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Gold hits another record as oil inches up

London: Spot gold raced higher to a record high of $966.70 an ounce on Thursday, as a fall in the dollar against the euro and strong oil prices boosted investor buying, traders said. Gold was last quoted at $966.00/$966.90 an ounce at 1606 GMT, against $957.50/$958.30 in New York late on Wednesday. Meanwhile, oil rose towards $102 a barrel, trading within sight of its record high, after a supply cut in Nigeria, Africa’s top exporter. Investors have pumped cash into commodities in recent weeks, betting on signs the US Federal Reserve will keep cutting rates to prop up the economy. “The energy complex is a dollar/inflation story as investors have moved into commodities as a hedge against inflation,” said Nauman Barakat, senior vice president at Macquarie Futures USA. Pressure “The ever-weakening dollar, upward inflationary pressures and geopolitical tensions are having a greater impact on the market than the fundamentals.” US crude rose $1.96 to $101.60 a barrel by 1602 GMT, having hit a record $102.08 on Wednesday. London Brent crude gained $1.78 to $100.05. Also boosting prices, output at Nigeria’s Brass River crude stream was cut by 20,000 barrels per day this week due to sabotage on a pipeline, Italian oil firm Agip said. The leak was fixed on Wednesday and output restored. Expectations that the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) will not raise output at its meeting on March 5 also supported oil, as did winter fuel demand in the US and Europe. The group will most likely keep its oil output steady at next week’s meeting, the head of Libya’s Opec delegation, Shokri Ganem, said yesterday. Outlook Analysts who use past price movements to predict future direction said a move a few dollars higher for US crude, also known as WTI, could lead to further gains. “With the dollar in free-fall, we would be concerned that if WTI rallies above $102-$103 it would trigger a further surge towards $110-$115,” Barclays Capital technical analysts said in a report. Source: Reuters

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Gulf currencies up as dollar sinks

Dubai: Gulf currencies rose yesterday as the dollar hit a new record low against the euro, prompting speculation the region’s economies may revalue or drop their pegs to contain inflation. The dollar plunged to a new record low as the US government confirmed that American economic growth expanded at a sluggish 0.6 per cent in the fourth quarter. In mid-afternoon deals, the European single currency raced as high as $1.5185, beating the previous high of 1.5144 that was set the previous day. The greenback also fell to the new trough against the euro after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bern-anke signalled the prospect of more cuts to US interest rates on Wednesday, dealers said. Speculators prefer to hold currencies in countries where interest rates are rising or expected to rise in the hope they can increase their potential returns. Saudi Arabia’s riyal, which has been fixed at 3.75 to the dollar since 1986, hit as strong at 3.74 to the dollar. Investors were betting the UAE dirham would appreciate by 2.8 per cent in one year and 4.1 per cent in two years, according to forward rates. Kuwait let the dinar appreciate against the dollar for a second time, taking gains since the country dropped its dollar peg in May to more than six per cent for the first time. Inflation is becoming a growing concern across the world’s biggest oil-exporting region, where price rises hit a quarter century peak of seven per cent in Saudi Arabia and 13.74 per cent in Qatar in the fourth quarter, just off a record. Import costs Costs of Gulf imports denominated in euros have risen on average more than 20 per cent this year, said Elyas Al Gaseer, Middle East head of capital markets at Calyon. “They have come up with a lot of solutions but it seems that all of them won’t stop inflation unless they do something about the currencies,” he said. Oil prices near $100 per barrel would also make it easier for Gulf governments to revalue, adding to speculation they could change policy soon, he said. Dollar pegs restrict central banks’ ability to fight inflation by forcing them to shadow US monetary policy at a time when the Fed is cutting rates in an attempt to ward off recession. In contrast, Gulf econ-omies are surging on a near five-fold jump in oil prices since 2002. Meanwhile, US president George W. Bush yesterday reiterated his administration’s strong-dollar policy. “We believe in a strong dollar policy,” he said at a White House news conference, in response to a question about the weakness of the greenback. Some Gulf policymakers have voiced concerns about the status quo. Qatar is studying revaluing its riyal among options to fight inflation. Source : Agencies

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Abu Dhabi Aviation at two-year high

Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi Aviation Co PJSC, a UAE-based operator of helicopters and airplanes, surged to the highest in 23 months after the company announced changes to its board of directors last week. Abu Dhabi Aviation rose 38 fils, or 8.2 per cent, to Dh5.02 on the Abu Dhabi Securities Market yesterday, its highest since March 27, 2006. The shares have added 41 per cent in five trading days. “Investors believe the company has great potential and the board changes will help improve performance,” said Motasem Mustafa, head of share trading at the National Bank of Abu Dhabi PJSC. Abu Dhabi Aviation announced on February 19 it had appointed Shaikh Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan as its new chairman and named former chairman Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan as vice chairman and managing director. “I think it’s just speculation because there is no news to justify the recent jump,” said Mahmoud Al Borgi, head of investor relations at Abu Dhabi Aviation. The company, established in 1976 by the Abu Dhabi Government, operates 46 helicopters and three aeroplanes and mainly supports the emirate’s offshore oil, engineering and construction companies. Net income in 2007 jumped 50 per cent to Dh75.7 million ($20.6 million) as revenue advanced 11 per cent to Dh534.4 million. Source : Bloomberg

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Abu Dhabi: Khalifa issues new law governing purchases

Abu Dhabi: President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in his capacity as Ruler of Abu Dhabi, has issued the purchases, tenders, and bidding and warehouses law. The new law, which abrogates the existing law of 1977, is aimed at decentralising government purchases in a way that will strike a balance between powers and responsibilities and achieve a series of goals. The major goals include improving the procurement system and introduce best practices; ease procurement procedures while upholding principles of accountability, transparency, equality and free competition; create a legal mechanism for improving performance; use of the latest technology with regard to e-purchase and e-government; and improve efficiency in handling procurement tasks. WAM

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Dubai Shopping Festival brought to a close with awards ceremony

Dubai: The 2008 Dubai Shopping Festival was brought to a close with an awards ceremony on Sunday night. The ceremony was attended by Shaikh Maktoum bin Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai; Shaikh Ahmad bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of the DSF Supreme Committee, and a host of other officials and dignitaries. The ceremony, at the Raffles Hotel, began with a visual presentation of the highlights of this year’s festival. Later an awards ceremony was held to reward contributions to the festival. Gulf News was amongst the big winners on the evening, with six awards for its journalsm. Brigadier Mohammad Ahmad Al Marri, a member of DSF Supreme Committee said DSF had attracted more than 28 million visitors between 1996 and 2007. DSF 2008 Innovation Award * Best Shopping Mall Promotion: Deira City Centre * Best Shopping Mall Décor: Dubai Festival City * Best Shopping Mall Event: Mercato. * Best Retail Promotion: Jashanmal * Most Attractive Point of Sale Display: Paris Gallery and Hyper Panda. * Outstanding Customer Service: Dubai Gold & Jewellery Group * Outstanding Promotional Campaign: VISA International and DAMAC. Journalism Award 2008 Arabic language * Jameela Ismail from Al Khaleej won the first place for Best Local Feature followed by Shereen Farooq, also from Al Khaleej. * In the DSF Prolific Writer category, Abdul Men’em Ashadeedhi from Al Bayan took the first place while Dia Abdul Aal from Al Bayan came second. * Al Bayan took the prize for the Best Design Layout award. * Salah Attiyah from Al Jamhouriya Daily, Egypt, took the honours in the Best Pan Arab Feature while the second place was shared by Bady Al Badrani from Ar – Riyad Daily and Ali Alkhahais from Ar-Riyad Daily. * In the Best Magazine Feature category, Gina Tadrous Ayyoob from Al Marr Al Youm took the second place. English language * In the Best Local Feature category, Saifur Rahman, from Gulf News, won the first place followed by Linda George, also from Gulf News. * The DSF Prolific Writer Award went to Kelly Crane from Gulf News, while Jyoti Kalsi, also from Gulf News, took the second place. * The Best Design Layout was won by Khaleej Times and the award handed to Mohammed Aroos. * In the Best Magazine Feature Award, Pratibha Umashankar from Khaleej Times took the first place while Indrani Mishra, from Gulf Today, took the second spot. Photography Awards In the DSF Celebrations category: * Shivram Nair from Khaleej Times, won the first place, * Devadasan and Arshad Ali, both from Gulf News, shared the second place. * Walid Kaddourah from Al Bayan took the third place. In the DSF Shopping category: * Ashraf Al Omra from Al Bayan won the first place * Haider Hasan Fouad from Al Khaleej coming a close second. * Yousuf Salim Younis Al Amir from Al Khaleej was given a special award for his entry. Ideal Arab Mother and Family Awards * His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum also gave away the Ideal Arab Mother award to Shamsa Hazeem Al Mehairi from UAE. * The Ideal Arab Family Award 2008 went to the family of Basit Faisal Kayed Abeidath from Jordan. Source : www.gulnews.com

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Doha’s wealth fund eyes European banks

Doha: Qatar’s prime minister has urged Gulf oil producers to bridge differences over a single currency, saying monetary union could avert possible unilateral revaluations designed to check soaring inflation. Qatar’s dollar-pegged riyal is undervalued by as much as 30 per cent and currency revaluation is being studied, among several options, to check inflation, Shaikh Hamad Bin Jasem Bin Jabr Al Thani said in an interview late on Saturday. Inflation in the richest Arab country by per capita hit 13.74 per cent in the fourth quarter. “It’s now the time for the Gulf to have its own currency,” Shaikh Hamad said in the Qatari capital, Doha. “We are thinking about it and in talks … we are discussing with Gulf countries, but there is no consensus.” Qatar, the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, would prefer to make any change to its currency policy in concert with Saudi Arabia and its other Gulf partners preparing for monetary union as early as 2010, Shaikh Hamad said. “We prefer always to act with all the GCC countries,” said Shaikh Hamad, whose country currently chairs the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council that includes the UAE and Kuwait. Asked how long Qatar could continue with its existing foreign exchange regime, he said: “We cannot give a time. It is something that we have to see how it goes and look at where the dollar is going.” Dollar pegs force Gulf oil producers to shadow US monetary policy at a time when the Federal Reserve is cutting rates to ward off recession and the Gulf economies are booming on a near five-fold jump in oil prices since 2002. Policy differences Rifts in Gulf monetary policy widened in May when Kuwait broke ranks with its neighbours by severing its dollar peg in favour of a basket of currencies, saying a weak dollar was driving imported inflation. Oman has said it will not join a single currency at all, and UAE Central Bank Governor Sultan Nasser Al Suwaidi said in November he was under mounting social and economic pressure to drop the peg. The GCC “should have a currency with a good weight internationally,” Shaikh Hamad said. “The GCC now is capable to do this and have a separate currency.” Doha (Reuters) Qatar’s prime minister, who heads the country’s sovereign wealth fund, said he favours investing in European over US lenders because US bank stocks are likely to fall further on subprime-mortgage writedowns. Qatar, which bought “under” two per cent of Credit Suisse, is looking to spend between $10 billion and $15 billion over the next two years on bank stakes to diversify the country’s economy from oil and natural gas, Shaikh Hamad Bin Jasem Al Thani said in an interview in Doha. “In the United States, we need to wait a little,” Shaikh Hamad said late on Saturday. “We think there are still problems with the banks.” In contrast, state-run Kuwait Investment Authority, which has at least $225 billion in assets, said last month it would invest $3 billion in Citigroup Inc and $2 billion in Merrill Lynch & Co as the two US banks scrambled for capital after billions of dollars in writedowns. Saudi Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal is also investing in the two, but has not said how much. “We are active in international markets and in wherever we find a good opportunity … in property, financial or industrial,” Shaikh Hamad said, declining to be more specific. The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), whose assets Standard Chartered puts at $60 billion, is considering making an investment in Britain’s second-biggest bank, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), The Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported, citing people familiar with the QIA’s plans. Shares in RBS were up 7.2 per cent at 1001 GMT. A spokeswoman for RBS declined to comment yesterday on the newspaper report. In January, The Sunday Telegraph was the first to report Qatar’s interest in Credit Suisse, saying the QIA was looking to build a five per cent stake in the Swiss lender. “Up to now, I think it is under two per cent, but, of course, when we reach the legal point where we have to declare, we will do so,” Shaikh Hamad said of his Credit Suisse shares. The threshold for public disclosure is three per cent. “We are buying them for the long-term strategic holding, and it’s not for selling,” he said. Source: Reuters

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Etihad could order 100 more planes

Beijing: Etihad Airways is in talks with Airbus and Boeing Co. to order between 50 and 100 aircraft as it seeks to turn Abu Dhabi into a global travel hub. The carrier expects to receive the planes between 2013 and 2020, chief executive officer James Hogan said yesterday in Beijing. The orders will probably include A380 superjumbos, he added. Etihad, which operated 37 aircraft in 2007, expects to carry 30 per cent more passengers this year as it adds new routes and expands its fleet. The Abu Dhabi-based carrier plans to have 53 aircraft by the end of 2011, it said in a statement on Friday. It has an order backlog of 14 Airbus planes, including four A380s, according to the planemaker’s website. Source : Bloomberg

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Sharp oil price rises set to continue

London: Oil prices are likely to continue to rise rampantly for awhile yet as supply worries and investor demand for commodities outweigh concerns of economic slowdown. Crude hit a record high of $101.32 on Wednesday. The price has climbed from below $50 at the start of 2007 and below $20 in early 2002. “From here, we think that the next stage may well be a period of consolidation in the high $90s, and that could include increasingly frequent moves above $100,” said Paul Horsnell of Barclays Capital. Prices have risen in part because of expectations that the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), rather than increase oil output, will maintain or even cut supply at a meeting on March 5. Opec argues that factors beyond its control, such as speculation, are boosting prices. One Opec minister made clear on Thursday that oil’s push into triple digits would not bounce the group into changing supplies. Reaction “We will not just react to $100 oil,” Qatar’s oil minister, Abdullah Al Attiyah, said in a telephone interview. “Opec will move when it sees physical demand for its oil.” Besides the likelihood of no extra Opec oil, technical analysis – using past price moves to predict future direction – indicates crude may move higher still, according to London-based ODL Securities, a trading firm. Andy Riddell, joint head of commodities at ODL, said charts indicate that US crude and Brent could move higher to $103.00 and $101.50 respectively, before the Opec meeting. “It’s technical and speculative buying,” he said of oil’s record run. “You look at all the chart patterns and they are pointing upwards.” Others see limited scope for prices to hit further highs in coming weeks. Oil demand typically weakens in the second quarter as consumers in the northern hemisphere use less fuel for heating. Crude oil inventories in the United States, the top consumer, have risen for the last five weeks. “There may still be some potential for prices to press even higher, but we do see rising stocks and the approach of the second-quarter supply-demand surplus period as gradually closing the window on further gains,” said Tim Evans, analyst at Citi Futures. “The market may not yet be satisfied that a top is at hand, but we still think one is forming.” Other factors that could puncture the rally include a steep drop in US or Asian equities, signs that the US economic slowdown is spreading or a surprise boost in Opec supply, MF Global said. While there may be no single factor that explains the latest run-up, which coincided with rises in other commodities such as aluminium and copper, some advise against betting that oil will fall just yet. Indicators Signs of rising inflation are attracting a flow of money into commodities, which are traditionally used as hedges against inflation. “We still do not see much in terms of news that justifies the blistering rally we have had over the past few days, but neither would we advocate going short here,” MF Global said. Source : Reuters

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UAE rules out dirham revaluation in ‘foreseeable future’

Dubai: The UAE on Thursday ruled out any change to the dirham-dollar peg in the “foreseeable future,” saying the current foreign exchange policy has served the country well. “It is a very important stability anchor,” UAE Central Bank governor Sultan Nasser Al Suweidi said of the currency peg. He also said the goal of a GCC common currency may not be achieved in 2010 as planned. “We do not have to artificially manipulate our currencies to compensate for the loss of value as a result of natural fluctuations. You have to let the market flow normally, supply and demand will determine everything,” Al Suweidi told reporters when asked if the bank will revalue the dirham while keeping it pegged to the falling US currency. Source : Guilfnews

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Dubai : Cleveland Clinic to manage Shaikh Khalifa Medical City

Abu Dhabi: An agreement was signed yesterday between the Abu Dhabi Health Authority and the US-based Cleveland Clinic under which the hospital took over the management of the Shaikh Khalifa Medical City in Abu Dhabi. The pact was signed in the presence of General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. Shaikh Mohammad said attracting the best health establishments in the world to Abu Dhabi is part of the government’s healthcare policy. The facilities include the 550-bed Shaikh Khalifa Hospital, the 120-bed Behavioural Science ward, 100-bed Abu Dhabi Rehabilitation Centre, 12 outpatient clinics and nine primary health clinics.