Fill Your Boots! 31 December 2021
Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism has set up the Timeshare Portal which allows would-be operators to submit applications for timeshare properties, receive permits as licensed operators, and renew them on an annual basis. This new website, which will let timeshare stakeholders apply for permits, will help encourage increased investment from both local and overseas parties. According to Helal Al Marri, DG of the DET, the portal will “help pave the way for a world-class vacation ownership market in Dubai, while also providing suitable alternatives to tourists encouraging them to spend multiple and extended holidays in the UAE.” The DET, in collaboration with DLD and DIFC, maintains a database of property brokers, developers, establishments and operators which allows the DET to supervise and inspect facilities to manage all contractual terms and disputes.
UAE’s fuel price committee announced that retail prices will dip in January by up to 7.58%. Super 98, Special 95 and diesel have declined by 4.3% to US$ 0.722, 4.5% to US$ 0.689, and 7.6% to US$ 0.697. Covid had seen prices frozen for a year and it was only in March this year that prices were duly amended, with Special 95 and diesel retailing at US$ 0.548 and US$ 0.586. Petrol prices in the UAE were liberalised in August 2015 to allow them to move in line with the market, at which time Special 95 and diesel prices were at US$ 0.58 and US$ 0.56.
There was no surprise to see Dubai International retaining its position as the busiest international airport in December, based on seat capacity that rose 15% on the month. DXB was around one million seats ahead of its main rival, London Heathrow, followed by Amsterdam, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Istanbul. Earlier in the month, the local; airport returned to 100% operational capacity, following the opening of the final phase of Terminal 3’s Concourse A. It is expected that two million passengers will pass through DXB between 29 December and 08 January, with average daily traffic exceeding 178k travellers; the peak day will be 02 January, with an estimated 198k passengers travelling.
Having previously listed a US$ 250 million and a US$ 500 million instrument on Nasdaq Dubai, Warba Bank, a leading Kuwaiti Islamic bank, celebrated its third on Tuesday – a US$ 250 million perpetual Tier-1 Sukuk. The latest issuance was priced at 4% and oversubscribed 4.4 times. This brought the Dubai bourse’s total value of Sukuk listing to US$ 79.4 billion, ensuring its position as one of the world’s leading capital markets, as well as further strengthening ties between the capital markets of Kuwait and the UAE.
After failing to achieve appropriate levels of compliance, with the law on preventing money laundering and financing of terrorism, an unnamed exchange house, operating in the UAE, has been fined US$ 96k for flouting anti-money laundering regulations. The Central Bank reported that it acted after the firm had failed to achieve appropriate levels of compliance with the law; in mid-2019, all the country’s exchange houses were instructed to ensure compliance by the end of that year and were put on notice that failure to do so would result in penalties. It also fined another unnamed exchange house US$ 163k for using a civilian vehicle to transport money instead of using Cash-in-Transit Agent. By doing so, they violated the CBUAE regulations and knowingly put the lives of their employees at risk.
This week saw the resignation of Bader Hareb from his role as CEO of Emaar Development, a post he had held for four years, after he had replaced Nakheel executive Chris O’Donnell, who had joined the company a year earlier.
The DFM opened on Sunday, 26 December, (its last ever Sunday opening), down 81 points (2.7%) on the previous week, gained 51 points (1.6%) to close the week, and the year, on Thursday 30 December, at 3,196. Emaar Properties, US$ 0.14 lower the previous week, regained that, up US$ 0.14, at US$ 1.33. Emirates NBD and Damac started the previous week on US$ 3.69 and US$ 0.40 and closed on US$ 3.69 and US$ 0.40. On Thursday, 30 December, 79 million shares changed hands, with a value of US$ 41 million, compared to 58 million shares, with a value of US$ 48 million, on 23 December. Next week, the bourse will open from Monday to Friday, in line with new government regulations.
For the month of December, the bourse had opened on 3,073 and, having closed the month on 3,196 was 123 points (4.0%) higher. Emaar traded up from its 01 December 2021 opening figure of US$ 1.28, to close December US$ 0.05 higher at US$ 1.33 Two other bellwether stocks, Emirates NBD and Damac, started the month on US$ 3.60 and US$ 0.38 and closed on 31 December on US$ 3.69 and US$ 0.40 respectively. YTD, the bourse had opened the year on 2,492 and gained 704 points (28.3%) to close the year on 3,196 NBD and Damac started the year on US$ 3.33 and US$ 0.35 and closed 31 December at US$ 3.69 and US$ 0.40.
By Thursday, 30 December, Brent, US$ 1.75 (2.3%) higher the previous week, gained US$ 3.10 (4.1%), to close on US$ 79.20. Gold, up US$ 25 (5.2%) the previous fortnight gained US$ 7 (1.4%), to close Thursday 30 December on US$ 1,810. Brent traded higher this week as concerns about the Omicron coronavirus variant spreading, and reducing demand, eased and was also helped by a decline in US inventories.
Brent started December on US$ 71.31 and gained US$ 6.37 (8.9%), to close 30 December on US$ 77.68. YTD, it started the year trading at US$ 51.80 and has gained US$ 25.98 (50.2%) to close on US$ 77.78 at 31 December 2021. Meanwhile, the yellow metal opened December trading at US$ 1,778 and gained US$ 53 (3.0%), during the month, to close on US$ 1,831. Over the year, it has lost US$ 64 (3.4%), from its opening year balance of US$ 1,895.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has reiterated that the latest Opec+ production agreement, to increase output by 400k bpd in January despite demand concerns due to the rising number of coronavirus infections globally, was “essential” for oil market stability. He also urged all twenty-three members of the bloc to comply with the pact and that those efforts to maintain spare capacity had proven important to safeguard energy supply security. The country’s Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said Opec+ had brought stability to oil markets through its policies and had “delivered more sustainability, more stability, more predictability and more transparency to oil markets”. The oil cartel, led by Russia and Saudi Arabia, kept 2022’s world oil demand growth unchanged at 4.2 million bpd.
It was a happy Christmas day for 75k Santander customers, as the bank mistakenly deposited a total of US$ 175 million into their accounts, as payments from 2k business accounts were made twice. The embarrassed bank posted their apologies for the gaffe and confirmed graciously that “none of our clients were at any point left out of pocket as a result and we will be working hard with many banks across the UK to recover the duplicated transactions over the coming days.”
In October, the Indian government, with its first privatisation exercise in twenty years, accepted Tata Group’s US$ 2.7 billion cash bid, along with it taking over US$ 15.3 billion of Air India’s debt, for the loss-making national carrier; the sale included 100% equity shares of Air India and Air India Express, along with a 50% stake in ground-handling company AISATS government. The deal was expected to be finalised this month, but procedural delays will see this carried over into January.
For the first time in thirty years, UK vinyl record sales have topped the five million mark, with 2021 representing the fourteenth consecutive year of growth, with year on year sales, 8.0% higher. (It is estimated that ‘Rumours’ has sold over forty million copies to date). 23% of the albums bought were on vinyl., with Abba’s Voyage the biggest seller, followed by Adele (3D), Fleetwood Mac (Rumours), Ed Sheeran (Equals =) and Amy Winehouse (Back to Black). The 2021 vinyl improvement came despite serious delays in manufacturing, caused by a combination of Covid, supply-chain issues and labour shortages, as well as a scarcity of raw materials like PVC and paper products. It is estimated the demand for vinyl outstrips manufacturing capacity by a factor of 2:1 and Adele’s 500k order for vinyl only accounted for 0.3% of the LPs pressed in 2021.
YTD to 30 September, it was estimated that more than 1.04 billion smartphones were sold – a marked 17.4% improvement on the same period in 2020, and almost 88.6 million more than in the first nine months of 2020. The technology research and consulting company Gartner noted that there had been double-digit growth levels in Q1 and Q2 but that Q3 had seen an annual 6.8% decline. The main driver behind the Q3 results was that the supply chain disruption saw a shortage of key components, such as radio frequency and power management, which resulted in delayed smartphone production, rather than a fall in demand. The top seven best-selling smartphones were Apple’s iPhone 12, (retailing at its UAE launch in October 2020 at US$ 945), Samsung’s Galaxy A12, the iPhone 11, (launched in September 2019 and retailing at US$ 800), the US$ 1.28k, big screen iPhone 12, the iPhone 12 Pro, selling at US$ 1.14k, in the UAE, Xiaomi’s budget phone Redmi 9A, and Xiaomi Redmi Note.
In the last week of 2021, Apple is nearing to become the first company to have a share value of over US$ 3 trillion as its market value reached US$ 180.95 on Tuesday – and its market cap touched US$ 2.96 trillion; it needs a share price of US$ 182.86 to reach the mark. YTD, its share value has climbed 36% and over 200% since the onset of the pandemic. Four other tech giants lag well behind Apple, with Microsoft having a US$ 2 billion market value, followed by Apple and Microsoft, the only other one trillion-dollar companies in the world; Facebook owner Meta Platforms, the world’s biggest social media network, has a market cap of US$ 962 billion.
With a clampdown by Chinese regulators ordering online stores not to offer its app, ride-hailing giant Didi Global posted a nine-month US$ 6.3 billion loss, as revenue dipped 5%. The restrictions had a negative impact on its share value that has tanked by 65% since its US IPO six months ago. Earlier in the month and following the US Securities and Exchange Commission announcing that it would delist US-listed foreign companies if their auditors did not comply with requests for information from regulators, Didi decided to leave the New York bourse and set up shop in Hong Kong. To add to the firm’s woes, it now faces increased competition in China from ride-hailing services launched by car makers Geely and SAIC Motor.
Elon Musk’s problems continue with the latest being his Starlink Internet Services project and two official Chinese complaints to the UN Space Agency that its space station had two “close encounters” with Starlink satellites. It is alleged that the incidents occurred this year, on 01 July and 21 October, and involved Musk’s satellite internet network operated by SpaceX. China confirmed that “for safety reasons, the China Space Station implemented preventive collision avoidance control,” Following the complaint, the founder of Tesla, (with a growing presence in China), Starlink and the US were heavily criticised on China’s Twitter-like Weibo microblogging platform. As an aside, SpaceX raised US$ 337 million in equity financing on Wednesday, and had already hit US$ 100 billion in valuation, following a secondary share sale in October, having raised about US$ 1.16 billion in equity financing in April. Over the past quarter, SpaceX has already launched numerous cargo payloads and astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA.
Tesla is to recall more than 475k cars in the US, comprising 356k Model 3s, for potential rear-view camera issues, and a further 119k Model S vehicles because of potential problems with the front trunk, with the 21 December Safety Recall report noting that if the primary latch is inadvertently released, the front trunk “may open without warning and obstruct the driver’s visibility, increasing the risk of a crash”. This is a worrying time for the electric carmaker, as last year it delivered 500k vehicles that almost equates to the number recalled. Tesla has also had to agree to make changes to its Passenger Play feature, which allows games to be played on its touchscreen, while the car is in motion; this feature will now be locked and unusable while the car is moving. A day later, it was confirmed that 180k Model 3 and 20k Model S were being recalled in China for the same problem.
Probably representative of the luxury car market sector globally, HR Owen, a major UK car dealership for Aston Martins, Bentleys, Bugattis, Lamborghinis, Maseratis and Rolls Royce, has reported strong demand from the ultra-wealthy high value customers. They have helped drive its profits sevenfold higher, to over US$ 18 million, (with the number of vehicles 8.7% higher at 1.15k), on revenue of US$ 526 million. For a variety of reasons -including lockdowns, soaring material costs and major supply chain problems especially with the availability of semiconductors – car makers have struggled this year and have failed to meet demand A shortage of vehicles, in the luxury market sector, has seen not only dealers capitalise on the situation but also owners who have been able to sell on at prices more than they actually paid for in the first place; if this is happening in London, it will also be the case here in Dubai for those that cannot bear to be on a long waiting list for new cars.
‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ became the first film to gross over US$ 1 billion since the onset of Covid-19 almost two years ago. It reached this figure within twelve days of release and became the third-fastest movie to reach the billion-dollar milestone; in 2019, ‘Avengers: Endgame’ and ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ did so in five days and eleven days respectively. The last film to hit the US$ 1 million revenue figure was 2019’s ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’. The latest instalment of the Spider-Man franchise, a co-production between Sony and Disney, has yet to be released in China, the world’s biggest cinema market. Prior to this latest Marvel Cinematic Universe film, MGM’s latest James Bond movie ‘No Time to Die’, having taken US$ 774 million at the global box office, was the highest-grossing Hollywood film of both 2021 and the pandemic.
The studio that gave the world ‘League of Legends’ has paid out US$ 100 million to settle a 2018 class-action gender discrimination case. According to California’s Department of Fair Employment & Housing, Riot Games had engaged in “systemic sex discrimination and harassment”, and that the settlement will “remedy violations against approximately 1.1k women employees and 1.3k women contract workers”. As part of the settlement, Riot agreed to workplace reforms, independent expert analysis of its pay, hiring, and promotion practices, and to be monitored for instances of sexual harassment and “retaliation” at its California offices for three years. Another gaming company, Activision Blizzard, (known for its games, ‘World of Warcraft’, ‘Overwatch’ and ‘Call of Duty’), is also in similar trouble with the DFEH, as well as having recently reached a US$ 18 million settlement, with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, over claims of sexual discrimination and harassment.
It has been estimated that the total value of flight credits, that Australian air passengers are currently holding, could well be worth billions of dollars. Covid has had a major impact on passengers’ rights relating to cancelled flights. Prior to its onset, it was relatively straightforward to obtain a refund, but it does seem that the situation has changed, with airlines amending their terms and conditions, and some requesting customers to take out insurance against Covid cancellations. The pandemic has made it harder for people to understand their legal rights, as terms and conditions have been” tightened”. In the earlier days of the pandemic, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission issued a practice guideline to the travel sector and advised travel providers to prepare to extend the expiry period of any credits and to allow consumers a reasonable period to use their credits after travel restrictions were lifted.
A 2021 survey by consumer advocacy group CHOICE found 43% of travellers had received some form of travel credit or voucher, (some with a short expiry date, others that were non-transferrable, booking fees, and restrictions how and when credits could be used), many of which terms and conditions were in favour of the carrier, and not the passenger. Maybe it is time for the Morrison government to appoint an independent ombudsman for the travel industry and consider updating the underlying structural issues with the consumer law. However, Australia is not the only country in the world not really knowing how much is “owed” in flight credits by its airlines. On a global scale, the figure could be in trillions of dollars, with, for example, Heathrow Airport having endured a harrowing 12 months as the UK experienced a slump in international flights to just over 400k a year, almost a million down on 2019.
According to the Centre for Economics and Business Research, 2022 will see the global economy top US$ 100 trillion for the first time, two years earlier than initially forecast. There are concerns that if the rate of inflation continues unabated, the world may slip back into recession as early as late 2023, and the need to bring the non-transitory elements under control is greater than ever.
With favourable Labor Department data that US new weekly unemployment claims dipped 7k to 198k in the Christmas week, the blue-chip Dow hit a new high on Thursday, extending a record-setting run; nine of the eleven major S&P 500 sector indexes traded higher. It is estimated that the recovery will continue, albeit at a slower rate, more so because reports show that the Omicron coronavirus variant in the US is likely to peak by the end of January, and growing evidence surfaced that it causes less severe illness than the Delta strain. The major problems with the US economy in 2022 will revolve around rising inflation and the supply chain logjams and whether US interest rates can help solve these anomalies.
Since Brexit, the UK fishing industry has faced many challenges, and because of it, fish exports to the EU are now subject to new customs and veterinary checks which has caused disruption and delay. In addition, some businesses have struggled to find labour, without free access to European recruitment, whilst growing tensions between the UK and the EU, and more specifically France, have not helped. To give a boost to fishing and coastal communities, the government is introducing US$ 100 million of funding to modernise UK ports and processing facilities and create jobs. Projects across the UK will be asked to compete for a share of the funding, with priority going to those that reduce carbon emissions. The Communities Inshore Fisheries Alliance said investment was needed to “significantly upgrade many port facilities around the country” and that the most significant share must go to the fishing communities, with the poorest facilities, where there is the most scope for impact.
According to retail specialist Springboard, Monday 27 December’s footfall was 32% lower than the same day in 2019 but was better than the Boxing Day figures a day earlier. On Monday, shopper numbers on the High Street, shopping centres and retail parks were all lower compared to 2019 – down 40.1%, 38.8% and 7.2% respectively; the Boxing Day numbers indicated falls of 37.7%, 48.4% and 40.2%. Some of this decline was attributable to growing fears over Covid, as well as the fact the traditional start of post-Christmas sales fell on a Sunday this year and some big-name stores, including Next, John Lewis and M&S, opted to stay closed.
Some analysts see 2022 “the year of the squeeze” for UK households exacerbated by soaring energy prices, rising taxes and higher inflation, (that could near 7% by April), all of which will leave their mark on private household consumable income. Because of inflation, real wages will only nudge 0.1% higher, whilst energy prices could cost households a further US$ 2.0k and a 1.25% hike in National Insurance contributions will rip a further US$ 0.8k from the purse strings. For many, 2022 will be a year of prices surging and pay packets stagnating.
For the second year in a row, it is expected that the UK economy will outpace the other G7 countries in 2022, with a forecast 4.8% growth compared to the likes of 4.4%, for Italy and France, Germany’s 4.0% and 3.5% for the US. Some of this improvement is attributable to the UK’s rapid booster vaccination programme and that it had faced a more severe recession than other wealthy nations during the pandemic; the economy shrank by a historic 9.8% in 2020, the worst-hit economy in the G7. The IMF is even more bullish estimating the UK economy to grow 5.0% in 2022, with HSBC estimating 4.7%, with its estimates for the other G7 nations ranging from 2.2% for Japan to Italy’s 4.3%. (The CEBR also expects the UK to record significant growth in 2022, and said it is on track to be 16% larger than France in 2036, despite Brexit). However, there is no doubt that the size of the recovery will be dependent on the impact of the Omicron variant of coronavirus, with daily figures of over 130k new cases being reported and 8.5k people hospitalised as at 27 December. In 2019, India became the fifth largest global economy, superseding the UK, but lost that position last year. Next year, it will regain the fifth spot whilst the UK will return to sixth place – a position it is expected to hold on to until 2036.
|31 Mar Forecast||%age||31 Dec||30 Jun|
The above table covers certain economic indicators, with two sectors standing out. Compared to all the other currencies covered in the table, the US$ dollar reigned supreme in 2021, gaining between 5.71% – 7.14% on the Aussie dollar, the euro and the rouble, whilst sterling almost held its own to the greenback. Two others – gold and silver – disappointed, down 3.38% and 11.55%, and probably will not fare much better going into 2022. Notwithstanding iron ore, that had two prior stellar years, commodities performed well with copper, cotton, Brent and coffee all climbing high – by 26.70%, 44.20%, 50.15% and 76.80%. If the impact of Covid dissipates in 2022, expect another exceptional year for most commodities. Apart from the Shanghai bourse, most stock markets performed well and there is no reason not to see much of the same in 2022 as economies open up and supply chain issues are rectified.
Over the year, the greenback surprised many so-called experts by the US Dollar Index trading more than 7.0% higher, its biggest annual gain in six years, mainly attributable to strong domestic economic growth and even more lockdowns as Delta and Omicron variants took hold. It is a known fact that in times of crisis the US dollar is seen as a safe haven. There is no doubt that 2022 will be the year that interest rate hikes will return, and that can only be good news for the currency which could jump a further 4% in 2022. One caveat is that growth will be dependent on the US Senate approving Joe Biden’s US$ 2 trillion Build Back Better Framework.
Meanwhile, sterling, boosted by the Johnson government’s swift vaccine roll-out programme, ended 2021 6% higher compared to the Euro, but 0.4% lower on the US$. Towards the end of the year, the advantage afforded by its quick vaccine roll-out was nullified, as other countries caught up. Other factors in play, that could have a negative impact on the currency, include ongoing Brexit tensions, ballooning inflation and tax increases; but other countries are facing similar problems so their currencies will also be affected. However, the UK surprised the market by being one of the first global major economies to increase rates – by 0.15% to 0.25% – with more to come, and this could boost sterling.
With continuing inflationary pressure and almost non-existent wage growth, there will be no surprise to see the Euro struggling again in 2022, having registered 8% and 6% declines against the greenback and sterling this year. The fact that the ECB, contrary to the Fed and the BoE, seems steadfast in its stance not to lift rates in the coming year is another factor working against any improvement in the currency over the next twelve months. If the ECB do nothing in this regard, the Euro is certain to lose up to 4% in value, but if circumstances were to change – and rate hikes were introduced earlier and the course of its monetary policy amended – the currency could keep its head above water.
Known as a “commodity currency”, the Australian dollar is mainly driven by exporting metals and minerals for income, and, in 2021, has been helped by the Bloomberg Spot Commodity Index rallying over 20% in the year. With the price of raw materials, soaring on the back of pent-up demand, mainly in China, the omens for the Australian economy and currency are bright. However, the world’s biggest commodity consumer – and Australis leading trade partner – will see its GDP growth hit a thirty-year low, at 4.9%, not helped by the Evergrande debt crisis and souring trade relations with the US. Demand for iron ore, one of Australia’s biggest exports, has diminished and with it, its price. Last May, prices jumped to a record US$ 237 a tonne but had crashed by 64% to US$ 85 by mid-November, (still a handy profit given cost of production is around US$ 20 per tonne). The best guestimate for the dollar sees it hovering around the US$ O.69 – US$ 0.71 level.
When it comes to cryptocurrency, anything can happen and volatility will remain the name of the game. But the “currency” continues to gain traction in the market as it is seeing increased demand for use as a payment option. Regulators and central banks are fearful of this not so new disrupter and will do everything to keep this financial system at bay, claiming that it is used to launder money and scam consumers. The hypocrisy behind this argument is that this is exactly what many traditional international banks have been doing in the past. 2021 saw another topsy turvy year, with Bitcoin opening 2021 on US$ 29.0k, peaking at US$ 67.6k and closing on 31 December at US$ 48.0k. Next year will be more of the same and the advice would be to buy in on a dip and exit once it goes up more than 10% – in other words, do not get greedy.
2021 proved to be a good year for most of the global stock markets, with the three US bourses all posting annual gains in excess of 19% and the likes of DAX and the MSCI World Index posting gains of nearly 16% and almost 21% respectively. Interestingly, one of the best performing markets was our own DFM – up 28.25%. Apart from Australia’s ASX gaining more than 19% on the year, Asian markets either showed less impressive gains, (such as Japan’s Nikkei, 5.3% higher, and Shanghai Composite, 3.6%), or losses in the case of Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index, down 15%, and New Zealand’s NZX, 1.2% lower.
This year was one of the biggest years ever for retail investors to get involved, with share markets trading near record highs, as interest rates maintain levels of almost zero. The investment mantra for many was ‘TINA’ and this is likely to continue into the New Year, with investors still hoping Covid will become less restrictive and that the global economies continue their recoveries at a quicker pace, resulting in higher profits for the companies in which they have bought shares. The ‘There Is No Alternative’ segment works on the theory that, with historically low rates, it was – and will continue to be – a better option to invest in the stock market than earn little or nothing depositing money in banks. Furthermore, factory closures and lockdowns hit manufacturing production, reducing the amount of available goods for sale and increased the level of ‘enforced savings’. The canary in the coal mine is if inflation continues to surge and global central banks decide to hike interest rates and unwind their emergency Covid stimulus measures. (In 2021, most central banks were wrong when they assumed that the spike in consumer prices would be ‘transitory’, owing to supply disruptions and pent-up demand in lockdowns).
Some shares will have sizeable returns, other not so, whilst some will fall in value. For example, in 2021, shares in the following four Australian sectors posted 20.0%+ returns – telecommunications, consumer discretionary, financial and real estate; five other sectors – industrial, healthcare, consumer staples, materials and utilities – recorded gains of between 5% – 12%. Only two sectors were in negative territory – energy and technology at -1% and – 2%. The two factors to look out for are how long will rates be kept at historically low levels and how will economies cope when official inflation rates top 6% but real inflation hits double digits? Whilst the going continues to look promising, at least in Q1, and the inevitable storm clouds some time away, there is still time for stock market investors to Fill Your Boots!