EconSource: Oil Prices Rise on Iraq, Yemen Fighting

Oil prices rose slightly in trading on supply concerns in the Middle East following fighting in Iraq and Yemen. There are concerns that the conflict in Iraq and Saudi attacks on Yemen could disrupt production or supply routes. A Saudi-led coalition resumed air strikes against Yemen’s Houthi militia in Aden, while Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) militants took the Iraqi city of Ramadi. Meanwhile, Iraqi troops continued to struggle to hold onto the country’s largest oil refinery in Baiji. Oil prices have rallied more than 40 percent from a six-year low reached in March as demand strengthened and US production slowed. Experts say turmoil in the Middle East could threaten growing supplies from Gulf-based members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). [Reuters, Bloomberg, 5/18/2015]

Egyptian government confirms capital gains tax on hold for two years
Egypt’s government has suspended a 10 percent tax imposed on the market’s capital gains for two years, causing shares to rise in early trading. A 10 percent tax on stock dividends will remain, the government added. The suspension comes after a months-long downturn and investors’ complaints of a lack of clarity regarding the tax. Some investors had gone to court to abolish the law on the tax, which President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi approved nearly a year ago. The law was part of the government’s effort to broaden the country’s tax base while enacting a number of tough structural reforms. The suspension of the tax reflects the difficulty of maneuvering through such reforms. [Reuters, Associated Press, 5/18/2015]

Saudi Arabia’s March oil exports highest in over nine years
Saudi Arabia’s crude exports rose in March to their highest in almost a decade, official data showed on Monday, a sign of unexpectedly strong global demand as the top oil exporter increased its output to the highest rate on record. Saudi Arabia shipped 7.9 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil in March, the highest level since November 2005, according to data supplied by the international oil market monitor the Joint Organisations Data Initiative (JODI). The increase in output underlines Saudi Arabia’s determination not to cede market share to higher-cost producers. The kingdom and others in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) have resisted cutting production to shore up oil prices. [Reuters, Bloomberg, 5/18/2015]

Tunisian minister says new five-year plan to be ready before end of November
Tunisia’s Finance Minister Slim Chaker announced that a new five year plan for 2016 to 2020 will be completed before the end of November. His announcement came on the sidelines of a conference held by the Tunisian government and the World Bank. Chaker said that the government will seek to enact reforms in the tax, banking, and customs sectors, amend the investment code, and adopt a law on public private partnership. Reforms will also be initiated in the health, education, and vocational training fields. Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid added that the government is committed to implementing reforms to boost economic competitiveness and growth. [Gulf Times, 5/16/2015]

Also of interest
Gulf stocks mixed, Egypt falls further on MSCI index fears | Reuters
Australian energy group OMV says unlikely to resume production in Libya or Yemen | Reuters
Production by eastern Libyan state oil firm AGOCO unchanged |Reuters
Egypt to sign free trade deal with three African blocs | World Bulletin
Egypt unemployment falls to 12.8 percent in Q1 | Reuters
Central Bank of Egypt leans on currency devaluation | DNE
Former minister says S&P positive outlook on Egypt reflects well on investment | DNE
Syrian middle class suffers as economy hit by rebel gains | Financial Times
Tunisia, Algeria to boost cooperation in tourism, trade, and security | Tunis Afrique Presse