- U.K. Economy Dismisses Brexit Threat
The U.K. economy grew faster than economists forecast in the fourth quarter, continuing to defy expectations that the Brexit vote would derail the expansion.
The 0.6 percent gain beat the 0.5 percent median forecast of economists in a survey and marked a 16th straight quarter of growth. It was driven entirely by services, helped by consumer spending, with zero support from production and construction, the Office for National Statistics said on Thursday.
The economy has performed better than predicted since the vote to leave the European Union in June, though the latest data show that it remains overly reliant on one sector. The support from consumers could weaken this year as the pound’s decline pushes up inflation, squeezing real incomes.
“The economy’s brisk growth at the end of 2016 has all the hallmarks of being driven by an unsustainable consumer spending spree,” said Samuel Tombs, an economist at Capital Economics in London. “We continue to expect slowdowns in business investment and consumer spending to cause GDP growth to slow to an average quarter-on-quarter rate of just 0.2 percent or so in 2017.”
Companies from airline EasyJet Plc to telecommunications firm BT Group Plc have this month cited Brexit-linked problems such as a weaker pound and loss of business as they offered investors a forbidding outlook for this year. The U.K. currency has dropped 15 percent since the referendum in June. It weakened following the GDP data and was at $1.2608 as of 10:52 a.m. London time, down 0.2 percent on the day.
The fourth-quarter estimate, based on 44 percent of the data that will ultimately be available, showed that services surged 0.8 percent, offsetting stagnation in industrial production. Manufacturing rose 0.7 percent. The growth meant the economy expanded 2 percent in 2016, though that’s down from 2.2 percent the previous year and marked the weakest since 2013. Economists forecast a further slowdown this year, to 1.2 percent.
Prime Minister Theresa May plans to start formal talks on leaving the EU by the end of March. She has indicated that she wants to withdraw from the bloc’s single market for goods and services, an outcome that economists say will hurt trade.
For now, the near term is looking brighter than anticipated, a fact acknowledged by Bank of England Governor Mark Carney this month. While he expects growth to cool in 2017, he’s indicated the BOE may raise its forecasts in February at its next policy decision.
Carney was among the economists who warned before the referendum that the U.K. might have faced a recession if Britons voted Leave. Pro-Brexit campaigners have pointed to the economy’s resilience as evidence that leaving the EU won’t make the country worse off.
On an annualized basis, the U.K. economy grew 2.4 percent in the fourth quarter. The U.S. is forecast to have expanded 2.2 percent in the period, down from 3.5 percent in the three months through September.
U.K. GDP per capita grew 1.3 percent in 2016, down from 1.4 percent the previous year. It’s now 1.9 percent above its level in the first quarter of 2008, the pre-crisis peak for GDP.
Increased Demand Paves The Way for Expansion of Africa’s Sugar Industry
Africa, June 2021: A new focus report produced by the Oxford Business Group (OBG), in partnership with the International Sugar Organization (ISO), explores the potential that Africa’s sugar industry holds for growth on the back of an anticipated rise in regional demand. The report was presented to ISO members during the MECAS meeting at the Organization’s 58th Council Session, on June 17th 2021.
Titled “Sugar in Africa”, the report highlights the opportunities for investors to contribute to the industry’s development by helping to bridge infrastructure gaps in segments such as farming and refining and port facilities.
The report considers the benefits that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) could deliver by supporting fair intra-African sugar trade efforts and bringing regulatory frameworks under a common umbrella, which will be key to improving competitiveness.
The increased international focus on ESG standards is another topical issue examined. Here, the report charts the initiatives already under way in Africa supported by green-focused investment with sustainability at their core, which will help to instil confidence in new investors keen to adhere to ESG principles in their decision-making.
In addition, subscribers will find coverage of the impact that Covid-19 had on the industry, with detailed analysis provided of the decrease in both worldwide sugar production and prices, as movement restrictions and social-distancing measures took their toll on operations.
The report shines a spotlight on sugar production in key markets across the continent, noting regional differences in terms of output and assessing individual countries’ roles as net exporters and importers.
It also includes an interview with José Orive, Executive Director, International Sugar Organisation, in which he maps out the particularities of the African sugar industry, while sharing his thoughts on what needs to be done to promote continental trade and sustainable development.
“The region is well advanced in terms of sugar production overall, but several challenges still hinder its full potential,” he said. “It is not enough to just produce sugar; producers must be able to move it to buyers efficiently. When all negotiations related to the AfCFTA have concluded, we expect greater investment across the continent and a clearer regulatory framework.”
Karine Loehman, OBG’s Managing Director for Africa, said that while the challenges faced by Africa’s sugar producers shouldn’t be underestimated, the new report produced with the ISO pointed to an industry primed for growth on the back of anticipated increased consumption across the continent and higher levels of output in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Regional demand for sugar is expected to rise in the coming years, driven up by Africa’s population growth and drawing a line under declines triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said. “With sub-Saharan Africa’s per capita sugar consumption currently standing at around half of the global average, the opportunities to help meet increasing domestic need by boosting production are considerable.”
The study on Africa’s sugar industry forms part of a series of tailored reports that OBG is currently producing with its partners, alongside other highly relevant, go-to research tools, including a range of country-specific Growth and Recovery Outlook articles and interviews.
Global Demand for Investment Gold Plunged by 70% YoY to 161 Metric Tons in Q1 2021
Last year, investors flocked to gold as stock markets crashed on a gloomy economic outlook due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the second quarter of 2020, global demand for investment gold surged to over 591 metric tons, the second-highest level since 2016. However, the investors’ demand for gold has dropped significantly this year.
According to data compiled by AksjeBloggen, global demand for investment gold plunged by 70% year-over-year to 161 metric tons in the first quarter of 2021.
The Lowest Quarterly Figures after Record Gold Investments in 2020
In 2016, the global gold demand amounted to 4,309 metric tons, revealed Statista and the World Gold Council data. By the end of 2019, this figure rose to 4,356 metric tons. Investment gold accounted for 30% of that amount. Worldwide gold jewelry demand volumes reached 2,118 metric tons that year. Central banks and technology followed with 648 and 326 metric tons, respectively.
Statistics show the global demand for investment gold surged amid the COVID-19 outbreak, growing by 35% YoY to almost 1,800 metric tons in 2020. Demands for gold used in technology also rose by 17% to 383.4 metric tons, while central banks and other institutions bought 326.2 metric tons of gold in 2020, a 50% plunge in a year.
However, after record gold investments in 2020, the global demand for gold for investment purposes dropped to the lowest quarterly level in years.
The Price of Gold Dropped by 5% Since January
The average gold value tends to increase during a recession, making it an attractive investment in uncertain times. In February 2019, a troy ounce of gold cost $1,320.07, revealed the Statista and World Gold Council data. By the end of that year, the price of gold rose to $1,479.13.
The gold price continued growing throughout 2020, reaching an all-time high of over $2,000 in August. By the end of the year, the precious metal price slipped to $1,864 and then rose to over $1,950 in January 2021.
However, the first quarter of the year brought a negative trend, with the price of gold falling to $1,684 by the end of March. Statistics indicate the price of gold stood at around $1,860 last week, a 5% drop since the beginning of the year.
Gold, Other Safe Haven Assets Plunge Ahead of Fed Rate Hikes
Gold and other safe-haven assets plunged last week as the Federal Reserve signals the possibility of raising interest rates twice in 2023 given the ongoing economic recovery post-COVID-19.
The price of gold dropped by 6.04 percent last week as investors rushed to move their funds out of safe-haven assets including the new gold, cryptocurrency.
The entire crypto space sheds $898 billion in market value to hover around $1.625 trillion last week, down from $2.523 trillion recorded on Wednesday 12, 2021. Its highest market capitalisation till date.
The Federal Reserve raised inflation expectations to 3.4 percent and shifted the year it is expected to increase interest rates from near-zero to 2023 from the previously projected 2024.
The new hawkish stance of the central bank led to capital outflow from safe havens and subsequently boosted dollar attraction.
The United States Dollar gained across the board with the dollar index that tracks its performance against six major currencies, rising by 0.63 percent to 91.103 last week.
However, on Monday morning the gold showed signs of recovery, gaining 0.5 percent to $1,772.34 per ounce following the retreat in U.S. treasury yield that boosted the attraction of non-yielding metal.
Bitcoin, the most dominant cryptocurrency coin, pared losses to $33,245 per coin, up from the $32,658 decline it posted last week.
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