LONDON: The British economy grew at its slowest pace in six years in 2018, data showed Monday, as Brexit uncertainty grips the country and fears grow that Britain could crash out of the EU without a deal.
The bleak official figures came as the British government seeks to win more time to secure EU concessions on Brexit that could pass the UK parliament and avert a chaotic split from the bloc on March 29.
Businesses are on edge with Britain just weeks away from its scheduled departure from the European project after 46 years and still with no firm arrangements in place.
The parliament in London last month roundly rejected a Brexit deal Prime Minister Theresa May had sealed with the remaining 27 EU leaders.
Monday’s figures followed data last week that showed Britain’s dominant service sector almost ground to a halt in January.
“The economy is clearly struggling in the first quarter of 2019 amid serious business and consumer caution resulting from heightened Brexit uncertainties while weaker global growth is also impacting” the figures, noted Howard Archer, chief economic advisor at the EY ITEM Club.
Last year gross domestic product growth stood at 1.4 percent, down from 1.8 percent in 2017, the Office for National Statistics said Monday.
Growth was only 0.2 percent in the last three months of 2018, the ONS said in a statement.
“Construction, production and services output fell in the month (of December), the first time that there has been such a broad-based fall in monthly output since September 2012,” the ONS said.
Britain has been in a state of political turmoil for two months since the Brexit deal was agreed in December.
In an incident heavy with symbolism, parts of parliament were cordoned off Monday after a large piece of masonry fell onto a parked vehicle over the weekend.
Bears growl at Hong Kong bourse
HONG KONG: Shares fell more than one percent Tuesday, hit by concerns over rising Iran-US tensions and as investors await this week’s crucial trade talks between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping.
The Hang Seng Index sank 1.15 percent, or 327.02 points, to 28,185.98. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.87 percent or 26.07 points,
to 2,982.07, while the Shenzhen Composite Index, which tracks stocks on China’s second exchange, lost 0.99 percent, or 15.63 points, to 1,560.46.
Oil prices rise on US-Iran concern, stocks up ahead of G20 talks
HONG KONG: Oil prices extended gains Monday as rising US-Iran tensions fuelled supply concerns, while Asian equities also edged up ahead of a crunch meeting between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping this week.
Both main crude contracts are up almost 10 percent since Tehran last week shot down a US “spy drone” for breaching its airspace, ratcheting up fears of a conflict between the old foes.
At the weekend Trump said he would impose fresh sanctions on Iran, following bans of countries buying its oil, while US media reports said Washington secretly launched cyber-attacks against missile control systems and a spy network.
Both sides say they want to avoid war, but tensions have spiralled as a series of incidents, including the drone downing and recent attacks on tankers, raised fears of an unintended slide towards conflict.
The US president said he was ready to reach out to Iran if it renounced nuclear weapons, adding that if leaders did so “I’m going to be their best friend”. But Iran continues to insist its atomic programme is for civilian purposes.
Brent rose 0.3 percent Monday and WTI was 0.5 percent higher.
“The geopolitical escalation in the Middle East is unquestionably a bullish short-term signal for oil markets, as even the thought of 20 percent of the world oil supply being affected is enough to trigger significant tremors,” said Stephen Innes, managing partner at Vanguard Markets.
“And these tremors are noticeably moving up the Richter scale.”
The stand-off, coupled with a weak dollar as the Federal Reserve flags an interest rate cut, has helped push gold prices to six-year highs above $1,400 as dealers look for a safe haven to park their cash.
Qatar Emir announces $3 billion for Pakistan
ISLAMABAD: Emir of the State of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has announced $3 billion fro Pakistan in deposits and direct investments from Qatar.
It follows Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pledging aid packages for Pakistan. Riyadh has given a $3 billion loan to Pakistan whereas UAE provided $1 billion.
The south Asian country and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had reached an agreement in May on a loan of about $6 billion to overcome economic crisis.
Pakistan and Qatar ink MoUs
Pakistan and Qatar on Saturday signed three different memorandums of understanding (MOUs) to further enhance the mutual cooperation in areas of trade, business, tourism, and investment.
Prime Minister Imran Khan and Amir of the State of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani witnessed the signing ceremony held here at the Prime Minister House.
The memorandum of understanding on the establishment of Pakistan and Qatar Joint Working Group (JWG) on trade and investment was signed by Finance Minister of State of Qatar Ali Shareef Al Emadi and Advisor on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood.
Secretary-General of Qatar National Tourism Council Akbar Al Baker and Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) Dr. Fehmida Mirza signed the MoU for cooperation in the field of tourism and business events between Qatar and Pakistan.
Another MoU on the establishment of cooperation in the field of exchange of financial intelligence related to money laundering associated predicate offenses and terrorism financing between the Financial Information Unit of State of Qatar and the Financial Monitoring Unit of the Government of Pakistan was signed by Sheikh Ahmed bin Eid Al Thani, Head of Qatar Financial Information Unit and Muneer Ahmad Acting Director General Financial Monitoring Unit.
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