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Sunday, 4 August 2019

What we’re tracking on 4 August 2019

It’s official, folks: Eid Al Adha falls this Sunday. Dar Al Iftaa announced on Thursday that the first day of Eid Al Adha will be Sunday, 11 August. This sets us working people up for a five-day break (Friday-Tuesday). We have yet to hear anything official from cabinet for the public sector, and from the EGX and CBE for banks and businesses.

A handful of news triggers coming up over the next several days:

  • PMI: The purchasing managers’ index for Egypt, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia will be released tomorrow morning.
  • Foreign reserves: The CBE is due to release Egypt’s net foreign reserve figures for July sometime this week.
  • Inflation: Monthly inflation figures are due out this week. Inflation fell to a three-year low in June, coming in at 9.4%.

Shoukry heads to Iraq: Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry is in Baghdad today for talks with his Iraqi and Jordanian counterparts, according to a ministry statement. The three countries have been developing closer ties in recent months: industry ministers agreed in May to establish common industrial zones, and in March President Abdel Fattah El Sisi hosted a tripartite summit with Jordanian King Abdullah and Iraqi PM Adil Abdul-Mahdi.

The Fab15 conference draws to a close today at the Greek Campus in downtown Cairo.

Fresh China tariffs extend market losses: Global markets continued to slide on Friday after US President Donald Trump announced on social media a new 10% tariff on USD 300 bn of Chinese imports, escalating the trade war between the world’s two largest economies. Investors were already rattled after US Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell hinted last week that Wednesday’s 25 bps rate cut was not the start of an extended easing cycle. Trump’s announcement compounded market woes, with US equities suffering their worst week of the year and the main European indices — already buffeted by concerns over Brexit and an economic slowdown in Germany — suffered heavy losses.

China threatens retaliatory measures: China, which is already facing a 25% tariff on USD 250 bn of its exports, promised to respond with “necessary countermeasures,” CBS reports. Beijing has previously hinted that it could restrict exports of rare earth minerals — vital to US defense, technology and energy sectors — or blacklist US companies from doing business in China.

EM currencies hit by Powell comments: Emerging-market currencies suffered their biggest daily fall in 2019 on Thursday on fears that the Fed will not continue cutting rates later this year, Reuters reports. The MSCI EM Currency Index fell 0.62% after Powell described last week’s rate cut as a mere “midcycle adjustment.”

Has Trump forced the Fed’s hand? The escalation of the trade war may leave the Fed with little choice but to cut rates again when it next meets in September. Fed fund futures — which predict movements in US interest rates — now show a 100% chance of a September rate cut, having risen from 58% before the latest tariff announcement.

Kristalina Georgieva nominated for top IMF job: The EU has nominated World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva to replace Christine Lagarde as the IMF’s managing director, beating out former Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem and Bank of Finland governor Olli Rehn. IMF members can continue to make nominations until 6 September, after which the IMF board will interview candidates. The new managing director will be appointed by 4 October. CNBC has more.

Berkshire Hathaway operating earnings fall on weak insurance underwriting: Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway saw its operating earnings fall 11% in 2Q due to weak insurance underwriting profit, the company said in a statement (pdf) yesterday. The company posted an operating profit of USD 6.14 bn (USD 3,757 per Class A share), down from USD 6.89 bn (USD 4,190 per Class A share) in the same period a year earlier. Insurance underwriting profit fell 63% to USD 353 mn, from USD 943 mn in 2Q2018.

But net earnings rise 17%: The company posted net earnings of USD 14 bn in 2Q (USD 8,608 per Class A share), up from USD 12 bn (USD 7,301 per Class A share) in the same period a year earlier.

Facebook takes down “inauthentic” pages in Egypt, KSA, UAE: Facebook has identified two operations ― one originating in Egypt and the UAE and the other in Saudi Arabia ― that used fake accounts to engage in “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” on Facebook and Instagram, the company disclosed in a statement. The people behind the operations used fake accounts to disseminate content, impersonate public figures and artificially boost engagement, the social media giant says. The operation based in Egypt and the UAE targeted several countries in the MENA region and East Africa, while the operation in Saudi mainly targeted the MENA region. The two campaigns were not linked. Reuters and the FT have more.

Sudanese military, opposition reach constitutional pact: Military and civilian leaders in Sudan have reached an agreement to create a new transitional government, Reuters reports. The Forces of Freedom and Chance (FFC) opposition coalition will appoint a prime minister to head the new government and the military will select the defense and interior ministers. A 300-member legislative assembly will be appointed, 67% of which will be allocated to the FFC and the rest will go to political parties not associated with ousted former president Omar Al Bashir. Both sides are expected to sign the declaration today. Further rounds of negotiations will take place to iron out the details for the 39-month transitional period which will lay the groundwork for elections in 2023.

More reforms are afoot in Saudi Arabia, where an official decree has granted women the right to travel without permission from a male guardian, and to receive and file or official family documents, according to the New York Times. The reforms come in the wake of criticism from Human Rights Watch about the subjugation of women in the Kingdom, and around a year following the removal of the ban on women driving.

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