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But the move is also strategic for Europe, given its desire to be closer to key negotiations affecting stability in the region. Kuwait and the EU broadly see eye to eye on the issue of the Qatar blockade, launched in 2017 by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. Kuwait, which did not take part in the blockade, maintains smooth relations with Doha and has made several attempts to mediate between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors in attempts to quell the conflict, though so far to no avail.

“Kuwait has shown willingness to play a diplomatic role in some of the most complex contexts in the region including Qatar and Yemen,” Cinzia Bianco, GCC analyst at London-based Gulf State Analytics, told CNBC Thursday. These are issues that are of high importance to Europe, but in which it lacks significant means to have a real impact, she said. “Therefore, closer coordination with Kuwait for the EU is also a way to stay closer to negotiations on key issues.”

Kuwait also shares the EU’s desire for a stable and economically developed Iraq, and it hosted the International Conference for the reconstruction of Iraq in February of this year. The country of 4 million was the victim of a brutal invasion by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1990, but 15 years after his ouster is pledging billions of dollars toward its reconstruction, seeking to prevent further instability that it fears could spill over its borders.

Importantly, the country lacks the sectarian agenda often ascribed to regional powers Saudi Arabia and Iran, and prides itself on the relative harmony between its Sunni and Shia communities, the latter of which constitutes around 40 percent of its population.

“Kuwait regards the tuning down of sectarianism in Iraq and the region as highly beneficial for its own stability and is, to that end, willing to at least have a conversation with Iran,” Bianco said. “The EU also regards the tuning down of sectarianism as crucial to stability in the region.”

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‘Short the S&P 500’ and two other top 2019 ideas: BofA technician

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“Going back long term, the dollar versus the S&P as a ratio has a few significant bottoms that end up leading to a period where the dollar severely outperformed the S&P 500,” Ciana said on CNBC’s “Futures Now” on Thursday.

For example, in 2000, the ratio found a bottom before the dot-com bust sent equities tumbling and the dollar soaring. It was a similar setup in 2008 and 2014-15, said Ciana, BofA’s chief global fixed income technical strategist.

“Now we’re having another one right in here,” he added. “What ends up happening in these time frames is the dollar ends up outperforming while the S&P 500 of course underperforms. That means, buy dollar, sell stocks.”

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Consumer spending to keep hopes on economy alive

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Goldman’s relatively upbeat assessment came against a backdrop of a market buffeted by internal and external risks — most notably the U.S.’ ongoing trade war with China. The Dow has erased its gains for the year, while the S&P 500 pulled back 2.3 percent to 2,633.08 and turned negative for the year.

The bank acknowledged that those sharp losses will translate into “some near-term restraint on spending,” as well as consumer lending. Rising interest rates will also dampen the outlook, the bank said, adding that growth will gradually decelerate from 2.8 percent in the first quarter to an average of 2.4-to 2.5 percent over 2019.

In a somber assessment of its own on Friday, Morgan Stanley forecast the market would remain “range bound” in 2019, citing “the elevated risk of an earnings recession. We expect topline growth to decelerate (due to decelerating GDP) and margins to come under pressure.”

With the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank pulling back on loose money policies, “the good news is that tightening may be coming to a pause/end early next year which could bring relief to global asset prices particularly if China growth stabilizes,” Morgan Stanley’s analysts wrote.

Still, economists point to the sharp drop in crude prices, which recently fell below $50 per barrel, as a boost for consumers.

“The recent declines in the oil price, the high savings rate, and strong consumer sentiment, largely offset the drag from recent stock price declines, tightening lending standards, and higher rates,” according to Goldman.

“The bottom line is that even after recent declines in the equity market, we continue to expect strong but decelerating consumption growth over the next few quarters,” the bank said.

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Delta tests out offering most restrictive tickets to frequent flyers

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Delta Airlines Airbus A330-200 airplane with registration N851NW is seen landing at London's Heathrow Airport.

Nicolas Economou | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

Delta Airlines Airbus A330-200 airplane with registration N851NW is seen landing at London’s Heathrow Airport.

Frequent flyers who like to pick their seats may need to shell out more miles for their next award ticket.

Delta Air Lines has been quietly offering its most restrictive tickets to loyal travelers on some routes. Since last month, Delta has been offering SkyMiles members no-frills basic economy award tickets, along side those for standard coach class and first or business class. Passengers booked in basic economy are barred from making changes to their tickets and from selecting a seat ahead of time, and also board last.

Delta was the first among the three biggest U.S. airlines to offer basic economy fares in 2012. American Airlines and United Airlines rolled out their own versions of the bare-bones fares last year. Executives have not been shy that they measure the success of this fare class by how many passengers book the higher fare to avoid the basic economy restrictions.

The frequent-flyer miles required for a free ticket varies by route and demand, but a search for Dec. 14-21 trip from Detroit to Charleston, South Carolina, was 47,000 Skymiles in basic economy and 50,500 for a regular coach ticket.

“It seems like a really risky move,” said Gary Leff, a travel and loyalty program specialist who noted the new offering in his View from the Wing blog. A ticket purchased with miles is “supposed to be an experience, not a pain.”

If the SkyMiles member chooses the basic economy award ticket on Delta’s website, a window pops up reminding the loyalty program member of the basic economy restrictions, much like it does if the traveler simply bought the ticket.

Delta is currently presenting the basic economy option on nonstop and connecting flights from Minneapolis to Phoenix and flights to and from Charleston from within the U.S. and Canada.

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