Money and Investment Conference in Jordan Discusses Status of Digital Currencies


Amman – The 12th Money and Investment Conference got underway on Tuesday in Amman with the participation of Arab and foreign experts and international companies.

The conference, titled “Digital coins [bitcoins] and their influence on the economy”, discussed the modern era of digital currencies, such as the “bitcoins”.

The two-day conference will address the future of banknotes in light of the spread of digital money, as well as the advantages of investment in stocks and oil in the Arab region and the impact of currency fluctuations on Arab economies.

It will also tackle systems and technology used in currency trading and the laws and regulations that organize it.

Amman Stock Exchange Chairman of the Board of Directors Jawad Anani said in the opening speech that bitcoins first emerged in 2009 and are protected through an e-security system that is structured in a “special language that makes it very difficult to penetrate.”

“There is no monetary authority that supervises digital currencies on the international level, and in case they were accepted globally, the functions of other currencies must be acquired as a means of payment and a tool for storage and settlement, which will raise the price of gold, silver and platinum in the world,” he explained.

Anani also stressed that the electronic revolution witnessed by the global economy will rearrange the roles of many international organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund, the Bank for International Settlements and the World Trade Organization.

“Bitcoins are divided into two kinds: electronic ones that enjoy high levels of protection due to their encryption, and coins whose values are estimated at $42 million globally,” Anani said.

International economic expert Amr Abdo said that the digital currency revolution is inseparable from the global economic crisis, which revealed that the world economy does not serve the middle class.

He pointed out that the market value of digital currencies today is around 93 billion dollars on the global level.

Fadi Khalaf, secretary general of the Arab Stock Exchange, said that the opportunities are attractive for investment in stocks.

He attributed the reason for the Arab investments in global stock markets to the lack of liquidity, which should be addressed through short selling and the construction of hedging tools that reduce risk rates.

Issuances of GCC Public Debt Total 415 Bn Dollars


London – A report issued by the National Bank of Kuwait’s Studies and Research Unit confirmed a decline in yields on Gulf sovereign bonds in parallel with a decline in risks and a rise in oil prices.

Gulf Cooperation Council debt issuance picked up in the third quarter of 2017 as the typically slower summer season came to an end but activity remained predominantly in the public sector, the report said.

Total new issuance amounted to $24 billion compared to $21 billion in 2Q17. Private sector activity continued to weaken in 3Q17, with the share of sovereign issuances up to 94 percent. Total outstanding debt was up a healthy $20 billion, to rest at $415 billion, according to the report.

Sovereign activity was strong during 3Q17 with $23 billion in new issuances and the bulk coming from Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain tapped international markets for the second time this year with a $3 billion issuance.

Despite Bahrain having a rating below investment-grade by the three main rating agencies, the offering was well received and almost five times oversubscribed, reflecting the strong appetite and increased attractiveness of the regional debt market.

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait issued domestic debt of $11 billion and $4 billion, respectively.

Following the sharp increase in the Credit Default Swap (CDS) rates on the back of Qatar’s dispute with its GCC neighbors, CDS rates for most of the tracked sovereign’s came off in 3Q17.

For the most part, the region’s risk profile benefited from the recovery in oil prices. CDS rates for Saudi Arabia and Qatar dropped the most, by 31 bps and 22 bps, respectively. As for the rest of the GCC, their rates were little changed.

GCC debt issuance is expected to remain healthy in 4Q17 as sovereigns continue to seek cheap deficit financing in favorable market conditions.

In early October, Saudi Arabia raised $12 billion in dollar-denominated debt almost a year after its debut international issuance. Abu Dhabi also just completed a $10 billion international offering.

GCC yields tracked international markets and closed the quarter slightly lower. The quarter saw a marked improvement in oil prices, which also helped GCC yields move lower.

Oil prices were up 25 percent in 3Q17, increasing the appeal of regional paper as fiscal concerns were alleviated. Most GCC sovereign yields were marginally down on the quarter.

Yields on GCC sovereign bonds dropped more notably following the sell-off seen in 2Q17.

On the international level, global and GCC debt markets yields traded in a narrow range in 3Q17 as central banks’ increased hawkishness and the improving economic outlook were countered by geo-political tensions, White House political challenges and stubbornly low inflation.

Issuance in the GCC picked up in 3Q17, but continued to be dominated by domestic sovereign issuance. Bahrain was the only country to issue internationally. GCC primary debt market activity is expected to stay healthy for the remainder of 2017.

International benchmark yields trended downward for most of the quarter as North Korea worries benefited safe haven assets.

Persistently low inflation in the major economies also continued to put a cap on yields. However, most yields ended the quarter slightly higher following a more hawkish tone by the unveiling of President Trump’s pro-business tax plan late in the quarter.

New Sensors for Self-driving Cars


New York – Soroush Salehian raised both arms and spun in circles as if celebrating a touchdown.

Across the room, perched on a tripod, a small black device monitored this little dance and streamed it to a nearby laptop. Mr. Salehian appeared as a collection of tiny colored dots, some red, some blue, some green. Each dot showed the precise distance to a particular point on his body, while the colors showed the speed of his movements. As his right arm spun forward, it turned blue. His left arm, spinning away, turned red.

“See how the arms are different?” said his business partner, Mina Rezk, pointing at the laptop. “It’s measuring different velocities.”

Messrs. Salehian and Rezk are the founders of a new Silicon Valley start-up called Aeva, and their small black device is designed for self-driving cars. The veterans of Apple’s secretive Special Projects Group aim to give these autonomous vehicles a more complete, detailed and reliable view of the world around them — something that is essential to their evolution.

Today’s driverless cars under development at companies like General Motors, Toyota, Uber and the Google spinoff Waymo track their surroundings using a wide variety of sensors, including cameras, radar, GPS antennas and lidar (short for “light detection and ranging”) devices that measure distances using pulses of light.

But there are gaps in the way these sensors operate, and combining their disparate streams of data is difficult. Aeva’s prototype — a breed of lidar that measures distances more accurately and also captures speed — aims to fill several of these sizable holes.

“I don’t even think of this as a new kind of lidar,” said Tarin Ziyaee, co-founder and chief technology officer at the self-driving taxi start-up Voyage, who has seen the Aeva prototype. “It’s a whole different animal.”

Founded in January and funded by the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Lux Capital, among others, Aeva joins a widespread effort to build more effective sensors for autonomous vehicles, a trend that extends from start-ups like Luminar, Echodyne and Metawave to established hardware makers like the German multinational Robert Bosch.

The company’s name, Aeva, is a play on “Eve,” the name of the robot in the Pixar movie “WALL-E.”

The market for autonomous vehicles will grow to $42 billion by 2025, according to research by the Boston Consulting Group. But for that to happen, the vehicles will need new and more powerful sensors. Today’s autonomous cars are ill prepared for high-speed driving, bad weather and other common situations.

The recent improvements in self-driving cars coincided with the improvements offered by new lidar sensors from a Silicon Valley company called Velodyne. These sensors gave cars a way of measuring distances to nearby vehicles, pedestrians and other objects. They also provided Google and other companies with a way of mapping urban roadways in three dimensions, so that cars will know exactly where they are at any given moment — something GPS cannot always provide.

But these lidar sensors have additional shortcomings. They can gather information only about objects that are relatively close to them, which limits how fast the cars can travel. Their measurements aren’t always detailed enough to distinguish one object from another. And when multiple driverless cars are close together, their signals can become garbled.

Other devices can pick up some of slack. Cameras are a better way of identifying pedestrians and street signs, for example, and radar works over longer distances. That’s why today’s self-driving cars track their surroundings through so many different sensors. But despite this wide array of hardware — which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per vehicle — even the best autonomous vehicles still have trouble in so many situations that humans can navigate with ease.

With their new sensor, Messrs. Salehian and Rezk are working to change that. Mr. Rezk is an engineer who designed optical hardware for Nikon, and presumably, he was among those who handled optical sensors for Apple’s driverless car project, though he and Mr. Salehian declined to say which “special project” they worked on at the company. They left Apple late last year.

Where current lidar sensors send out individual pulses, Aeva’s device sends out a continuous wave of light. By reading the way this far more complex signal bounces off surrounding objects, Mr. Rezk said, the device can capture a far more detailed image while also tracking velocity. You can think of it as a cross between lidar, which is so good at measuring depth, and radar, which is so good at measuring speed.

Mr. Rezk also said the device’s continuous wave would provide greater range and resolution than existing lidar devices, deal better with weather and highly reflective objects like bridge railings, and avoid interference with other optical sensors.

Cars will continue to use multiple kinds of sensors, in part because redundancy helps ensure that these cars are safe. But Aeva aims to give these cars a better view of the world from a smaller and less expensive set of sensors.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have built similar hardware, and companies like Velodyne and the start-ups Oryx Vision and Quanergy say they are exploring similar ideas. Like these efforts, the Aeva prototype is still under development, and the company plans to sell devices next year. But it shows how autonomous car sensors need to evolve — and that they are indeed evolving.

Ultimately, new sensors will allow cars to make better decisions.

The New York Times

Amazon Launches its New Waterproof Kindle Oasis E-reader


London – Amazon has unveiled its latest waterproof Kindle Oasis e-reader which can be used on the beach, in the pool, or in the bathtub; developed to survive immersion in up to 2 meters.

The device is available for 3 different price, the 8GB version is for $250, the 32GB model prices at $280, and the 32GB with free cellular connectivity is priced at $350.

The new Oasis which holds the same name as last year’s premium Kindle — has jumped up in size, moving from a 6-inch screen to a 7-inch screen, which can take a bigger number of words, according to the company.

The device has ambient light sensors and comes with an aluminum back. Amazon said now page-turning feels faster.

This version isn’t only waterproof, but also has a built-in Audible app that lets users download and listen to around 375 thousand audible programs and books.

Euro Zone Trade Surplus Shrank in August

London – Euro zone’s trade surplus shrank in August as the stronger euro fueled an import boom that was only partly offset by a rise in exports, official estimates released on Monday showed.

Although the euro has depreciated against the dollar from a 2017 peak in early September, it is still up more than 12 percent this year. Cheaper imports have complicated European Central Bank’s plans to raise inflation in the euro zone.

The European statistics office Eurostat said the 19-country currency bloc’s surplus in goods trade dropped to 16.1 billion euros ($18.9 billion) in August from 23.2 billion in July. It was also lower than in August 2016 when it stood at 17.5 billion euros, according to Reuters.

The lower surplus was caused by a surge in imports from countries outside the euro zone, which grew 8.6 percent on the year, according to seasonally unadjusted data.

This rise outstripped the 6.8 percent increase in exports, resulting in a smaller surplus for the euro zone. The August surplus was the lowest recorded this year, excluding a temporary deficit in January.

Inflation in the euro zone was 1.5 percent in September, according to Eurostat preliminary estimates, the same rate as in August and below the ECB target of a rate close to 2 percent.

The euro edged lower after posting its biggest weekly gain in a month before a European Central Bank meeting next week at which policymakers are expected to present a plan to roll back its stimulus programme.

With political uncertainty in the form of Catalonia’s bid for independence and the outcome of national elections in Austria having a very muted impact on the currency, investors moved to the sidelines to focus on economic data.

The euro fell 0.1 percent to $1.1814 on Monday but was hemmed in a tight 0.3 percent range. It rose 0.8 percent last week, its biggest weekly rise in a month, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Saudi Airlines Welcomes ‘Saudization’ of Women Jobs

Jeddah – Saudization of women jobs is welcomed, affirmed the Saudi Arabian Airlines, as there is no problem in benefiting from females in its various facilities on land or in air.

Director General of Saudi Arabian Airlines Saleh al-Jasser told Asharq Al-Awsat that opening the door before Saudi women in the aviation field is welcomed, but he didn’t specify a deadline for commencing the recruitment of females at a time when men pilots are applying for vacancies open in Saudia.

“Everything is possible. The plans aim at going along with the developments of the society and the aviation industry on diverse levels. We are open to all what serves the country and citizens,” he added.

Jasser stressed that Saudia invested in human resources through continuing to attract citizens via training programs that become jobs later on – he pointed out that during the past months procedures of the third batch of trainees were completed within King Salman Scholarship Program.

King Salman Scholarship Program aims to provide sponsorship to 5,000 Saudi youths in the fields of aviation sciences and airplanes’ engineering and maintenance in some of the most noble global universities and training academies, according to Jasser.

Director General of Saudi Arabian Airlines Saleh bin Nasser al-Jasser revealed the intention to send two flights to Iraq weekly in order to recover some markets that were lost for security and political reasons in the past period, adding that the increase of Saudi-Iraqi flights is likely during the coming period.

Commenting on the operational share to be acquired by Saudia, he stated that the anticipated inauguration of the new airport in Jeddah would increase number of passengers, confirming that inaugurating the new King Abdulaziz International Airport will introduce a new level of aviation industry in the kingdom.

Google Launches New App for Lucrative Surveys


San Francisco, London — Google has launched a new app called “Google Opinion Rewards” which allows users make some profit after taking surveys which are usually conducted by certain companies.

The US Company said the new app is currently available for IOs users in the United States. A user can receive 99 cents for answering the survey’s questions through this app.

According to the German News Agency (DPA), Google stated that the surveys cover all topics and fields, from the favorite TV shows to the apps that people love to use.

The website reported that the brain-picking surveys usually take less than 30 seconds and are always 10 questions or less.

The user receives a notification on his mobile device when a new survey is ready, and if he’s just not that into one of them, he can simply skip it. The money he earns goes to whatever PayPal account you’ve linked to the app.

Head of Egypt Stock Exchange Expects to Attract New Investors in Coming Period


Washington – Head of the Egyptian Stock Exchange Mohammed Farid said that preliminary measures have already been taken to establish a futures contracts market in the country after international financial institutions have shown their desire to sign contracts on certain Egyptian products.

In statements to Asharq Al-Awsat on the sidelines of the meetings between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in Washington, Farid explained that “most emerging markets have contracts markets, as demonstrated by the request from some international financial institutions to sign contracts on Egyptian products.”

He added that the Egyptian stock exchange will attract new investors during the coming period in light of the new proposals that will be received by the primary market soon, but the volume and value of liquidity will witness a leap.

He pointed out that before starting to prepare for the contracts markets, they are “activating the sale of borrowed securities, which is important in contributing to the pricing of contracts markets in general and increasing trading rates.”

Efforts are being made to reduce the suspension time from 30 to 15 minutes in cases of temporary suspension of securities, in order to increase the liquidity rates so that the market can build contracts market with good transactions in the future, he revealed.

“The steps we are currently preparing for are to first have the legislative framework. We already have amendments to the level of the capital market law, which is supposed to be discussed in the parliament. It proposes the regulating legislative framework for the different markets and bourses.”

“Then, we have start to work on the different requirements, whether technological at the level of trading, or in regards to the settlement of these contracts or others associated with financial risk management and settlement of these securities,” Farid added.

Farid, who took office last August, is considering raising the 250-share capital increase and demanding that these increases be recorded.

Saudi Capital Market Authority Sets up Committee to Supervise Listed Companies Audits


Riyadh – In line with the announced national capital market authority strategy, the affiliated Saudi body established on Sunday the Listed Companies and Capital Market Institutions Auditors Supervision Division.

The Saudi Capital Market Authority (CMA) also founded a committee that includes representatives from relevant government entities and independent experts.

CMA Board of Commissioners Acting Vice Chairman Dr. Abdulrahman Al Barrak pointed out that the importance of this Division and the committee comes in line with the need to improving market transparency and confidence in the financial statements/reports. He underlined its importance in creating a structure that is equivalent to other international capital markets oversight structures, which would support the attraction of foreign investment and cross listing.

This decision was based on the CMA analysis and benchmark of the international best practices relating to oversight of public entities auditors.

The CMA regulates and develops the Saudi Arabian Capital Market by issuing required rules and regulations for implementing the provisions of Capital Market Law. The basic objectives are to create an appropriate investment environment, boost confidence, reinforce transparency and disclosure standards in all listed companies and protect the investors and dealers from illegal acts in the market.

Al Barrak mentioned that the Division and the Committee will be focused on establishing standards and conditions required for the auditors who audit the books of joint stock companies listed on the Exchange and Capital Market Institutes; the registration of certified public accountants licensed by the Ministry of Commerce and Investment and registered in the Certified Public Accountants Register, who are providing audit services to listed companies and who are in compliance with the CMA standards and conditions; supervision and inspection of such auditors within the CMA scope of work; cooperating with the Saudi Organization of Certified Public Accountants to improving the financial reporting quality of listed companies.

It is worth mentioning that the Capital Market Law gave the CMA the right to establish standards and conditions required for auditors who audit the books of entities subject to the control and supervision of the Authority.

CMA will continue to announce other developments surrounding the auditors supervision during the coming period.