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US jobless claims up slightly

WASHINGTON (AFP/APP): First-time claims for US jobless benefits rose modestly last week but were still at historically low levels, pointing to the continued health of labor markets, government data showed Thursday.

The new figures suggest the jobs market could again see robust growth this month as they were collected during the survey week for the Labor Department’s closely-watched monthly employment report due out April 6.

Workers are becoming increasingly scarce amid very low unemployment but last month employers added a stunning 313,000 net new positions, possibly due to employees coming off the sidelines and rejoining the workforce. For the week ending March 17, new claims for unemployment insurance rose by 3,000 to 229,000, marginally above analyst expectations which had called for a token decrease of 1,000 claims, according to the Labor Department report.

The less volatile four-week moving average also rose 2,250 to 223,750 claims.

Jobless benefits claims have now held below the symbolic level of 300,000 for nearly three years, the longest stretch since 1973. But economists say the level is probably the lowest ever, given demographic changes in the last 50 years.

“Labor is so scarce that the bar for layoffs is now very high,” Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics said in a client note.

And adjusting for population growth, the current trend was the lowest since statistics began in 1948, he said.

Though they can see big swings from week to week, jobless claims are used to gauge the health of labor markets and the prevalence of layoffs.

“Clearly, firms aren’t firing people without a very good reason, presumably because it’s so hard to replace them later,” Shepherdson said. Tight jobs markets can spur inflation, adding pressure on the central bank to raise interest rates more quickly — a prospect that has worried investors in recent weeks.

But Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday that economic data does not suggest the world’s largest economy was “on the cusp of an acceleration of inflation.”

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KCCI invited to Trade & Investment Conference

F.P. Report

KARACHI: High Commissioner of Kenya Prof. Julius Kibet Bitok has invited the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) to participate and support the forthcoming Trade & Investment Conference scheduled to be organized in Karachi on May 2nd and May 3rd, 2018 which will be attended by leading Kenyan businessmen and Chambers of Commerce & Industry from different parts of the world.

Exchanging views with KCCI Office Bearers and Managing Committee members during his visit to the Karachi Chamber, Kenyan HC said that the trade and investment conference would provide a perfect opportunity for B2B meetings with businessmen from Kenya and other parts of the world. “You (the Karachi Chamber) must collaborate and partner with us in order to make this event successful”, he added.

President KCCI Muffasar Atta Malik, Senior Vice President Abdul Basit Abdul Razzak, Vice President Rehan Hanif, Chairman Diplomatic Mission & Embassies Liaison Sub-Committee Sohail Amin, Chairman Fairs & Exhibitions Sub-Committee Abdul Rehman Naqi, Chairman Special Committee for My Karachi Exhibition Muhammad Idrees and KCCI Managing Committee Members attended the meeting.

Julius Bitok, while expressing worries over limited trade volume between Pakistan and Kenya, advised the business and industrial community of Karachi to focus on diversifying their exports to Kenya in order to improve the existing trade volume between the two countries.

He said that rice and tea were two main commodities which were traditionally being traded between the two countries but there were a host of many other Pakistani products which can not only be introduced in the Kenyan market but also to many other African across Africa via Kenya. Kenyan HC also underscored the need to promote tourism opportunities between the two countries and enhance linkages between Nairobi Chamber and Karachi Chamber which would bring the business communities of the two countries more close to each other and yield positive results.

To a query, he said that Kenya, being an economically stable country, was a safe place for Pakistani business community who must visit this peaceful country where doing business was much easier as compared to other African states.

President KCCI Muffasar Atta Malik, in his remarks, extended full support and cooperation to the Kenyan High Commission for making the Trade and Investment Conference successful. Seeking more details about the forthcoming event, he assured to make sincere efforts for maximum participation and B2B meetings between the business communities of Karachi and Kenya.

He was of the view that there was a huge potential to enhance bilateral trade between Kenya and Pakistan. As Kenya is one of the largest country in East Africa, Pakistan can export pharmaceutical and surgical items, sport goods and farm machinery etc.

Muffasar Malik said that the Karachi Chamber wants to promote business, mutual understanding and friendly relations between Pakistan and Kenya. “We also want to promote Kenyan investment and partnerships in Pakistan and do everything for the development of Pakistan–Kenya business cooperation”, he added.

He also underscored the need for having a reciprocal visa policy in order to pave way for improved trade and investment relations between the two countries.


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France hit by new major public sector strike

PARIS (AA): France braced on Thursday for travel chaos as millions of public sector employees, including school and hospital staff, civil servants, air traffic controllers, the national rail operator (SNCF) and Paris metro (RATP) workers strike to protest government labor reforms and planned job cuts.

A total of seven trade unions, including the CGT, FSU, Solidaires, CFTC, CFE-CGC, FA-FP and FO, called for a ‘day of action’ and more than 140 rallies have been planned in cities and towns nationwide in protest of government’s proposed reforms that were announced on February 1. The largest gathering will be held at the symbolic Place de la Bastille in Paris, and is expected to draw as many as 25,000 people.

The reforms include plans to freeze pay, tighten rules for sick days and to cut 120,000 jobs in the public sector by 2022.

SNCF has said that only 40 percent of high-speed TGV services will be running, and just one in four regular trains across the country. Four Eurostar trains have already been cancelled – two from Paris and two from London. France’s civil aviation authority said a third of flights into and out of the main Paris airports of Charles de Gaulle, Orly and Beauvais are cancelled. The public service strike is only scheduled to last from Thursday to Friday morning. However, SNCF has announced rolling strikes starting April 3, which will see traffic disrupted two days a week over the course of three months.

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SBP governor pledges measures for promoting housing, SMEs sectors

F.P. Report

SIALKOT: State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Tariq Bajwa has pledged all-out efforts for promotion of agriculture, Small and Medium Entreprises (SMEs) and housing sectors in the country.

He said that the SBP was making hectic efforts to remove all obstacles in smooth functioning of the SMEs.

He was addressing a joint meeting of the Sialkot exporters and bankers at Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) on Thursday.

The SCCI president presided over the meeting while officials of the SBP Sialkot and the SCCI, and representatives of trade bodies attended the meeting.

The SBP governor said that the Bank was bringing about betterment in the credit allocations for the SMEs, saying that efficient credit allocations were critical for sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

Tariq Bajwa said the SBP had simplified the procedure for loan applications for the SMEs, adding that the step would help the SMEs flourish in the country.

He said that the SBP would soon give a “special barrier” to all commercial banks for controlling inter-bank rates and minimise difference of rates of foreign currencies to help the SMEs as well.

The SBP governor said that measures were being taken to make Exim Bank an active institution.

The SCCI officials highlighted the problems facing the Sialkot business people and sought help of the SBP governor for solving these problems.



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Turkish aid group opens over 6,700 water wells globally

ISTANBUL (AA): Turkey’s Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) has so far opened 6,747 water wells in 36 countries under the scope of its 18-year-long project.

In a statement released to mark World Water Day, the IHH said it was continuing its efforts to ensure that millions of people suffering from water scarcity across the world get access to clean water that meets all their needs.

The project, which was initiated in the year 2000, continues until today across the continents of Africa, Asia and Middle East where 3,373,000 people meet their water needs via such water wells.

According to a UN report prepared in 2017 together with the UNICEF, 2.1 billion people worldwide remain unable to access clean water; there is no clean water in the houses of each three people out of 10 in the world.

Each year, 502,000 people lose their lives due to diarrheal illness caused by the use of polluted water and insufficient sanitation, the report said.

Also, 4.5 billion people lack sanitation and hygiene services, it added.

With the water wells IHH establishes, locals not only have access to clean and drinkable water but also are able to use the water for their agricultural activities and generate income.

The water wells, which are an important factor in preventing food and water scarcity, also create a bridge between the hearts of locals and donors of the wells.

The water wells have been named after donors; in fact, majority of the wells have been named after martyrs of July 15, 2016, defeated coup and Operation Olive Branch.

Among the countries where IHH has established water wells are: Ethiopia, Somalia, Niger, Sudan, Cameroon, Kenya, India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon.

Those who wish to donate for a water well can send 5 Turkish liras via text message to 3072 or 16 Turkish liras to 4072 or donate either online or do a money transfer to IHH’s bank account.

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ICCI calls for formulation of policy

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry has called upon the government to formulate a national livestock and dairy policy in consultation with stakeholders to realize the actual economic potential of livestock and dairy sector for the benefit of the country.

President Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sheikh Amir Waheed, said that livestock was contributing over 58% to the agriculture GDP while Pakistan was third largest milk producer in the world producing over 50 billion liters of milk annually, but livestock and dairy sector was facing many problems due to which it could not achieve growth and development up to its real potential.

He said over 7.5 million families were directly involved in livestock farming and the livelihood of around 40-45 million people was directly dependent on livestock farming, which showed its importance for the country. He said government should address the key problems of livestock and dairy sector on priority basis for its revival and cooperate with dairy farmers to produce value added dairy products that would not only boost the rural economy, it but would contribute substantially towards a healthy and prosperous Pakistan.

Muhammad Naveed Senior Vice President and Nisar Mirza Vice President ICCI said that government should reduce electricity tariffs for livestock and dairy farmers, abolish duties on the import of dairy machinery and raw materials. They said government should also reduce 10% sales tax on local manufacturing of milk power and provide exemption of income tax that would facilitate early revival of livestock and dairy sector in the country and help in better economic growth of the country.


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Shipping activity at Port Qasim

KARACHI (APP): Shipping activity remained active at the Port Qasim where four ships including Mataquito, Parnasos, YM Mirando and Al-Dasma carrying Containers, Chemicals, Coal and Diesel oil were alloted berths at the Qasim International Container Terminal, Multi-Purpose Terminal and FOTCO Oil Terminal respectivel.

A total of nine ships namely Mataquito, APL Charleston, Parnasos, Makikl, Africaw, YM Miranda, White Purl, Adam and Al-Dasma are currently occupying berths to load/offload containers, general cargo, soya bean, seeds, coal, chemicals, palm kernel, LPG, LNG and diesel oil during last 24 hours.

Cargo handilng during last 24 hours stood at 143.646 tonnes, comprising 109.902 tonnes import cargo and 33.744 tonnes export cargo inclusive of containerized cargo carried in 3,408 containers, (1.632 TEUs imports and 1.776 TEUs exports) were handled at the Port.

Two ships container vessel APL Charleston and Gas carrier White Purl sailed out to sea on Thursday morning, while another gas carrier Adam is expected to sail on same day in the afternoon. M.V Epic Sentaso carrying chemicals is expected to take berth at Engro Terminal on Thursday. while two more ships Hansa America and CMA CGM Blue Whale are due to arrive at the Port Qasim on Friday and three more container ships Virgo, MSC Desiree and Cape Mayor are due to arrive on Saturday.

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Petroleum prices likely to increase by Rs3-4 per litre for April

F.P. Report

LAHORE: The petroleum prices for the month of April are likely to go up by Rs3-4 per litre. The petroleum products prices will possibly increase as the rates of crude oil and dollar have increased in the international market.

In the international market, a $5 hike has been recorded in the price of crude oil from the start of March.

Similarly, Pakistani rupee has depreciated by five percent against the dollar in the month of March.


The experts say that will be compelled to increase the price of petroleum products next month. The decision will be finalized on March 31.


It is pertinent to mention here that the government has augmented the prices of petrol and diesel by Rs21 and Ra18.50 per litre respectively from August 2017 till date.


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Czech minster sees lot of potential to enhance trade volume with Pakistan

F.P. Report

KARACHI: Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Czech Republic Ivan Jancarek has said that the global economic environmental and financial changes have caused lower trade volume between Pakistan and Czech Republic.

This he said in a meeting with business community during his visit to FPCCI on Wednesday.

Deputy Minister who was accompanied by Ambassador and Honorary Consul General of Czech Republic lamented that volume of bilateral trade was below the potentials and had declined to 150 million dollars from 217 million dollars last year while volume of Pakistan export to Czech Republic is 92 million dollars and imports from Czech Republic is 57 million dollars which does not reflect the potential both the countries have.

It was further informed by Deputy Minister that in order to further strengthen economic ties between both the countries, Czech Republic would sign agreement with Pakistan on trade cooperation and foreign affairs.

He expressed that Pakistan being saved country with a population of 208 million has a great attraction for foreign investment particularly in the back drop of CPEC.

He said that Czech Export Bank can offer its services and cooperation in establishing various joint ventures.

He also highlighted cultural and tourism heritage of his country.

Earlier, Vice President FPCCI Tariq Haleem while welcoming the Minister informed about the FPCCI activities particularly in contextt with the investment policy and Pakistan’s export potential.

He said that Pakistan and Czech Republic enjoy political relations and have common thoughts and views on global economic issues; however the bilateral trade between our two countries does not reflect the true potential and the depth of our relations.

Presently, Pakistan export to Czech Republic mainly constitutes Bed linen, Table Toilet and Kitchen linen, Articles of Apparel and Clothing, Accessories of Leather, and other Hosiery, Knitted or Crocheted. Pakistan is a buyer of Czech Republic, Steam turbine and Vapor turbine, Uncoated Kraft paper and paperboard, Radar Apparatus, Radio navigation etc.

The reason behind the low bilateral trade between Pakistan and Czech Republic indicates lack of information about each other’s economic, trade and investment potential, and low level of interaction between the Private sector level of both countries.

He emphasized on the need of frequent exchange of delegation, participation in trade fairs of each other countries as well as holding Joint Business Council Meetings between National Chambers of both the countries.

Such interaction will contribute in enhancement of bilateral trade and economic relations. He praised that Czech Republic has a great capability of manufacturing of machineries and Pakistan should make use of their technologies.



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Dollar lower, stock markets ‘tepid’ before Fed

LONDON (AFP/APP): The dollar dropped and stock markets were mixed Wednesday ahead of a meeting of the US Federal Reserve and comments from its new boss Jerome Powell.

The Federal Reserve is widely expected to announce Wednesday the first of at least three US interest rate hikes this year as the central bank works to head off inflation.

Newly-installed Fed Chairman Jerome Powell will hold his first press conference at the conclusion of the meeting and his words will be closely scrutinised for hints about the likely pace of rate hikes. “It’s a done deal, rates in the US will go up by at least 25 basis points today… but it will be the accompanying statement that causes the biggest fuss, and the indication of either three or four rate hikes in 2018,” said James Hughes, chief market analyst at Axitrader. “Markets tepid ahead of Fed announcement,” Charles Schwab consultants said in a note.

Fears that the US central bank will embark on a sharper pace of rises than previously expected have rattled markets worldwide since the start of February, as traders contemplate the end of a decade of cheap cash that has fired an equities rally. Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA, said there would likely be some changes to the bank’s previous statements.

“Since the December meeting, inflation has shown signs of coming to life, although the latest round of data would challenge that view,” he added.

“But, more significantly, Fed speak has turned marginally more hawkish of late, suggesting we should expect some upgrade to the statement, at the minimum.”

Market uncertainty has also been fanned by Donald Trump’s controversial tariffs on metals imports and threats of more, which have sparked talk of a global trade war, while the Facebook data breach is also keeping trading cautious.

Elsewhere, the oil market was in focus after data indicated a jump in US demand.

The American Petroleum Institute on Tuesday announced a huge draw in US stockpiles last week, confounding expectations of another rise.

WTI and Brent crude contracts each jumped more than two percent Tuesday and extended gains on Wednesday.

Also Tuesday a committee working for the Russia-OPEC group that has capped output said global supplies would balance with demand by the end of September, sooner than previous forecasts.

Analysts added there was also likely support for prices from uncertainty about the Iran nuclear deal, which could spark fresh geopolitical woes. The speculation comes as Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was in the US.

The royal ramped up pressure on regional arch-rival and fellow crude producer Iran, telling CBS’s “60 minutes” the kingdom would follow suit if Iran developed nuclear weapons.