What we’re tracking on 13 March 2017
Good luck, Heliopolis: Like it or not, the biggest news out of Egypt this morning is that former President Hosni Mubarak has been ordered released by the Prosecutor General’s Office. Farid El Deeb, Mubarak’s lawyer since his ouster, tells Al Masry Al Youm that the former president should be going home “in a day or two.” Youm7 carries the warning for Heliopolites. Declan Walsh has the news for the New York Times, while most media outlets are relying on coverage from the Associated Press and Reuters.
The question of whether there are Russian troops in Egypt (22 of them, in grand total, it seems) will preoccupy the chattering class today — a day in which the real heavy-lifting will be on the legislative front at various committees of the House of Representatives. This after an exclusive from Reuters that reads as if penned for a D.C audience suggests “Russia appears to have deployed special forces to an airbase in western Egypt [about 100 km from] the border with Libya in recent days.” Reuters suggests the drone-packing Russkies are supporting troops of Gen. Khalifa Haftar, the military commander of the internationally-recognized Libyan government and an ally of Egypt. The spokesman for the Egyptian Armed Forces denied there are Russian troops on our soil.
Yes, folks: The heavy lifting is on the policy front. Just see our Speed Round section this morning, which reads like nothing so much as a legislative diary. As we’ve said before, the “gutsy” work on reforms is largely done: The float of the EGP, a commitment to cutting subsidies, etc. It’s now a game of inches in the form of bureaucratic and legislative reforms.
Elsewhere in the region: Saudi Arabia’s Olayan Financing is debating whether to tap publicmarkets, with Bloomberg reporting that the high-profile investor in Egypt could offer on the Tadawul shares of more than one operating company — or even flip multiple assets into a holdco it would then IPO. Also: Foreign investors are loving Kuwait this morning. The country has already attracted more than USD 20 bn in orders for its debut USD 8 bn international bond, the Financial Times tells us (see also coverage in the WSJ and Bloomberg) and
US interest rate hike looms tomorrow, EM shrug — for now: Global business news for the next 48 hours will be dominated by the US Federal Reserve, whose Federal Open Markets Committee kicks-off a two-day meeting today. Analysts expect we’ll hear tomorrow afternoon (EDT) from Fed boss Janet Yellen about the first of (possibly) multiple quarter-point rate hikes this year. That news would once have been enough to send emerging market investors into a tizzy, but the Financial Times (paywall) this morning suggests EM investors have become less wary given the risk-reward equation has shifted rather strongly in favour of EM, which it notes the International Institute of Finance (IIF) sees as having grown an annualized 6.8% in February (and 6.4% in January) against an expected 2% for developed markets. “If confirmed, the IIF forecast would appear to show that the emerging world has broken out of the downward trend that has been in place since the global financial crisis,” the paper notes.
The punditocracy is kicking into overdrive with hot-takes on the Fed. There are fears that Yellen won’t keep raising rates, the notion that three rate hikes may not be enough, and fears that a Trump presidency is “clouding” the issue.
Also: A looming blizzard has postponed Trump-Merkel day to Friday and oil has now posted its biggest week-on-week drop in four months. (And warning if you’re heading to NYC or other points on the U.S. East Coast: The “weather event” has seen thousands of flights cancelled or delayed.)