2 Brief Overview Jordan’s trade deficit increases, but signs of dollarization reversal Jordan’s trade deficit increases, but signs of dollarization reversal International MENA Region Local Economy Interest Rate Forecasts Interest Rate Forecasts Amman Stock Exchange Amman Stock Exchange Local Debt Monitor Local Debt Monitor Prime Lending Rates Prime Lending Rates Markets overview New and analysis US: Treasury yields drop, a softer Fed tone, the sequester and strong data continues Eurozone: sentiment remains fragile with political uncertainty back in Italy UK manufacturing contracts, raising concerns of a triple-dip recession China: concerns about strength of recovery More aggressive easing in the horizon Major Indices: Wall street rebounds despite the sequester Commodities and Currencies: Gold and sterling hits 2 ½ year low Central Bank Meeting Calendar Interest Rate Forecast The Week Ahead Egypt reveals its economic reform plan in hopes of agreeing on IMF loan GCC News Highlights GCC interbank rates Comparative MENA Markets
4 US Treasury bond rates Amid talk of more Fed bond purchases coupled with “haven” flows following the inconclusive Italian election, the benchmark yields fell sharply lower in the past few sessions. Yields of 10-year T-notes fell 14 basis points the past week.
5 Negotiations fails as US Sequester kicks in In the US there is the possibility of a soft patch on the back of the tax hikes in January and the Sequester public expenditure cuts kicking in from 1 March although US data has so far been resilient. The federal government enters a controversial new phase of deficit cutting Friday, as an automatic trigger begins slicing budgets in some areas while leaving programs such as Medicare and Medicaid—among the largest drivers of future debt—largely untouched. Mr. Obama signed an order late Friday directing $85 billion in cuts to domestic and defense programs, over the next seven months, after holding a fruitless meeting with congressional leaders who remained at odds over how to avoid the reductions, known as a sequester. The automatic spending cuts, the so-called sequester, will be equally distributed between defence and non-defence spending. Both Republicans and Democrats had said for more than a year that they would rather replace the indiscriminate cuts with a more gradual, negotiated deficit- reduction deal. Many economists say restrained federal spending will continue to be a drag on GDP growth during the first half of 2013, holding back annual gains by about a half percentage point.
6 Negotiations fails as US Sequester kicks in Investors on Friday shrugged off the onset of the cuts, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 35.17 points to 14089.66, its third-highest close of all time. Although the sequester is allowed to run for some time, it is still believed that Congress will find some way to replace it by a more thought through budget deal sometime this year. Ratings firm Standard & Poor's said Friday that the United States economy can weather the drastic spending cuts known as the sequester if they are short-lived,. S&P said the cuts, as well as a potential government shutdown at the end of March due to the budget fight, "could have far-reaching, although probably shallow, effects on the US economy and its prospects for a strengthening recovery."
7 Bernanke: no sign of tightening Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke gave no sign of tightening following last week’s confusion as the FOMC’s minutes of meeting showed division over the possibility of an early exit. The Fed chairman gave his semi-annual testimony to the Congress this week and the tone was generally dovish. In particular, he downplayed the costs of doing QE, stating the benefits from asset purchases clearly continue to outweigh the potential costs. Furthermore, Bernanke offered strong new assurances Friday that he wouldn't back away from his easy-money policies, despite worries at the Fed that its programs could destabilize the financial system. Mr. Bernanke argued that tightening policy now not only could short-circuit the economic recovery, it also could destabilize financial markets. He also said the Fed, in the future when it starts to tighten credit, could adjust the pace of selling its Treasury and mortgage-backed securities "to dampen excessively sharp adjustments in longer- term interest rates."
8 US: manufacturing activity in surprise rebound American manufacturers are doing better than many of their competitors around the world as increased spending by U.S. businesses and a revival in global trade creates more demand for their products. The Institute for Supply Management said Friday that its gauge of U.S. factory activity expanded in February for the third straight month to 54.2— continuing the biggest jump in manufacturing activity since the economic recovery started in July 2009. A reading above 50 indicates growth. Exports jumped to a nine-month high, while new orders and order backlogs, both gauges of future business, rose sharply. The report also suggests that manufacturers aren't nervous about the looming impact of the "sequester," the $85 billion in across-the-board government spending cuts that kicked in Friday. Factory surveys already released by regional Federal Reserve banks gave a mixed reading on February factory activity. Some Fed banks reported stronger growth but others said their manufacturers were pulling back in February. The ISM survey, on the other hand, was generally stronger, except for employment.
9 US GDP growth revised up But recovery continues to face headwinds including uncertainty over government spending The U.S. economy grew slightly in the fourth quarter of 2012—a reversal from an initial report of contraction—as government spending cuts mostly masked fundamentals that point to stronger growth this year. The nation's GDP, a measure of all goods and services produced in the economy, advanced at a 0.1% annual rate between October and December, the Commerce Department said Thursday. The figure was revised up from an initially estimated 0.1% downturn. The weak showing last quarter underscored that government spending cuts are slowing the recovery's momentum. And the budget slashing is likely to continue, with $85 billion in broad reductions. Last quarter's GDP advance was among the weakest of the current recovery, but the revision means the economy has grown for 14 consecutive quarters. For all of last year, the GDP advanced 2.2%, an improvement from the 1.8% gain in 2011. The fourth quarter was revised upward largely because exports were stronger than first estimated, and imports, which subtract from GDP, slowed further.
10 Data continues to come in strong Strong numbers for the US housing market and consumption continued in January despite tax hikes and the prospect of cutbacks. January data showed healthy home sales activity with both pending and new home sales soaring. Home prices also continued the upward trend. The Case-Shiller index which only covers the major cities is up 9%. The increase in home prices is an important cushion to household incomes from the payroll tax increase. US consumers increased spending in January despite a sharp drop in income linked to 2013 tax changes, government data released Friday showed. Personal spending, which accounts for about 70% of US economic activity, rose 0.2% in January, double the increase in December, the Commerce Department reported. Personal income dropped 3.6%, the most in two decades, after rising 2.6% in December. The income volatility came after companies advanced employee bonuses and other forms of "irregular" pay that would have been paid in 2013 to December to avoid the January 1 expiration of payroll tax breaks. But instead of spending less, Americans opted to save less in January. The personal-savings rate dropped to 2.4% from 6.4% the prior month. That was the lowest rate since November 2007. Moreover, despite concerns over inflationary pressures due to the Fed’s QE, Friday's report showed only moderate price increases. The price index for personal-consumption expenditures, the Fed's preferred gauge for inflation, was up 1.2% year over year in January. The Fed targets a level of about 2%. On a monthly basis, the index was flat. The closely watched core PCE index, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, was up 1.3% from a year earlier.
11 Italy's political stalemate jolted European financial markets early Tuesday, weighing on stocks around the continent and sending investors scurrying out of bonds of Europe's troubled south and into northern havens, breaking a seven-month calm in European debt markets. While the periphery’s borrowing costs stabilized towards the end of the week, signs of tension remain as sentiment towards the bloc remains fragile. Italy’s implied borrowing costs were up 6 basis points on Friday at 4.97%, though lower than 4.96% in the immediate aftermath of the inconclusive election. Meanwhile, equivalent duration German Bund yields traded at eight-week lows at1.41%, a move towards safe havens. Signs of tension in the eurozone’s bond market
12 Political uncertainty back in Italy, raising fears about commitment to tackle budget deficits In a national election meant to push Italy further down a path of economic reform, voters delivered political gridlock that could once again rattle Europe's financial stability. A majority of voters endorsed parties that had promised to tone down or even reverse the financial sacrifices Italy has promised its European partners, giving surprise lifts to both the center-right coalition of former premier Silvio Berlusconi and a party of protest led by a former comedian. The general election in Italy has left the political outlook highly uncertain as none of the coalitions envisaged prior to the election are able to form a government with a majority in the Senate. A broad Bersani-Berlusconi government seems more and more likely at the moment. It would probably be short-lived and result in a reform pause. A sale of Italian government bonds on Wednesday drew solid demand, helping soothe jitters that the political deadlock could destabilize Europe's second-biggest sovereign debt market Italy sold €4 billion in 10-year bonds Wednesday at an average yield of 4.83%, a four-month high but well below levels last summer above 6.5%.
13 ECB support may be required to avert crisis The election outcome in Italy has created a muddled and potentially disastrous situation. However, Italy can probably still rely on ECB support to avert a collapse and market reaction has been muted. European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said Wednesday that Europe's governments bear the responsibility for revamping their economies and restoring sound finances. This suggests there will be no softening in the central bank's insistence that countries agree to politically unpopular budget cuts and economic reforms to qualify for any ECB bond-buying aid. Therefore, it is important that whatever form the new government takes, it will behave in such a way that investors can remain confident that the ECB’s OMT programme will remain in place. As for Spain, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the government significantly narrowed its budget deficit last year, a sign that some of Europe's toughest austerity measures are yielding results. Answering questions in Parliament on Wednesday, the prime minister said the deficit narrowed to 6.7% of gross domestic product in 2012 from 8.96% of GDP in 2011. The result vindicated the government's focus on overhauling the country's ailing finances since it came to power at the end of 2011, he said.
14 Spain still needs more austerity to meet deficit targets However, tax increases and spending cuts have helped to deepen Spain's recession and push its unemployment rate past 26%, feeding a debate in Europe over the right pace of deficit reduction as the Continent struggles with faltering economies and fast-rising debt loads. Mr. Rajoy himself has relaxed his deficit-cutting drive and last week unveiled a package of modest stimulus measures, including tax breaks for small businesses and incentives to hire unemployed youths. Spanish bonds rallied in response, driving down borrowing costs. The yield on Spain's benchmark 10-year government bond fell nearly half a percentage point to 5.1%, largely reversing the surge on Tuesday caused by concerns over political instability in nearby Italy. The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, predicted last week that Spain's deficit would be around 7% of GDP, though this figure would grow to around 10.2% if the impact of a massive bank-recapitalization program were included.
15 Europe's jobless crisis deepens Unemployment in the eurozone climbed to its highest rate on record in January, official data showed Friday, underscoring the heavy toll the currency bloc's fiscal crisis and recession are exacting on a populace weary of austerity. Eurostat, the European Union's statistics agency, said 11.9% of the eurozone's workforce was unemployed in January, the highest percentage for the 17 countries that make up the currency bloc since records began in 1995. The figure is higher than the jobless rate of 11.8% in December. Underpinning the rise was a surprise jump in Italy's unemployment rate to 11.7% in January from 11.3% in December. The latest month's figure was the highest since 1992, the country's statistics agency said. Other data from Eurostat on Friday showed the annual inflation rate in the eurozone was 1.8% in February, down from 2% in January and the lowest rate since August 2010, which could encourage consumer spending due to a reduced squeeze on household incomes, and allow the ECB to offer more support measures.
16 Eurozone manufacturing More signs to indicate that Germany is picking up and France is slowing A survey of manufacturing activity in the eurozone in February suggested the currency bloc's recession will continue in the first quarter at least. Data company Markit said Friday its monthly poll of manufacturing industry executives held steady at a reading of 47.9 in February, underneath the 50 threshold that would signal growth. Activity has been shrinking for 19 months, the company said. "While the manufacturing sector is likely to have again acted as a drag on the overall economy in the first quarter, causing gross domestic product to fall for a fourth consecutive quarter, there are signs that the downturn has become less severe," said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit. Activity in February rose in Germany, where the reading was the highest in over a year, and Ireland but fell in the other six countries for which Markit gave detailed figures. The steepest fall was in Greece, which showed a reading of 43. That was nonetheless the crisis-hit country's best performance in nine months.
17 Britain's manufacturing activity unexpectedly shrank in February Data firm Markit said Friday its UK manufacturing purchasing managers' index slid into contraction territory with a weaker-than- expected 47.9 in February from January's 50.5. Economists had forecast the index would rise to 51.0. Sterling sank in response to the numbers. By midafternoon in Europe, the pound was trading below the $1.50 level for the first time since July 2010, taking its losses against the dollar so far this year to more than 7%. Sterling also weakened against the euro. "The return to contraction of the manufacturing sector is a big surprise and represents a major setback to hopes that the U.K. economy can return to growth in the first quarter and may avoid a triple-dip recession," said Markit's chief economist Chris Williamson. A strong March performance is now needed for the sector—which makes up 10.4% of GDP output—to avoid acting as a drag on growth. The sharp decline in the manufacturing PMI was led by a slump in new orders, particularly from the UK and the eurozone. Firms also cut staff at the fastest rate since late 2009 in response to weakening demand and the uncertain economic outlook.
18 China: concerns over recovery strength as manufacturing activity slows China’s manufacturing sector grew more slowly in February, suggesting the country’s recovery could be slackening according to two business surveys. China's official purchasing managers' index fell to 50.1 in February from January's 50.4, still indicating marginal expansion. Moreover, the HSBC China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index, a gauge of nationwide manufacturing activity, fell to 50.4 in February, compared with a final reading of 52.3 in January, HSBC Holdings PLC said Monday. The weaker readings have raised concerns over the momentum of recovery in the world's second-largest economy. Nevertheless, the Chinese economy is still on track for a gradual recovery; the February reading still marks the fifth straight month that the index has been above 50. The slower pace of manufacturing expansion partly reflects the impact of a week-long Chinese New Year holiday and partly the continued softness of external demand
19 Japan: more aggressive easing expected In Japan, it was announced that Haruhiko Kuroda, the current president of the Asian Development Bank, is the government’s candidate to replace the current Bank of Japan governor Masaaki Shirakawa when he retires together with his two deputy governors on 19 March. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe continues to seek a more aggressive regime to overturn more than a decade of deflation. The government’s two nominees for deputy governor are Professor Kuiko Iwata, who has been extremely critical of BoJ and executive director for BoJ’s International Affairs Office, Hiroshi Nakaso. Both Kuroda and Iwata have been arguing forcefully that BoJ has not eased monetary policy forcefully enough and must be regarded as very dovish. Meanwhile, the CPI data shows deflation is very real, as consumer prices declined for the third month.
20 Wall street rebounds following a surprise rise in US manufacturing activity
21 Gold continues stumble, and Sterling touches 2 ½ year low
24 Central Bank Meetings Calendar Expected Rate Decision Current Rate MonthCentral Bank 0.25% March 20US Federal Reserve (FOMC) 0.75% March 7European Central Bank (ECB) 0.50% March 7Bank of England (BoE) 0.10% April 3Bank of Japan (BOJ) 0.00% March 14Swiss National Bank (SNB) 1.00% March 6Bank of Canada (BOC) 3.00% March 5Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) 2.50% March 13Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) Calendar for upcoming meetings of main central banks :
26 Egypt reveals its economic reform programme, one step closer to IMF negotiations Political unrest has caused the Egyptian pound to tumble 8.2% against the dollar since the end of last year, and the central bank is rationing the amount of dollars it sells to banks, prioritizing hard currency for essential food imports. The government this week revealed, with very little detail, the economic programme it plans to present to the IMF to get it to approve a $4.8 billion loan request. The reform programme aims at tightening the budget deficit and increasing reserves in addition to levying a set of new taxes. And although fuel subsidies were not mentioned in the programme, the government had earlier announced steps in that regard. Egypt's Finance Minister Al-Morsi Hegazi said Tuesday that the programme will be submitted to parliament after which it will be sent to the IMF. Hegazi added that a mission from the IMF will be expected to arrive in Cairo in 10 days. The plan aims at tightening the budget deficit to 10.9%. The budget deficit is meanwhile forecast to hit 12.3% of GDP by end-June unless economic reforms are implemented.
27 IMF studying revised fiscal steps for Egypt, no loan talks set The plan also includes accumulating foreign currency reserves to $19bn by end of June 2013 and $22.5bn the following year. It also levies a tax of 0.1% on stock market transactions and a standardised corporate tax of 25%. Meanwhile, the Egyptian government limited the sales tax hike to only some goods to avoid widespread demonstrations. But analysts believe that with the current climate, achieving the targets set out in the plan is unlikely. In addition, although not part of the economic reform program, the Egyptian government has taken action to reduce energy subsidies to curb it’s growing budget deficit. Energy subsidies make up 20% of the states budget and is essential to revise if Egypt were to secure the IMF loan. In specific, the government last week raised natural gas and mazut (heavy oil) prices for some sectors of energy-intensive local industries such as cement and brick factories. Fitch Ratings said on Wednesday that the extended election timetable could delay the agreement until well into the third quarter. It had previously expected a deal in second quarter.
28 GCC Economic News Highlights Major contributors to GDP in the Gulf region: Saudi Arabia continued to be the major contributor to the GCC growth in 2012, with 47% of the total GDP of the region. UAE accounted for second largest contributor with its share of 23%. Qatar is the third biggest contributor with a 12.3% share. Saudi Arabia's nonoil GDP expected to grow over 8% this year: The macroeconomic conditions remain supportive of the financial system with Saudi Arabia's nonoil GDP expected to grow over 8 percent this year following 7.5 percent in 2012, driven by the benefits of economic diversification and vast projects sourced by record oil revenues, according to a report by the National Commercial Bank. OPEC February oil output up: OPEC crude oil output rose in February, the first monthly increase since October, due to higher exports from Iraq and a slight increase in supply from top exporter Saudi Arabia, a Reuters survey found on Friday. Dubai's property market set to witness $1 billion influx: Dubai's real estate market, which is witnessing a resurgence this year, is expecting a $1-billion investment from the Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD)-Brookfield Dubai this year.
32 Local interest rates forecasts and major developments The excess liquidity in the banking system has increased following the $500 million USD denominated bond issuance and less demand by the government on domestic debt. The increase in excess liquidity is anticipated to place downward pressure on JOD interest rates, especially if foreign reserves continues it upward trend.
33 Trade Deficit Continues to Widen Last week, figures released showed that Jordan’s trade deficit for 2012 increased to JD 9.1 billion, compared to JD 7.8 billion in 2011, a 17.2% increase. The increase in deficit was caused by both a 1.5% fall in exports and a 9.3% rise in imports. Exports fell to JD 5.6 billion from JD 5.7 billion in 2011, while imports rose to JD 14.7 billion from JD 13.4 billion in 2011. The oil import bill increased in 2012 by 24.4%, an indication of the volatility in Egyptian oil supplies. Imports of crude oil rose to JD 4.5 billion from JD 3.6 billion in 2011. Therefore, if volatility in gas supplies continues this year, we could experience another drag on the economy. Overall, in 2012 exports covered 38.1% of imports, a fall of 4.2% from last year. Moreover, the government on Thursday raised the prices of main oil derivatives for March. The government attributed the increase to a recent rise in the international oil prices.
34 Reversal of the Dollarization Wave In the first two months of the year, deposits with licensed banks have increased by a net of JD500 million, an increase of 2.01%, to reach JD25.4 billion. In specific, during this period, JOD deposits grew by 600 million to reach JD18.3 billion, or a 3.39% increase. Meanwhile, deposits in foreign currency dropped by JD100 million to reach JD7.2 billion, or a decrease of 1.37%. This is believed to be due to the Central Bank of Jordan raising interest rates on JOD to maintain its attractiveness and in turn providing the necessary liquidity for economic activity to continue. In addition, with news that FX reserves surpassed $8 billion, confidence regarding the JOD has gotten better and we are observing a reversal of the dollarization wave witnessed last year.
35 Amman Stock Exchange For the period 24/02 – 28/02 ASE free float shares’ price index ended the week at (2042.4) points, compared to (2046.7) points for the last week, posting a decrease of 0.21%. The total trading volume during the week reached JD(63.8) million compared to JD(57.7) million during the last week. Trading a total of (85.3) million shares through (30,457) transactions The shares of (181) companies were traded, the shares prices of (87) companies rose, and the shares prices of (61) declined. Top 5 losers for the last week Stock % chg Jordan Press Foundation/al-ra'i (13.18%) Al-eqbal Investment Company Ltd (11.11%) Akary For Industries And Real Estate Investments (10.71%) Specialized Trading & Investment (9.68%) Enjaz For Development And Multi Projects Company P.l.c (9.09%) Top 5 gainers for the last week Stock % chg Arab Real Estate Development 50.00% Darwish Al-khalili And Sons Co. Plc 36.36% Middle East Diversified Investment 25.00% Ejada For Financial Investments 25.00% National Portfolio Securities 23.08%
36 Local Debt Monitor Latest T-Bills As March 3, the volume of excess reserves, including the overnight window deposits held at the CBJ JD(1980) million. Yield (%)Size - millionMaturity DateIssue Date3 months T-Bills 2.898%5014/03/201214/12/201129/2011 2.844%5012/03/201212/12/201128/2011 Yield (%)Size - millionMaturity DateIssue Date6 months T-Bills 3.788%5014/08/201214/02/201202/2012 3.433%5023/01/2012 01/2012 3.232%5008/06/201208/12/201127/2011 Yield (%)Size - millionMaturity DateIssue Date9 months T-Bills 4.285%7504/12/201204/03/201205/2012 4.229%7529/11/201229/02/201204/2012 4.169%7522/11/201222/02/201203/2012 Coupon (%)Size - MillionMaturity DateIssue Date1 year T-Bills 6.750%7026/02/201426/02/201203/2013 6.750%5014/02/201414/02/201202/2013 6.750%7027/01/201427/01/201201/2013 6.750%6024/12/201324/12/201222/2012
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