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Bank Of England Keeps Rates At 15-Year High Published: 02 November 2023

  • The Bank of England held interest rates at a 15-year peak on Thursday and said it did not expect to cut them any time soon as it fights to "squeeze out of the system" the highest inflation of the world's big rich economies.
  • Despite publishing forecasts which show the British economy skirting close to a recession and flat-lining in the coming years, the BoE held the Bank Rate at 5.25% for the second meeting in a row after 14 back-to-back increases.
  • It also reinforced its message that borrowing costs were set to stay high - sending the pound modestly higher against the euro and dollar - even though only about half of the impact of its long run of rate hikes has been felt in the economy so far.
  • The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted 6-3 to keep the benchmark rate on hold, in line with expectations in a Reuters poll of economists.
  • "The MPC's latest projections indicate that monetary policy is likely to need to be restrictive for an extended period of time," the BoE said, adding that further tightening would be required if inflationary pressures persisted.
  • In September, the British central bank had said rates would need to remain "sufficiently restrictive for sufficiently long."
  • Governor Andrew Bailey also tried to hammer home the message that inflation's fall over the past year from its highest since the 1980s, and the weaker economic outlook, should not be seen as a sign that rate cuts might soon be on the table.
  • "We will be watching closely to see if further increases in interest rates are needed," he told a press conference. "But even if they are not needed, it is much too early to be thinking about rate cuts."

(Source: Reuters)

EduFocal Limited (LEARN) – Stock Split And Rights Issue Update   Published: 01 November 2023

  • EduFocal Limited (LEARN) has advised that its Board of Directors decided on October 27, 2023, that EduFocal will seek the approval of its shareholders to pursue the subdivision of its share capital and a renounceable rights issue of ordinary shares and that approval will be sought from shareholders at an upcoming Shareholders Meeting of the company.
  • The Company further advised that the date, time and location of the upcoming shareholder meeting(s) will be published in short order in keeping with the Company’s Articles of Incorporation, the Companies Act and the requirements of the Jamaica Stock Exchange.

(Source: JSE)

Tourism Disbursements Surpass Billion Dollar Mark   Published: 01 November 2023

  • Transactions on the Agri-Linkages Exchange (ALEX) platform have generated $1 billion in sales by small farmers.
  • Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett says tourism loan disbursements through the National Export-Import Bank have also surpassed $1 billion for 2023. 
  • Over $2 billion has now been disbursed to small and medium tourism enterprises across Jamaica benefitting four hundred and thirty-nine small companies. He underscored the increased impact of the tourism value chain on Jamaican small businesses as a significant outcome.
  • The ALEX platform is a collaborative initiative between the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority which has revolutionised the interaction between hoteliers and farmers. According to the tourism ministry, the platform has considerably boosted small farmers' access to procurement arrangements at hotels and restaurants around Jamaica, consequently improving the local agricultural landscape.

(Source: RJR News)

Mottley Urges Investment in The Caricom Development Fund Published: 01 November 2023

  • Barbados’ Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, on Monday said Caribbean Community (Caricom) nationals should consider investing their savings in the Caricom Development Fund (CDF), rather than leaving it in financial institutions that offer almost no interest.
  • Addressing the opening of the two-day AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum (ACTIF23) in Barbados, Mottley said that the CDF has become a shareholder of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), of which 11 Caricom nations are also members.
  • Mottley said she feels that the CDF is the glue that holds the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) that allows for the free movement of goods, labour, services and finances across the 15-member grouping, together.
  • Under the CDF, disadvantaged countries, sectors or regions are entitled to be able to borrow at concessional rates to finance their development. When the CDF began, former Barbados prime minister, the late Owen Arthur, along with other regional leaders, tried to help with its financing. 'But many of our friends globally have not seen the need or urgency to support the region in tangible ways concerning the Caricom Development Fund,' Mottley said.
  • 'That is why we said that we needed to turn within the region and to create an opportunity where those persons who have money in savings accounts in the region and are receiving 0.0001 per cent might well recognise that there's an opportunity to get a larger percentage return of interest if they involve themselves in things pertaining to Caricom development.
  • The Barbados prime minister said that more importantly, she hopes that with the CDF being a shareholder of Afreximbank, there can be innovative ways to tap into the significant amount of savings and liquidity lying dormant in Caricom. These savings, she said, are 'laying dormant, not receiving proper interest rates and not, therefore, being able to work for itself, particularly in an inflationary environment, such as the one in which we find ourselves today, at the same time, with a development deficit that needs financing'.

(Source: Trinidad Express Newspaper)

Latin America And Caribbean States Must Prioritize Debt Reduction: IMF Published: 01 November 2023

  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says countries in Latin America and the Caribbean must prioritize reducing debt as they look to improve growth.
  • Anna Ivanova, Deputy Division Chief for the Western Hemisphere at the IMF, says while countries reduce debt, they must also formulate strategies to cater for the vulnerable.
  • Fiscal policy should focus on rebuilding policy space to ensure fiscal sustainability and boost resilience against future shocks; while protecting key social spending needs. Despite a generally timely withdrawal of the pandemic fiscal support, public debt remains high and is projected to remain above that of peers out to 2028.
  • Most countries in the region have plans to strengthen public finances and further reduce debt over the medium term, but this will require significant efforts and discipline. The pace of fiscal consolidation could, however, weigh on the strength of economic activity and the evolution of debt-servicing costs.
  • Furthermore, in countries where debt is high, reducing the level of that debt "in the long run will help growth because this lower volatility and lower instability (resulting from debt reduction) will help to generate smoother growth in GDP and therefore will help growth."
  • While some countries may look at using debt to finance growth, they must tread carefully, as "there is a balance to strike."
  • "If the capacity to pay and the path to repay the debt are credible and supported by a history of credible policymaking, the investors may be willing to lend, but if there's doubt about the ability to pay, then it may be more costly to finance, and that is going to work against the countries that are trying to borrow," she said.

(Sources: RJR News & IMF)

US Consumer Confidence Moves Lower In October Published: 01 November 2023

  • U.S. consumer confidence declined for a third straight month in October amid persistent worries about inflation, higher borrowing costs and the political environment, a survey showed on Tuesday.
  • The Conference Board said its consumer confidence index fell to 102.6 this month from an upwardly revised 104.3 in September. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the index slipping to 100.0 from the previously reported 103.0.
  • "Write-in responses showed that consumers continued to be preoccupied with rising prices in general, and for grocery and gasoline prices in particular," said Dana Peterson, chief economist at The Conference Board. "Consumers also expressed concerns about the political situation and higher interest rates. Worries around war/conflicts also rose, amid the recent turmoil in the Middle East."

(Source: Reuters)

Wages Boost US Labour Costs Published: 01 November 2023

  • U.S. labour costs increased solidly in the third quarter amid strong wage growth while house price inflation accelerated in August, the latest signs that the Federal Reserve could keep interest rates high for some time. The reports on Tuesday pose a threat to efforts by the U.S. central bank to bring inflation to its 2% target.
  • The Employment Cost Index (ECI), the broadest measure of labour costs, rose 1.1% last quarter after increasing 1.0% in the April-June period, the Labour Department's Bureau of Labour Statistics reported. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the ECI would rise 1.0%.
  • Labour costs increased 4.3% on a year-on-year basis, the smallest gain since the fourth quarter of 2021, after advancing by 4.5% in the second quarter. Growth in annual compensation is gradually slowing after peaking at 5.1% last year, in line with some easing in labour market conditions. It, however, remains well above the pre-pandemic pace.
  • The rise in compensation helps to explain the surge in consumer spending last quarter, which contributed to the fastest economic growth rate in nearly two years.
  • The ECI is widely viewed by policymakers and economists as one of the better measures of labour market slack and a predictor of core inflation because it adjusts for composition and job-quality changes. Since March 2022, the Fed has raised its policy rate by 525 basis points to the current 5.25%-5.50% range.
  • Wages increased 1.2% in the third quarter after climbing 1.0% in the prior three months. Year-on-year, it was up 4.6% after advancing by the same margin in the second quarter. Strong wage growth is being driven by worker shortages that persist in some service industries.
  • September's job openings data, scheduled to be released today, will shed light on the state of demand for labour.

(Source: Reuters)

GraceKennedy Completes Acquisition of Unibev Limited   Published: 31 October 2023

  • GraceKennedy Limited (GK) has announced that it has successfully completed its acquisition of Unibev Limited, a Jamaican manufacturing company specializing in fully integrated beverage solutions. The strategic transaction firmly cements GK's position as a leader in the Jamaican spring water market.
  • Unibev is now GK's sixth manufacturing facility in Jamaica and is involved in the entire beverage production process, spanning from raw material sourcing to packaging.
  • Commenting on this significant milestone, Group CEO Don Wehby expressed, "The acquisition of Unibev represents a pivotal move in GK’s pursuit of its 2030 vision, especially as it relates to advancing its presence within the growing Jamaican spring water market.
  • Frank James, CEO of GK Foods ‐Domestic, underlined the strategic significance of this expansion, stating that the company is actively capitalizing on opportunities to grow its beverage brands. Beyond the advantages for its spring water business, this acquisition aligns seamlessly with the company’s manufacturing transformation strategic plan, aimed at strengthening its competitive edge and positioning GK as a regional leader in food and beverage manufacturing.
  • GK continues to seize opportunities to grow its beverage brands by expanding its manufacturing segment.

(Source: JSE)

Jamaica to Attract 500,000 Canadian Visitors by 2025   Published: 31 October 2023

  • Jamaica is on a drive to attract more than half a million Canadian visitors to the island by 2025, a 20 per cent increase over the current figure of about 400,000.
  • Regional Director for Canada for the Jamaica Tourist Board, Angella Bennett, revealed the ambitious goal while addressing the dinner & awards ceremony for the Sandals 27th Annual Baxter Canadian Golf Tournament, held at Sandals Ochi, in St. Ann, on October 28.
  • She outlined that several endearing factors will help Jamaica to reach this “achievable target”, most notably the resilience of the Canadian tourism market.
  • Over two days, October 27 and 28, more than 60 travel advisors and various stakeholders from Canada joined the golf tournament hosted at the Sandals Golf Upton Estate Country Club in St. Ann. It is expected that the event will have a positive impact on enhancing Jamaica’s reputation as a premier golfing destination, further promoting the island’s allure to golf enthusiasts and ultimately increasing the value of Jamaica’s tourism product.
  • Currently, Canada’s stopover arrivals for this year are expected to outpace 2022’s figure by more than 40 per cent, according to Ms Bennett.

(Source: JIS)

Fitch: El Nino Phenomenon Could Pressure Vulnerable Sovereigns Published: 31 October 2023

  • Environmental stresses associated with El Nino weather conditions could add to the fiscal, growth, inflationary and external liquidity challenges facing vulnerable sovereigns within the region, according to Fitch Ratings.
  • The El Nino phenomenon can be associated with unusually dry conditions in some parts of the world and with greater-than-normal levels of rain in others. Environmental conditions that dampen economic activity could hurt the credit profiles of vulnerable sovereigns that face tight access to financing or have a record of ratcheting up debt during crises.
  • Further, lower crop production may reduce exports or raise imports of food products, adding to external liquidity stress and possibly local inflation. The impact on hydropower output could also be economically significant.
  • Highly rated sovereigns have more room to mitigate the effect of adverse weather conditions and their export sectors and economic activity are generally more resilient. However, they may be affected indirectly. For instance, El Nino conditions could influence prices for globally traded food commodities, affecting their inflation and monetary policy decisions.
  • Governments can deploy subsidies or transfers to mitigate the effect of rising food prices, but this weighs on fiscal metrics. Moreover, after the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent periods of high global inflation, many governments have less fiscal headroom.
  • Nonetheless, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations expects global cereal production in 2023 to be slightly above the previous record in 2021. If this bears out, it should provide a buffer against the risk of disruption to output in 2024; and suggests any impact from the El Nino on global food prices in aggregate should be limited.

(Source: Fitch Solutions)