Breakthrough for the COVID-19 Vaccine

Breakthrough for the COVID-19 Vaccine

UAE News:
Dubai's non-oil sector activity slowed in October: PMI declined to 49.9 from September’s 51.5, with the overall level of confidence at the weakest in the series’ eight-year history. The decline was widespread with construction and travel and tourism posting output declines while job cuts continued.
UAE’s VAT revenue amounted to AED 11.6bn (USD 3.15bn) in January-August this year, disclosed the Finance Ministry, while excise tax amounted to AED 1.9bn (+47% YoY). Tax revenues last year had increased by 7% YoY to AED 31bn. Separately, it was revealed that the number of accredited tax agents increased by 10% YoY to 515 in January-October.
Fitch rates UAE at AA- with a stable outlook in advance of issuing its first Federal bond, though warning of “significant indebtedness” of Dubai’s entities including GREs (at close to 80% of GDP).
E-commerce transactions will account for 28.2% of total card payments in the UAE, given change in habits due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Dubai Economy-Visa study. The UAE not only had the biggest annual spend per online shopper at $1,648 in the wider MENA and South Asia region but also had an average transaction value of USD 122 between 2019 and 2020 (vs USD 76 in mature markets and USD 22 in emerging markets). The report can be accessed here.
Omani citizens will be permitted to enter the UAE via land ports from November 16th, provided a negative PCR test result is presented.
UAE’s nation brand, valued at USD 672bn, increased to the 18th spot globally, according to the Nation Brands 2020 report. The report, which ranks US, China and Japan as the top three valuable nation brands, found that the top 100 nation brands lost an estimated USD 1trn of brand value this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

MENA News:
Bahrain introduced amendments to its Companies Law: changes include the elimination of single-person companies, increase in disclosures and introduction of ‘not-for-profit’ companies among others.
Egypt signed 86 agreements with major oil and gas companies with minimum investment commitments totaling USD 15bn over the last six years, disclosed the petroleum minister. Separately, it was revealed that 14 exploration and production deals were signed in March-October this year.
Egypt’s Ministry of International Cooperation disclosed that it had concluded agreements worth USD 7.308bn this year – with 62.2% towards financing sovereign projects and the rest to the private sector. This includes agreements worth USD 15bn signed with the World Bank to support health and housing sectors as well as the environment.
Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada have received around 430k tourists since it opened up in July this year. Currently, tourists are at just 10% of normal rates during this time.
Iraq passed an emergency spending bill, allowing the finance ministry to borrow USD 10.1bn from international markets and local banks, though this amount is much lower than the USD 35bn sought by the government. The funds are expected to cover public servants’ salaries, food imports and crucial projects.
Iraq and China agreed to restart its oil-for-projects agreement allowing Chinese companies to execute projects in the country in return for crude oil supply. Though a similar deal was reported with Egypt, the planning minister denied it in a statement in Aliqtisad News.
Kuwait started granting work permits (after 8 months) for the recruitment of workers from abroad for medical and teaching specialists as well as companies that have government and oil-related contracts.
France pressed for speeding up “the formation of an efficient government, accepted by all political parties” in Lebanon. Though the latest PM-designate was declared on October 22, a government is absent still given no consensus on number of portfolios, ministers and the like.
Lebanon has gone into a 2-week lockdown from November 14th till November 30th, after the localized lockdown failed to have the desired effect.
Oman’s health minister confirmed that 40% of the population would receive vaccination when it first arrives, by end of this year. Priority would be given to front line workers, checkpoints’ employees, people with chronic diseases, and the elderly.
The travel, hospitality and tourism sector grew by 4.9% YoY to contribute OMR 1.293bn to Oman’s economy last year, according to the National Centre for Statistics and Information. Tourists spent OMR 684.7mn in 2019 from OMR 364.8mn in 2015, clocking an annual average increase of 17%.
The Red Sea Development Co – Saudi Arabia’s tourism project- plans to have 16 hotels ready by end of –2023, two more than initially planned, on hopes for a V-shaped recovery in tourism.

Global News:
Stock markets cheered the breakthrough for the COVID-19 vaccine, with new records set in the MSCI All World Index and the S&500. Tech stocks suffered on the news of the vaccine, with the likes of Zoom declining sharply while travel/ tourism/ entertainment stocks picked up. Most markets ended lower by end of the week, as COVID-19 cases surged, but posted weekly gains. Asian equities slumped after an executive order was issued prohibiting US investors to hold shares in companies linked to China’s military. Regional markets were mostly up, mirroring its global peers. Safe-haven currencies like the Yen and Swiss franc currencies strengthened. Oil prices picked up for a 2nd week, while gold prices eased.

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