SNGPL, SSGCL laid 6,129km transmission network in FY17

ISLAMABAD (APP): Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) and Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGCL), under the transmission expansion programme, have laid around 6,129 kilometre transmission network in their operational areas during the current fiscal year. "The companies laid 814 kilometre gas transmission network, 4,153 kilometre distribution and 1,162 kilometre service lines and connected 104 villages and town to gas network," official sources in the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources told APP. They said the gas companies have provided 360,465 domestic, 339 commercial and 20 industrial connections across the country during the ongoing fiscal year. Besides, the companies invested Rs17,925 million on transmission projects, Rs11,183 million on distribution projects and Rs14,925 million on other projects bringing total investment to about Rs44,033 million. Answering a question, the sources said Pakistan has an extensive gas network of over 12,202 km transmission 119,736 km distribution and 32,823 services gas pipelines to cater the requirement of more than 8.4 million consumers across the country by supplying about four billion cubic feet per day natural gas.



Pakistan ranks 9th in infrastructure development index: Report

BEIJING (APP): Pakistan has been ranked 9th in the Belt and Road Infrastructure Development Index, according to a report issued at the 8th International Infrastructure Investment and Construction Forum in China's Macao. Indonesia tops the index. Iran, India, Brazil, Vietnam, Singapore, Russia, Portugal and Bulgaria also rank in the top 10 in the index. The report was made by China International Contractors Association and Dagong Global Credit Rating, and is based on infrastructure development environment, development potential and development trend of the countries and regions along the Belt and Road. The overall infrastructure development in those countries and regions features an upward development momentum with fluctuation, the report issued at the 8th International Infrastructure Investment and Construction Forum said. Meanwhile, the infrastructure market is vibrant, especially in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states and Central and Eastern European countries, the report said.


Strong Canada trade, productivity data reflect economic recovery

OTTAWA (Reuters): Canadian exports climbed to a record in April and first-quarter labor productivity approached a three-year high, further evidence that the economy is recovering after a long slump caused by low oil prices. Statistics Canada said on Friday that the April trade deficit narrowed to C$370 million ($274 million) as exports outpaced imports for a second straight month on shipments of motor vehicles and parts. After struggling for years to adjust to sharply lower prices of crude oil, Canada's economy appears finally to be on a sustainable path to recovery. In particular, the export sector, long a cause of concern for the Bank of Canada, is showing strength. "The Bank of Canada has been looking for that for the length of 2016 but has been largely disappointed, but maybe it is starting to materialize as we move into 2017," said Paul Ferley, assistant chief economist at Royal Bank of Canada. Exports, which jumped 3.2 percent in March, increased by 1.8 percent in April to C$47.69 billion.

Exports of motor vehicles and parts grew 4.4 percent while energy shipments posted a 2.5 percent gain.

"It's a very strong trend we see this continuing because there is strong U.S. growth," said Ross Prusakowski, a senior economist at Export Development Canada. Imports also hit a record high, edging up 0.6 percent to C$48.06 billion - the fifth consecutive monthly increase - thanks in part to increased inflows of consumer goods, electronic and electrical equipment and parts.

In a note to clients, CIBC economist Nick Exarhos said "trade is likely to be a more significant source of growth in the second quarter than it has in recent quarters". Figures released this week show first-quarter annualized growth of 3.7 percent, the best in the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations. The Canadian dollar strengthened slightly to C$1.3505 to the US dollar, or 74.05 US cents, up from C$1.3526, or 73.93 US cents.

Exports to the United States, which accounted for 75.7 percent of all Canadian exports in April, soared 5.4 percent while imports grew 1.1 percent. As a result, Canada's trade surplus with the United States expanded to C$4.95 billion - the largest since May 2014 - from C$3.44 billion in March. Separately, Statscan said the labor productivity of businesses grew 1.4 percent in the first quarter, the most in almost three years.



US unemployment rate hits 16-year low in May

Washington (AFP): The US unemployment rate fell to a 16-year low in May but monthly job creation saw a sharp slowdown from April, the Labor Department reported Friday. The economy added just 138,000 net new jobs for the month, well below analyst expectations, while the jobless rate decreased by a tenth of a point to 4.3 percent. The mixed picture of the labor market could muddy the waters ahead of a Federal Reserve decision on interest rates later this month. Signs of weakness were not confined to May, with average job creation for the last three months down to 121,000 after a combined downward revision of 66,000 to the jobs data for April and March. The White House has hailed the rosier jobs reports in recent months and President Donald Trump has vowed to add 25 million new jobs to the economy over a decade. But economists say this goal is unrealistic and the latest data may bolster that view, especially with increasing reports that firms are struggling to fill open positions.

The employment report came a day after Trump announced he was withdrawing the United States from the 2015 Paris climate agreement in a bid to preserve US jobs. However analysts say the US stands to gain more by participating in the development of renewable energy.

One in every 50 new jobs added in the United States in 2016 was in the solar industry. While the drop in the jobless rate in May looks like good news, it also reflects the fact that some workers left the labor force, with the closely-watched labor force participation rate falling 0.2 points to 62.7 percent. But the last 12 months show no clear trend in the participation rate, according to the report.

Jim O'Sullivan of High Frequency Economics was among those who said the weakness in job creation last month likely was due to volatility and distortions from seasonal adjustments applied to the data. "Through the volatility, we believe the trend in employment growth remains more than strong enough to keep unemployment trending down and the trend in wage gains upward," he said in a research note.

The falling jobless rate may support the views of Fed policymakers who say the economy has reached full employment, but weak job creation may support those who want to be cautious about removing the stimulus of low interest rates. Elise Gould of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute said a June rate increase by the Fed would be "unfortunate," adding that prematurely declaring full employment would be far more costly than tolerating some wage growth and price inflation.

Still, the jobless rate has fallen 0.5 percentage points since the start of the year, and anecdotal reports in the Fed's own surveys increasingly suggest employers are having difficulty finding qualified workers, which raise concerns that wages will begin to rise, possibly stoking inflation. Most analysts still expect the Fed to increase the benchmark lending rate later this month, but expectations for another increase in September could be in doubt.

Layoffs also are at 40-year lows, which analysts say is because companies fear they may not be able to replace workers they let go. The time needed to fill a job is now the longest in 17 years, Nariman Behravesh of IHS Markit said. "Companies may be taking a more cautious approach to hiring, not because they are worried about sales, but because they are trying to assess whether the President and Congress will be successful in passing pro-growth policies," Behravesh wrote in a client note.

Despite steady hiring, low unemployment and reports that firms are having difficulty filling positions, wage gains have been tepid. Average hourly earnings rose 0.2 percent for the month, and are up 2.5 percent for the year, but this more or less keeps pace with inflation, with the Consumer Price Index for urban consumers also up 2.2 percent over the 12-month period.

Job creation in the healthcare sector continued, with 24,000 new positions added. The mining sector, which includes oil and gas, added 7,000 positions and restaurants and bars gained another 30,000 new employees. But the report also showed some sectors were shedding positions, with the struggling retail sector employing 6,100 fewer workers and automakers losing 1,500, amid declining new car sales. Total manufacturing employment fell by 1,000 in the month.

"The loss of manufacturing jobs in May is a stark reminder of the challenges that face factory workers," Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, said in a statement, calling on Trump and Congress to address the US trade deficit.