Global Developments Bottomline:
In the US, there have been soft reports ranging from retail sales to housing alongside low levels of unemployment and rising wages; the Fed will likely hold interest rates steady at the meeting this week, also in line with Powell’s comments last week that the central bank does “not feel any hurry” to raise rates. Meanwhile, Brexit continues to drag along unsolved, with the next vote due to take place by 20 March (“third time lucky?”). Even if the vote goes the PM’s way, it remains to be seen if a 3-month delay will lead to any meaningful results. Separately, will China’s hurried approval of a new foreign investment law smooth the way for the trade deal with the US? Trump’s statement that he was in “no rush” seems to suggest a potential delay – maybe ahead of or at the Trump-Xi meeting in June (at the G20 summit).
- As per the draft national budget, Bahrain plans to spend more than BHD 1.3bn on 66 new projects in 2 years. GCC funds will account for around 73% of the financing.
- Bahrain is likely to start shale oil production by Q4 this year, given that the well drilling began a few months ago, reported Al Khaleej.
- Inflation in Egypt increased to 14.4% in Feb (Jan: 12.7%), with prices up across multiple sectors: transport (+32%), food & beverages (15.3%), housing & utilities (15.2%) and education (15.1%). Core inflation also picked up pace, rising to 9.2%.
- Egypt’s investments into oil exploration and development touched USD 2.6bn in H1 of fiscal year 2018-19.
- Iraq reduced its oil exports average to 3.5mn barrels per day (bpd), in line with the OPEC deal, according to the oil minister.
- Studies are underway to implement the joint free Jordanian-Iraqi industrial zone at the border between the two countries, aimed at boosting trade and investment.
- S&P affirmed Jordan’s ratings at “B+/B” with stable outlook, given expectations that net debt will broadly stabilise.
- Kuwait’s money supply (M2) declined marginally by 0.1% mom in Jan to KWS 38.5bn (USD 127bn). Private sector’s deposits in local banks dropped 0.3% to KWD 34.2bn.
- Kuwait’s foreign aid exceeded KWD 1.77bn (USD5.82bn) over the past decade, with years 2012-2013 & 2014-2015 accounting for 42% of total aid over past 10 years.
- Lebanon requested for more than USD 2.5bn at the Brussels conference, for supporting Syrian refugees.
- Lebanon’s finance minister has stated that the 2019 draft budget would be completed soon; he assured that no new taxes would be included in the budget.
- A Royal Decree was published issuing the Selective Tax Law in Oman: prices of tobacco, alcohol, energy drinks and pork products will rise 100% from Jun, and carbonated drinks by 50%.
- As per the new Commercial Companies Law in Oman, which comes into effect from Apr, all matters related to listed companies [excluding registrations] will come under CMA’s jurisdiction.
- Qatar’s trade surplus touched USD 52bn in 2018.
- Qatar’s Cabinet stated that, further to the 2018 law which permits greater foreign ownership of its real estate sector, it would identify 10 locations eligible for full foreign ownership and 16 that could be held for a period of 99 years.
- The Saudi General Authority of Zakat and Tax disclosed that the government would assume the zakat liability on government-issued debt instruments to encourage the local debt market.
- Saudi Arabia closed six privatisation deals in the last two months, with a total value of USD 3.5bn (SAR 13.13bn. There are at least 23 other privatization transactions in the pipeline, to be completed by 2022.
- Despite strong demand, Saudi Arabia plans to cut its crude oil exports to below 7mn barrels per day (bpd) in Apr, while keeping output well below 10mn bpd, reported Reuters. Separately, the Saudi oil minister stated that an end to OPEC-led supply cuts was unlikely before June.
- The Global Financial Centres Index includes Kuwait for the first time – ranked 57th Dubai, ranked 12th, tops the list from the region; Abu Dhabi (26) and Casablanca (22) continued to rise in the rankings, while Doha (42) fell slightly.
- The UAE is expected to grow at 3.5% in 2019 (2018: 2.8%), as per the central bank, thanks to an uptick in the non-oil sector driven by the recent stimulus measures.
- UAE’s foreign currency assets grew by 6.7% yoy to AED 348bn (USD 94.82bn) as of end-Jan, according to the central bank.
- The UAE’s Finance Ministry will set up a federal debt management office this year and will seek a sovereign rating, disclosed an undersecretary of the ministry. He also stated that there are no immediate plans for the issuance of federal bonds.
- The Dubai Economy Tracker remained unchanged at 55.8 in Feb, with the index for the wholesale and retail sector at an 8-month high of 58.1. The employment index fell to the lowest level since the series began in 2010.
- Non-oil foreign trade through Abu Dhabi increased by 6.8% yoy to AED 166.9bn in 2018, as the result of a 23.8% rise in non-oil exports to AED 27.7bn and a 20.7% increase in re-exports.
- Dubai’s non-oil foreign trade touched AED 1.3trn (USD 353bn) in 2018: trade through free zones were up 23% to AED 532bn while direct trade touched AED 757bn.
- Size of the wealth and asset management sector at the DIFC stands at USD 424bn.
- Dubai attracted USD 21.6bn worth FDI in high-end technology transfers during 2015-2018, with the most from the EU and the US – USD 5.7 and 3.9bn respectively.
- Remittances from the UAE declined by 7.7% yoy to AED 39.9bn (USD 10.8bn) in Q4 2018. India remained the top recipient nation, accounting for 34.2% of total remittances, followed by Pakistan (9.4%), Philippines (7.2%), US (5.9%) and Egypt (5.5%).
- Abu Dhabi Airports Free Zone has reduced business set-up costs by more than 65%. In addition to waiving license fees for new companies, the free zone also received an exclusion of VAT in designated zones across its properties for its customers.
- Abu Dhabi announced a reduction in tourism-related fees: it has reduced tourism fees to 3.5% from 6%, municipal fees to 2% from 4% and municipality hotel room fees per night to AED 10 (USD 2.72) from AED 15. Separately, Abu Dhabi allocated a budget of AED 500mn (USD 136mn) for tourism marketing campaignsto be spent over next three years.
- The Dubai South free zones announced that it will issue freelancer work permits.
- UAE’s Mashreq bank announced that it would close 50% of its branches this year, as part of its digital transformation. Planning to invest AED 500mn for the next 5 years towards digital transformation, the bank also aims to retrain its employees to adjust to this change.
- Dubai SME, part of the Department of Economic Development, supported 4,227 Emirati entrepreneurs with incentives and facilities worth AED 101mn ($27.52mn) in 2018.
- Dubai retained its top position in terms of international passenger traffic (88.88mn) and third largest for total passenger traffic in 2018, according to the Airports Council International.