Saturday, February 12, 2011

Global markets worry 'what next?' for Egypt after Mubarak:

WASHINGTON: Global markets showed quick approval of Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak's resignation Friday, but analysts quickly began worrying about what comes next in the absence of a clear path for the future for the country.

After three decades of relative stability, the lack of a clear leadership and the specter of popular impatience with the transition kept analysts on edge, even amid the euphoria Mubarak's departure.

John Sfakianakis, an economist at Riyadh-based Banque Saudi Fransi -- part of the French Credit Agricole CIB group -- called Mubarak's ouster good news, short-term, "but not necessarily perfect news."

"If violence doesn't come back, then Mubarak's exit can be used as a breather toward opening the stock market, calming bond yields and bringing down credit default swaps," he told AFP.

"But if the street begins to make demands on regime change and violence erupts, then things will get worse for the economy and Egypt's reputation."

Global oil prices dropped and stock markets spiked upward almost immediately after Mubarak's ouster was announced Friday.

Traders had grown uneasy that rising tensions could spill into violence over the weekend, after Mubarak defied pressure and clung to power.

Those worries dissipated as tens of thousands of protesters on the streets in Cairo and Alexandria erupted in jubilant cheers when he finally threw in the towel.

But, at least on the London oil market, prices just as quickly went into reverse, amid the ongoing uncertainty in a country that sits astride a key oil shipment corridor, the Suez Canal.

While the oil price in New York -- representing a less-immediately vulnerable market -- dropped $1.15 to $85.58 in closing trades Friday, the Brent North Sea contract in London finished 56 cents higher at $101.43 per barrel.

Gains on stock markets in Europe and the Americas were also moderated by the murky picture of the way forward, said brokers.

"We think having the military take over was the best solution in ending the deadlock between the protestors and Mubarak," said Win Thinn at Brown Brothers Harriman.

"However, there are still more questions than answers with regards to Egypt's ultimate fate and so investors must be prepared for ongoing volatility."

As the crisis in Egypt unfolded the biggest concern was for interruptions of oil shipments through the country.

Some three million barrels a day pass through, mostly northward toward Europe. Two million barrels pass through the Suez Canal and another million moves via a Red Sea-Mediterranean pipeline.

Reflecting that concern, Brent prices rose as much as four dollars a barrel during the protests, topping $102. 

Source: ET

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