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Global markets sink as uncertainty reigns

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Stocks turn down as outlook darkens

LONDON: European markets slid today on the back of sharp Asian losses and overnight on Wall Street, as concern grew over the US economic outlook, dealers said.
With Wall Street closed on a US national day of mourning for the funeral of former president George H.W. Bush, European stocks tanked as investors faced a raft of problems from trade to Brexit that erased the positive start to the week when sharp gains were made after the US and China appeared ready to dial down their trade war.
After US President Donald Trump and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping moved to a truce in their trade spat, Trump tweeted that he saw “very strong signals being sent by China,” after Beijing acknowledged a 90-day deadline to reach a tariffs agreement.
For Capital Economics, the two leaders “seem to have different understandings of what they have agreed. But the deal has, at least, paused the escalation of the dispute”.
European markets were not cheered, however, with London, Frankfurt, and Paris all off around one percent some two hours from the close as the uncertainty from Britain’s ongoing Brexit saga continued unabated.
“European stock markets are firmly in the red following the major losses incurred on Wall Street,” said CMC Markets analyst David Madden.
“From a political and economic point of view, not much has changed, but investor confidence has been shaken in light of the move in the US yesterday, and that is playing on investors’ minds.”
Wall Street had been pummelled Tuesday, the Dow losing 3.1 percent amid worries over slowing US growth and the trade spat with China.
While Trump hailed the deal at first, on Tuesday he warned on Twitter “remember, I am a Tariff Man”, adding: “When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so.”.
In another tweet, he left open the door to an extension of the agreement’s 90-day timeline to end the row.
China’s commerce ministry Wednesday called the pact “successful” and said it “will start with the implementation of the specific matters in which consensus has been reached, the sooner the better.”
Concerns are also mounting about the US economy as short-term and long-term money market rates moved closer together, stoking fears of “inversion”.
If the process continues and short-term rates overtake long-term, it is often taken as a clear precursor to a recession.
The pound continued to struggle on concerns Britain could leave the EU without a deal, which most observers fear could hammer the economy.
Sterling had briefly hit a 17-month-low at $1.2659 after Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a series of stunning defeats in parliament that highlighted the fight she has in passing her Brexit deal.
If she loses there are expectations she will face a no-confidence vote and a defeat that could force early elections, leaving the country in chaos.
“May’s triple defeats in parliament are highly discouraging and may intensify fears over her Brexit deal being rejected next week,” said FXTM analyst Lukman Otunuga.
Separately, oil prices extended losses after another jump in US inventories and as Saudi Arabia raised questions about the chances of an output cut at a meeting of OPEC and non-OPEC members this week.
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said it was “premature to say what will happen” in Vienna, days after Russian President Vladimir Putin had said the pair had agreed to maintain a production cap.
London – FTSE 100: DOWN 1.0 percent at 6,949.62 points
Frankfurt – DAX 30: DOWN 0.9 percent at 11,233.60
Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 0.9 percent at 4,960.84
EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 1.0 percent at 3,158.34
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.5 percent at 21,919.33 (close)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 1.6 percent at 26,819.68 (close)
Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.6 percent at 2,649.81 (close)
New York – Dow Jones: CLOSED (Tuesday close 25,027.07 close)
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1333 from $1.1343 at 2200 GMT
Dollar/yen: UP at 113.17 yen from 112.77
Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2728 from $1.2719
Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP 24 cents at $53.49 per barrel
Oil – Brent Crude: UP 22 cents at $62.12

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Tokyo stocks gain on bargain-hunting

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Tokyo stocks gain on bargain-hunting

TOKYO: Tokyo stocks gained slightly on Monday as investors bought on dips following a sharp decline late last week, while their focus shifted ahead of a US Federal Reserve meeting.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index, which dropped more than two percent on Friday, rose 0.62 percent or 132.05 points to close at 21,506.88, while the broader Topix index was up 0.13 percent or 2.04 points at 1,594.20. “Buy-back was seen among shares in major companies following a sharp decline on Friday,” Daiwa Securities senior technical analyst Hikaru Sato told AFP. “But the buy-back was not strong enough to boost shares further,” Sato said, adding that it may take more time to improve market sentiment.
Takashi Hiroki, the chief strategist at Monex, said the two-day US Fed meeting that ends on Wednesday is “the most important event this week” and investors are watching for the pace of rate hikes in 2019. “Falls in US shares (last week) is said to be caused by weak economic data in China and Europe, but these are not new factors,” he said in a commentary, adding that current market sentiment is vulnerable to “even the slightest worries given the prevailing uncertainty”.
In Tokyo, SoftBank’s initial public offering on Wednesday will also likely have an impact on the market, analysts said. The dollar fetched 113.51 yen in Asian afternoon trade against 113.29 yen in New York late Friday. Banks were higher, with Mitsubishi UFJ trading up 0.13 percent to 583.9 yen, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial up 0.56 percent at 3,939 yen and Mizuho Financial up 0.22 percent at 179.7 yen. Nissan was down 0.27 percent at 929.9 yen ahead of its board meeting to discuss corporate governance and choosing a replacement for former chairman Carlos Ghosn, after his arrest and dismissal. Rival Toyota was up 0.16 percent at 6,840 yen but Honda was down 0.13 percent at 3,050 yen.

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Govt to promote Pak. furniture sector

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LAHORE: Prime Minister’s Advisor on Commerce, Textile and Industrial Production and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood said here today the government would provide all possible support and resources for the promotion of Pakistan’s furniture sector.

Advisor pointed towards formulating a comprehensive strategy in coordination with stakeholders to also ensure its exports. He expressed these views while talking to media during his visit to the 10th Interiors Pakistan Exhibition organized by Pakistan Furniture Council (PFC) here at the Expo Centre. PFC Chief Executive Officer Mian Kashif Ashfaq and Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) President Almas Hyder were also present.
Abdul Razak added the government was taking all possible measures to promote ‘Made in Pakistan’ products at local and international markets and special incentive packages would be given to strengthening manufacturing in furniture sector to boost the exports.
He also appreciated PFC for holding successful exhibition without having the support of the government, citing, “PFC deserves appreciation for promoting the culture of local brands to strengthen the national economy.”
To a question, the Advisor said that the country’s economy would improve in the months to come as Pakistani products were being exported mainly due to timely policies of the present government. He said that with this exhibition, people would also come to know about the quality and designs of the products manufactured by Pakistani artists.
He said that Pakistan’s furniture sector had progressed to a certain level however there was a lot of efforts yet to be done as the sector had great potential.
Abdul Razak Dawood said that workers of this industry have great skills and potential and if used properly, Pakistan could become the best exporter of furniture. He said that with the development of the furniture industry, it would be easy to meet local and international needs.
To another question, he said the government was all committed for jobs creation for the youth and it could not be done overnight, as it would take time, and with the increased exports and vibrant export-oriented industry would help create job opportunities. He said the government was also discussing ways and means to overcome the balance of payment issue and remove all economic ills.
Earlier, the Advisor to the Prime Minister visited various stalls of the exhibition. He praised the workmanship, quality, and design of the various items put on display.
On this occasion, PFC Chief Mian Kashif Ashfaq expressed his gratitude for visiting exhibition as chief guest at the concluding ceremony. He also assured the advisor that the business community of the country would provide its full support to the government towards implementing its reforms agenda and overcoming the current economic challenges.
He said that PFC was playing its due role efficiently for promoting furniture brands not only in the country but also abroad by displaying world-class innovative designs suit to the aesthetic sense of buyers. He said Pakistan has good potential to enhance furniture exports to the USA and Europe by developing good brands and business community should focus on the branding of products to promote business activities and improve exports.
Mian Kashif said, “We need policies to protect the furniture sector so that we can grow in the correct manner. We currently cannot compete with the Chinese market because of their prices which is largely due to the availability of skilled labor. ” China, for instance, has over a thousand technical schools, and enroll at least 11 million people with the support of their government to ensure they set up programs that will support the local industry,” he added.
He stressed the need for the government and the Pakistani people to increase their patronage of furniture products made by local industry. The PFC chief said furniture made in Chiniot meets more than 80 percent of the local demand. This, combined with the handicraft industry, is employing around 50,000 people, he said and added that if the local industry expands new opportunities of employment will generate.
At the closing ceremony, Abdul Razak Dawood presented certificates of participation to the stall holders, while PFC Chief Mian Kashif presented the Advisor with a shield.

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Improving ease of doing business

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Imran Khan on solution to poverty

ISLAMABAD: PM has today directed Board of Investment (BoI) chairman to present a comprehensive plan, listing all the issues in various sectors and their sub-sectors and how the processes could be streamlined to simplify procedures related to government approvals, addressing taxation issues, dispute resolution and facilitating investors/businesses. 
He said this while chairing a high-level meeting to review progress on improving ease of doing business and creating an enabling environment to facilitate the conversion of interest of the local as well foreign investors into actual investments in the country. The meeting was attended by Finance Minister Asad Umar, Law Minister Dr. Farogh Naseem, Commerce Advisor Abdul Razak Dawood, BoI Chairman Haroon Sharif, federal secretaries and senior officials. 
BoI Chairman Haroon Sharif while briefing the prime minister about the steps taken so far said the Board would be serving as an agent of change for facilitating business transactions, removing impediments in the way to the materialization of investors’ interest into actual investments and smooth functioning of the businesses in the country. He also briefed about various issues being faced by the business community including taxation, access to finance, regulation and policy issues and red-tapism.
He said the BoI was also actively working with the provinces and relevant ministries for removing barriers in the way of establishing Special Economic Zones.  He said special efforts were being made to bridge the gap between private and public sector and to reach out to the private sector to revive their confidence in government policies and put in place a framework that facilitates business community in its business pursuits.  The BoI chairman also briefed about Naya Pakistan Diaspora Fund which was being set-up to promote SMEs and rural development in key areas of education, health, and infrastructure development.
He also apprised the prime minister of the investment framework which had been structured for attracting and materializing investment from UAE, KSA, China, Japan, and Malaysia.   It was decided during the meeting that the prime minister would chair a review meeting every month on ease of doing business in the country.

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