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Wednesday, 18 July 2018

What we’re tracking on 17 July 2018

The House of Representatives will be breaking for summer at the end of next week, Rep. Mostafa Bakry confirmed to Youm7 yesterday. The House has been rushing to complete discussions on the Madbouly Cabinet’s policy program after House Speaker Ali Abdel Aal warned Reps. that the term could be extended to August if they’re unable to get through their full agenda by the end of next week. The committee tasked with reviewing the program has concluded its report and is recommending that a vote of confidence be given to the Madbouly Cabinet.

Ruling on Ibnsina antitrust case postponed to September: The Cairo Economic Court decided to postpone its ruling on Ibnsina Pharma’s appeal of antitrust sanctions imposed in a case brought by the Egyptian Competition Authority to 18 September, Al Mal reports. The court had ruled in March that Ibnsina, United Pharma, Ramco Pharma and Multipharma had colluded to cut credit periods and slash discounts to small and medium sized pharmacies. The companies were fined a total of EGP 5.6 bn.

Egypt gets some love from the IMF with some advice on the way forward: IMF Egypt Mission Chief Subir Lall laid down where he sees Egypt’s focus, challenges, and opportunities for how best to move forward from here. In a piece published on the IMF’s website, Lall sees that the most important issues that face Egypt over the coming years are tied to a rapidly growing population, the modernization of its economy, and how best to ensure a modern social safety net to protect the most vulnerable in society.

To tackle these issues, Lall recommends taking advantage of the 3.5 mn Egyptians projected to enter the workforce in the next five years, and the best way to do that is to strengthen the private sector. “if Egypt can support the emergence of a strong and vibrant private sector to productively employ this emerging generation of workers,” he said. He also urged the state to progress with modernizing the economy through shedding of subsidies and empowering SMEs, while continuing to ensure a strong safety net.

Lall took stock of what was already done, praising the economic reform measures during an interview with the state-owned MENA. He commended the central bank’s monetary policy for helping contain inflation, as well as government efforts to shore up the social safety net. Egypt recently received the fourth USD 2 bn tranche of its USD 12 bn Extended Fund Facility with the IMF, after passing the third review of the economic reform agenda with flying colors.

IMF is not as happy with Bahrain: Bahrain needs a comprehensive package of reforms to reduce its fiscal deficits over the medium term, the IMF said. “Despite planned fiscal consolidation measures, fiscal and external deficits are projected to continue over the medium term, due to the large and growing interest bill,” IMF’s Executive Board said in a report on Sunday. “Public debt is expected to increase further over the medium term and reserves are projected to remain low.” The statements come as the kingdom is seeking to secure crucial support from rich neighbors to avoid a currency devaluation.

Fed pushes for gradually increasing rates amid strengthening economy: US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell “believes that – for now – the best way forward is to keep gradually raising the federal funds rate” in a way that keeps pace with a strengthening economy but does not increase rates so high or so fast that it weakens growth. In a written testimony to the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, Powell dismissed the notion that the Trump administration’s trade war would cause a disruption, adding that the job market will remain strong and inflation will stay near 2% over the next several years, according to Reuters.

What does this mean for EMs? All this to say that emerging markets, already reeling from higher interest rates, an appreciating USD, and fallout from the Trump trade war have some pain to look forward to.

Why is Indonesia bucking the EM zombie apocalypse? Because it raised rates: Indonesia appears to be surviving the EM sovereign bond sell-offs, as institutional buyers are piling into Indonesian bonds, Stefania Palma writes for the FT. “There are more long-term investors committed to Indonesia than in the past,” said Roland Mieth, EM portfolio manager at Pimco. Indonesia has moved to raise rates higher and the currency has weakened, with the country’s local-currency sovereign bonds offer desirable returns. It continues to be at risk so long as the Fed appears to be moving to raise rates and foreigners hold 38% of the country’s local-currency debt.

Fund managers have turned “increasingly bearish” about global growth,“ according to a survey compiled by Bank of America Merrill Lynch picked up by the Financial Times. The survey found that “more respondents now thought global profits would not improve over the next 12 months than expect them to get better. A net 9% expect them to stay the same or get worse — the gloomiest assessment since February 2016,” notes the salmon-colored paper.

Solomon to replace Blankfein at Goldman Sachs helm as of October: David Solomon will be replacing Lloyd Blankfein as CEO of Goldman Sachs Group as of 1 October. “The news, announced Tuesday — after more than a year of jockeying, choreography and speculation — fully and finally sets in motion one of the most significant succession plays on Wall Street,” Bloomberg said yesterday. “The handover is taking place as Goldman Sachs diversifies away from its trading operations, a traditional profit center, and pushes deeper into newer areas like consumer lending.”

US President Donald Trump may have finally found a politically-costly gaffe, after going soft on Russian president Vladimir Putin on US allegations that Russia meddled in the 2016 elections. He even praised Putin for denying and condemning the results of the US investigation. Trump now is back-peddling after his comments received widespread condemnation from politicians and voters across party lines, Reuters reports.

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