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Tuesday, 5 November 2019

What we’re tracking on 5 November 2019

Whether you’re looking for macro indicators, new product ideas (hint: nano-lending), debate on the EGX, or the regional IPO outlook, it’s a packed issue for you this morning.

GERD talks kick off in Washington tomorrow: Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry is due to sit down on Wednesday with his Ethiopian and Sudanese counterparts for a discussion on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in Washington, DC. Officials from the World Bank and the Trump administration will participate in the talks. President Abdelfattah El Sisi thanked his American counterpart for offering to host the meetings in a phone call yesterday, according to an Ittihadiya statement. A El Sisi’s office said on Twitter that the president has “full confidence” that the US-sponsored meetings will succeed in breaking the deadlock.

First Vice President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Jurgen Rigterink is in town tomorrow. During his three-day visit, Rigterink will meet with senior Egyptian government officials, including Investment Minister Sahar Nasr and Public Enterprises Minister Hisham Tawfik. Rigterink is also expected to sign new project agreements for Egypt, the EBRD said, without providing further details.

Egypt’s defense minister, joins Greek, Cypriot counterparts in ongoing Medusa drills: Defense Minister Mohamed Zaki flew to Greece yesterdayfor the main event of the ongoing one-week Egyptian-Greek-Cypriot trilateral “Medusa 9” military drills, which kicked off last Friday. Zaki is expected to hold talks with his Greek and Cypriot counterparts.

Key dates on which to keep your eye:

  • Today is PMI day, with October’s reading of the IHS / Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index expected at about 6:15am CLT;
  • Sunday, 10 November is inflation day, with the CBE and state statistics agency CAPMAS releasing figures for headline and core inflation;
  • Thursday, 14 November is interest rate day, when the CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee meets to seat interest rates. The committee has cut rates at its last two meetings.

Not all analysts are bullish on Aramco: With all the Aramco hype in the financial press this week, CNBC reminds us that there are still some analysts raising questions about the listing process and the company’s susceptibility to volatility in the region:

  • Many of the details are yet to be worked out, leaving investors in the dark about the company valuation (somewhere between USD 1 tn and USD 2 tn), how much of the company will be listed, and how much it will pay out in dividends.
  • Regional politics remains a concern for investors, remembering that a little over a month ago a drone strike was able to take out critical infrastructure at the oil giant, wiping out a significant chunk of the company’s production for an extended period.
  • Oil prices have been consistently low since the 2014 market crash, and some analysts see the IPO as coming several years too late. The rise of the US as a global shale exporter probably means that prices aren’t climbing significantly any time soon.

Could Aramco IPO spur recovery in Egypt’s petchem sector? Shares in EGX-listed petrochemical companies will recover on the back of Aramco’s initial public offering, RT Arabic would have your believe, arguing that the listing will make petchem equities shine brighter than bank stocks, the longtime darlings of the EGX.

FPOs are stealing tech IPOs’ thunder as investors look to get in on the ground floor: A wide range of investors, including hedge funds and sovereign wealth funds, are finding final private offerings (FPOs) increasingly attractive for tech companies on their way to an IPO, says Bloomberg. An FPO is essentially a “late-stage venture capital funding round” that also sees companies raising money through new share issuances — except this all happens on the private market, meaning it’s easier for investors to grab a piece of the company than if they were to hold out for time-consuming IPOs. “The demand comes as startups stay private longer, making an FPO a way to buy a stake in a more mature company before those companies enter public markets.”

All three US stock indices close at record highs: US equities closed at new record highs yesterday on the back of trade optimism, the Wall Street Journal reports. The Dow Jones finished ahead 0.4% to hit a record 27,462, the S&P 500 also advanced 0.4% to close at a new high of 3,078, and the Nasdaq rose 0.6% to 8,433. The WSJ attributes recent growth to “cyclical stocks,” shares that tend to be bought by investors when they’re confident about the economy.

US stocks are outpacing global equities, with the Dow on track to record its best annual performance since 2013, having risen 22% YTD. That beats European stocks (+15% in the same period), China (up 10%) and emerging markets (up 5%), according to the WSJ. “The trend shows how steady consumer spending and strength in the labor market keep supporting US stocks despite fears of a recession and outsize moves toward haven assets like bonds and gold.” Analysts say the prospect of a detente in the US-China trade war is making US equities all the more appealing to investors, particularly as other developed countries see mediocre growth ahead.

Remember the subprime mortgage-backed securities that almost blew up the global economy? They’re back (albeit with a different name). Bloomberg reports that banks are now selling securities made up of home loans taken out by people with poor credit histories who are unable to qualify for normal mortgages. They’re calling these products ‘non-qualified mortgage bonds’, or non-QM bonds for short. The good thing is that the size of the market is not yet big enough present a systemic threat to the economy — and that’s just as well with a delinquency rate of 3-5%.

Export-dependent economies are being hit particularly hard by the US-China trade war, the Financial Times reports. South Korea is one of nearly 100 countries that saw the value of its exports shrink in 1H 2019 — up from 33 last year. Exports of machinery and transport equipment have been particularly hard hit. Global trade volumes shrank 1.2% y-o-y in August, representing the longest period of contraction since the global financial crisis.

Export economies may breathe a sigh of relief if the US and China ever put pen to paper, but emerging market stocks shouldn’t expect to feel the benefits. The Wall Street Journal’s Mike Bird says an agreement will “offer little more than temporary relief” for EM equities absent a stimulus program in China. “Halting additional U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods might provide a meager lift for EM equities. But given China’s struggle to deal with its mounting debt pile while providing further stimulus to the economy, growth will very likely continue to slow,” he writes.

Raise capital, Lebanese central bank tells local lenders: Lebanese banks have been told by the central bank to increase their capital by USD 4 bn over the next year to protect themselves against a possible credit downgrade, Bloomberg reported, citing the state-run National News Agency. The request comes a few days after banks stepped up efforts to limit overseas transfers, and almost a week after ratings agency Fitch downgraded Bank Audi and Byblos Bank, two of the country’s biggest lenders. Thousands have been protesting in the streets for the past few weeks, forcing Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s resignation and prompting warnings of a growing economic crisis.

The Trump administration has begun pulling out of the landmark climate agreement signed in Paris in 2015, the Associated Press reports. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the emission reduction targets an “unfair economic burden” on the US economy. Almost 200 countries signed the agreement four years ago in which they pledged to reduce CO2 emissions.

Wall Street is freaking out about Elizabeth Warren, the New York Times writes after interviewing more than two dozen hedgies, PE types, bankers, analysts and industry lobbyists. The fear? Warren has “made battling corporate greed and corruption a central theme of her fiercely populist campaign.” Goldman Sachs says her proposed tax hikes and “ultra-mn’aire tax” (a 2% annual tax on the wealth of households worth USD 50 mn to USD 1 bn) could lower corporate earnings by 11%, while doomsdayers have warned that a Warren presidency would result in a double-digit stock market decline.

For finance and tech nerds alike: Microsoft is about to roll out a new ‘unified’ Office app for iOS and Android that combines Word, Excel and PowerPoint in a single app that takes up less space. Don’t expect to be modeling on your iPad anytime soon, but the tech giant is claiming that the single download will make your life easier in other ways. The Verge has the details.

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