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Sunday, 31 March 2019

What we’re tracking on 31 March 2019

It’s the last day of the first quarter, ladies and gents, and we have just over a month to go before Ramadan.

It’s also shaping up to be a very busy week on the foreign policy front before a mad-scramble of business news kicks off — we find April and May are traditionally two of the busier months newswise, and you can expect a compression of the news cycle with Ramadan due to start on or about 5 May.

AmCham’s annual doorknock mission kicks off tomorrow in Washington, DC, and runs through Friday. Some 35 senior business leaders are set to meet members of Congress, officials in the Trump administration, media, think tanks and US business leaders. On the agenda: talks on investment and commercial issues. You can check out the list of delegates here, and we’ll have highlights from the road.

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi is heading DC on 9 April, where he will meet with US President Donald Trump to talk military, economic, and counterterrorism cooperation, the White House said in a statement on Friday. The two presidents will also discuss regional developments and “Egypt’s longstanding role as a lynchpin of regional stability.”

The announcement came as Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry met with the House Appropriations Committee chair Rep.Nita Lowey as he wrapped up a two-day visit to the US capital, according to a ministry statement. Lowey and Shoukry discussed the US’ military aid program for Egypt, which The Donald’s outline for his 2020 budget suggests should remain intact. Shoukry also met with other members of Congress.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is in Cairo tomorrow and is expected to meet with El Sisi as part of a Middle East tour that started in Tunisia on Friday, reports Ahram Online. Guterres’ main priority for the meeting is the situation in Libya, but his trip will see him pay a visit to Al-Azhar mosque and meet Grand Imam Ahmed Al Tayeb.

SIGN OF THE TIMES #1: H&M is apparently launching an online store in Egypt via its local franchisee, according to a brief mention in a longer story on the Swedish fast-fashion retailer’s ongoing global turnaround.

SIGN OF THE TIMES #2: It wasn’t a bad first quarter at all. The first quarter of 2019 has essentially been the antithesis of last year’s Emerging Markets Zombie Apocalypse for global stocks and key commodity markets, Reuters says. “It may seem a little incongruous when bond markets are screaming recession warnings, but it’s all good when the world’s two biggest economies are trying to mend their differences and major central banks are going all soft and cuddly again.” Key indices are soaring, oil prices have jumped 30%, and bonds are also seeing a strong quarter. Currencies — save for a few EMs — are on the mend, too, bringing together a “remarkable” set of conditions for the quarter.

The EGX30 is up 12.5% YTD heading into the last session of this quarter.

SIGN OF THE TIMES #3: It’s been a bad year for global M&A, with worldwide dealmaking activity year-to-date down 17% from the same period last year, according to data from Dealogic quoted by the Wall Street Journal this weekend. “Global political tension and slowing economies abroad” are to blame, the Journal suggests.

Why we’re not in a dotcom bubble: With a horde of US tech IPOs heading to market (provided said market holds up…), we’re not likely to see a repeat of the corporate flops of 1999, the WSJ suggests: Companies going public this time around are larger, older and (in many cases) have real business models.

Lyft went public this past Friday, with its shares finishing up nearly 9% in its Nasdaq debut. Workplace messaging app Slack, Uber, Postmates and Pinterest are all looking to follow suit this year.

Britain’s exit from the EU and the ongoing US-China trade dispute still pose threats to global trade. Bloomberg is out with some handy infographics showing which countries are most exposed to the deteriorating trade relationships between the largest economic blocs in the world.

In other international news worth knowing this morning:

  • Saudi’s Aramco will be meeting with investors this week to sell its debut international bond. Proceeds will fund in part its USD 69.1 bn acquisition of a stake in chemical company SABIC. (Reuters)
  • KSA allegedly hacked Amazon boss Jeff Bezos’ phone and gained access to private data. Bezos is also the owner of the Washington Post, which has been critical of KSA after the murder of columnist Jamal Khashoggi. (CNBC)
  • Turkey is holding local elections today and the individual who runs the country could face a tough time with voters in Ankara and Istanbul, polls suggest. (Reuters)
  • Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg thinks the internet needs global rules on “harmful content,” election integrity, privacy and data portability, he writes in an op-ed for the Washington Post.
  • Apple has cancelled its AirPower wireless charging mat in what is being called a “rare reversal.” (TechCrunch)

Jean Claude Van Damme will join Mike Tyson in making an appearance in the upcoming film “Hamlet Faron” (Pharaoh’s Campaign) alongside Egyptian actress Ruby. Van Damme is expected in Egypt on or about 10 April to shoot his scenes, according to Egypt Independent.

PSA- Look for a mix of sun and clouds and a chance of blowing sand today with a high of 20°C. The mercury will start rising tomorrow, climbing steadily into the low 30s by the weekend as our customary two weeks of spring end.

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