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Thursday, 2 May 2019

What we’re tracking on 2 May 2019

…And we’re back, ladies and gentlemen. Bright eyed and fresh faced from a wonderful extended weekend. What did we do over the break? Exactly nothing — and we have the New York Times on our side on that front.

Lest you need a reminder: Ramadan looks set to begin on Monday. Banks and the EGX will move to shorter hours.

Owe the government money? If it’s more than EGP 500, you need to pay it electronically. A Finance Ministry decision that makes it mandatory for all government transactions exceeding EGP 500 to be electronic officially came into effect yesterday, according to a ministry statement out last week. The ministry also issued a set of guidelines (pdf) on how to correctly make electronic payments. The move to e-payment for government services, which was mandated by the National Payments Council, is meant to help regulate public spending and drive financial inclusion.

Tourism Minister Rania Al Mashat is in Switzerland today for the start of the two-day World Tourism Forum.

A new opening for Egyptian natural gas? Jordan’s King Abdullah II is coming under political pressure to scrap a USD 10 bn natural gas agreement with Israel, Asharq Al-Awsat reported on Tuesday. The king is reportedly looking to renegotiate the terms of the agreement under public pressure to which some in parliament are playing. Senior government officials told the newspaper that the pressure comes as part of a movement to curtail economic cooperation with Israel. Egypt could look to capitalize on the situation by increasing its exports to the kingdom should Jordan reduce its imports of Israeli gas.

Gabriel Makhlouf is the new governor of Ireland’s central bank. Born in Egypt and “of British and Greek parentage,” Bloomberg writes, Makhlouf, 52, is chief economic and financial advisor to New Zealand’s government.

Key news triggers on the horizon:

  • Monthly inflation figures are due out at the end of next week. Annual headline urban inflation eased slightly in March to 14.2%, down from 14.4% the previous month.
  • The CBE should announce Egypt’s net foreign reserves figure for the end of April within the next few days.
  • It’s PMI week: The purchasing managers’ index for Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE is due out on Sunday, 5 May.
  • An IMF delegation will be in town to conduct its final review of the reform program ahead of the disbursement of the sixth and final tranche of Egypt’s USD 12 bn loan.
  • Interest rates: The central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates on 23 May.

The US Federal Reserve left interest rates on hold yesterday, it said in a statement (pdf), citing slowed inflation, rising economic activity, low unemployment as well as slowdowns in both household spending and investment by businesses. The WSJ, the Financial Times and Reuters have more on the not-so-surprising decision.

Amazon has rebranded its Souq subsidiary to become Amazon.ae in the UAE, but continues to operate under Souq.com in its remaining Middle Eastern markets, reports The Wall Street Journal. Amazon said it would offer Arabic functionality on its app and online website while boosting product offerings amidst heightened competition in the regions’ e-commerce market from local startups.

Food for thought: Millennials tried to kill the American mall, but Gen Z might save it. It seems shoppers in Amreeka aged 7-22 “still appreciate brick and mortar,” Bloomberg writes, “Today’s teens interact differently with stores than their older siblings and Gen X parents before them.”

El Face is redesigning its app to focus more on events and groups, which are apparently the two most popular features on the social media platform, according to the Verge.

Japan has a new emperor: Crown Prince Naruhito is now Emperor Naruhito after his father, Akihito, was given permission to abdicate. The NYT’s Motoko Rich has a fantastic five “episode” series looking at the post-Second World War history of Japan’s imperial family.

PSA- The heat wave continues today with our favorite weather app suggesting we’re looking at a high today of 37°C. The mercury is then set to ease to 30-31°C Friday and Saturday before climbing back to 38°C on Sunday and 37°C on Monday, which looks set to be the first day of Ramadan. Expect some relief the second half of next week.

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