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French economy shrinks 6% in Q1: Bank of France

April 8, 2020: In its worst performance since 1945, the French economy shrank around six percent in the first quarter of this year as the coronavirus pandemic decimated business activity, the Bank of France said Wednesday.

Official figures showed previously that the economy shrank 0.1 percent in the last three months of 2019, meaning that with two consecutive quarters of negative growth, the country is now technically in recession.

The French central bank said that in the last two weeks of March, as the coronavirus crisis deepened, economic activity plunged 32 percent.

"You have to go back to the second quarter of 1968, hit by the May (political upheaval), to find a similar fall in activity," it said, noting that even that year the downturn was 5.3 percent, still less than the latest figures.

For every two weeks, the country is locked down by the virus, the Bank of France expects the economy to shrink by 1.5 percent.

At the same time, it cautioned against a simple, straight-line extrapolation of the estimates since the situation is developing.

The current lockdown began March 17 and has been extended by two weeks to April 15 but the authorities have suggested this could be kept in place longer if the virus shows no sign of at least levelling off.

Among the worst affected sectors of the economy, the Bank of France listed construction, transport, restaurants and lodging.


Coronavirus sinks global growth prospects for first half of...

April 8, 2020 (MLN): The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has recently published another report examining and explaining the impact of COVID-19 on global growth prospects. 

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the EIU expected global real GDP growth to be lackluster this year, at 2.3% (at market exchange rates).

‘The coronavirus pandemic is a game-changer, and we now expect global output to contract by 2.5% this year—an even deeper contraction than during the global financial crisis. The negative effect on growth will come via both demand and supply channels’, the report said.

On the one hand, quarantine measures, illness, and negative consumer and business sentiment will suppress demand. At the same time, the closure of some factories and disruption to supply chains will create supply bottlenecks, it added.

The economic shock will be mostly concentrated in the first half of this year, with regional variations that follow the gradual spread of the pandemic across the globe. A modest rebound in global output is expected in the second half of 2020, provided that the spread of coronavirus is largely contained globally and no second or third waves of the pandemic occur. However, the impact on confidence and demand will be long-lasting.

A rise in uncertainty will lead to increased precautionary savings among households and delayed business investment. Some consumers may also continue to self-quarantine after governments lift lockdowns for fear of contracting the coronavirus, which will constrict the recovery in private consumption. In a worst-case scenario, sovereign debt crises could take place if efforts to contain the pandemic drain fiscal revenues and drastically increase public expenses across developed countries.

This is compounded by the fact that many of the European countries that are among the worst affected by the pandemic, such as Italy and Spain, already had weak fiscal positions before the outbreak. A potential debt crisis in any of these countries would quickly spread to other developed countries and emerging markets, sending the global economy into another—possibly much deeper—downturn.

China was the first country hit by the coronavirus outbreak. After an initially slow response, the Chinese authorities placed Hubei and other provinces on lockdown, significantly restricting economic activity in areas that are crucially important to national and international supply chains. Chinese citizens have cut down on spending, which means that firms working in service sectors such as catering and accommodation have struggled to remain afloat.

Recent data also show that industrial output, as well as property and fixed-asset investments, plunged by record-high levels in January-February. This probably means that China’s output contracted by 10.9% quarter on quarter in January-March. There are signs that activity in China is now slowly starting to recover, with the Chinese leadership keen to normalize the situation and gradually lift quarantine measures.

Against this backdrop, the EIU expects growth to rebound to 9.2% quarter on quarter in April-June. ‘However, this will mainly be due to base effects, and we believe that China’s full-year growth will be a mere 1%. Across Europe, the containment measures adopted to slow the spread of coronavirus will lead all economies to contract in 2020’ the report said.

‘We believe that Italy, which currently reports the highest number of deaths worldwide, saw its output drop by 5% quarter on quarter in the first quarter of this year as lockdown measures severely disrupted economic activity. The picture looks even worse across the entire eurozone for the second quarter, with all countries expected to post a contraction of their output on a quarterly basis’, it added.

The situation appears especially grim in Germany. The country’s huge manufacturing sector (which represents a fifth of the economy) is highly export-oriented, which means that the country is particularly exposed to both supply chain disruption and sinking global demand.

‘We expect that Germany’s output will contract by 10% in the second quarter on a quarterly basis, and by 6% overall this year. The country’s recovery will be slower than that of other eurozone countries, such as France, where typically more resilient domestic consumption represents a larger driver of growth’ EIU added.

Coronavirus is rapidly spreading in the US, which now reports the highest number of cases worldwide. The impact of the pandemic on US growth will be mainly felt during the second quarter of this year when the output is expected to contract by 5.9% quarter on quarter.

The US administration’s initial response to the coronavirus outbreak was particularly poor and haphazard, allowing the virus to spread quickly. Factoring in the abrupt implementation of measures needed to contain the virus, the steep jump in jobless claims in late March and sluggish progress in accelerating testing for coronavirus, EIU now expects real GDP to contract by 2.9% in 2020. This is still an optimistic baseline scenario, which would be derailed if containment measures are not lifted by the second half of this year.

It also assumes that recent federal stimulus measures—amounting to US$2trn, more than double the size of the stimulus bill approved in response to the global financial crisis—are implemented quickly, giving workers in the services sector access to vital financial support. 

Economic Intelligence Unit



EU finance ministers fail to clinch virus rescue deal

Apr 08, 2020: EU finance ministers failed on Wednesday to agree on a bailout plan to help hard hit member states face the coronavirus outbreak, after Italy refused to abandon its plea for "coronabonds" to share the burden.

"After 16 hours of discussions, we came close to a deal but we are not there yet. I suspended the Eurogroup and (we will) continue tomorrow Thursday," said Eurogroup chief Mario Centeno.


Pakistan gets a leeway of 5 months for compliance...


April 8, 2020 (MLN): The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has provided Pakistan with a leeway of 5 additional months, for compliance with the 13 outstanding conditions for money laundering and terror financing.

Several media agencies on Wednesday reported that the step was taken after taking into consideration the outbreak of COVID-19 across the globe.

By virtue of this decision, Pakistan’s performance review shall take place in October instead of June.

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Government’s debt burden rises by 21% YoY in Feb’20

April 8, 2020 (MLN): The total debt of Central Government during the month of February 2020 stood at Rs. 33.42 trillion, i.e. merely 1 percent higher than the figures reported last month. whereas, on a yearly basis, this debt figure was 21% higher compared to Rs 27.54 trillion recorded in February 2019.

The data released by the State Bank of Pakistan says that the larger portion of the debt was domestic, whereas the remaining was external. The Central Government Domestic Debt amounted to Rs. 22.19 trillion during the month, signifying a growth of 21% YoY and 2% MoM.

Central government’s domestic debt is divided into two broad categories i.e. long-term debt and short-term debt. Long-term debt is further divided into three broad categories namely; Market loans, Federal government bonds and Prize Bonds which collectively termed as permanent debt. By the end of February 2020, the government’s long-term debt increased marginally MoM while on yearly basis, it surged 2.2 times to Rs 16.88 trillion, as it stood at Rs 7.77 trillion at the end of February 2019.

Within the long-term domestic debt, the Pakistan Investment Bonds (PIBs) accounted for Rs. 12.3 trillion, and Saving Schemes accounted for Rs. 3.29 trillion.

With regards to the government’s short-term debt which comprises of Bai Muajjal, Market Treasury Bills, MTBs for Replenishment of Cash and Outright Sale of MRTS to Banks clocked in at Rs 5.3 trillion during the month under review, depicting a significant decline of 50% YoY and a jump of 5% MoM.

In the short-term, the major portion of the debt was MTBs which amounted to Rs 5 trillion, depicting a growth of 39% YoY and 5% MoM.  

Meanwhile, the Central government’s External debt logged in at Rs 11.23 trillion, registering an upsurge of 22% YoY, as it stood at Rs 9.23 trillion at the end of February 2019.

A breakup of the Central Government External Debt shows that nearly Rs. 10.55 trillion came from long-term loans while Rs. 681.6 billion came from short-term loans.

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