What we’re tracking on 05 September 2018
** We’re trying something new this morning: Longtime readers know that you can no longer tap or click the headline in our tl;dr above in the email edition and zip down to the story in question. This used to work in email (and still does in our web edition) — then the nice people at Google and Apple phased out support for the only technical way to make that work in email.
So, starting today, we’re numbering our tl;dr stories in the body of the email. Today’s number one story (managing public debt) is identified in tl;dr as “1.” and in the body of today’s briefing as ** #1 in green. Similarly, the state privatization program kickoff story is ** #2.
Oh, and tl;dr? It stands for too long, didn’t read.
IMF thinks Egypt can withstand global macro stress: The impact of external macro forces including the Trump administration’s still-brewing trade war, will not be as acute in nations with resilient economies including Egypt, said IMF Senior Resident Representative Reza Baqir on Tuesday. He implied that unlike other emerging markets, Egypt’s economic growth is underpinned by the fundamentals and not an over reliance on debt, he added, according to Al Mal. Baqir statements came during the opening day of the Euromoney conference, where discussion of Egypt’s public debt featured heavily. We have more on the government’s statements from the conference, which wraps up today, in Speed Round, below.
Egypt and Uzbekistan will be discussing the creation of a joint horticultural and logistics hub in the Central Asian during a business forum taking place in Tashkent this morning, the Uzbek Foreign Trade Ministry said. President Abdel Fattah El Sisi arrived in the former Soviet republic on Monday for a two-day visit that will include sit-downs with his Uzbek counterpart, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, as well as with a number of business leaders, an Ittihadiya statement said. El Sisi is expected to ink cooperation agreements on tourism, education and pharma during the visit.
Fear of emerging market contagion rising? South Africa is now officially back in recession. Indonesia’s is currency heading the way of the TRY and ARS. Fitch is downgrading its growth outlook on Turkey (warning of “significant and widespread downside risk). It’s against that backdrop that both the FT and Bloomberg (here and here) are declaring that the risk of an emerging market contagion are “too big to ignore.” The latest: MSCI’s index of EM currencies “dropped for a fifth time in six days [to its] lowest close in more than a year,” dragged down by the ARS, TRY, ZAR, MXN and IDR. South Africa’s economy had been contracting at a 2.6% annual pace during the 1Q2018, with its output falling at a 0.7% annualised rate in the second quarter, all contributing to its slide back into recession for the first time since 2009, according to the FT.
Meanwhile, the USD extended its run to a fourth day as US President Donald Trump threatened to step up the trade war with China with an announcement of tariffs on as much as USD 200 bn in additional Chinese products as soon as Thursday, Bloomberg reports. “There’s not much to make me think the USD should be going up, but there’s plenty to make me nervous about other currencies,” global strategist at Societe Generale Kit Juckes said. “The USD is very strong and lacking rate support, but other currencies are worse.”
The spotlight now turns on EM central banks, who “have embarked on their first “sustained” monetary tightening cycle since 2011,” William Jackson, senior emerging market economist at Capital Economics, tells the FT. Emerging markets, he added, “are now hitting some capacity constraints and seeing rising domestic inflation pressures. After a period of very low interest rates, central banks are responding by tightening conditions, similar to what is happening in the US and UK.” The Central Bank of Egypt meets on Friday, 27 September to review interest rates.
** #4 Food for thought #1- Welcome to Egypt’s new Catch 22: Fund managers — carry trade types in particular — are pulling out of emerging markets, spooked by the risks about which we drone on every morning in this space. This suggests that the central bank is going to (at a minimum) leave interest rates on hold to keep hot money from fleeing Egypt — raising the cost of borrowing for the state. (And also making borrowing that much less attractive to the private sector.) Toss in the risk of a strengthening USD and depreciating local currency (as Turkey, South Africa and other major EM are seeing) and you start to get a sense of why Finance Minister Mohamed Maait is making management of the public debt his top fiscal priority, as we report in Speed Round, below.
Food for thought #2- Is the fall IPO window narrowing? Emerging consensus among members of the community with whom we’ve spoken in recent days is that issuers with equity offerings set to close in September and early October can probably expect to execute. But the choppiness we’re seeing in emerging markets leaves the outlook cloudy for anyone looking to close an IPO or public market stake sale after Halloween. Keep this in mind as you read our coverage this morning in Speed Round, below, of which state companies are looking to top equity markets this fall and winter.
That didn’t take long: Amazon has caught up with Apple and became the second company to hit a market cap of USD 1 tn, according to Bloomberg. The story is front page news across the western press, from the Wall Street Journal to the New York Times. Refreshingly, the NYT is bucking the trend, writing that it is too early to declare that Amazon is killing physical retail. Read Hard Lessons (Thanks, Amazon) Breathe New Life Into Retail Stores.
Welcome to Crazytown: Watergate reporter and Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward’s latest book is out next week, but the New York Times has already obtained a copy. Titled Fear, it’s apparently a bombshell for The Donald, claiming that his defense secretary likened his understanding of issues to that of a fifth or sixth grader, that he’s called his attorney general “mentally retarded” and a “traitor,” and that staff have hidden papers from him to ensure he can’t make rash decisions, among other anecdotes. The Times writes that the “highly anticipated book … depicts the Trump White House as a byzantine, treacherous, often out-of-control operation — ‘crazytown,’ in the words of the chief of staff, John F. Kelly — hostage to the whims of an impulsive, ill-informed and undisciplined president.” Read the Times preview here or pre-order the book on Amazon.