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November 25, 2014 / 3 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Israeli economy’

Prof. Yaakov Frankel to Return as Head of Bank of Israel

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

Prof. Yaakov Frenkel, who headed the Bank of Israel from 1991-2000, will return to his old job and replace outgoing Bank Governor Stanley Fischer, who is going back the United States with his social and political agendas he tried to impose on Israel.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s decision to put Frenkel at the helm of the Bank is conditional on the approval of a committee headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Yaakov Turkel. No opposition is expected.

Frenkel won the Israel Prize in economics in 2002 and has been chairman of JP Morgan since 2009. Netanyahu had wanted to give the job to Harvard Prof. Elhanan Helpman, an Israeli, but he refused, as he did seven years ago when the Prime Minister brought Fischer overseas.

“Frenkel brought the American mentality of managing monetary policy to the Bank, which in we estimate also eventually brought the search for a foreign Bank governor like Fischer,” Alpha Platinum Mutual told the Globes  business newspaper.

Frenkel stood his ground against populist opinion when he headed the bank 15 years ago.

Fischer has been widely praised for his management, but he also has proven to be an opportunist, taking the job as Governor with a lot of fanfare by making aliyah, only to turn his back and go back to the United States in before the middle of his second term of office. He reportedly would like to replace Ben Bernanke as head of the Federal Reserve Bank even though his age virtually puts him out of the running.

After Fischer was firmly in the saddle at the Bank, he often used the economy as an excuse to advertise thinly disguised support for a Palestinian Authority state based on all or most of its territorial demands.

He also frequently criticized the Haredi community for not participating more in the job market.

More than a few critics have warned that Fischer is leaving behind him a troubled housing market and that he did not take enough action to bring down the price of housing.

Fischer Cuts Interest Rate and Says Bank to Buy 2 Billion Dollars

Monday, May 13th, 2013

Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer announced on Monday a surprise cut the prime interest rate as part of his battle to fight the appreciation of the shekel and help the economy to keep growing. The financial markets responded with the shekel-dollar rate rising more than 1.5 percent to the level of 3.61 shekels to the dollar.

Fischer announced the interest rate cut two weeks ahead of the usual end-of-the-month decision on whether to change the rate.

The dollar was worth only 3.55 shekels last week, dropping over the past several weeks from the relatively lofty level of 3.8 shekels to the dollar.

A lower shekel-dollar rate hurts exports because foreign buyers have to pay relatively more dollars than they would when the shekel is worth less. In addition, exporters make less money after converting foreign dollars into shekels.

Factors in the lower rate are the anticipation of tax revenue from Israel’s natural gas bonanza, which came on-stream several weeks ago, Warren Buffet’s $2 billion purchase of the remaining shares of the Israel-based Isracar tool-making company, the possibility of a $1 billion buyout of Waze by Facebook, and the relatively stable Israeli economy.

Fischer cut the rate by a quarter of a percent, with the new 1.5 percent rate making the shekel less attractive to foreign investors.

After the Bank of Israel’s two small purchases of dollars the past three weeks in an effort to keep speculators from forcing the shekel-dollar rate any lower, Fischer announced on Monday a massive dollar-buying plan on the scale of his purchases several years ago when the shekel-dollar rate sank to 3.30.

The Bank of Israel said the decisions to lower the rate and buy dollars was made “in light of the continued appreciation of the shekel, taking into account the start of natural gas production from the Tamar gas field, interest rate reductions by many central banks – notably the European Central Bank, the quantitative easing in major economies worldwide and the downward revision in global growth forecasts.”

The Bank of Israel added that global growth forecasts, especially for Europe and China have been revised downward, which effect Israel’s economy.

It explained that the program to buy dollars takes into account “the effects on the financial account resulting from the natural gas production” that will result in foreign exchange payments by the gas companies.

“As in the past, the Bank of Israel will continue to operate in the foreign exchange market in cases of exchange rate fluctuations which are not in line with fundamental economic conditions, or when conditions in the foreign exchange market are disorderly,” the Bank of Israel added.

The US-Israel Win-Win Relationship

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

Straight from the Jerusalem Boardroom #179.

While struggling to turn around an expanding (5%) budget deficit, Israel sustains its unique role as a pipeline of commercial, defense and homeland security technologies to the U.S. and the Free World.  Israeli technologies, shared with the U.S. industry, have enhanced the U.S. employment, research & development and exports.

1.  Facebook about to acquire Israel’s Waze for $1BN.  In January, Waze turned down Facebook’s offer of $500MN (Israel Hayom, May 10, 2013). Warren Buffett completed acquisition of Israel’s Iscar – $2BN for the remaining 20% of Iscar.  $4BN were paid for 80% (Globes, May 1).  NYC’s KKR Private Equity acquired (from NYC’s Warburg-Pincus Ventures) 75% of Israel’s Alliance Tires Group for $500MN (Globes, April 15).  Israel’s Prolor was merged into Miami, FL’s Opko for $480MN (Globes, April 25).  San Jose, CA’s Avago Technologies acquired Israel’s Cyoptics for $400MN (Globes, April 12).  China’s Fosun Pharma acquired Israel’s Alma Lasers for $240 Million (TechTime, April 29).  J.P. Morgan sold 21% of Israel’s CaesarStone (held by Israel’s Tene’ Investment Fund) for $170MN, on NASDAQ (Globes, April 15).

2.  Japan’s Sony extends its medical tech investments, investing $10MN in Israel’s Rainbow Medical investment fund, joining prior giant investors: Minnesota’s Medtronic, Illinois’ Abbottand Italy’s Sorin.  Sonny is seeking Israeli acquisitions. Israel is a research & development hub for GE Healthcare, Phillips, Medtronic, Johnson & Johnson, Boston Scientific and Switzerland’s Roche, which have acquired Israeli companies and have invested in scores of Israeli start-ups (Globes, May 9). GE inaugurated a software research & development center in Israel (May 1).

3.  London’s Amadeus Capital led a $17MN round of private placement by Israel’s ClickTale (Globes, May 1).  Israel’s Micronet Enertec raised $8MN on NASDAQ (May 6). Waltham, MA’s Battery Ventures participated in a $6MN first round of private placement by Israel’s FTBpro (Globes, May 9).

4.  The scope of Leviathan’s offshore proven natural gas reserves is larger (19 Trillion Cubic Feet) than expected (17 TCF), according to Yedioth Achronot, May 2).

5.  Israel’s unemployment decrease to 6.5%, during the first quarter in 2013, derives from increased integration – by Arabs and ultra-orthodox Jews – into the job market. The average unemployment rate is 10.9% in the EU, 12.1% in the Euro Bloc and 25% among the youth of the Euro Bloc.

6.  “In January, Intel executive Greg Slater noted that many of his company’s major innovations over the past three decades started in Israel—including the latest ‘Ivy Bridge’ and ‘Sandy Bridge’ microprocessors, which accounted for 40% of Intel revenues in 2011….Microsoft’s founder, Bill Gates, said in 2006 that ‘the innovation going on in Israel is critical to the future of the technology business….’ Scores of major U.S. manufacturers—from General Electric GE to General Motors, GM, Microsoft, IBMGoogle, Apple and others—have R&D centers and technology incubators in Israel…. Israel [contributesto the U.S. economy thousands of skilled professionals, hundreds of joint patent applications, and hundreds of coauthored scientific and technical papers…. (Wall Street Journal, March 21, 2013).”

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Who Needs ‘Open Skies’?

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

My husband is one of those whose trip abroad this week may not happen.  Israel’s new Finance Minister Yair Lapid campaigned to help those he calls “middle class,” those making, like his “Riki Cohen family,” almost five times minimum wage and just over double average wage for a couple.

Riki Cohen, a widow from Hadera, earns NIS 4,500 ($1,234) a month. She can only dream of earning NIS 20,000 ($5,485) a month, like the fictitious family of “Mrs. Riki Cohen,” mentioned by Finance Minister Yair Lapid in his controversial Facebook post.

In his post, Lapid also said the ‘Cohen family’ travels abroad once every two years. “Is he serious? I’ve never been abroad,” the real Riki Cohen told Ynet Tuesday. (YNET)

Yair Lapid’s concept of a “middle-class salary” is upper class, according to the real financial statistics here in Israel, especially considering that Riki Cohen’s family can afford to travel abroad every two years.  Lapid doesn’t consider that frequent enough and in one of this new government’s first big moves is to open Israeli skies to the very competitive airfares.

In response, the Israeli airlines, including El Al are striking.  My husband, not being among the privileged, sophisticated frequent travelers didn’t realize that he should have cancelled his El Al ticket and quickly bought one from a different airline. Reports are that the airport will start shutting down tomorrow.  This is not good for Israel.

Considering that another of Lapid’s, and no doubt we should remember that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu must certainly approve these moves,  budget changes is cutting child allowances which seriously affects the lower and true middle class families.

Those spending cuts include NIS 4b.-5b. from the civil service, NIS 3b.-4b. from defense, with an equal amount from child allotments and NIS 2b.-4b. from infrastructure spending.

Yet a representative for Lapid would disclose only that the budgetary framework includes new taxes on affluent goods such as luxury apartments and cars.

So, I guess we can conclude from those budget changes that Lapid puts children in the same unnecessary or optional category as luxury cars.  Does he expect Israelis to somehow down-size their families by “deleting” some of their children?

It seems pretty obvious that this is a Marie Antoinette  government whose theme is: “Let them eat cake.”

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Missiles Targeted Israel’s Economy

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

The barrages of homemade Grad rockets and Iranian produced Fajr-5s that were fired by Tehran’s proxy Hamas and Islamic Jihad militias at Israeli population centers in southern and central Israel during the recent fighting were reportedly not only meant to kill and maim civilians but also to wreck Israel’s economy. The militias’ goal was to exact revenge on Israel, the U.S. and the EU for the stifling sanctions imposed on the Iranian regime.

Prior to the relentless rocket attacks on Sderot, Beersheba, Ashkelon and Ashdod, among other towns and cities, Israel’s Ministry of Finance said that despite a significant slowdown in various exports due to the EU’s ongoing recession, the Israeli economy was growing at a higher rate than the economies of the U.S., UK and EU. In addition, Israel’s foreign tourism industry was in the midst of its best year ever, with close to three million tourists having booked trips through the first quarter of 2013.

Several days after Fajr-5s were fired at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, an Israeli Hotel Association executive told an Israeli business news site, “[It is] time to write off the winter season.” Sources say that a significant number of Christian groups canceled their pilgrimage missions planned for the forthcoming holiday season, while bookings from foreign individual tourists for the December-January winter vacation respite were down by nearly 25 percent. During a meeting of tourism industry leaders last Thursday, Israel Ministry of Tourism (IMOT) representatives said that, “The damage could be minimized, and it was estimated that the potential for rehabilitation is large in relation to other crises the industry has dealt with.”

The IMOT representatives stressed the urgency to implement rehabilitative actions because the tourism industry, unlike other industries, is highly unlikely to retrieve much of its lost revenue. They also said that a return to normalcy after the fighting is a crucial incentive for future tourists to visit Israel, thus enhancing the tourism industry’s ability to increase its profit margin. According to the IMOT, The Federation of Israeli Tourist Organizations has pledged to contact organizations that have canceled trips in an attempt to have them rescind their cancellations.

Tel Aviv, the headquarters of many of Israel’s major business entities (including the country’s stock exchange and a number of hi-tech and real-estate companies), was also battered during the past two weeks. Israel’s leading business dailies, Globes and Calcalist, reported that many foreign investors had stopped investing in the Israeli economy. This was especially so in the real-estate sector, as many foreign Jewish investors from Russia, France and the U.S. had been purchasing properties in a number of affluent Tel Aviv residential and commercial projects. The startling pictures of a severely damaged apartment building in West Rishon LeZion, less than five miles from Tel Aviv, in the aftermath of a Fajr-5 strike sent shudders throughout the Israeli real-estate marketplace. The damage to the relatively new building was estimated at nearly $1.5 million.

According to Israel’s Tax Authority, the overall indirect damage (loss of work and production) to the Israeli economy as a result of Operation Pillar of Defense is estimated at $100 million. But senior economists told Globes that when all of the damages are factored in, including damages to homes, infrastructure and tourism, the loss to the Israeli economy could approach $500 million.

Israel’s Credit Rating Reaffirmed

Friday, October 5th, 2012

1.  Israel’s credit rating has been reaffirmed at A+ by “Standard and Poor,” at a time when S&P lowers the credit rating of an increasing number of Western countries.  According to S&P:

the Israeli economy continues to generate solid economic growth and enjoy a net external asset position, even though the current account has temporarily turned negative. The stable outlook reflects our view that there is sufficient political will to prevent a sizable increase in the government’s debt burden, and that major security risks will be contained. 

S&P noted that “there has been fiscal slippage on account of lower government revenues,” but added, “recent austerity measures and current growth levels should ensure that debt ratios modestly improve in the medium term.

Referring to the most important economic development in Israel in recent times, the discovery of large offshore gas reserves, S&P said, “We forecast that by the middle of the decade domestic natural gas production should contribute to improved external and fiscal balances” (Globes Business Daily, September 30, 2012).

2.  Israel’s GDP grew by 3.4% during the 2nd quarter of 2012, compared with 3.1% and 3.2% during the 1st quarter of 2012 and the 4th quarter of 2011 (Globes, Sept. 20) . While unemployment trends upward towards 7% – which is significantly lower than OECD countries – housing demand peaked in August, to a 13 year record (Globes, Sept. 28).

Israel’s export is impacted by the global meltdown in general and Europe’s intensified economic crisis in particular.  However, while export to Europe declined by 21% during July-August, 2012, compared with July-August, 2011, export to the U.S. surged by 16% during the same period and by 31% compared with May-June, 2012.  Total export ($7.7BN) decreased by 3.5% during July-August, 2012 (Israel Hayom, Oct. 3).

3.  According to the 2012 OECD report, Education at Glance, Israel is ranked 2nd in the number of adults (25-64 year old) with academic degrees, trailing Canada, but ahead of all other OECD countries (Israel Hayom, Sept. 12).

4.  eBay CEO John Donahoe at Israel’s Advanced Technology Conference in Jerusalem (Bloomberg, Sept. 11):  the Israel R&D centers of eBay and its subsidiary PayPal will continue to help drive the company’s innovation in commerce and payment in the foreseeable future. Those centers are based largely on Israeli start-ups acquired by eBay, including Shopping.Com, The Gifts Project and Fraud Sciences. Those centers, employing 340 people, work on everything from EBay’s global social activities to cataloging and data to search mechanisms as well as security and risk management.  Donahoe is looking forward to partnering with more Israeli entrepreneurs to help further spur the future of retail and commerce.

5.  Cisco Systems, the Silicon Valley-based Greylock Partners and the Englewood, CO-based Liberty Global participated in the $24MN 5th round of private placement by Israel’s Celeno (Globes, Sept. 28).

Kazakhstan’s Kenges Rakishev invested $20MN in Israel’s Mobli.  Additional investors in Mobli are Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey McGuire and Serena Williams.

In August, Rakishev invested $5MN in Israel’s TriPlay (Globes, September 20). The Radnor, PA-based New Spring Capital, the Menlo Park, CA-based Menlo Ventures and the Palo Alto, CA-based Trident Capital participated in a $12MN 3rd round by Israel’s eXelate (Globes, Sept. 25). Switzerland’s ABB will invest $10MN in an Israeli solar project (Globes, Sept. 3). Motorola Solutions led a $4MN round by Israel’s AgentVi (Globes, Sept. 12).

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Moody’s 2012 Report and Israel

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

While Israel is concerned about growing budget deficit and unemployment, Moody’s September 3, 2012 annual credit report on Israel, states:

*Israel’s A1 government bond rating and stable outlook are underpinned by the country’s high economic, institutional and government financial strength. [However], the rating is constrained by significant social and political challenges, which lead to moderate susceptibility to event risk….

*Israel’s high economic strength is supported by its relatively high GDP per capita (US$31,200 in 2011) and its economic resilience, which has been illustrated in recent years during frequent economic and political shocks. However, this resilience is being challenged once again by the ongoing euro zone debt crisis and the concurrent slowdown in the global economy.

*Moody’s points out that the Israeli economy’s pace of recovery following the global recession in 2009 has slowed as the contribution of net exports became a drag on the economy last year for the first time since 2007, a trend continued into the first quarter of this year. Capital inflows have diminished and the current account surplus has disappeared in 2012, the latter partly a result of the need to replace Egyptian gas imports following that country’s revolution. As a consequence, the real GDP growth rate dropped to 3% in H1 2012 from an average of 4.8% during 2010-11. Nonetheless, the country’s specialized export sector is well-positioned to rebound quickly should the global environment normalize….

*Moody’s assesses Israel’s government financial strength as being high thanks to the improving debt trajectory, the favorable debt composition and the comfortable debt service schedule…. Additional spending has been allocated to address the acute problems in the housing sector, related primarily to affordability. Other social spending hikes in response to last year’s widespread popular demonstrations and secular increases, mainly associated with demographic trends, will require strict prioritization to conform to the fiscal rule that sets a ceiling on the growth of government spending.

*Moody’s judges Israel’s susceptibility to event risk as moderate based on the political risks facing the country, both domestic and external. The Arab Spring revolutions have ironically created problems for Israel, for whom the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt has been critical to its security framework. The violent uprising in Syria and concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, have led the government to maintain a high level of defense spending, representing about 15% of total government expenditure. However, the negative impact of the cutoff of Egyptian gas supplies on the Israeli balance of payments will be more than offset as Israel’s own gas production increases substantially between 2013 and 2016.

On the other hand, here’s Moody’s August 30, 2012 assessment of the economic performance of the G-20 countries:

*We expect the G-20 advanced economies to grow by around 1.4% in 2012 and 2.0% in 2013, comparable to the 1.3% growth in 2011 and significantly lower than the 3.0% growth in 2010. We expect the prolonged financial market volatility stemming from the sovereign debt crisis in the euro area to continue to depress consumer and business confidence, and the high level of uncertainty to continue to weigh on investment and hiring decisions. Along with ongoing deleveraging efforts in the public and private sectors, persistently high unemployment levels, and real-estate market weakness in a number of countries, these developments will continue to constrain growth in advanced economies.…

*The risk of a deeper than currently expected euro area recession remains significant. The risk of further financial market turbulence in the euro area also remains elevated, given the need for fiscal consolidation measures in an environment of weak economic growth, which raises implementation risks. Furthermore, political and financial uncertainty in Greece and potential funding stress in Spain and Italy have increased the risk of severe economic and financial dislocations in the euro area….

Visit Yoram Ettinger’s website, www.theettingerreport.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/moodys-2012-report-and-israel/2012/09/09/

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