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Saudi Arabia Rating Cut by Fitch on Worsening Public Finances

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  • Saudi Arabia Rating Cut by Fitch on Worsening Public Finances

Saudi Arabia’s credit worthiness was cut one level by Fitch Ratings, which said low oil prices were worsening public and external finances.

Fitch reduced Saudi Arabia’s rating to A+, the fifth-highest investment grade, and changed the outlook to stable from negative, the agency said in a statement on Wednesday. The downgrade “reflects the continued deterioration of public and external balance sheets, the significantly wider than expected fiscal deficit in 2016 and continued doubts about the extent to which the government’s ambitious reform program can be implemented,” Fitch said.

The downgrade by Fitch “was anticipated,” the Finance Ministry said in an emailed statement. Saudi Arabia’s economic fundamentals are strong, it said. Fitch’s cut puts its Saudi rating on par with Moody’s Investors Service. Both classify the kingdom two levels above S&P Global Ratings.

Saudi Arabia, where more than 60 percent of government revenue last year came from oil, reported a 15 percent rise in the federal government budget deficit to 17.3 percent of economic output in 2016, Fitch said. Net foreign assets of the central bank, or the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, fell by $49.5 billion, or 7.7 percent of gross domestic product, between June 2016 and January 2017.

“This is a surprise,” said Joice Mathew, head of equity research at United Securities in Muscat. Unless oil prices climb, Saudis stocks will likely drop on Thursday, he said. The benchmark Tadawul All Share Index retreated 1.2 percent at the close in Riyadh before Fitch’s announcement.

The figure Fitch used for the 2016 budget deficit is higher than the level the government considers official because it includes payments owed to contractors from previous years.

Economic Overhaul

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 31-year-old son of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, has begun a program to overhaul the economy and repair public finances by cutting subsidies and state spending. The kingdom also plans to to sell as much as 5 percent of oil giant Saudi Aramco in an IPO as part of a plan to set up the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund.

“It’s very hard to argue that Saudi economic policy is worse now than it was two years ago,” Crispin Hawes, London-based managing director for Teneo Intelligence. “If anything it’s slightly better, and it’s in the process of breaking through some absolutely essential taboos in terms of the ability to raise revenue from sources other than crude oil.”

Fitch said the Saudi measures will help to contain further balance sheet erosion, but it is unlikely that they will all be achieved. The scale of the reform agenda risks overwhelming the government’s administrative capacity, while the economy may not be able to absorb rises in domestic fuel prices or the planned levies on expatriates, the agency said.

“The fundamentals of the Saudi economy remain strong,” Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said in the Saudi statement. General government assets are equivalent to more than 100 percent of economic output, and the government has rolled out “concrete structural reforms” to reduce dependence on oil, diversify the economy and rein in overspending, he said.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Markets

Global Markets Near Record Peaks and Will Get Stronger: deVere CEO

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As the FTSE 100 hits 7,000 points for the first time since the Covid pandemic, global stock markets are poised to “get even stronger”, says the CEO of one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory and fintech organisations.

The observation from Nigel Green, the chief executive and founder of deVere Group, comes as London’s index jumped over the important threshold in early trading in London, gaining over 0.5% to 7024 points.

Mr Green notes: “London’s blue-chip index is up 40% since the worst lows of the pandemic.

“This landmark moment represents the wider optimistic sentiment gripping global markets which are near record peaks.

“We can expect global stock markets to get even stronger as investors look to seize the opportunities from economies reopening.

“They are looking towards economies rebounding in a post-pandemic era due to the monetary and fiscal stimulus, pent-up cash and demand, and strong corporate earnings.

“The current ultra-low interest rate environment and the under-performance of bonds will also act as a catalyst for stock markets.”

However, the CEO’s bullish comments also come with a warning.

“I would urge investors to proceed with caution as there are some headwinds on the horizon, including relations between the U.S. and China, the world’s two largest economies, which could be coming to a tipping point in coming weeks.

“As such, in order to capitalise on the opportunities and mitigate risks, investors must ensure proper portfolio diversification.”

Mr Green concludes: “A variety of factors are going to drive global stock markets. Investors will not want to miss out and should work with a good fund manager to judiciously top-up their portfolios.”

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Refinitiv Expands Economic Data Coverage Across Africa

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Building on its commitment to drive positive change through its data and insights, Refinitiv today announced the expansion of its economic data coverage of Africa. The new data set allows investment managers, central bankers, economists, and research teams to use Refinitiv Datasteam analytical data for detailed exploration of economic relationships and investment opportunities among data series covering the African continent.

Securing reliable, detailed, timely, locally sourced content has not been easy for economists who have in the past had to use international sources which often can take many months to update and opportunities to monitor the market can be missed. Because Africa is a diverse continent, economists and strategists need more timely access to country-specific data via national sources to create tailored business, policy, trading and investment strategies to meet specific goals.

Africa continues to develop critical infrastructure, telecommunications, digital technology and access to financial services for its 1.3bn people. The World Bank estimates that over 50% of African inhabitants will be under 25 by 2050. This presents substantial opportunities for investors who can spot important trends and make informed decisions based on robust and timely economic data.

Stuart Brown, Group Head of Enterprise Data Solutions, Refinitiv, said: “Africa’s growing, dynamic and fast evolving economies makes it a focal point for financial markets today and in the coming decades.  As part of LSEG’s commitment to empowering the global markets with accurate and timely data, we are excited about making these unique datasets available via the Refinitiv Data Platform. Our economic data coverage of Africa will provide our customers with deeper and broader inputs for macroeconomic analyses and enable more effective investment strategies and economic research.”

Refinitiv Africa economic data coverage:

  • Africa economics content comprises around 500,000 nationally sourced time series data covering 54 African nations
  • Content is sourced from national statistical offices, central banks and other key national institutions
  • The full breadth of economics categories in Datastream including national accounts, money and finance, prices, surveys, labor market, consumer, industry, government and external sectors
  • International sources including OECD, World Bank, IMF, African Development Bank, Oxford Economics & more provide comparable data & forecasts across the continent

Refinitiv® Datastream® has global macroeconomics coverage to analyze virtually any macro environment, and better understand economic cycles to uncover trends and forecast market conditions. With over 14.2 million economic times series map trends, customers can validate ideas and identify opportunities using Refinitiv Datastream. Access its powerful charting tools, 9,000 pre-built chart templates and chart studies for commonly used valuation, performance, and technical and fundamental analysis.

 Refinitiv continually grows available data – the China expansion in 2019 covered a unique combination of economic and financial indicators. Refinitiv plans to expand Southeast Asia covering Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia with delivery expected in 2021. This ensures that Refinitiv will have much needed emerging market economic content.

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Oil Rises on Drawdown in U.S. Oil Stocks, OPEC Demand Outlook

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Oil prices rose in early trade on Wednesday, adding to overnight gains, after industry data showed U.S. oil inventories declined more than expected and OPEC raised its outlook for oil demand.

Brent crude futures rose 28 cents, or 0.4%, to $63.95 a barrel at 0057 GMT, after climbing 39 cents on Tuesday.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures similarly climbed 28 cents, or 0.5%, to $60.46 a barrel, adding to Tuesday’s rise of 48 cents.

Oil price gains over the past week have been underpinned by signs of a strong economic recovery in China and the United States, but have been capped by concerns over stalled vaccine rollouts worldwide and soaring COVID-19 infections in India and Brazil.

Nevertheless, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) tweaked up its forecast on Tuesday for world oil demand growth this year, now expecting demand to rise by 5.95 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2021, up by 70,000 bpd from its forecast last month. It is banking on the pandemic to subside and travel curbs to be eased.

“It was a welcome prognosis by the market, which had been fretting about the impact the ongoing pandemic was having on demand,” ANZ Research analysts said in a note.

Further supporting the market on Wednesday, sources said data from the American Petroleum Institute showed crude stocks fell by 3.6 million barrels in the week ended April 9, compared with estimates for a decline of about 2.9 million barrels from analysts polled by Reuters.

Traders are waiting to see if official inventory data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Wednesday matches that view.

Market gains are being capped on concerns about increased oil production in the United States and rising supply from Iran at a time when OPEC and its allies, together called OPEC+, are set to bring on more supply from May.

“They may have to contend with rising U.S. supply,” ANZ analysts said.

EIA said this week oil output from seven major shale formations is expected to rise by 13,000 bpd in May to 7.61 million bpd.

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