UAE, Egypt, Jordan Sign Industrial Partnership in 5 Sectors for Sustainable Economic Growth

Part of the signing event of the integrated Industrial Partnership for Sustainable Economic Growth in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, May 29, 2022. (WAM)
Part of the signing event of the integrated Industrial Partnership for Sustainable Economic Growth in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, May 29, 2022. (WAM)
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UAE, Egypt, Jordan Sign Industrial Partnership in 5 Sectors for Sustainable Economic Growth

Part of the signing event of the integrated Industrial Partnership for Sustainable Economic Growth in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, May 29, 2022. (WAM)
Part of the signing event of the integrated Industrial Partnership for Sustainable Economic Growth in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, May 29, 2022. (WAM)

The United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan announced on Sunday an integrated Industrial Partnership for Sustainable Economic Growth in Abu Dhabi.

The partnership agreement aims to unlock new industrial opportunities and enhance sustainable economic growth in the three countries, across five promising industrial sectors, namely food and agriculture, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, textiles, minerals, and petrochemicals.

In order to accelerate the partnership objectives, a $10 billion investment fund has been allocated and will be managed by Abu Dhabi state holding firm ADQ.

The UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, Egyptian Minister of Industry and Trade Dr. Nevein Gamea, and Jordan’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Supply Yousef al-Shamali signed the partnership agreement.

Egyptian and Jordanian Prime Ministers Mostafa Madbouly and Dr. Bisher al- Khasawneh attended the signing event, along with UAE’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Sheikh Mansour said the partnership reflects President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s vision to enhance industrial integration with Arab and world countries for the UAE to be able to achieve a major leap in the industrial sector to become an economic driver.

“Industry is the backbone of the world’s largest economies. Through its capabilities, effective policies and current focus on developing advanced technology and logistics infrastructure, we are confident that the UAE can build a global economic powerhouse by leveraging industrial partnerships across the region.”

He pointed out that advancing the industrial sector in the three countries will help boost and diversify their economy and increase the industry’s contribution to the national GDP.

This partnership further affirms the three countries’ ability to bolster their ties and introduce new projects and industries within an integrated industrial ecosystem, while unlocking promising opportunities for future generations.

According to the information obtained, Abu Dhabi, Cairo and Amman have diverse resources and unique competitive advantages, including access to raw materials.

They enjoy robust capabilities in the pharmaceutical industries, with clear ambition to develop and expand them further and increase their production capacity.

They also wish to strengthen manufacturing capabilities in the steel, aluminum, petrochemicals and derivatives sectors.

Their combined industrial capacity represents around 26% of the total industrial capacity of the MENA region.

They also enjoy a highly developed logistical infrastructure, including airports, ports and strategic transport corridors such as the Suez Canal, major companies with distinct capabilities in the partnership’s focus areas, as well as access to capital and smart financing solutions.

Almost half the total population of the partner countries comprising 122 million people are young and represent both a large market and an emerging workforce.

Khasawneh said that the partnership is an evidence of the depth of the historic ties among the three countries, noting that it enhances integration, protects supply chains, empowers import substitution, and promotes sustainable economic development, resulting in economic growth, job creation and other benefits.

“The continued active interaction and coordination at the leadership level affirms the strong political and economic ties.”

He revealed that the industrial sector in Jordan contributes to 24% of the GDP and accounts for 21% of the country’s workforce.

Jordan exports to many countries around the world and is empowered by supportive laws and regulations.

Madbouly, for his part, said the pandemic and the Russian-Ukrainian crises underlined the importance of this integration to achieve the interests of the three countries’ peoples, adding that it could become the cornerstone for a stronger and broader cooperation among Arabs.

He stressed that the current regional and international conditions make it imperative for Arab countries to maximize opportunities for integration, especially since each country has its unique competitive advantage and capabilities.

The projects that have been agreed upon will create an added value for the three countries and will have a positive impact on national security, local industry, and supply chain activities, the PM noted.



IMF Raises Growth Forecast for Saudi Economy to 6% in 2025

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) HQ2 Atrium on day 2 of the 2024 Spring Meetings of the IMF and the World Bank Group (WBG) in Washington, DC, USA, 16 April 2024. EPA/SHAWN THEW
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) HQ2 Atrium on day 2 of the 2024 Spring Meetings of the IMF and the World Bank Group (WBG) in Washington, DC, USA, 16 April 2024. EPA/SHAWN THEW
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IMF Raises Growth Forecast for Saudi Economy to 6% in 2025

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) HQ2 Atrium on day 2 of the 2024 Spring Meetings of the IMF and the World Bank Group (WBG) in Washington, DC, USA, 16 April 2024. EPA/SHAWN THEW
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) HQ2 Atrium on day 2 of the 2024 Spring Meetings of the IMF and the World Bank Group (WBG) in Washington, DC, USA, 16 April 2024. EPA/SHAWN THEW

The International Monetary Fund has raised its expectations for Saudi Arabia’s economic growth in 2025 to 6 percent – up from 5.5 percent predicted in January.

The IMF also said the Kingdom’s output will grow by 2.6 percent in 2024, down 0.1 percent compared to the previous projection.

Earlier in April, the World Bank also raised the growth prospects of the Kingdom’s economy to 5.9 percent in 2025, up from an earlier projection of 4.2 percent.

The World Bank said Saudi Arabia’s non-oil private sector is expected to grow by 4.8% during the current year due to expansionary public finance policies.


Yellen Says Iran’s Actions Could Cause Global ‘Economic Spillovers’, Warns of More Sanctions

 US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen speaks during a press conference amid the IMF-World Bank Group spring meetings, at the Treasury Department in Washington, DC on April 16, 2024. (AFP)
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen speaks during a press conference amid the IMF-World Bank Group spring meetings, at the Treasury Department in Washington, DC on April 16, 2024. (AFP)
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Yellen Says Iran’s Actions Could Cause Global ‘Economic Spillovers’, Warns of More Sanctions

 US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen speaks during a press conference amid the IMF-World Bank Group spring meetings, at the Treasury Department in Washington, DC on April 16, 2024. (AFP)
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen speaks during a press conference amid the IMF-World Bank Group spring meetings, at the Treasury Department in Washington, DC on April 16, 2024. (AFP)

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned Tuesday of potential global economic damage from rising tensions in the Middle East and pledged that the US and its allies won't hesitate to use their sanctions powers to address Iran's "malign and destabilizing activity" in the region.

She made her remarks ahead of this week's spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, saying Iran's weekend missile attack on Israel "underscores the importance of Treasury’s work to use our economic tools to counter Iran’s malign activity."

She added: "From this weekend’s attack to the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, Iran’s actions threaten the region’s stability and could cause economic spillovers."

Iran's missile attack on Israel early Sunday came in response to what it says was an Israeli strike on Iran's consulate in Syria earlier this month. Israel’s military chief said Monday that his country will respond to the attack, while world leaders caution against retaliation, trying to avoid a spiral of violence.

As the IMF and its fellow lending agency, the World Bank, hold their spring meetings this week, high on the agenda are the fast-rising tensions between Iran and Israel and what escalation could spell for the global economy.

Israel and Iran have been on a collision course throughout Israel’s six-month war against Hamas in Gaza. The war erupted after two armed groups backed by Iran led an attack on Oct. 7 that killed 1,200 people in Israel and kidnapped 250 others. An Israeli offensive in Gaza has caused widespread devastation and killed over 33,000 people, according to local health officials.

"We’ve targeted over 500 individuals and entities connected to terrorism and terrorist financing by the Iranian regime and its proxies since the start of the Administration," Yellen said, citing sanctions against Iran’s drone and missile programs, Hamas, the Houthi militias, Hezbollah, and other Iraqi militia groups.

"Treasury will not hesitate to work with our allies to use our sanctions authority to continue disrupting the Iranian regime’s malign and destabilizing activity," she said. "I fully expect we will take additional sanctions actions against Iran in the coming days."

The annual gathering will take place as other ongoing conflicts, including Russia's invasion of Ukraine, threaten global financial stability.

Yellen in February offered her strongest public support yet for the idea of liquidating roughly $300 billion in frozen Russian Central Bank assets and using them for Ukraine’s long-term reconstruction.

She said Tuesday that the US is "continuing to work with our international partners to unlock the economic value of immobilized Russian sovereign assets and ensure that Russia pays for the damage it has caused."

Yellen added that she will meet with Group of Seven finance leaders Wednesday to continue discussions on the topic and will look at "a series of possibilities, ranging from actually seizing the assets to using them as collateral."

Another major issue for this year's meetings on the US side, Yellen said, will be ongoing conversations about Chinese industrial policy that poses a threat to US jobs and the global economy. She traveled to Guangzhou and Beijing earlier this month, to hold "difficult conversations" with counterparts over what she describes as China's overcapacity in its wave of low-priced Chinese green tech exports that could overwhelm factories in the US and make it impossible to compete.

Yellen said she plans to meet later this week with her Chinese counterparts for a fourth meeting of the US-China Economic and Financial Working Groups, "to share information, identify potential areas of cooperation, and, when we disagree, frankly communicate concerns."

US Treasury and China’s Ministry of Finance launched the economic working groups in an effort to ease tensions and deepen ties between the nations.


Saudi Arabia, Pakistan Seek to Boost Trade, Support Investors

Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah and his Pakistani counterpart Ishaq Dar chair the Saudi-Pakistani Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC)  in Islamabad on Tuesday. (SPA)
Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah and his Pakistani counterpart Ishaq Dar chair the Saudi-Pakistani Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) in Islamabad on Tuesday. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia, Pakistan Seek to Boost Trade, Support Investors

Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah and his Pakistani counterpart Ishaq Dar chair the Saudi-Pakistani Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC)  in Islamabad on Tuesday. (SPA)
Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah and his Pakistani counterpart Ishaq Dar chair the Saudi-Pakistani Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) in Islamabad on Tuesday. (SPA)

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are seeking to bolster economic cooperation, boost the trade exchange between them and support investors to expand their work in the two countries.  

Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah and his Pakistani counterpart Ishaq Dar chaired in Islamabad on Tuesday a meeting of the Saudi-Pakistani Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC).  

A high-level Saudi delegation attended the meeting. It included Minister of Environment, Water, and Agriculture Abdulrahman Al-Fadley, Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Al-Khorayef, Advisor to the Royal Court Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri, Assistant Minister of Investment Ibrahim Al-Mubarak, as well as a number of senior officials from the ministries of foreign affairs and energy, Public Investment Fund, and the Saudi Fund for Development.  

Prince Faisal praised the deep-rooted Saudi-Pakistani relations, stressing that the Saudi delegation’s visit complements the meeting held by Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Prime Minister of Pakistan Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif in Makkah.  

For his part, Dar praised the deep bonds and strategic interests that bind Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. He highlighted the importance of bolstering the strategic and economic partnership and the vital role played by Saudi investments in boosting this bond. 

He highlighted the SIFC platform through which Islamabad is seeking to simplify investment operations and create a prosperous investment environment in Pakistan. 

He underlined the abundant opportunities for investment in Pakistan in the fields of agriculture, Information Technology, and mining, calling on Saudi investors to forge partnerships that are beneficial to both parties. 

Officials from the SIFC delivered comprehensive presentations about the investment opportunities in the main sectors of the Pakistani economy.  

For their part, Saudi officials stressed the importance of improving the investment environment in Pakistan, praising the role of the SIFC in amicably settling investment issues. 

The two parties set a bilateral executive mechanism to coordinate affairs related to investments so that pledges can be transformed into tangible results. 

Chairman of the Saudi-Pakistani Business Council Fahd al-Bash stressed to Asharq Al-Awsat the importance of the SIFC meeting, saying it was preparing a number of major investments in the Pakistani economy. 

This reflects Saudi Arabia’s commitment to supporting the people of Pakistan and bolstering economic and trade relations between the countries, he remarked.  

“We believe in the cooperation and partnership between the two countries and we aspire to boost these ties in various sectors through promising strategic investments and partnerships,” he added.  

“We are optimistic about the future of the economic and trade relations and look forward to a new chapter in fruitful and sustainable cooperation,” he went on to say. 

Prince Faisal is on an official visit to Pakistan where he met with President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif. 


Saudi Real Estate Experts Forecast Surge in Residential Property Demand

Al-Fursan Suburb... One of the housing projects in the northeast of the Saudi capital, Riyadh (National Housing Company)
Al-Fursan Suburb... One of the housing projects in the northeast of the Saudi capital, Riyadh (National Housing Company)
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Saudi Real Estate Experts Forecast Surge in Residential Property Demand

Al-Fursan Suburb... One of the housing projects in the northeast of the Saudi capital, Riyadh (National Housing Company)
Al-Fursan Suburb... One of the housing projects in the northeast of the Saudi capital, Riyadh (National Housing Company)

Saudi Arabia’s property prices rose by 0.6% in the first quarter of this year, mainly due to a 1.2% increase in residential property prices. Government programs are helping keep the market stable, and experts predict higher demand for homes soon.

The “Sakani” program, run by the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing, assisted 32,000 Saudi families in the first quarter, a 15% increase from last year.

Residential property prices went up by 1.2% annually, driven by a similar increase in land prices. Apartments saw an 0.8% increase, but residential buildings, villas, and houses experienced slight decreases.

Commercial property prices dropped by 0.5%, influenced by lower land and exhibition prices. However, prices for commercial buildings remained steady.

Experts note that residential property prices are resilient, thanks to government initiatives. They expect interest rate cuts this year, which could boost the real estate market.

Ahmed Al-Faqih, a real estate engineer and analyst, emphasized that reports from government entities and research companies have consistently shown that the increase in interest rates over the past two years has coincided with rising property prices and transaction values.

“This is driven by several government incentives, including the momentum of major real estate projects injected into Riyadh, which accounts for more than 35% of the real estate market transactions, as well as in Jeddah," Al-Faqih told Asharq Al-Awsat.

He noted that real estate transaction indicators have been on the rise since the fourth quarter of last year, indicating expectations of interest rate cuts multiple times during the current year, which would mean further activity in the real estate market.

According to Al-Faqih, the residential sector has not been significantly affected price-wise and has remained generally resilient, attributed to the supply and demand equation leaning towards increased demand and limited supply.

He mentioned that demand is driven by population growth, migration to major cities, and the possibility of property ownership for holders of distinguished residency.

The Housing Ministry aims to increase home ownership to 70% by 2030 by offering subsidized land and support programs. The market also relies on commercial, industrial, and investment properties.

Regulations like the “Real Estate Contributions” program aim to enhance transparency and protect stakeholders' rights. These efforts are expected to stimulate investments and drive growth in the real estate market.


Saudi Inflation Slows to Lowest Level Since 2021

A Saudi citizen buys sweets from one of the major stores in preparation for Eid al-Fitr (SPA)
A Saudi citizen buys sweets from one of the major stores in preparation for Eid al-Fitr (SPA)
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Saudi Inflation Slows to Lowest Level Since 2021

A Saudi citizen buys sweets from one of the major stores in preparation for Eid al-Fitr (SPA)
A Saudi citizen buys sweets from one of the major stores in preparation for Eid al-Fitr (SPA)

In March, inflation in Saudi Arabia slowed down to its lowest level since 2021, hitting 1.6% annually compared to 1.8% in February.

This drop was mainly due to a slowdown in food and beverage price increases. However, housing rents continued to climb, reaching 10.5%.

In June 2021, inflation peaked at 6.16%, according to data from Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Statistics (GASTAT).

Among the G20 nations, Saudi Arabia ranks third lowest in inflation rates, trailing behind Switzerland and Italy.

According to the World Bank’s latest report for the Middle East and North Africa, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have managed to keep inflation in check through strict monetary policies and support for food and energy prices.

Recent data from GASTAT shows that housing and utility prices went up by 8.8%, while food and drink prices rose by 0.9%. However, transportation costs fell by 1.8%, and prices for miscellaneous goods and personal services increased by 1.1%.

Experts speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat say the Saudi government's measures have kept inflation lower compared to global economies.

Mohammed Bin Duleim Al-Qahtani, an economist at King Faisal University, pointed out that housing, rent, dining out, and electricity prices still affect inflation.

He believes the economy will grow, preventing major economic downturns over the next couple of years. Al-Qahtani also expected inflation to drop significantly by 2028.

Nasser Al-Quraowi, head of the Saudi Center for Studies and Research, said Saudi Arabia ranks among the top five countries in stable inflation despite global crises.

He emphasized the state’s role in protecting citizens and residents’ living standards, which will remain a priority for inflation control in the future.


NEOM Hosts Global Contractor Forum to Shape Future Projects

With the help of the companies that participated in the forum, the workforce is anticipated to grow to over 200,000 by next year - SPA
With the help of the companies that participated in the forum, the workforce is anticipated to grow to over 200,000 by next year - SPA
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NEOM Hosts Global Contractor Forum to Shape Future Projects

With the help of the companies that participated in the forum, the workforce is anticipated to grow to over 200,000 by next year - SPA
With the help of the companies that participated in the forum, the workforce is anticipated to grow to over 200,000 by next year - SPA

NEOM, the sustainable development taking shape in the northwest of Saudi Arabia, brought together over 100 of the world’s leading construction companies for a two-day industry forum, SPA reported.

The gathering, held in NEOM, showcased on-the-ground construction progress while highlighting future developments as NEOM advances into the next stage of its vast portfolio of projects.
As NEOM’s projects transition into a new phase of execution, the demand for top-tier construction proficiency is vital to deliver some of the most ambitious development projects the world has ever seen. These bold projects include the 170 km long city, THE LINE, currently being built in modular phases, with the first phase welcoming residents in 2030. The forum also emphasized the importance of innovation within the industry and how traditional construction methods will not meet the scale and scope of NEOM. Additionally, on-the-ground progress was showcased throughout NEOM, including construction progress on THE LINE, the Spine, Oxagon, Trojena, and the NEOM International Airport.
The forum opened with an address by the CEO of NEOM, Nadhmi Al-Nasr, stating: "As we go into our busiest ever phase of development, the scale of opportunities across NEOM is monumental. With projects progressing fast across all parts of the region, we are committed to collaborating with globally renowned contractors to achieve the vision of NEOM".
Attendees benefited from insights into the plans and scope of upcoming opportunities. Additionally, they visited project sites to witness first-hand the construction currently taking place, which is already on a massive scale seldom seen anywhere in the world. The event also included one-on-one meetings during which specific business opportunities were discussed as contractors displayed their services and capabilities.
The forum hosted a mix of firms from Saudi Arabia, along with international firms from Asia, Europe, North America, and North Africa. Construction is currently underway throughout all of NEOM, with a construction workforce of over 140,000. With the help of the companies that participated in the forum, the workforce is anticipated to grow to over 200,000 by next year.


World Bank Expects MENA GDP to Rise to 2.7% in 2024 Amid Heightened Uncertainty

MENA’s gross domestic product (GDP) is forecast to rise to 2.7% in 2024, which is a tepid increase from 1.9% in 2023.  (Reuters)
MENA’s gross domestic product (GDP) is forecast to rise to 2.7% in 2024, which is a tepid increase from 1.9% in 2023. (Reuters)
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World Bank Expects MENA GDP to Rise to 2.7% in 2024 Amid Heightened Uncertainty

MENA’s gross domestic product (GDP) is forecast to rise to 2.7% in 2024, which is a tepid increase from 1.9% in 2023.  (Reuters)
MENA’s gross domestic product (GDP) is forecast to rise to 2.7% in 2024, which is a tepid increase from 1.9% in 2023. (Reuters)

The World Bank’s new Middle East and North Africa Economic Update, entitled “Conflict and Debt in the Middle East and North Africa”, shows that lackluster growth, rising indebtedness and heightened uncertainty due to the conflict in the Middle East are impacting economies across the region.

According to the report, MENA economies are expected to return to low growth akin to the decade prior to the pandemic. MENA’s gross domestic product (GDP) is forecast to rise to 2.7% in 2024, which is a tepid increase from 1.9% in 2023.

As in 2023, oil importing and oil exporting countries are likely to grow at less disparate rates than 2022, when higher oil prices boosted growth in oil exporters.

For Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, the 2024 growth uptick reflects expectations of robust non-oil sector activity and fading out of oil production cuts towards the end of the year. GDP growth in almost all oil importing countries is expected to decelerate.

The report looks at the economic impact of the conflict in the Middle East on the region. Economic activity in Gaza has come to a near standstill. The GDP of the Gaza strip dropped by 86% in the last quarter of 2023. The West Bank has plunged into a recession, with simultaneous public and private sector crises. Recent World Bank reports go into further depth on damages to the Gaza Strip and catastrophic impacts on the people of Gaza.

The economic impact of the conflict on the rest of the region has remained relatively contained, but uncertainty has increased. For example, the shipping industry has coped with shocks to maritime transport by rerouting vessels away from the Red Sea, but any prolonged disruptions to routes through the Suez Canal could increase commodity prices regionally and globally.

The report also looks at rising indebtedness in the MENA region. Between 2013 and 2019, the median debt-to-GDP ratio for MENA economies increased by more than 23 percentage points. The pandemic made things worse as declines in revenue, together with pandemic support spending, increased financing needs for many countries.

This rising indebtedness is heavily concentrated in oil-importing economies, which now have a debt-to-GDP ratio 50 percent higher than the global average of emerging markets and developing economies. Approaching 90 percent of GDP in 2023, oil-importing countries in MENA have a debt-to-GDP ratio almost three times higher than that of oil exporting countries in the region.

The report presents evidence that oil-importing countries in MENA have been unable to grow out of debt or inflate their debt away, making fiscal discipline essential to curb indebtedness. Critically, off-budget items which have played a large role in some MENA economies have been to the detriment of debt and fiscal transparency. The challenge for oil exporters is one of economic and fiscal-revenue diversification, given the structural change in global oil markets and the rising demand for renewable sources of energy. Overall, MENA economies need to undertake structural reforms, chief among them transparency, to unlock growth and forge a sustainable path ahead.


Gold Rises After Iran Attacks Israel

Gold bars are displayed at a gold jewelry shop in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh November 4, 2009. REUTERS/Ajay Verma/File Photo
Gold bars are displayed at a gold jewelry shop in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh November 4, 2009. REUTERS/Ajay Verma/File Photo
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Gold Rises After Iran Attacks Israel

Gold bars are displayed at a gold jewelry shop in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh November 4, 2009. REUTERS/Ajay Verma/File Photo
Gold bars are displayed at a gold jewelry shop in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh November 4, 2009. REUTERS/Ajay Verma/File Photo

Gold prices rose on Monday, attracting some safe haven bids, while oil prices were choppy after Iran's retaliatory attack on Israel over the weekend stoked fears of a wider regional conflict and kept traders on edge for what comes next.

US stock futures ticked higher after major indexes ended sharply lower on Friday as results from major US banks failed to impress.

Iran had, late on Saturday, launched explosive drones and missiles at Israel in retaliation for a suspected Israeli attack on its consulate in Syria on April 1, marking its first direct attack on Israeli territory.

The threat of open warfare erupting between the arch Middle East foes and dragging in the United States has left the region on tenterhooks, as US President Joe Biden warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the US will not take part in a counter-offensive against Iran.

Israel said "the campaign is not over yet".

Global markets struggled for direction early in Asia on Monday after the weekend developments in the Middle East, as oil prices edged broadly lower in volatile trade, gold jumped and the dollar held broadly steady.

Gold rose 0.7% to $2,359.92 an ounce, after having scaled a record of $2,431.29 on Friday. The yellow metal has climbed some 14% for the year thus far.

"Everything seems pretty well contained," said Chris Weston, head of research at Pepperstone. "From a very simplistic perspective, the actions from Iran haven't really surprised anyone, they're very much in line with what we were pricing late last week.

"What may be causing a slight move up in the gold price... is the idea that we could see another counter response from Israel, and if that was to happen... that could cause risk (assets) to move down."


Indian Shares Fall as Middle East Tensions Spook Investors

The new logo of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) building is seen in Mumbai, India, July 12, 2023. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/File photo Purchase Licensing Rights
The new logo of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) building is seen in Mumbai, India, July 12, 2023. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/File photo Purchase Licensing Rights
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Indian Shares Fall as Middle East Tensions Spook Investors

The new logo of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) building is seen in Mumbai, India, July 12, 2023. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/File photo Purchase Licensing Rights
The new logo of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) building is seen in Mumbai, India, July 12, 2023. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/File photo Purchase Licensing Rights

Indian shares fell on Monday as investors sold riskier assets after Iran's retaliatory attack on Israel over the weekend spurred fears of a wider regional conflict.

The NSE Nifty 50 (.NSEI), opens new tab was down 0.73% at 22,354.70 as of 10:10 a.m. IST, while the S&P BSE Sensex (.BSESN), opens new tab fell 0.75% to 73,687.02.

"Risk sentiment took a hit after Iran's retaliatory attack on Israel over the weekend stoked fears of a wider conflict in the Middle East region and kept traders on edge," analysts at SMC Global Securities said in a note on Monday, Reuters reported.

"The worries in the Middle East have rattled all financial markets, pushing investors to look for safer places for their money."

Forty-one of the Nifty 50 stocks declined. All the 13 major sectors logged losses.

Shares of Indian rice and tea exporters fell amid escalations in Middle East tensions. India is one of the top exporters of basmati rice and tea, and Iran is a leading buyer of those commodities.

Other Asian peers also traded lower, with the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index (.MIAPJ0000PUS), opens new tab shedding 0.72%.

Among individual stocks, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS.NS), opens new tab, India's top software services firm by revenue, gained 0.8% and was among the top five Nifty 50 gainers.

"While the company reported lower-than-expected revenue in March quarter, we still expect TCS to lead peers on revenue growth in fiscal year 2024, aided by ramp-up of mega deals," analysts at Kotak Institutional Equities said.

Aluminium producer Hindalco Industries (HALC.NS), opens new tab gained 2.5% and was the top Nifty 50 gainer, after the US and UK imposed restrictions on the trading of new Russian commodities on the London Metals Exchange and on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

This (development) should be most positive for aluminium prices and shares of aluminium producers, Jefferies said.

The broader, more domestically-focussed small- (.NIFSMCP100), opens new tab and mid-caps (.NIFMDCP100), opens new tab lost about 3% and 2%, respectively, after outperforming the benchmarks in April, ahead of the session.


Europe Aviation Agency Urges Caution in Israeli, Iranian Airspace 

A view from the southern Gaza strip shows drones or missiles vying for targets in southern Israel, early 14 April 2024. (EPA)
A view from the southern Gaza strip shows drones or missiles vying for targets in southern Israel, early 14 April 2024. (EPA)
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Europe Aviation Agency Urges Caution in Israeli, Iranian Airspace 

A view from the southern Gaza strip shows drones or missiles vying for targets in southern Israel, early 14 April 2024. (EPA)
A view from the southern Gaza strip shows drones or missiles vying for targets in southern Israel, early 14 April 2024. (EPA)

Europe's aviation regulator reaffirmed advice to airlines to use caution in Israeli and Iranian airspace though it said no civil overflights had been placed at risk during weekend tensions surrounding Iranian drone and missile strikes on Israel. 

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said it and the European Commission would "continue to closely monitor the situation to assess any potential safety risks for EU aircraft operators and be ready to act as appropriate". 

EASA guidance that is already in place for airlines on Israel and Iran continues to apply, it said in an emailed note. 

That included exercising caution and following all available aeronautical publications for Israel and neighboring airspace up to 100 nautical miles surrounding the country. 

For Iran, it recommended caution and said "there continues to be an increased potential for miscalculation and/or misidentification" in airspace over the Iranian capital Tehran. 

Global airlines face some disruption after Iran's attack on Israel with more than 300 missiles and drones, which were mostly shot down by Israel's US-backed missile defense system or its allies before they reached Israeli airspace. 

The attack was in response to a suspected Israeli airstrike on Iran's Syria consulate on April 1 in which seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards commanders and officers were killed. 

EASA said all affected airspaces - Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Iran - were closed by the relevant authorities during the relevant period. 

"There was no overflight risk for civil aviation at any time," it said. An overflight involves an aircraft transiting through airspace, typically at high cruising altitude. 

All the temporary airspace closures imposed at the weekend expired on Sunday, EASA said.