Mena News

 

  S&P removes Egypt from negative credit watch, affirms foreign currency ratings
Aug , 26 , 2012  
  Standard & Poor's Ratings Services removed Egypt from Negative Credit Watch and rated its outlook as negative, citing uncertainties over the government's political goals and the status of key state institutions. But the ratings company also affirmed Egypt's long- and short-term foreign currency ratings of B, which is five steps into junk territory.
 

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  Saudi Arabia to award USD80bn contracts in 2013
Aug , 26 , 2012  
  Meed estimates that more than USD80bn worth of contracts will be awarded in Saudi Arabia in 2013, a 36 percent increase from the total value of projects awarded in 2011.
 

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  Vodafone said to eye deal with Kuwait's Zain
Aug , 26 , 2012  
  UK-based Vodafone is close to an agreement with Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Co, also known as Zain, to expand access to Middle East networks. According to two people familiar with the matter, the accord would cover countries including Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Bahrain, Bloomberg reported. It said the deal would let Vodafone, the world’s second-largest mobile-phone company, lower roaming fees and share handset-purchasing costs.
 

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  Fed: Stimulus in order unless recovery speeds up
Aug , 26 , 2012  
  The Federal Reserve is losing patience with the pace of the fragile U.S. economic recovery, according to the minutes of the their most recent policy meeting. Many members of the Federal Reserve say additional monetary policy accommodation is likely warranted unless the economy improves substantial. This may open the door for another round of quantitative easing measures at their next meeting in September. The Fed said information reviewed at the July 31-August 1 meeting indicated that economic activity increased at a slower pace in the second quarter than earlier in the year and that labor market conditions had improved little in recent months. Consumer spending was tepid as the unemployment rate stayed above 8 percent. Policymakers also expressed concerns that manufacturing production slowed significantly in the second quarter following a large gain in the first quarter. And although the housing market has improved a bit, the Fed seems prepared to jump-start the economy with additional asset purchases. The longer the recovery proceeds at a snail's pace, the more susceptible the economy will be to external shocks such as the European sovereign debt crisis. Making matters worse, the uncertainty about taxes and spending is already harming the economy. Congress must back away from the so-called "fiscal cliff" of automatic tax increasing and spending cuts or risk sparking another recession, the Fed warned. A number of officials want to extend the central bank's promise to keep interest rates exceedingly low by another year to 2015. However, most want to defer a decision on forward guidance until the Fed has a better chance to assess the benefits of its Operation Twist program. Earlier this year the Fed embarked on Operation Twist -- buying longer-term Treasuries and simultaneously selling some of the shorter-dated issues -- in an effort keep real interest rates as close to zero as possible. Source: RTT News
 

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  Merkel reiterates support for Greece
Aug , 26 , 2012  
  German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday reiterated her support for Greece, saying she wanted the debt-ridden country to remain in Eurozone. Following a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in Berlin, Merkel said Germany would wait till the troika report is released next month to assess the efforts undertaken by the Greek government to meet its fiscal targets. "I am deeply convinced that the new government under the leadership of Prime Minister Samaras will do everything possible to solve the problems in Greece," Merkel said. It is a difficult path for Greece and Germay has always said that it will support Greece, she added. Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Samaras said today that his country does not want more aid from euro area, but needs some 'breathing space'. Returning to growth is of utmost importance for his country to meet its fiscal targets, he noted. "Greece needs a chance to grow", Samaras said. Samaras has been seeking more time for his country to implement reforms in order meet the fiscal target laid out by international donors and help the economy return to growth. Yesterday, Germany and France retained pressure on Greece to strictly implement the reforms demanded by its international creditors. The Greek leader is set to meet French President Francois Hollande on Saturday.
 

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  U.S. existing home sales rebound in July but miss estimates
Aug , 25 , 2012  
  Existing home sales in the U.S. showed a notable increase in the month of July, according to a report released by the National Association of Realtors on Wednesday, although sales still came in slightly below economist estimates. NAR said existing home sales rose 2.3 percent to an annual rate of 4.47 million in July from 4.37 million in June. Economists had been expecting existing home sales to climb to an annual rate of 4.50 million. The slightly smaller than expected increase in existing home sales in July came on the heels of a 5.4 percent decrease in the previous month. Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said, "Mortgage interest rates have been at record lows this year while rents have been rising at faster rates. Combined, these factors are helping to unleash a pent-up demand." "However, the market is constrained by unnecessarily tight lending standards and shrinking inventory supplies, so housing could easily be much stronger without these abnormal frictions," he added. The report also showed that the median existing-home price edged down 0.8 percent to $187,300 in July from $188,800 in June. Nonetheless, the median existing-home price in July was up by 9.4 percent compared to the same month a year ago, reflecting the fifth consecutive month of year-over-year growth. NAR noted that the year-over-year increase in July was the strongest since January 2006, when the median price rose 10.2 percent from a year earlier. "Fewer sales in the lower price ranges are contributing to stronger increases in the median price, but all of the home price measures now are showing positive movement and that is building confidence in the market," Yun said. He added, "Furthermore, the higher median price naturally means more housing contribution to economic growth." The report also showed that housing inventories rose 1.3 percent to 2.4 million existing homes available for sale at the end of July. The level of housing inventories in July represents 6.4 months of supply at the current sales pace, down from 6.5 months of supply in June. NAR also said that single-family home sales rose by 2.1 percent in July, while existing condominium and co-op sales increased by 4.3 percent. On a regional basis, existing home sales surged up by 7.4 percent in the Northeast and rose by 2.3 percent and 2.0 percent in the South and the Midwest, respectively. Existing home sales in the West were unchanged.
 

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  US jobless claims rise; new home sales up 3.6% in July
Aug , 25 , 2012  
  The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits unexpectedly rose last week while US manufacturing improved only slightly in August, worrisome signs for an economy struggling to create enough jobs. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 372,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The data keeps pressure on President Barack Obama ahead of his November re-election bid. Republican challenger Mitt Romney is trying to focus voters’ attention on a lofty unemployment rate that has dogged Obama’s presidency. Many economists think the Federal Reserve could unveil a new bond buying program to prop up economic growth as soon as its next meeting Sept 12-13, although an improvement in hiring this month could make that less likely. “Jobless claims continue to indicate ... a sluggish labor market,” said Peter Cardillo, an economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York. “The numbers also strengthen the hand of the Fed to aid the economy with more stimulus.” However, Cardillo and other economists said the slow pace of healing in the labor market doesn’t necessarily point to immediate action by the Fed. A separate report by financial information firm Markit showed some of the weakest growth in the manufacturing sector in the last three years, held back by a slowdown in hiring and sluggish overseas demand for American goods. Expansion Markit said its US “flash” manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index edged up to 51.9 in August from 51.4 in July. A reading above 50 indicates expansion. Despite the weakness, the August reading beat analysts’ expectations and marked the first monthly increase since March. That reinforces the idea that economic growth in the United States will pick up in the second half of the year after a sluggish spring. Even so, growth is still expected to be lackluster. “The US economy is slowly turning the corner ,” said Robbert Van Batenburg, head of global research at Louis Capital Markets in New York. Despite the increase in new claims filed last week, the data on layoffs a lso had a silver lining. The data covers the same week looked at by the government for its monthly measure of employment, and showed a slight drop in layoffs from the survey week last month, which is a mildly positive signal for hiring in August. The four-week moving average for new claims, a measure of labor market trends, was 368,000 last week. That was a slight increase from the prior week, but still 2.1 percent lower than in the second week of July. That week, the government surveyed employers and concluded 163,000 new jobs were created in July — an improvement from the prior three months though the unemployment rate still ticked higher to 8.3 percent. “No signs here that there’s been a notable pick-up in layoffs, and (that) would suggest to us that moderate job growth continued in August,” said Ellen Zentner, an economist at Nomura Securities in New York. The government will release its employment report for August on Sept. 7, and policymakers at the Federal Reserve will scrutinize the data for signs the economy is improving. Economists at Barclays said the claims data was consistent with payroll growth of 150,000. Minutes from the Fed’s July 31-Aug. 1 policy review, released on Wednesday, showed the central bank is likely to deliver another round of monetary stimulus “fairly soon” unless the economy improves considerably. The US economy faces a number of threats, including the looming possibility the government will raise taxes and cut spending. That is already hurting business sentiment. A separate report from the Commerce Department showed sales of new single family homes edged 3.6 percent higher in July but prices fell, giving mixed signals about the strength of a fledgling recovery in the country’s housing market. Europe’s festering debt crisis also menaces the global economy. Business surveys released on Thursday painted a global picture of economic malaise from Beijing to Berlin. The euro zone economy will shrink around 0.5 percent in the current quarter, with weakness even spreading through Germany, the region’s largest and strongest economy, Markit’s Purchasing Mangers’ Index suggested. Also worrisome for global growth, the HSBC Flash China manufacturing PMI fell to 47.8 for August, its lowest level since November.
 

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  Food stocks rise as Tadawul hits 7,000-point mark
Aug , 18 , 2012  
  JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia's stock market broke through the psychologically important 7,000-point mark on the final trading session before the Eid Al-Fitr break, led by food stocks. The Tadawul All-Share Index (TASI) closed at 7,003.79 points yesterday, up 0.51 percent. The agricultural and food index advanced 3.16 percent, led by Almarai, jumped 10 percent in its largest one-day gain in more than two years. The dairy firm closed at its highest level since June 18. "The fact that the market has broken the 7,000 level on the last trading day before the Eid break indicates positive sentiment among the local traders," Farouk Miah, head of equity research at NCB Capital, said commenting on the development. "Overall, the volumes and performance of the market in Ramadan has been much stronger than in previous years," he said. "Value traded per day has been close to SR 7 billion on some days in Ramadan, higher than the SR 5-6 billion seen before Ramadan," he added. Jarmo T. Kotilaine, chief economist at the National Commercial Bank, told Arab News: "While major discontinuities have been avoided in the global economy -- itself is somewhat encouraging outcome as compared to the fears of major crisis in the spring -- the general track record has been fairly lackluster. Risks abound but also the broader economic cycle seems to be once again turning down. This, along with recent statements from the ECB (European Central Bank), has fed expectations that significant monetary loosening may be on the cards." Kotilaine said the previous qualitative easing program have been very positive for asset values and commodity prices, and some of that effect is likely to materialize this time as well. Of course, quite apart from this, the general economic fundamentals in Saudi Arabia remain favorable." Saudi Fisheries Co. gained 1 percent yesterday and Halwani Brothers Co. rose 1.9 percent. Banks also performed well, with Bank Al-Bilad climbing 3.3 percent to its highest finish since April 22. SABB and Banque Saudi Fransi gained 1.5 and 0.9 percent respectively.
 

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  Qatar Holding Buys 20% Stake In BAA For GBP900M
Aug , 18 , 2012  
  MADRID--Spanish infrastructure and construction company Ferrovial SA (FER.MC) said Friday that Qatar Holding LLC has agreed to buy a 20% stake in U.K. airport operator BAA Ltd. for 900 million pounds ($1.41 billion). Ferrovial said in a filing with Spain's financial regulator that Qatar Holding will buy shares in BAA's holding company, which is controlled by Ferrovial and two other partners--Britannia Airport Partners LP, controlled by Canada's Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, and Singapore's GIC Special Investments. As a result, Ferrovial will sell 10.62% of BAA's holding company FGP Topco Ltd. to Qatar Holding LLC for GBP478 million. Britannia Airport Partners and GIC have also agreed to sell to Qatar Holding 5.63% and 3.75% of the holding company, respectively, at the same price, making Qatar Holding 's total purchase of shares equal to 20%. Ferrovial's indirect stake in BAA will drop to 39.37% from 50% as a result of the transaction, which still requires regulatory clearance. Qatar Holding will be a member of the boards of FGP Topco and BAA. Britannia Airport Partners LP and GIC will continue as shareholders. Ferrovial said the sale will strengthen its liquidity situation to invest in infrastructure and services projects. "The sale of this stake in BAA is part of Ferrovial's strategy of establishing a market valuation of our assets and improving the structure of our investment portfolio," Ferrovial's chief executive Inigo Meiras said in a statement. A consortium led by Ferrovial acquired BAA in June 2006. BAA owns London's Heathrow and Stansted airports, Glasgow and Aberdeen airports in Scotland and Southampton airport in southern England.
 

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  Facebook stock tanks again as insiders rush to sell
Aug , 17 , 2012  
  One gets the feeling that buying Facebook (FB) shares on their first day of trading wasn’t a very wise investment. The social networking giant’s stock once again hit new lows on Thursday, dipping more than 6% to close at $19.88 and coming dangerously close to falling to exactly half of its $38 IPO price. The reason for Thursday’s sell off was simple: some company insiders finally got their first chance to unload their shares and they did so with enthusiastic gusto, as Facebook’s trading volume totaled around 157 million on the day, or five times the average daily volume of 31 million shares. CNNMoney says that Facebook could be in for another big selloff this November when the company “will convert the special form of restricted stock units, or RSUs, held by most of its staff into actual shares of its stock.”
 

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