1 Second yuan devaluation stuns global markets (Phillip Inman & Fergus Ryan in The Guardian) China’s stunning of the world’s financial markets on Wednesday by devaluing its currency for a second consecutive day, has triggered fears its economy is in worse shape than investors believed.
The move sent fresh shockwaves through global markets, pushing shares sharply lower and sending commodity prices further into reverse as traders feared the move could also ignite a currency war that would destabilise the world economy.
The Chinese authorities have acted after a string of poor economic figures showed that previous efforts to boost exports and growth against the headwind of an overvalued currency had failed. A drop of 6.6% in car sales in July followed data at the weekend showing an 8% fall in exports and slowing business investment growth in the same month.
One financial analyst said the devaluation, which pushed the yuan to a four-year low, heralded a tidal wave of cheap goods from Asia as other south east Asian countries followed suit.
Oil prices remained below $50 a barrel, down from more than $110 a barrel last summer when the slowdown in China first became apparent. The prices of key industrial and construction metals – nickel, copper and aluminium – hit six-year lows.
2 Kraft Heinz announces 2,500 job cuts (BBC) Kraft Heinz has announced it is cutting about 2,500 jobs in the US and Canada following its recent merger. A spokesmen said that about 700 of the jobs were going at Kraft’s headquarters in Illinois. Executives hope to save $1.5bn in annual costs by 2017.
Kraft Heinz is the third largest food company in North America following the merger between Kraft and Heinz earlier this year. The deal was engineered by Heinz’s owners, the Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital, and billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. The food giant owns brands including Jell-O, Heinz baked beans and Velveeta.
The merger was seen as attractive because it meant manufacturing and distribution could be combined saving millions of dollars a year.
3 Oil fall set to hurt Middle East banking sector (Cleofe Maceda in Gulf News) After posting positive results in the past year, Islamic banks in the UAE and the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region are likely to see profits slowing down in 2015 as the fall in oil revenues threaten the growth of regional economies.
According to a report by Standard & Poor’s Rating Services, the “gradual weakening in economic conditions” will “adversely” affect the banking industry in the region. Growth of net income and deposits in Gulf-based Islamic banks will slow down, while asset quality is seen to deteriorate.
Since June last year, global oil prices have been falling and a strong recovery in the near term seems unlikely. S&P predicts that prices will remain “relatively weak through 2016”, with Brent crude forecast to average $55 per barrel in 2015, $65 in 2016 and about $75 in 2017.
“Given the importance of oil-related revenues to the region’s economies, the ensuing gradual weakening in economic conditions for the sovereign states that make up the [GCC] – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – will in our view adversely affect their banking sectors,” S&P said in a statement.
Sources in the industry have said that liquidity conditions in the country are already tight. “There seems to be a worrying trend. Government and public sector deposits are declining. Certificates of deposits issued by [the Central Bank] to absorb excess liquidity in the sector have been declining as well. All these signal a tightening liquidity condition,” Alp Eke, senior economist at the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, id.
S&P, however, noted that demand for Sharia-compliant products and supportive government actions will still enable Islamic banks to continue to grow and gradually increase their market share. Among the GCC economies, S&P said that the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia continue to offer the “strongest growth opportunities” in the region.