a barrel.

Oil prices have softened so far this week as economic headwinds pressured investor sentiment, curbing gains from geopolitical tensions, with market’s eyeing on how Israel might respond to Iran’s attack over the weekend.

“With oil prices highly sensitive to geopolitical risks, the past week has seen some wait-and-see consolidation in place as Israel’s response will determine if there may be a wider regional conflict, which could significantly impact oil supplies,” said IG market strategist Yeap Jun Rong.

“For now, the near-term weakness in oil prices may reflect some expectations that tensions may still be contained and that other key oil producer such as Saudi Arabia may jump in to mitigate any global supply shock,” Yeap added.

In China, the world’s biggest oil importer, the economy grew faster than expected in the first quarter, but several March indicators, including property investment, retail sales and industrial output, showed that demand at home remains frail, weighing on overall momentum.

“Apart from that, a build-up in US crude inventories overnight and a mixed set of economic data out of China also offered some reservations, alongside near-term overbought technicals which prompts some profit-taking,” Yeap said.

US crude oil inventories rose last week more than expected by analysts polled by Reuters, according to market sources citing American Petroleum Institute figures on Tuesday. Official data from the Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the US Department of Energy, is due on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. Saudi time.

In the Middle East, a third meeting of Israel’s war cabinet set for Tuesday to decide on a response to Iran’s first-ever direct attack was put off until Wednesday, as Western allies eyed swift new sanctions against Tehran to help dissuade Israel from a major escalation.

Analysts however do not expect Iran’s unprecedented missile and drone strike on Israel to prompt dramatic sanctions action on Iran’s oil exports from the Biden administration.

Meanwhile, the US government could reimpose oil sanctions on Venezuela on Thursday — which in turn could tighten supplies in the market.

Prices could trade sideways in the meantime because of these current market drivers, analysts say.

WTI price movements in the short term are likely to be trapped in a sideways range between $83.20 and $87.70 due to conflicting factors such as China’s disappointing retail sales in March and geopolitical risk premium still remaining intact, said OANDA senior market analyst Kelvin Wong.


Qatar issues green bonds worth $2.5bn

Qatar issues green bonds worth $2.5bn
Updated 7 sec ago
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Qatar issues green bonds worth $2.5bn

Qatar issues green bonds worth $2.5bn

RIYADH: Qatar has issued green bonds in two tranches totaling $2.5 billion, according to official data. 

Citing a release from the International Financing Review, Reuters reported that the operation is the Gulf state’s first external debt issuance in four years. 

According to the IFR report, Qatar sold five-year offerings worth $1 billion with a yield of 30 basis points above US treasury bonds, and ten-year debt securities worth $1.5 billion with a yield of 40 basis points.

This comes several months after global professional services network KPMG encouraged the Gulf country to issue green bonds and adopt sustainable financing mechanisms, saying that this step would help the country achieve its sustainability goals.  

The report also showed that Qatar reduced the initial indicative rate to 70 basis points over US treasury bonds for five-year debt securities and 80 basis points over US treasury bonds for 10-year offerings after receiving total orders exceeding $10.9 billion.

On another note, new data revealed that in the first quarter of 2024, Qatar recorded a merchandise trade balance surplus of 53.2 billion Qatari riyals ($14.6 billion), down from 68.4 billion riyals in the same quarter last year. 

Issued by the country’s National Statistics Center, the analysis also disclosed that the value of Qatar’s total exports, including foreign sales of domestic goods and re-exports, amounted to 87.6 billion riyals, reflecting an 8.6 percent drop compared to the corresponding period in 2023. 

On the other hand, during the same period, the value of Qatar’s imports stood at 34.4 billion riyals, reflecting a 25.4 percent surge in comparison to the first quarter of 2023. 

When asked about the issuance of external debt in January, Qatar’s Finance Minister Ali Al-Kuwari, said: “We’re ready to do it very soon.” 

Speaking to Bloomberg Television on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos at the time, the official highlighted that Qatar is “not hungry for money,” but it will pursue the issuance “mainly to send a strong statement” in combating climate change.  

One of the world’s biggest producers of liquefied natural gas, Qatar has not issued eurobonds since early 2020, when it sold $10 billion of debt.   

In 2022, the Gulf state’s central bank announced plans to implement strategic actions, including facilitating green bond issuance and advancing cooperation with the Qatar Development Bank, to promote diversification efforts. The aim is to fund projects to reduce carbon and other planet-warming emissions.


Saudi Arabia, China explore private sector investment opportunities during Beijing meeting

Saudi Arabia, China explore private sector investment opportunities during Beijing meeting
Updated 5 min 40 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia, China explore private sector investment opportunities during Beijing meeting

Saudi Arabia, China explore private sector investment opportunities during Beijing meeting

 RIYADH: Chinese participation in Saudi Arabia’s private-sector projects is set to increase as the Kingdom’s Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan held meetings with top officials in Beijing. 

Al-Jadaan, who is also the chairman of the National Center for Privatization & PPP, led a roundtable meeting with senior officials of Chinese companies in cooperation with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China to discuss partnership opportunities. 

In his opening address, the finance minister emphasized the depth of the bilateral relationship between the two nations, highlighting the trust and ongoing collaboration across diverse sectors, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

He revealed that the NCP has so far awarded over 60 privatization and partnership contracts in eight key sectors since its establishment, totaling a capital investment exceeding $10 billion.  

Al-Jadaan also highlighted the NCP’s proactive measures in fortifying the ecosystem, including the adoption of privatization laws and complementary statutory frameworks aimed at expediting the implementation of PPP projects. 

During the meeting, participants emphasized the potential for PPP - public private partnership – ventures within the infrastructure sector, outlining pathways for companies and investors to engage in these initiatives across diverse domains. Special focus was placed on construction, transportation, water management, and airport development. 

At the close of the meeting, the minister commended the ICBC’s role in bolstering the NCP’s efforts to showcase privatization and partnership opportunities to Chinese investors and firms. 

NCP plays a key role in facilitating the privatization program, a key priority outlined in the realization of the Saudi Vision 2030, according to its website. 

The center assists in drafting regulations, establishing frameworks, and preparing government assets and services for privatization. Additionally, it is developing the privatization pipeline, proposing sectors and government assets and services for potential improvement through private sector involvement.  

In 2023, the NCP unveiled its privatization and PPP pipeline, featuring 200 approved projects spanning 17 sectors. This initiative was in alignment with the objectives of Vision 2030, aiming to elevate the private sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product from 40 percent to 65 percent by 2030.  

As of the same year, the pipeline encompassed over $50 billion in investments, with an additional 300 projects under evaluation, signifying promising growth prospects. 


Egyptian merchandise exports reach $13bn in first 4 months of 2024 

Egyptian merchandise exports reach $13bn in first 4 months of 2024 
Updated 22 May 2024
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Egyptian merchandise exports reach $13bn in first 4 months of 2024 

Egyptian merchandise exports reach $13bn in first 4 months of 2024 

RIYADH: Egyptian merchandise exports reached $12.91 billion during the first four months of 2024, reflecting an annual 10 percent increase.

The country’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Ahmed Samir, highlighted that this continuous rise in merchandise exports has persisted for the fourth consecutive month, according to an official announcement.  

The ministry aims to further increase exports from all production sectors to various global markets in the upcoming phase.  

This strategy involves a concerted effort by the authority, its affiliated bodies, the business community, and Egyptian exporters to enhance the quality and competitiveness of Egyptian products both locally and globally. This will contribute to the state’s target of achieving $100 billion in annual merchandise exports. 

Saudi Arabia emerged as the largest market for Egyptian merchandise exports during the first four months of 2024, with a value of $1.1 billion compared to $993.6 million during the same period in 2023.  

Turkiye followed with $1.08 billion compared to $900.5 million, Italy with $793.1 million to $785.5 million, and the UAE with $735 million to $460 million. The US stood at $716.2 million compared to $587.1 million. 

The main sectors forming the structure of Egyptian merchandise exports during this period included building materials worth $2.88 billion, food industries worth $2.10 billion and chemical products and fertilizers worth $1.98 billion, as well as agricultural products worth $1.77 billion, engineering and electronic goods worth $1.70 billion, and ready-made garments worth $855 million. 

Key export items that increased from January to April 2024 included fresh and dried citrus worth $767 million, gold worth $650 million, and nitrogen fertilizers worth $588.5 million.

 


Saudi Monsha’at and Social Development Bank ink deal to boost SME financing

Saudi Monsha’at and Social Development Bank ink deal to boost SME financing
Updated 22 May 2024
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Saudi Monsha’at and Social Development Bank ink deal to boost SME financing

Saudi Monsha’at and Social Development Bank ink deal to boost SME financing

RIYADH: Saudi small and medium enterprises are set to receive a finance boost thanks to a new deal signed by the Kingdom’s Social Development Bank. 

The cooperation agreement, inked with the country’s SME general authority, also known as Monsha’at, will see the authority joining the bank’s Entrepreneurs Program, the Saudi Press Agency reported.  

This collaboration aims to provide the necessary financing solutions and facilities for the growth of SME projects and the expansion of their businesses. 

The program is a financing product aimed at supporting the assets and operating costs of new business entities in the Kingdom. 

This initiative aligns with Monsha’at’s objective to bolster the growth and competitiveness of SMEs by collaborating with strategic partners from various sectors, both locally and globally. The goal is to create an enabling environment and foster a leading society.  

Furthermore, it resonates with the bank’s vision to be pioneers in empowering social development tools and enhancing the financial independence of individuals, families, and entities toward a vibrant and productive society. 


Saudi Arabia rises 9 spots in WEF’s global tourism index

Saudi Arabia rises 9 spots in WEF’s global tourism index
Updated 22 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia rises 9 spots in WEF’s global tourism index

Saudi Arabia rises 9 spots in WEF’s global tourism index

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has climbed nine spots to rank 41 on a global tourism index – marking the Gulf region’s largest improvement – thanks to its strengthening infrastructure, corporate presence, and major business centers. 

According to the World Economic Forum’s Travel & Tourism Development Index report, Saudi Arabia has recorded the most significant improvement in the Middle East and North Africa region since 2019. 

The WEF’s TTDI, covering 119 economies, measures the set of factors and policies enabling the sustainable and resilient development of the tourism and travel sector, which, in turn, contributes to a country’s development. 

The report highlighted that the tourism sector in high-income economies within the region, particularly the Gulf Cooperation Council, benefited from several factors. These included high-quality infrastructure, such as major aviation hubs and leading airlines, the presence of large corporations and significant business centers driving travel activities, and a favorable business environment. 

“In part, these efforts are reflected in broad increases in government T&T spending as a share of budgets, loosened visa requirements, improvements in the establishment and promotion of cultural resources, and the highest regional average for T&T capital spending per employee in the index,” the report added. 

In the index, the UAE stands out as the top performer in the region overall and the Middle East subregion, ranking 18th. Meanwhile, Egypt, with a ranking of 61st, stands out as the top scorer in the North Africa subregion, the report revealed. 

The US, Spain, and Japan hold the top three positions in the index with no change in ranking from 2019. Meanwhile, France and Australia have climbed two ranks each from 2019 to secure the fourth and fifth positions. Germany and the UK also feature in the top 10 but with a minor fall in their positions to sixth and seventh in 2024 compared to 2019. China, Italy, and Switzerland hold the remaining three positions in the top 10. 

The WEF findings also pointed out that travel and tourism activities in developing economies in the region often face challenges, including less attractive business environments, safety and security concerns, and gaps in the necessary transport and tourism infrastructure. 

Furthermore, many countries in the region have implemented policies and invested substantial resources to develop the tourism and travel sector. This effort aims to diversify their economies and reduce dependency on the oil and gas industry, according to the report. 

Saudi Arabia is set to unveil a new tourism strategy later this year, leveraging artificial intelligence and seamless technology, Gloria Guevara Manzo, chief special adviser at the Ministry of Tourism, told Arab News on the sidelines of the Future Aviation Forum. 

She added that the plan aims to enhance the Kingdom’s cultural, historical, and hospitality assets. 

In 2023, Saudi Arabia’s travel sector surpassed expectations, prompting a revision of its Vision 2030 targets from 100 million to 150 million visits by 2030.  

Additionally, the Kingdom has introduced regulatory changes, such as the “Visiting Investor” visa and the expansion of the GCC unified visa service, to attract more international visitors and investors.  

Major projects like NEOM, Riyadh Air, and the Red Sea Project are central to these efforts, aiming to make tourism a significant revenue source by 2030. 

The WEF also noted that the tourism and travel sector in the region would benefit from reducing travel and trade restrictions and making significant investments in environmental sustainability to support future improvements in natural resources.  

However, it warned that the recent escalation of regional conflicts and the resultant increase in safety and security concerns pose a major external risk to future tourism development.