EconSource: Slightly firmer oil may help Gulf stabilise
Oil’s overnight rebound and a dovish statement from the US Federal Reserve may help Gulf stock markets stabilize on Thursday after falling sharply earlier this week, although crude prices remain volatile and unpredictable. Gulf equities dropped in panic sell-offs on Wednesday after US crude futures slid to a fresh six-year low and Brent oil also retreated. But both oil benchmarks then jumped as the US dollar fell after the Federal Reserve indicated it preferred a more gradual path to normalizing US interest rates, despite being open to the first rate hike in almost a decade. In addition to hurting oil prices, the strong dollar has had a negative effect on non-oil exporting companies from the Gulf, reducing their competitiveness.

[Reuters, 3/19/2015]

Egypt targets 4.5-5 percent growth in 2015-2016

Egypt expects greater investment and ongoing fiscal reforms to boost economic growth in the 2015/16 fiscal year to 4.5-5 percent and shrink its budget deficit to 9.5-10 percent of gross domestic product. In a preliminary statement about next year’s budget Egypt’s finance minister announced that the government would continue to cut subsidies gradually and make cash transfers to the poor, which make up about 40 percent of Egypt’s 90 million people. The country’s budget deficit, long beset by costly fuel and bread subsidies, is set to exceed 10 percent for the same period. Egypt’s current account deficit stood at $4.301 billion between July and December 2014, compared with a deficit of $866.0 million in the same period the previous year, the central bank said on Thursday. [Reuters, Mada Masr, 3/19/2015]

Oman boosts refining capacity to beef up oil products exports

According to industry sources, Oman will more than double its refinery output by 2019 as part of efforts to boost exports and compete with OPEC members Saudi Arabia and Kuwait for a bigger slice of the global market. A refinery upgrade and a new project would raise Oman’s refining capacity to 312,000 bpd in four years. The country currently exports a medium sour crude with high sulphur content called Oman blend. The Middle East overall has been actively bolstering its refining capacity to cater to its export markets, notwithstanding concerns about oversupply amid the shale oil and gas production boom in the United States. [The Saudi Gazette, 3/19/2015]

Iraq may issue $5 billion bonds, to pay oil firms soon

Iraq is considering an international issue of $5 billion worth of five-year, US dollar-denominated bonds to help cover its budget deficit, and will, according to its Finance Minister, soon start paying some debts to foreign oil companies. A $5 billion bond issue could prove a large amount for international investors to digest at one time, especially given political and economic instability in Iraq. The minister did not elaborate on the timing or financial terms of the plan. Cheap oil has ravaged Iraq’s state finances. The government has projected a budget deficit of roughly $21 billion this year and it has been building up debts to companies developing its oil fields. [Reuters, 3/18/2015]

Also of interest:
Egypt has to unleash private sector potential, says World Bank | Zawya
Egypt’s current account hits deficit of $4.3 billion in first half of 2014/15 | Reuters
Iraq’s economy: An empty chest | The Economist
35 percent of Moroccans say their financial situation is worse than last year | Morocco World News