Thursday, February 14th, 2019


Wall Street falls as surprise drop in retail sales rattle investors

NEW YORK, Feb 14 — US stocks fell today, as consumer and retail stocks dropped after a sharp decline in retail sales in December suggested a slowdown in economic activity. Retail sales tumbled 1.2 per cent in the last month of 2018, the commerce…

US retail sales post largest drop since 2009; jobless claims up

WASHINGTON, Feb 14 — US retail sales recorded their biggest drop in more than nine years in December as receipts fell across the board, suggesting a sharp slowdown in economic activity at the end of 2018. The economy’s outlook was further dimmed…

US dollar drops after US retail data suggests economic slowdown

NEW YORK, Feb 14 — The dollar dropped to session lows this morning following a report that US retail sales recorded the biggest drop in more than nine years in December, suggesting a sharp slowdown in economic activity at the end of 2018. The…

JPMorgan Chase to create digital coins using blockchain for payments

NEW YORK, Feb 14 — JPMorgan Chase & Co said on Thursday it plans to launch its own digital coins, called “JPM Coin”, that customers will be able to use for instant transfer of payments over a blockchain network. The largest US bank by…

Shares and oil at three-month highs but no love for euro

LONDON, Feb 14 — Optimism about US-China trade talks and bumper earnings lifted European shares to a three-month high today, though news that Germany only dodged recession by the narrowest of margins left the euro feeling unloved. Markets were…

Bank Negara Malaysia rules out global recession this year

KUALA LUMPUR: Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) does not expect a global recession to happen this year after the International Monetary Fund’s warning of a sharp slowdown triggered by trade tensions.

In fourth quarter 2018, Malaysia’s economy grew 4.7% driven by resilient private consumption and some recovery from earlier supply disruptions in commodity-related sectors. Overall, the economy grew 4.7% in 2018 supported by resilient private sector spending, lift from net exports and continued expansion in the services and manufacturing sectors.

Speaking to reporters at a briefing on Q4 2018 GDP figures today, BNM governor Datuk Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus said global growth is returning to its long-term trend and she does not think that a global crisis will happen.

“Under that situation, with an open economy and having a diversified economic structure, Malaysia will continue to experience quality growth in external demand and that would provide support to growth in 2019,” she added.

In its Q3 bulletin last year, the central bank said trade tensions in the form at that time were expected to weigh down GDP growth this year, by 0.3 to 0.5 percentage points.

“We have not seen that impact from trade tensions. Growth in exports rebounded in Q4 and we are seeing also, within certain segments of the E&E sector, our market share to the US has increased. So there is some sort of trade diversion happening and that has also supported the favourable performance in the external sector,” said Nor Shamsiah.

However, she said there are downside risks which have been imput into BNM’s projections for 2019 which will be announced during the launch of its 2018 Annual Report next month.

She said income growth, amid a stable labour market and policies to buffer the rising cost of living, will drive consumption and lend support to growth.

Malaysia’s current account registered a surplus of RM10.8 billion in Q4 while the full-year current account surplus reached RM33.5 billion.

Headline inflation declined to 0.3% in Q4 mainly due to transport inflation turning negative. In 2018, headline inflation average 1% and it is expected to average moderately higher this year as the impact of the consumption tax policy will start to lapse towards the end of the year.

However, Nor Shamsiah said, underlying inflation is expected to be broadly stable.

She said the total cumulative reserves in terms of foreign currency assets held are enough to buffer any impact of a weaker ringgit on external debt.

“In terms of buffers, we still have current account surplus, excess liquidity in the system and the banks are in a very strong position in terms of the capital that they hold and liquidity that they hold,” she said.

Speaking of the Economic Action Council, Nor Shamsiah said it could look at measures to invigorate private investment such as a review of incentives offered, and issues related to cost of living such as structural issues on how to grow income, policies to lower dependence on foreign workers, and increasing salaries and wages by improving productivity.

On the management changes at Bank Pembangunan, Nor Shamsiah said all development financial institutions (DFIs) face challenges in attracting talent and most of them lack the scale and the diversified nature of operations in order to remain sustainable in the long run.

She said this year, BNM will review the mandates of DFIs to ensure they are able to play their catalytic role in the new economic landscape, and will be engaging with ministries to share its assessment.

Record earnings for Maybank Indonesia

PETALING JAYA: PT Bank Maybank Indonesia Tbk’s (Maybank Indonesia) profit after tax and minority interests (patami) for the financial year ended Dec 31, 2018 surged 21.6% to a new high of Rp2.2 trillion (RM640 million) on the back of higher net interest income (NII) and continued improvement in asset quality.

The bank’s profit before tax (PBT) jumped 20.5% to a record Rp3 trillion, its highest achievement to date, while NII grew 5.2% to Rp8.1 trillion in December 2018 compared with Rp7.7 trillion in the previous corresponding period, it said in a statement today.

Additionally, it said continuous implementation of disciplined pricing coupled with improved operational efficiencies enabled the bank to contain pressures on interest margin, resulting in improvement in net interest margin by 7 basis points (bps) to 5.2%.

The bank’s asset quality also improved significantly as reflected by lower non-performing loan (NPL) levels of 2.6% (gross) and 1.5% (net) as at Dec 31, 2018 compared with 2.8% (gross) and 1.7% (net) respectively in the previous year.

Following that, Maybank Indonesia was able to reduce its loan loss provisions by 38.6% to Rp1.3 trillion as of December 2018.

Its loans grew 6.3% to Rp133.3 trillion from Rp125.4 trillion in the previous year.

It also maintained a strong capital position with total capital reaching Rp26.1 trillion in FY18, while capital adequacy ratio (CAR) improved to 19% from 17.5%.

Maybank Indonesia president commissioner and Maybank group president and CEO Datuk Abdul Farid Alias said the bank’s outstanding results for FY18 testify to its commitment towards sustainable business growth, as well as its relentless pursuit in ensuring sound asset quality, improved operational efficiency and better overall productivity.

“Although the operating environment continues to remain challenging, we believe that we are poised for further growth in the coming year,” he added.

Dialog net profit up 18% to RM137m in second quarter

PETALING JAYA: Dialog Group Bhd’s net profit for the second quarter ended Dec 31, 2018 rose 18.15% to RM136.78 million from RM115.76 million a year ago, driven by its Malaysian operations.

In a filing with Bursa Malaysia, the group said its Malaysian operations recorded higher net profit during the quarter mainly due to cost savings realised on completed projects and increased share of profit in joint ventures and associates.

However, its international operations recorded lower net profit mainly due to reduced margins as a result of increased market competition.

Revenue for the quarter fell 28.90% to RM609.61 million from RM857.43 million a year ago due to lower revenue from its Malaysian operations as the engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning works in Pengerang Deepwater Terminals (PDT) Phase 2 project neared completion.

For the six months ended Dec 31, 2018, net profit fell 9.13% to RM251.42 million from RM276.69 million a year ago while revenue fell 20.51% to RM1.30 billion from RM1.64 billion a year ago.

“We are pleased to report that the group has continued to deliver on its commitment to grow sustainable, recurring income and enhance shareholders’ value. With the completion of the PDT Phase 2A and 2B, and the refinery projects at RAPID, we are now actively involved in the plant maintenance services for these projects,” executive chairman Tan Sri Dr Ngau Boon Keat said in a statement today.

“The group has continued to make progress for Phase 3 as well – land reclamation activities are in progress and is scheduled for completion at end of 2019, and we are in active discussions with potential customers for Phase 3. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the group is confident that its performance will remain strong for the financial year ending 30 June, 2019,” he added.

Gas Malaysia’s earnings down 16.7% in Q4

PETALING JAYA: Gas Malaysia Bhd’s net profit decreased 16.74% in the fourth quarter ended Dec 31, 2018 to RM51.08 million, from RM61.35 million in the previous corresponding quarter. ,mainly due to lower gas contribution margin recognised.

Revenue for the quarter however increased 19.45% to RM1.74 billion, compared with RM1.46 billion in the same quarter a year ago, driven by higher volume of natural gas sold and higher natural gas tariff.

For the full year of 2018, its earnings jumped 11.95% to RM180.39 million, from RM161.14 million a year ago, while revenue was up 17.27% to RM6.23 billion, against RM5.31 billion previously.

On its prospects, the group said it anticipates that the yearly increase in natural gas sale volume and number of customers will sustain for the financial year 2019.

“The profitability of the group for the financial year ending Dec 31, 2019 is expected to be in tandem with the level reflecting the prevailing tariff setting mechanism framework,” it added.

EU lawmakers greenlight screening of Chinese investment

STRASBOURG, Feb 14 — The European Parliament today gave its green light to new powers to screen foreign takeovers in Europe’s strategic sectors, amid concern about investment by China. The limited powers aim to protect EU sectors like water,…