Italian investors ready to invest

ISLAMABAD (Staff Reporter): Italian investors are keen to invest in Pakistan’s marble and granite sector, said Ambassador of Italy Stefano Pontecorvo. During a meeting with Chief Executive Officer Pakistan Stone Development Company (PASDEC), Zahid Maqsood Sheikh, at Italian Embassy, he said that Pakistan has huge reserves of natural stone, marble and granite, and Italy possesses decades of experience in stone mining and processing. The collaboration of two countries will be beneficial for the two countries. The Italian ambassador further revealed that the Italian embassy will soon mobilize and schedule visit of a delegation of potential Italian investors to Pakistan for exploring avenues of investment and joint ventures in the sector.

Earlier, the CEO PASDEC gave a detailed presentation on potential of marble and granite sector of Pakistan, and initiatives taken by PASDEC for development of the sector. He informed that Pakistan is blessed with enormous marble and granite reserves spreading all over the country.

Shiekh highlighted his department’s efforts for mechanization of quarries in the country as per international standards. He added that PASDEC has imported almost all the quarry machinery from Italy. The CEO PASDEC wished furtherance of mutual cooperation between Italy and Pakistan in achieving the targets for sector development.

UKTI’s business networking dinner

LAHORE (Staff Reporter): UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) Pakistan hosted a Business Networking Dinner for the Lahore-based business community on Thursday. The event highlighted the planned establishment of British Business Centres across Pakistan this year, starting in Karachi. Ms Malahat Awan was introduced as the incoming CEO of the British Business Centre. Ms Awan explained that the Centre will provide services to British and Pakistani companies to enable them to find new business in the UK and Pakistan. Mr Ben French, the UK Representative for Punjab, said: “The UK’s business engagements in Pakistan are important, and they are growing every day. There are more than 100 British companies operating in Pakistan today.

, with many more dealing through Pakistani agents and distributors. “Pakistani businesses must consider and explore the trade and investment opportunities the UK presents, not least thanks to the fantastic cultural and people-to-people links. Furthermore, the UK Government has been working really hard to encourage British businesses to invest in Pakistan.

US jobless claims rise

WASHINGTON (AFP): New claims for US unemployment insurance benefits rose modestly last week in a labor market that nevertheless is seen continuing to tighten, official data released Thursday showed. The Labor Department reported initial jobless claims, a sign of the pace of layoffs, rose by 7,000 to 284,000 in the week ending January 9. The four-week moving average, which helps to smooth week-on-week volatility, rose by 3,000 to 278,750. A year ago it was 293,000. Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, predicted substantial volatility in claims in the first weeks of the year but said the downward trend remained on track. "Claims are very unpredictable and can be volatile in the first few weeks of the year," he said.

"We see nothing in these data or other indirect measures of labor market activity to suggest that payroll growth will slow anytime soon, beyond the inevitable reversal of the boost to sectors like construction from the very warm late fall and early winter weather," he added.

The US economy capped a solid year of jobs growth in 2015 with a surge of 292,000 jobs added in December. That took total jobs created during the year to 2.65 million, the second-best year, after 2014, since the 1990s.

The unemployment rate held at 5.0 percent for a third consecutive month, near the level considered full employment by the Federal Reserve.

Paapam lauds farmers package

LAHORE (Staff Reporter): Pakistan Association of Automotive Parts & Accessories Manufacturers (PAAPAM) has praised the efforts of Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan, Federal Minister for National Food Security & Research, for his efforts to support the Pakistani farmers through the Kissan Package, the dividends of which will soon be felt in the rural economy of the country. The association also lauded Bosan’s efforts to reduce the GST on tractors in the finance bill 2014-15, from 17% to 10%. Mumshad Ali said that Paapam has had several meetings with Bosan and has always found him to be an intelligent and refined individual who avoids self publicity and has good grasp of the issues of the farming community.

Ali added that tractor sales are seeing a declining trend since the 18th amendment in which the agri ministries were transferred to the provinces. This has reduced the effectiveness of the Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) which remains under the Federal finance ministry.

Oil attempts rebound

LONDON (AFP): Brent crude oil rebounded Thursday, after collapsing under $30 a barrel for the first time in more than 12 years on global oversupply and Chinese demand woes. At about 1230 GMT, European benchmark Brent North Sea crude for delivery in February gained 51 cents, or 1.7 percent, to stand at $30.82 compared with Wednesday's close. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for February rose 38 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $30.86 a barrel. News of rising US stockpiles sent Brent oil prices tumbling underneath $30 a barrel on Wednesday for the first time since 2004. Brent slumped to $29.73 -- the lowest since 12 February 2004 -- before rebounding Thursday. New York crude had already breached the key psychological barrier on Tuesday, when it touched $29.93.

-- a level last seen on December 2, 2003.

"Having seen US crude prices dip below $30 a barrel on Tuesday, Brent prices followed suit yesterday... before bobbing back," said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.

"The main question remains as to how much further crude oil prices can fall with the prospect of a move towards the 2004 lows at $28 the potential next target."

Oil prices have collapsed by about two thirds in 18 months as supplies outweigh demand growth owing to a slowdown in the world economy, and particularly in key consumer China.

The US government's Energy Information Administration (EIA) said Wednesday that domestic commercial oil stockpiles rose 200,000 barrels in the week ending January 8, adding to the global supply glut.

A 8.2 million-barrel surge in gasoline inventories and a 6.1 million-barrel rise in distillate stocks also pointed to sluggish consumption in the world's top oil consuming nation.

The EIA meanwhile cut its global oil demand forecast slightly to 95.19 million barrels a day this year, while raising its forecast for global production.

"Oil prices continued trending downwards this week amid persistent concerns on global oversupply," Sanjeev Gupta, who heads the Asia Pacific oil and gas practice at EY, told AFP.

The looming return of Iranian oil to world markets after the final implementation of a deal on its nuclear programme -- which Tehran expects by Sunday -- also weighed on prices.

Oil prices "won't see much recovery this year amid a supply glut," said Bernard Aw, market strategist at IG Markets in Singapore.

"As a result, oil prices should continue to remain low, where a sustained pick up is expected only in the third quarter of 2017," he added.

The market will be closely watching China's economic growth data to be released early next week, according to dealers.

China, the world's second-biggest economy and the top energy consumer, is experiencing a slump in its economic growth and has recently been hit by turmoil in its stock market.