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RIYADH:  The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resulting surge in energy and commodity prices will slash euro zone economic growth this year and next, while boosting inflation to record levels, the European Commission forecast on Monday.
The commission cut its growth forecast for the 19 countries sharing the euro to 2.7 percent this year from 4 percent predicted only in February, shortly before the war in Ukraine started. Growth will then slow to 2.3 percent next year, also below the 2.7 percent seen before.
The forecast is the first comprehensive estimate of the economic cost of the conflict in its neighbor for the euro zone and the wider 27-nation EU.
“The outlook for the EU economy before the outbreak of the war was for a prolonged and robust expansion. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has posed new challenges, just as the Union had recovered from the economic impacts of the pandemic,” the commission said in a statement.
“By exerting further upward pressures on commodity prices, causing renewed supply disruptions and increasing uncertainty, the war is exacerbating pre-existing headwinds to growth, which were previously expected to subside.”
Inflation, which the European Central Bank wants to keep at 2 percent will be 6.1 percent this year, the Commission forecast, falling to 2.7 percent — still well above the ECB’s target — next year. Before the war, the Commission expected prices to grow 3.5 percent in 2022 and 1.7 percent in 2023.
The scenario of an abrupt cut-off by Russia of gas supplies would boost inflation by an additional 3 percentage points in 2022 and an extra 1 percentage point in 2023, the Commission said.
Polish net inflation
Poland’s net Consumer Price Index excluding food and energy saw a rise by 0.8 percent in April reaching 7.7 percent year-on-year, showed a table published by the central bank on Monday.
Analysts polled by Reuters had expected April net inflation — excluding food and energy prices — year-on-year of 7.5 percent.
German manufacturing backlog 
German manufacturers’ order backlog is at a record high, according to a survey released on Monday, as companies struggle against supply bottlenecks in meeting high demand.
Even without a single new order, production could continue for 4.5 months, the Munich-based ifo institute said in a statement, citing the results of a survey in which around 2,000 companies took part between April 7 and 22.
In the previous survey, in January, the figure had been 4.4 months, while the long-term average for an order backlog was 2.9 months, the institute said. The data is seasonally adjusted.
“This recent increase in backlog is only slight, which indicates that the intake of new orders is gradually decreasing,” Timo Wollmershauser, head of forecasts at ifo, said, adding that German manufacturing would “really take off” if the supply-chain issues were to ease in coming months.
China’s April property sales 
China’s property sales in April fell at their fastest pace in around 16 years as COVID-19 lockdowns further cooled demand despite more policy easing steps aimed at reviving a key pillar of the world’s second-largest economy.
Property sales by value in April slumped 46.6 percent from a year earlier, the biggest drop since August 2006, and sharply widening from the 26.17 percent fall in March, according to Reuters calculations based on data from the National Bureau of Statistics released on Monday.
Property sales in January-April by value fell 29.5 percent year-on-year, compared with a 22.7 percent decline in the first three months.
A further cut in mortgage loan interest rates for some home buyers announced by Chinese authorities on Sunday did little to convince investors and analysts that it could revive sluggish property demand. 
Japan wholesale prices
Japan’s wholesale prices in April jumped 10 percent from the same month a year earlier, data showed on Monday, rising at a record rate as the Ukraine crisis and a weak yen pushed up the cost of energy and raw materials.
The surge in the corporate goods price index, which measures the price companies charge each other for their goods and services, marked the fastest year-on-year rise in a single month since comparable data became available in 1981.
The gain followed a revised 9.7 percent increase in March, and was higher than a median market forecast for a 9.4 percent increase.
Unlike other central banks worried about surging inflation, the Bank of Japan (BOJ) has kept its ultra-easy monetary policy in place on the view that the cost-push rise in inflation is not bringing long-term price expectations to its 2 percent target.
“Companies have been trying to absorb the rising costs by corporate efforts, but from last year onwards that has become harder for them to endure,” said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute.
“They will be left no choice but to pass on those extra cost.”
Japanese firms have been slow in passing on rising cost to households as soft wage growth does little to help consumer sentiment and makes them cautious about scaring off consumers with price hikes.
The yen-based import price index jumped 44.6 percent in April from a year earlier, Monday’s data showed, a sign the yen’s recent declines are inflating the cost of imports for Japanese firms.
The BoJ last month projected core consumer inflation to hit 1.9 percent in the current fiscal year that started last month before moderating to 1.1 percent in fiscal 2023 and 2024 — a sign it sees current cost-push price rises as transitory. 
But analysts expect consumer inflation to hover around 2 percent in the coming months as the high raw material costs force more firms to hike prices, posing a risk to Japan’s fragile economic recovery.
“Everything ultimately depends on whether consumers accept price hikes,” said Minami. “While they’re likely to be okay with it to some extent, they won’t fully accept it, leading to a spending decline.”
Data on Friday is expected to show Japan’s core consumer price index (CPI), which excludes volatile fresh food costs but includes energy costs, rose 2.1 percent in April from a year earlier, slightly exceeding the BoJ’s target, a Reuters poll showed last week.
 
 
RIYADH: Investors in crypto currencies should expect more difficult times ahead as tightening financial conditions around the world stoke appetite for safer assets, Bank of England Deputy Gov. Jon Cunliffe said on Tuesday.
Asked at a Wall Street Journal conference if rising interest rates would ramp up pressure on crypto currencies, Cunliffe said: “Yes, I think as this process continues, as (quantitative tightening) starts in the US … I think we’ll see a move out of risky assets.” Cunliffe added that the conflict in Ukraine also had the potential to cause a renewed flight to safer assets.
Bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency, fell as low as $25,401 on Thursday, its lowest since Dec. 2020. It hit a record high of $69,000 in November. 
However, it traded higher on Tuesday, up 0.2 percent to $30,418 as of 08:52 a.m. Riyadh time.
Ether, the second most traded cryptocurrency, was priced at $2,077, up 0.32 percent, according to data from CoinDesk.
G7 meeting
The regulation of crypto-assets is likely to be discussed at a meeting of Group of Seven finance chiefs this week in Germany, French central bank head Francois Villeroy de Galhau said on Tuesday.
“What happened in the recent past is a wake-up call for the urgent need for global regulation,” Villeroy told an emerging markets conference in Paris, referring to recent turbulence in crypto-asset markets.
“Europe paved the way with MICA (regulatory framework for crypto-assets), we will probably … discuss these issues among many others at the G7 meeting in Germany this week,” he added.
Grayscale to launch digital assets
Grayscale will list an exchange-traded fund in Europe made up of companies representing the “Future of Finance,” the world’s largest cryptocurrency asset manager said in a statement on Monday. 
The ETF, tracking the “Bloomberg Grayscale Future of Finance Index,” will be listed on the London Stock Exchange, Italy’s Borsa Italiana and Germany’s Deutsche Börse Xetra and begin trading on May 17. It is the first time that US-based Grayscale has listed a fund in Europe.
The index contains a mixture of companies involved in digital currencies including asset managers, exchanges, brokers, technology firms, as well as firms directly involved in cryptocurrency mining. “For us, the digital economy is primarily being driven through the proliferation of digital assets,” said Grayscale CEO Michael Sonnenshein.
RIYADH: In a post-pandemic world, digital transformation has been one of the main changes for companies and economies as a whole.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the Arab Women Forum in Dubai, Visa CEMEA Vice President of Marketing Christine Harb emphasized the need for digital transformation and women’s representation.
“I believe that digital transformation is done in multiple phases. There are pretty traditional organizations in the way they operate and are trying to move into a more agile space,” she said.
Harb added: “When you look at how digital is transforming the world and the metaverse impacting on organizations, there is a need to rethink how people collaborate and engage. So it’s not just about making sure that you have the right tools or enabling employees and people to connect.”
She explained that the shift is not only in digitizing the economy but also in how women’s representation has been a focus for organizations and educational spheres.
“Now, we are already equipped. So maybe we are on the right track. But, still, a lot needs to be done, mainly around policies and regulations that would protect women and open new doors to them, when it comes to, you know, bigger roles, but also allowing them to be their authentic selves,” she concluded.
DUBAI: Elham Mahfouz, the chief executive officer of the Commercial Bank of Kuwait, said that robots will play a major role in the future, with 85 million jobs expected to be taken over in the next two to three years.
Speaking to Arab News at the Arab Women Forum, Mahfouz said that the bank’s next plan is digitization and that, in the next two to three years, the look of banks will be different.
CBK is the only bank to have SwatchPAY, which is a smart-watch payment service, she informed.
Beginning her journey in banking around 35 years ago, Mahfouz climbed up the ladder after starting as a credit analyst. She has been the CEO of the bank for the last eight years, she informed.
“Being in a high position can favor the institution if you want to implement certain kinds of dreams that you have to get the institution in a certain way and pave the way with the team,” she added.
Mahfouz told Arab News that one of the things that stood out to her as a woman working in the banking sector was getting more support from males than females.
Self-development, focus, and patience are factors that have influenced her journey to reaching the top post, Mahfouz said.
She added that the following generations are tech-savvy and are very smart when it comes to technological advances. However, Mahfouz said they have to have patience and read more.
DUBAI: When it comes to taking a huge step like running a family business, most entrepreneurs would flinch, especially in a male-dominated industry. Female successors would instead pass their rights to a male than take the path of leadership.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, the CEO and president of Khalil bin Ebrahim Kanoo Co. and International Motor Trading Agency, Suzy Kanoo, shared her advice on what women should do when put in that position, and it’s not relinquishing their rights.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Arab Women Forum event in Dubai, Kanoo, who has also authored “Hear Us Speak: Letters from Arab Women,” expressed that one of the main obstacles women face in the business world is not believing in themselves.
“The Japanese call it Ikigai. Find a purpose and passion, do it well, and make sure it benefits society. Whatever it is, anything that you think is insignificant isn’t insignificant for that individual. So, find that purpose and do it well,” she added.
Kanoo has been the voice of the Arab world, and her book discusses real-life stories about Arab women that have experienced physical or emotional abuse but outlived their circumstances.
“My book emphasizes that never let a male, whether a cousin or a brother, force you or coerce you into signing documents asking you to relinquish your rights of the family business,” she said.
Her book brought to light the circumstances of the marginalized women who succumbed to male domination and gave away what was rightfully theirs.
However, Kanoo feels those were different times. She finds Gen Z is the most empowered generation. They believe that nothing should stop them from achieving their goals. In addition, they understand technology better than the previous generations.
But the struggle is not over. Even emancipated women have to fight on multiple fronts. An accomplished writer and businesswoman, Kanoo is currently facing problems with the automotive business. Her production declined by 50-60 percent.
Does that mean she is letting off the reins? No chance. The feisty lady is expanding into different sectors, opening a restaurant from personal investments and launching an advisory company for blockchain technology.
 
 
 
 
 
RIYADH: Egypts expects that the value of investment in the energy sector would range between $7 to $8 billion during the current fiscal year, the minister of petroleum and mineral resources told Alarabiya. 
Tarek El-Molla added that the figures were under review with international companies, noting that changes in global oil prices require increased investment plans.
He said the government is currently focusing on maximizing the use of natural resources, confirming that Egypt aims to return to the oil production levels of 5 years ago.
 

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