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Wednesday, 28 March 2018

What we’re tracking on 28 March 2018

We have very little non-election news of note for you this morning, ladies and gentlemen. ‘Tis simply one of those days.

It’s the third day of voting in the 2018 presidential election, and it’s still unclear if it will be the last. The National Elections Authority (NEA) continues to deny reports that it will announce an extension of balloting to Thursday, with spokesman Mahmoud El Sherif saying “we have not yet made up our minds,” State Information Service reports.

Turnout has been particularly strong in several governorates, including Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Qalyubia, Asyut, and Aswan, El Sherif also said, adding that even North Sinai is seeing residents head to the polling stations, despite the ongoing military campaign in the area. There are 59 mn eligible voters in Egypt, and election results are set to be announced on Monday, 2 April.

Everyone from community leaders to government, security and religious leaders are pushing to drive turnout, the Associated Press reports, including incidents in which managers have ordered employees out to vote. And as is the case in every poll since 2011, we’re all being reminded by House Spokesman Salah Hassaballah that any of us who don’t vote face EGP 500 fines, according to Youm7. The NEA has also threatened the same thing, state-owned Ahram Online reports.

Some business leaders are trying a softer approach, and have given staff time off to go out and vote today. These included businesses associated with the the Investors Association of 6 October City, Ahram Gate reports.

AU says there have been no voting irregularities: “No violations or complaints were registered by the AU observers’ team,” said the head of the African Union observers mission Abdallah Diop, according to Ahram Online. “Voters cast their ballots in a very peaceful and organised environ

ment on the first and second day of elections,” he added. Similar praise came from the head of the COMESA’s observers mission there.

The international press is still still obsessing over turnoutand the rather unlikely notion of an upset victory for that guy who did the country a solid by allowing his name to be placed on the ballot. “Turnout appeared low on Tuesday as Egyptians voted on the second day of an election that President Abdel Fattah El Sisi is virtually certain to win,” says the Associated Press. Reuters notes that authorities continued to push “for a high turnout on Tuesday,” adding that Sisi voters with whom the wire service spoke said they were casting their ballots for stability.

The Washington Post’s editorial board, meanwhile, is sneering about Egypt’s “sham election” — and using it as a cudgel against the Trump administration. The paper’s editorial writers summon all the usual charges against Omm El Donia, adding that even “a number of innocent Americans” have been hurt and that “under Mr Sissi, Egypt is failing.” Heaven forbid that the US embassy say something nice about our electoral process in a tweet: That’s the Trump administration propagating false news on Egypt’s behalf, the newspaper says.

From the remainders bin: There are noticeably more female voters at the polling stations, Gulf News observes, quoting Egyptian women saying they feel safer and more empowered under the Sisi regime. Valdai Club does a “macro assessment” of Sisi’s first term in office, CNBC has a guide on all Egypt elections-related matters, and Asharq Al-Awsat also has coverage.

The seventh annual Cityscape Egypt conference runs today through Saturday at the Egypt International Exhibition Center. With over 17,000 participants and over 90 companies attending, the conference gives property developers a chance to showcase their upcoming projects and discuss industry issues. The conference will be kicked off by Housing Minister Mostafa Madbouly.

Will Saudi be upgraded to FTSE emerging market status today? FTSE Russell will announce today whether it will include Saudi Arabia on its list of emerging markets countries, Bloomberg reports. Tadawul chairwoman Sarah Al Suhaimi is very optimistic that the country will be promoted to EM status based on positive feedback from investors. After a series of market overhauls including a shift to a T+2 settlement system from T+0 last year, KSA’s next big step is “establishing our clearing house that will allow us to have derivatives in the kingdom,” Al Suhaimi tells Bloomberg. FTSE refrained from promoting the country to from unclassified status last September, saying that it would “soon" meet criteria to be included. Al Suhaimi expects a positive decision from FTSE could draw inflows of c. USD 3 bn. An upgrade to MSCI emerging market status would see about USD 15 bn inflows, EFG Hermes estimates.

Investors appear to biting, as the Tadawul index rose 1.08% on Tuesday, good for a 10% YTD gain so far this year, while the iShares MSCI Saudi Arabia exchange traded fund rose 10.5% in March, Bloomberg reports.

This comes as the chairwoman of the Tadawul says the bourse is “doing everything” to get ready for the Saudi Aramco IPO. Al Suhaimi was a guest on CNBC’s Power Lunch yesterday. She made her remarks as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman suggested the Aramco IPO may be kicked to 2019. In other KSA news yesterday, the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund said it was looking at opening offices in the US, UK and Japan as it seeks to become a “global investment powerhouse.”

Saudi and Russia seem to be hashing out a long-term energy pact that could have far-reaching consequences for the global energy market. The agreement would extend the short-term oil pact they made to curb falling oil prices back in 2017. “We are working to shift from a year-to-year agreement to a 10 to 20 year agreement,” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman told Reuters in an interview on Monday. “We have agreement on the big picture, but not yet on the detail.”

In other EM news, China’s government is relaxing capital controls for the first time in two year, the Financial Times reports. The government has revived a programme allowing global asset managers, including JPMorgan Chase, to raise funds from Chinese onshore clients for investment in offshore hedge funds.

Also in the headlines this morning:

  • It’s the end of the world as we know it: Saxo Bank’s “often-bearish” chief economist fears a 30 percent stock market correction is possible in the US, citing “growing credit loans, a widening fiscal deficit, doubts over infrastructure spending plans and a potential trade war,” CNBC reports.
  • Deutsche Bank is reportedly starting a process to find a replacement for CEO John Cryan “amid mounting boardroom unrest and shareholder discontent over the bank’s performance ahead of is annual meeting in May.” Execs from Goldman Sachs, Standard Chartered and UniCredit are said to have been approached for the job.
  • FAANG shares fell 5.6% yesterday, their worst-ever one-day loss as a group “over fears of heightened regulation and setbacks for tech companies,” the Financial Times reports. The FAANGs include Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google parent company Alphabet.
  • DPRK makes nice with the ChiComs: China’s Xi Jinping says he has secured a denuclearization pledge from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ahead of a planned meeting between the DPRK strongman and US President Donald Trump.

PSA- After the sweet rain comes the sandstorm: After rain and thunder last night (an echo of a reminder that the short months we call “winter” existed), the Meteorological Authority says to expect strong, sandy winds both today and tomorrow. A sandstorm could be in the offing either day, according to Youm7.

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