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Monday, 12 February 2018

What we’re tracking on 12 February 2018

Market watchers will be timezone hopping today for signs that we’ve found the bottom in the ongoing stock rout. Asian markets are mixed this morning and oil has firmed up, with Brent rising about 0.7% to USD 63.20 a barrel. A sweep across points east just before dispatch time shows Japanese, Indian, New Zealand and Australian shares largely down, and China, South Korea and Hong Kong up. With USD 5 tn wiped out from stock markets from New York to Hong Kong last week, traders are wondering “When will it finally stop,” Bloomberg tells us in an excellent scene-setter for the week.

The front page of CNBC sums it all up rather nicely, if in less sophisticated terms: Dow futures point to a triple-digit open today in the United States after shares pulled out of correction territory Friday. The IMF’s Christine Lagarde is making all the right noises, saying what’s going on is “a welcome correction” (and, by implication, that those losing their minds right now are drama queens). And while a top analyst at Invesco warns that “the market’s wild ride could last weeks — with another jolt coming right behind it,” the counterpoint is that the “bull market looks safe for now, as fewer than half of all corrections deepen into full-blown bears.”

Egyptian investors, meanwhile, held the collective breath yesterday waiting to see which way global markets would move today. The EGX30 was down 0.62% in very light trading (total market turnover was about 45% below the trailing 90-day average).

And the hedgies have joined the Jim Cramers of the world in proclaiming that volatility is now the order of the game. Bob Prince, the co-chief investment officer at Bridgewater, the world’s largest hedge fund, “has warned that global markets are entering a new era of volatility as the world adjusts to higher interest rates after a decade of ultra-loose monetary policy,” the Financial Times writes.

Hard currency continues to flow into Egypt: Remittances from expats increased 29.3% y-o-y in December 2017 to USD 2.6 bn, up from USD 2.0 bn in December 2016, the central bank announced in a statement on Sunday (pdf). Overall, remittances since the EGP float until December 2017 grew to USD 29.1 bn. That comes as tourist arrivals were up 43.9% y-o-y in December, according to a CAPMAS release picked up by Al Mal. 33.8% of all arrivals had been from Western Europe, 25.6% from Eastern Europe, 20.4% from the Middle East, and 7.1% from Africa.

Looking for a brief refresher on the economic and budget indicators in 1H2017-18? You can check out the Finance Ministry’s mid-year 2017-18 report (pdf), which came out over the weekend. Highlights of the report, most of which we’ve covered before, include:

  • The budget deficit declined to 4.4% of GDP in 1H2017-18, down from 5% during the same period last year;
  • Primary budget deficit also fell to 0.3% of GDP, the lowest primary budget deficit recorded in the past 10 years;
  • State revenues climbed 38% y-o-y;
  • Fuel subsidy costs are up 34% y-o-y;
  • Spending on food subsidies are up 65% y-o-y;
  • Spending on the social welfare programs Takaful and Karama is up a combined 141% y-o-y.

One new take away: The Finance Ministry is acknowledging the cost of higher oil prices, adjusting its view on Brent crude in the budget to USD 57.50 per barrel.

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi is scheduled to meet with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson today, Youm7 reports. Tillerson, who landed last night, is also set to meet with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. Look for security issues and human rights to be on the agenda. Egypt is the first leg of Middle East tour that will take Tillerson next to Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.

A UK business delegation of over 50 companies led by British Trade Envoy Jeffrey Donaldson arrived in Cairo yesterday for a five-day visit, the British Embassy said. The visit, the largest from a British trade delegation in nearly two decades, includes existing investors in Egypt, such as Bombardier, Fujitsu, Mott MacDonald, and GSK, as well as others looking to invest here for the first time. Donaldson is set to meet with the ministers of Trade and Industry, Investment, Health, Education, and Transport.

The House of Representatives will be taking a recess during the presidential elections next month, Parliamentary Speaker Ali Abdel Aal announced yesterday, Al Masry Al Youm reports. MPs will reconvene immediately afterward.

You know there’s an undercurrent of angst in finance when Bloomberg’s inimitable Matt Levine wonders—only half jokingly—“are banks worthless?” Using a couple of studies as his starting point, Levine writes: “‘Do Banks Have an Edge?’ No, is their answer. You’d be better off just passively buying Treasuries than buying the complicated mix of stuff that banks actually own. … And you’d be better off borrowing in the market than relying on the deposits that are supposed to give banks their funding advantage.” First, the ETFs came for the traders. Now, the forces of statistics are coming for bankers (in aggregate, not in specific). A definite must-read.

Oh, speaking of ETFs: The market for exchange-traded funds “smashed” through the USD 5 tn barrier for the first time in January, the Financial Times notes.

And in miscellany this morning:

  • The flu is causing 1 in 10 deaths in America—and rising—leaving public health experts saying they “can’t predict how much longer the severe season will last … everything we are looking at is bad news.” (Bloomberg)
  • The fitness industry is booming, prompting a certain salmon-colored newspaper to indulge its inner Buzzfeed as it asks “has the gym become the new pub” as “millennial become increasingly preoccupied with their physical and mental wellbeing.” (Financial Times)
  • The guys from the podcast Pod Save America are going to get their own show on HBO. Worth noting if only because they have the best-named media company in history: Crooked Media. (TechCrunch)
  • The kids from Stranger Things will be back with eight episodes in season three, it seems—one less than season two, but on par with the show’s debut. (TVLine)

Finally: Got Netflix? George Clooney is the latest guest on David Letterman’s new monthly showMy Next Guest Needs No Introduction,” now in a six-episode first season. The host’s first guest was former US President Barack Obama.

PSA- You may want to stay in this evening—it may rain. Emphasis on the “may” because our favorite weather app has, of late, been as accurate as the national weather service—which places its predictive power on par with the toss of a coin. But still: The rain originally forecast is now showing up hitting this evening. Expect 2-4 mm in the capital city starting around 6pm, according to Google and the Weather Network.

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