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What Sheikh Khalifa’s passing means for the UAE

The passing of the UAE’s President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nayhan today is unlikely to alter the economic outlook with GDP set to grow rapidly amid stronger oil output and looser fiscal policy. That said, the next president will face several challenges, including the country’s relationship with OPEC+, ensuring the UAE remains the region’s leading financial and logistics hub and dealing with Dubai’s debts.
James Swanston Middle East and North Africa Economist
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Middle East Chart Book

Region’s financial markets routed

Risk-off sentiment and the sell-off in EM financial markets have hit the Middle East and North Africa hard. Having been the top regional performer earlier in the year, the MSCI Arabian Markets Index has fallen by nearly 20% since mid-April. Sovereign dollar bond spreads have widened across the board, particularly in Egypt and in Tunisia – the latter appears to be hurtling toward a default. With developed market central banks set to deliver more hikes over the rest of this year and next, we suspect that equities in the Middle East and North Africa (and EMs more generally) will continue to struggle. Meanwhile, sovereign dollar bond spreads could widen further, and currencies in North Africa are likely to come under greater pressure.

24 June 2022

Middle East Economics Weekly

OPEC+ policy, Egypt’s orthodox shift and FY22/23 budget

Next Thursday's OPEC+ meeting may drop some hints about the future for the group's oil output beyond September and we think that quotas are likely to be lifted. If that’s the case, the Gulf economies would be major beneficiaries. Elsewhere, comments from Egypt’s finance minister suggest that officials are becoming more receptive to a weaker pound, adding to hopes that the move to a more flexible exchange rate is the real deal. A weak currency is a concern given the growing sovereign FX debt burden, but the country’s FY2022/23 budget passed this week does at least highlight a commitment to fiscal austerity.

23 June 2022

Middle East Economics Update

Egypt public finance risks contained… for now

Egypt’s public debt dynamics look increasingly fragile due to a combination of the extremely short average maturity of its debt, rapidly rising yields, and a growing share of debt denominated in foreign currency. That said, for now, there are reasons to think that the sovereign should be able to muddle through. World with Higher Rates - Drop-In (21st June, 10:00 ET/15:00 BST): Does monetary policy tightening automatically mean recession? Are EMs vulnerable? How will financial market returns be affected? Join our special 20-minute briefing to find out what higher rates mean for macro and markets. Register now

20 June 2022

More from James Swanston

Middle East Economics Weekly

Egypt’s budget, UAE welfare, Lebanon election

Egypt’s draft budget reiterated the government’s commitment to keeping fiscal policy tight but, with debt servicing costs rising sharply and the currency set to weaken, there are increasing concerns over Egypt’s debt dynamics. Elsewhere, the UAE unveiled an unemployment insurance scheme this week that will benefit both Emiratis and non-Emiratis as officials seek to ward off competition for the country's role as the region's financial and trading hub. Finally, elections in Lebanon this weekend are unlikely to provide fresh impetus to efforts to secure IMF financing. EM Drop-In (17th May): Do current EM debt strains point to a repeat of the kinds of crises seen in the 1980s and 1990s? Join our special briefing on EM sovereign debt risk on Tuesday. Register now.  

12 May 2022

Middle East Data Response

Egypt Consumer Prices (Apr.)

Egypt’s headline inflation rate jumped to a near-three year high of 13.1% y/y in April on the back of the spillovers from the war in Ukraine and effects of the devaluation of the pound. Inflation will continue to rise over the rest of this year and prompt the central bank (CBE) to hike interest rates further – we have pencilled in 350bp of hikes by the end of this year, to 12.75%, which is more than the consensus expects. China Drop-In (12th May, 09:00 BST/16:00 SGT): Join our China and Markets economists for a 20-minute discussion about near to long-term economic challenges, from zero-COVID disruptions to US-China decoupling. Register now.

10 May 2022

Middle East Economics Update

Egypt’s external strains still a risk despite devaluation

The war in Ukraine has compounded strains in Egypt’s balance of payments and prompted officials to devalue the pound. The key risk now is that the authorities revert to heavily managing the nominal exchange rate (as they appear to have done since the move), prompting a fresh build up of external imbalances and the need for further (disorderly) falls in the currency down the line.

9 May 2022
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