1 US jobs growth loses steam (Natalie Sherman on BBC) US employers added fewer jobs than expected in December, capping a year of slowing jobs growth. Non-farm payrolls rose by 148,000 last month, amid losses in the retail sector, the Labor Department said. But the unemployment rate held steady at 4.1%, the lowest it has been since 2000.
Analysts say the tightening labour market, which makes it harder to hire, is driving a broader slowdown in job creation. The US has experienced years of economic expansion, which has boosted economic growth above 3% in recent quarters and produced annual job gains exceeding 2 million for the past seven years.
The gains are making inroads among parts of the workforce that have been slower to benefit from the economic recovery. Nationally, the unemployment rate has hovered at 4.1% since October, a rate not seen since 2000. Economists have been puzzled that the lower rates have not produced stronger wage growth in recent years.
2 Why oil may boil in 2018 (Issac John in Khaleej Times) The nearly two-year high upswing in oil price came as an unexpected boon for Gulf oil exporters, who now have more reasons to be upbeat about a robust rebound in 2018 and start the year with a bang.
Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were at $67.29 on Tuesday, the most since May 2015. For the economies of oil-rich GCC countries, which are embarking on new round of bold reforms, including the introduction of value added tax to boost their revenue streams, the pick up in oil price will give added momentum to their expansionary spending agenda and diversification drive.
The UAE is among the most strongly-positioned GCC sovereigns in terms of both the size of their financial assets compared to government spending and low fiscal break-even oil prices, while Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain have a higher fiscal break-even oil price along with much lower financial assets on which to draw.
Global demand is expected to rise to 98.45 mbpd in 2018 from 96.94 mbpd in 2017 with demand for Opec crude to rise to 33.4 mbpd from 33 mbpd in 2017.
Lukman Otunuga, research analyst at FXTM, said “Supply disruptions, geopolitical risk, and market optimism over Opec- and Russia-led supply cuts could continue to support the upside; but the question is, for how long? Rising production from US Shale producers still poses a threat to higher oil prices, and the upside could face some headwinds down the line.”
3 Malaysia’s market for modest wear (Nadirah H Rodizi in Straits Times) Malaysian engineer Aliaa Mohd Sharizan likes to keep ahead when it comes to fashion. In a country where most Muslim women wear a headdress, the fashionable 36-year-old has several thousand dollars’ worth of headscarves from two brands that have taken Malaysia by storm – dUCk and Naelofar Hijab.
The brands are riding the wave of a phenomenon called “modest wear” that is sweeping the world. Modest wear aligns with contemporary fashion but is geared to the needs of Muslim women, offering style and diversity.
The numbers show just how popular they are: Muslim women spent $44 billion in 2015 on modest wear, according to the 2016-2017 State of the Global Islamic Economy Report (Gier). It was the first time this report, the latest available, included estimates on spending on modest wear.
The $44 billion represents the amount of spending by women over age 14 on modest apparel, excluding footwear. “The clothing may be modest, the success is anything but,” says the report. In recent years, Malaysia has emerged as one of the global trendsetters in modest wear. Women there are also embracing the wearing of Islamic-suitable cosmetics.
Helping fuel the interest in modest wear is the wide presence of social media, with its visuals providing the opportunity for Muslim women to become more fashion-conscious and to represent themselves through their choice of wardrobe.