US jobless claims drop at
start of November
WASHINGTON (AFP): US claims for unemployment benefits fell at the start of November, continuing a record streak of low levels, according to figures released Thursday by the Labor Department. Initial claims fell 11,000 to 254,000 in the week ending November 5, retreating the from the three-month high recorded in the prior week. An analyst consensus had forecast a result of 262,000 claims. The latest result extended the streak of low results to 88 weeks below 300,000 claims, the longest since 1970. The four-week moving average nevertheless rose 1,750 to 259,750. The US economy has steadily pumped out jobs in recent months, leading market players and analysts to anticipate an increase in interest rates as soon as next month. The decision however will come after the next monthly report on job creation, with the Federal Reserve emphasizing that its decisions are data-dependent.

Sugar, dairy and staple grains push food price index up by 0.7pc in Oct
UNITED NATIONS (Special Correspondent): Rise in the price indices of staple grains, sugar and dairy have pushed global food price index up by 0.7 per cent in October 2016 to 172.6 points (9.1 per cent from a year earlier), the UN food and agricultural agency said Thursday. According the updated UN Food and Agricultural Organization’s (FAO) Food Price Index, the rise in price index of staple grains was the first such increase in three months. Reports of sugar production shortfalls in Brazil’s Centre South region and India’s Maharashtra state pushed the Sugar Price Index up by 3.4 per cent in October while the rise of 3.9 per cent in the Dairy Price Index was led by rising prices of cheese and butter as a result of sustained internal demand in the European Union (EU) after a period during which stocks were drawn down. In a news release Thursday, FAO explained that the Food Price Index rose continuously throughout 2016 except for a brief dip in July.
The Food Price Index is a trade-weighted index tracking international market prices for the five major food commodity groups: major cereals, vegetable oils, dairy, meat and sugar.
While indices of three of these commodity groups increased, the Oils/Fats Price Index declined 2.4 per cent from September, largely linked to weaker palm oil quotations as a consequence of sluggish global import demand.
The Meat Price Index also fell, shedding 1.0 per cent in October, a drop largely driven by slacker demand for European pig meat from importers in China.
On the other hand, the Cereal Price Index rose 1.0 per cent in October, buoyed by tightening supplies of high-quality wheat even as the overall prospects for global wheat harvests have improved.
According to FAO, world cereal production for the year should amount to about 2.571 million tonnes, up marginally from the agency’s October forecast. This anticipated production is 1.5 per cent above the output last year.
“The updated figure […] reflects a substantial upgrade of the outlook for world wheat production, which is now expected to rise to 746.7 million tonnes, a 4.3 million increase from October forecast,” said FAO, referring its updated Cereal Supply and Demand Brief.
In terms of geographic distribution of production, Russia’s wheat output is expected to set a new record. Favourable weather is also boosting yields in Kazakhstan, the UN agency noted.
The increase in world wheat and barley production more than offsets the expected 4.8 million tonne decline in the 2016 global maize crop due to weather-induced yield downgrades for Brazil, China, the EU and the United States.
FAO also said that the total cereal utilization for the 2016-2017 season is now forecast at 2,562 million tonnes, up slightly from October and 1.7 percent higher than a year earlier.
The agency explained that global feed use, expected to expand by 2.7 percent, is a primary driver for the increased utilization. The use of wheat for animal feed, on the back of ample supplies of lower-quality wheat, is anticipated to grow by 6.1 per cent to 146.6 million tonnes, an all-time high.
Global food consumption of cereals is forecast at 1,106 million tonnes, up 1.3 percent from a year earlier and sufficient to maintain a broadly stable per capita consumption level globally. World cereal stocks will likely increase to nearly 662 million tonnes by the end of the 2017 seasons, driven by growing wheat inventories, especially in China, the US and Russia.
Coarse grains stocks, on the other hand, are projected to drop by 1.7 percent, led by reductions in China, Brazil and South Africa.
World rice inventories are expected to fall slightly to 169.8 million tonnes.
Additionally, according to FAO, early signs from the plating of the 2017 winter crop in the northern hemisphere indicate that US farmers are reducing the area because of low price prospects and a subdued export outlook due to a stronger US dollar. Russia and Ukraine are, however, ahead of last year’s pace.
Sowing of summer 2017 cereal crops is underway in the southern hemisphere, and conducive weather conditions are leading to an expansion in South America with the maize area planted in Argentina expected to expand by 6 percent from last year’s high level.

SECP taking action to protect investors amid surge in market activity
ISLAMABAD (Staff Reporter): In order to protect investors from market abuse in the wake of a surge in stock market activity, the surveillance team of Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) is actively monitoring trading activity at the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX). Zafar Hijazi, the SECP chairman, has directed the surveillance and enforcement teams to take strict action against all those involved in market manipulation and to expedite the implementation of the following measures. First, listed companies experiencing unusual trading activity are being directed to issue clarifications regarding movements in the price or volume of their shares under Section 97 of Securities Act, 2015. Investors are advised to exercise great caution before investing in the shares of a company that has no explanation for a surge in its stock price or traded volume. Second, the SECP has approached the FIA to take action against those who are spreading rumours through social media.
The SECP has shared complete information of some individuals who have been engaged in such malicious activities on social media, most notably on Facebook. The FIA has been requested to take all necessary actions, including blocking of these Facebook accounts and to take cognizance of such activities under cybercrime laws.
Third, ongoing inspections of a number of brokerage houses by the SECP staff to check segregation of client cash and shares are to be completed within a week. Investors are cautioned that in their own best interest, they should regularly monitor the safe custody of their shares in the sub-accounts maintained by their stock brokers. Further, inspections against alleged provision of illegal in-house badla financing are being fast tracked.
Chairman Hijazi emphasized that individual investors should preferably invest through mutual funds, which provide a safe and profitable avenue for investing in the stock market. Investors should avoid leveraged speculation in stocks based on rumours as it will likely result in large losses.
The SECP chairman has directed the SECP officers to consider revising the criteria that determines which shares can be pledged by the stock brokers to the clearinghouse as margin against exposure. The revised criteria shall ensure that shares of economically weak companies that are facing a speculative surge in trading activity will not be eligible as margin. In case of a market reversal, shares of economically weak companies are far more likely to face dramatic drops resulting in large losses and panic among investors.

Seminar held at BNU

LAHORE (Staff Reporter): The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority (Smeda), under its move to promote entrepreneurship among educated youth, held a seminar on “The Entrepreneurship as a Career Option” Thursday at Beaconhouse National University (BNU). The seminar was addressed by Khaver Zia, dean of BNU School of Computer & IT, Dr Ahsan Ullah Awan, CEO Green Tech, and Javed Afzal, Deputy General Manager SMEDA-Outreach Division. Khaver Zia, Dean of BNU School of Computer & IT, highlighted the objectives of the seminar and underlined the importance of youth towards education and development of their skills in pursuance of entrepreneurship as career option and setting up their own small businesses. He said that the country was faced with the challenges like unemployment and if youth entrepreneurship gets promoted and the opportunities are tapped by youth for adding value to wide range of products, then it can help to relieve the pressure on job market.
Dr Ahsan Ullah Awan, CEO GreenTech, presented his success story of journey towards entrepreneurship. He said that educated youth can play a vital role in business development and that can be helpful in development of economy of the country.