Egypt’s GDP growth seen slowing to 5.5% in current fiscal year: poll

Egypt’s non-oil private-sector activity contracted for the second consecutive month in June, according to the Emirates NBD Egypt Purchasing Managers’ Index. (AFP)
Updated 24 July 2019

Egypt’s GDP growth seen slowing to 5.5% in current fiscal year: poll

  • Egypt’s economy has struggled to attract foreign investors since the 2011 uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule
  • Egypt’s non-oil private-sector activity contracted for the second consecutive month in June

CAIRO: Egypt’s economic growth is expected to slow to 5.5 percent in the fiscal year that began this month, below the government’s target, and 5.8 percent the following year, a Reuters poll showed, as Cairo nears the end of an IMF-backed economic reform program.
The forecasts were similar to a Reuters survey of economists released three months ago but fiscal 2019/20 growth was seen lower than the government’s target of 6 percent.
Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said last week Egypt’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew 5.6 percent in the 2018/19 fiscal year, a bit higher than the 5.5 percent expected in the April Reuters poll.
Barring the oil industry, Egypt’s economy has struggled to attract foreign investors since the 2011 uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.
Egypt’s non-oil private-sector activity contracted for the second consecutive month in June, according to the Emirates NBD Egypt Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI). Private-sector activity has expanded in only five months over the last three years.
“Even as leading economic indicators point toward weak consumer spending and stress on local firms, rising investment and government spending are supporting higher economic growth,” said Nadene Johnson, an economist at NKC African Economics.
“Medium-term growth prospects remain promising thanks to the natural gas sector and higher investment, while consumption is expected to recover following the completion of inflationary reforms.”
Earlier this month, Egypt introduced its latest round of fuel subsidy cuts, raising prices by 16-30 percent, as it nears the end of the IMF program.
Scaling back fuel subsidies that have been a strain on the budget for decades was a key plank of the three-year, $12 billion reform package signed with the International Monetary Fund in 2016, as Egypt’s economy struggled to recover from the turmoil that followed the 2011 uprising.
Other reforms included a sharp devaluation of the Egyptian pound and the introduction of a value-added tax.
“Rising fuel and electricity prices in association with energy subsidy reforms will keep inflation elevated in the coming months,” Johnson said. She expects the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) to cut rates by 100 basis points in the fourth quarter of 2019.
Median forecasts from the poll showed predicted 5.8 percent GDP growth in the fiscal year ending in June 2021 and 5.5 percent in the 2021/2022 fiscal year.
To fuel growth, “interest rates need to be cut by at least 300 basis points,” said Allen Sandeep, head of research at Naeem Brokerage.
“And hopefully, that would increase spending and investments, and also ease the tightness in liquidity which we are currently witnessing,” he said.
The new consensus sees Egypt’s urban consumer inflation at 13.0 percent in the 2019/20 fiscal year, down from the 14.2 percent predicted three months ago for the prior fiscal year.
Annual urban consumer price inflation plunged unexpectedly to 9.4 percent in June from 14.1 percent in May, before fuel prices were raised.
Analysts expect headline inflation to decelerate to 10.9 percent in the 2020/21 fiscal year and 9.0 percent in the 2021/2022 fiscal year.
Core inflation, which strips out volatile items such as food, fell to 6.4 percent in June from 7.8 percent in May.
Millions of Egyptians live below the poverty line and struggle to meet basic needs. They have faced rising costs since the pound was devalued in November 2016.
Angus Blair, chairman of business and economic forecasting think-tank Signet, said Egypt’s inflation has long been higher than global averages.
“There has been some success in bringing the inflation rate down,” he said.
“But concerns will remain around food price inflation pressures, particularly due to potential temperature changes affecting agricultural supplies within Egypt and globally.”


Oil prices fall but losses limited by Brexit deal hopes

Updated 18 October 2019

Oil prices fall but losses limited by Brexit deal hopes

  • US retail sales in September fell for the first time in seven months adding to economy fears

LONDON: Oil prices fell on Thursday as industry data showed a larger than expected increase in US inventories but losses were limited after Britain and the EU announced they had reached a deal on Brexit.

Global benchmark Brent crude was down 37 cents at $59.05 in afternoon London trade while US WTI crude was also down 37 cents, at $52.99.

US crude inventories soared by 10.5 million barrels to 432.5 million barrels in the week to Oct. 11, the American Petroleum Institute’s weekly report showed, ahead of official government stocks data.

Analysts had estimated US crude inventories rose by 2.8 million barrels last week.

“US sanctions imposed on Chinese shipping company COSCO are seriously denting demand for imported crude ... This has a profound impact on US crude oil inventories as reflected in last night’s API report,” said Tamas Varga, an analyst at PVM Oil Associates.

“US refinery maintenance is not helping to reverse the current trend and further builds in US crude oil inventories can be expected in the next few weeks.”

The US imposed sanctions on COSCO Shipping Tanker (Dalian) and subsidiary COSCO Shipping Tanker (Dalian) Seaman & Ship Management for allegedly carrying Iranian oil.

Adding to concerns about the global economy — and therefore oil demand — data from the US showed retail sales in September fell for the first time in seven months. Earlier data showed a moderation in job growth and services sector activity.

Nevertheless, Brexit developments helped limit oil’s decline. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain and the EU had agreed a “great” new deal and urged lawmakers to approve it when they meet for a special session at the weekend.

Analysts have said any agreement that avoids a no-deal Brexit should boost economic growth and oil demand.

However, the Northern Irish party whose support Johnson needs to help ratify any agreement, has said that it refused to support the pact.

Hopes of a potential US-China trade deal also supported oil. The commerce ministry in Beijing said China hoped to reach a phased agreement with Washington as early as possible.

But the German government has lowered its 2020 forecast for economic growth to 1 percent from 1.5 percent, the economy ministry said. It said Germany, Europe’s largest economy, was not facing a crisis.