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Tuesday, 4 February 2020

What we’re tracking on 4 February 2020

It’s data day: The purchasing managers’ indexes for Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are out today at 6:15am CLT — you’ll find them here when they’re released. Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Egypt will release today its foreign reserves figure as of the end of January.

Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia are in the home stretch of GERD agreement as technical talks get underway: A two-day meeting of technical and legal experts kicked off in Washington yesterday to continue talks on a draft agreement that would regulate the filling and operations of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, a source tells Masrawy. The Egyptian, Sudanese, and Ethiopian foreign and water ministers — who agreed last Friday on key issues following four days of meetings in DC — mandated teams from their ministries to prepare a final contract covering those sticking points.

The ministers will meet again in Washington on 12 and 13 February to review the final agreement with an eye on signing it by the end of the month. The agreement is expected to outline mechanisms for cooperation and dispute resolution, a Foreign Ministry statement out on Friday said.

Closer to home, the first round of public consultations on the Local Administration Act begin tomorrow, Al Masry Al Youm reports, and will run for a 20-day period. The House of Representatives’ discussion of the act, which aims to decentralize local councils and organize district elections, was postponed in a plenary session in December after the Support Egypt coalition rejected the draft as it stood. It’s still unclear what the sticking points were.

District elections to slip to next year? President Abdel Fattah El Sisi said last September that local elections would be held in 2019 or early 2020, but that assumed the legislation would be passed in December. That deadline could now slip to 2021 given voters are heading to the polls late this year in elections for the House of Representatives and the newly reconstituted Senate.

News triggers to keep your eye on over the coming weeks:

  • Inflation figures will be published next Monday, 10 February;
  • The Egypt Petroleum Show runs 11-13 February;
  • The CBE will meet on Thursday, 20 February to discuss interest rates.

The death toll from the Wuhan coronavirus has now broken 425 and the Financial Times is openly musing that it has “put globalization in reverse” as worry about a pandemic spreads.

The coronavirus outbreak will cut global GDP growth by 0.1-0.3%, depending on when the rate of infections peaks, the Financial Times says, citing Goldman Sachs forecasts. A big part of the damage will come in the first quarter, with the bank estimating 2% to be “shaved off global growth at an annualised rate” due to a direct hit to China’s economy.” There will be “some lost output,” and recovery in subsequent quarters won’t necessarily make up for it, Goldman chief Asia economist, Andrew Tilton says.

China’s stocks saw their worst day since August 2015 yesterday as markets reopened after the Lunar New Year holiday, falling 9.1% before recouping some of the losses to close down 7.9%. The market performance comes despite the Chinese central bank injecting RMB 1.2 tn (USD 171 bn) into the financial system to contain the effect of the outbreak, its largest one-day open market operation since 2004.

China accused t US has been fanning the flames of worry over the outbreak, China’s foreign ministry claimed, pointing to Washington’s move to impose travel restrictions on China despite this not being a recommended move from the World Health Organization.

OPEC and its allies are discussing major oil production cuts by Saudi Arabia in response to the coronavirus, which has resulted in a sharp fall in crude prices amid lower demand from China, the world’s largest oil consumer, the Wall Street Journal reports. Oil prices rose on the news, but Brent still remains at around USD 56/bbl.

Egyptian expats who were evacuated from Wuhan have landed in Matrouh, where they will be under quarantine for 14 days, Aviation Minister Mohamed Manar said, according to Masrawy. Two Egyptian travelers who showed symptoms of the virus were prevented from leaving China, but the cases remain unconfirmed, reports Al Mal.

Democrats in Iowa are gathering for the first state-level vote in the race to see who from their party will face off against The Donald in this fall’s election. Results from the caucuses were delayed at dispatch time. Head over to the New York Times or Politico to follow the numbers as they come in. Pundits say it’s too close to call who among Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg is likely to fill out the top three.


Asset managers are raking in the Benjamins: Salaries in the asset management industry rose 16.4% last year, beating out pay rises in investment banking, the Financial Times reports, citing figures from salary comparison site Emolument. Median pay in the industry (including bonuses) increased to USD 167k as the US equity surge boosted returns for funds. Investment banking staff saw a smaller 12.4% pay rise, but enjoyed a higher median salary of USD 218k.

JPMorgan’s share price is becoming a problem: Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon has spent most of the bank’s profits over the past three years on buying back the company’s stock, fueling a surge in its share price and making buybacks increasingly unsustainable, according to the Wall Street Journal. The bank will have to make a decision to either slow repurchases amid declining profits, thus adding pressure on returns on stock price; or continue to buy and also put more pressure on the stock. Others who faced a similar situation in the past have yet to recover, including Citigroup and Bank of America.

Also worth knowing about this morning:

  • Lebanon is looking to slash interest rates and recapitalize banks as the country scrambles to pull itself out of its banking crisis, according to a cabinet committee statement. (Reuters)
  • The UAE is about to join the ranks of gas producing countries after a major discovery between Dubai and Abu Dhabi holding 80 tcf of reserves will be jointly developed by government-owned giant Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and the Dubai Supply Authority, UAE Prime Minister and Dubai Emir Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said on Twitter. Bloomberg has more.

PSA- Brace yourselves for traffic jams: Public schools will be back in session as scheduled this Saturday. Education Minister Tarek Shawki denied reports that mid-year holidays could be extended as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, saying “there is no change in the time being,” according to Ahram Online.

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