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U.S. mortgage interest rates top 6% for first time since 2008 - REUTERS

SEPTEMBER 15, 2022

(Reuters) - The average interest rate on the most popular U.S. home loan rose above 6% for the first time since 2008 and is now more than double the level it was one year ago, Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) data showed on Wednesday.

Rising mortgage rates are increasingly weighing on the interest-rate sensitive housing sector as the Federal Reserve pushes on with aggressively lifting borrowing costs in order to tame high inflation. The central bank has raised its benchmark overnight lending rate by 225 basis points since March.

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Expectations for Fed tightening have led to a surge in Treasury yields since the start of this year. The yield on the 10-year note acts as a benchmark for mortgage rates.

The average contract rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose by 7 basis points to 6.01% for the week ended Sept. 9, a level not seen since towards the end of the financial crisis and Great Recession.

The MBA also said its Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, declined 1.2% from a week earlier and is now down 64.0% from one year ago. Its Refinance Index fell 4.2% from the prior week and was down 83.3% compared to one year ago.

A worse-than-expected key inflation reading on Tuesday cemented expectations the Fed will be forced to deliver a third straight 75-basis point interest rate hike at its policy meeting next week, with investors now predicting the central bank will have to hike rates faster and further than previously thought.

The impact of higher interest rates is being felt across the housing sector. New home sales plunged to a 6-1/2-year low in July while home resales and single-family housing starts are at two-year lows. But house prices remain elevated amid a critical shortage of affordable homes, making a housing market collapse unlikely.

Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir; Editing by Toby Chopra

These Are the World’s Most (and Least) Powerful Passports in 2022 - BLOOMBERG

SEPTEMBER 15, 2022

Japan, Singapore and South Korea have the most powerful passports as the world continues to recover from Covid-19, reversing pre-pandemic rankings that were dominated by European nations.

A Japanese passport provides hassle-free entry to 193 countries, one more than those from Singapore and South Korea, according to the latest Henley Passport Index from Henley & Partners, an immigration consultancy.

Russian travel documents are ranked 50th, giving easy access to 119 nations. China placed 69th with access to 80 countries, India’s passport ranked 87th and Afghanistan’s passport is the least useful, getting the holder into only 27 countries. 


“The recovery and reclamation of our travel freedoms, and our innate instinct to move and migrate, will take time,” Henley & Partners Chairman Christian Kaelin said in a statement.

As recently as 2017, Asian countries barely featured among the world’s 10 most-accepted passports, according to the index. Europe’s domination has gradually eased and Germany now trails South Korea. The UK is sixth with access to 187 countries, while the US is seventh with a score of 186, the latest ranking shows.

The index, which uses 17 years of data, helps wealthy individuals and governments assess the value of citizenships around the world based on which passports offer the most prolific visa-free, or visa-on-arrival access. Still, with global travel yet to fully recover from Covid restrictions, the index offers only a notional snapshot of the best documents to hold as the world emerges from the pandemic.


Amsterdam Airport’s CEO to Step Down Amid Travel Chaos - BLOOMBERG

SEPTEMBER 15, 2022

BY April Roach and Siddharth PhilipBloomberg News

(Bloomberg) -- Schiphol Airport’s Dick Benschop is stepping down as chief executive of the Dutch hub as the airport continues to struggle with long lines and flight cancelations caused by a staffing shortage.

Benschop informed Royal Schiphol Group NV’s supervisory board on Wednesday that he is resigning from his role as president-director and chief executive. Benschop will stay on in his position until the board is able to find a successor, the airport operator said in statement on Thursday.

“There is a lot of attention and also criticism for the way in which Schiphol tackles the problems and for my responsibility as CEO,” said Benschop, adding the decision was his own. “I do not want the attention for my person to become an obstacle for Schiphol.”

Ahead of the busy summer season, the home base for Air France-KLM’s Dutch arm was one of the first airports in Europe to limit capacity as it struggled to ramp up from virtually no travel during the pandemic. 

Other airports followed. London’s Heathrow airport, which was Europe’s busiest pre-pandemic, said it would keep its 100,000 a day limit on departing passengers until the end of October, and in July warned that caps could remain in place for another year.

Schiphol pledged in May to recruit more workers and optimize passenger flows in a bid to reduce waits that have extended to several hours. The Amsterdam-based airport asked a number of airlines to cancel flights on Monday as lower numbers of security workers led to long waiting times for travelers.

Germany’s Richest Man Increases Lufthansa Stake to 17.5% - BLOOMBERG

SEPTEMBER 15, 2022

(Bloomberg) -- Germany’s richest man increased his stake in Deutsche Lufthansa AG, buying stock offloaded by the country’s government as part of its exit from the flagship carrier.

Klaus-Michael Kuehne now owns 17.5% of Lufthansa, according to an emailed statement from his holding group Wednesday. The billionaire this year overtook the German state as the biggest shareholder, investing a chunk of a fortune made in logistics. 

“This underscores Kuehne Holding’s positive view of the company,” a spokeswoman for the group said via email. She declined to comment further on whether Kuehne would add to his stake further.

Kuehne has a net worth of $32.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He is honorary chairman and majority owner of Kuehne + Nagel, the world’s largest sea-freight forwarder.

The size of Kuehne’s stake would mean he’s likely to be able to put a representative on Lufthansa’s supervisory board when a place becomes available, according to a person familiar with the matter. The terms of four shareholder representatives are due to expire before the 2023 annual meeting, an event where stockholders vote on new appointments.

Cargo Boom 

While the magnate hasn’t commented publicly on his overall vision for the Lufthansa stake, several major shipping companies are branching into commercial aviation following the boom in air cargo during the Covid-19 pandemic and congestion in land- and sea-based freight. 

French logistics giant CMA CGM SA in May agreed to acquire a stake in Air France-KLM, while container giant MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co SA made a failed bid with Lufthansa to acquire Italia Trasporto Aereo, known as ITA, the successor to failed carrier Alitalia.

Kuehne’s purchase comes after Germany’s Economic Stabilization Fund, or WSF, disposed of its remaining stake Europe’s largest airline via a placement with investors, netting a 760 million euros ($758 million) profit. The state stepped in during 2020 to rescue Lufthansa after pandemic-related travel restrictions all but grounded air travel.

Kuehne’s holding company owns a 30% stake in German shipping firm Hapag-Lloyd AG, a company that hasn’t made an attempt to acquire aviation operations. Lufthansa’s cargo division operates a fleet of large aircraft and also makes use of the belly space in the passenger division’s jets.

 

(Updates with company comment in third paragraph.)

BREAKING: Azman Air Suspends Operations Indefinitely - INDEPENDENT

SEPTEMBER 15, 2022

LAGOS – Azman Air has suspended indefinitely its flight operations following the alleged failure of the carrier to meet the Air Operators Certificate (AOC) renewal process.

A source close to the airline confided in our correspondent on Thursday morning that the airline had on Wednesday evening told its staff not to report to duties on Thursday.

The airline allegedly told the workers that it was suspending operations ”due to operational reasons,” but was not specific about the reasons.

However, another source close to the airline told our correspondent that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) suspended its operation for failing to meet the requirements for AOC renewal.

It was also learnt that the regulatory body had given it much time to renew the AOC, but failed despite issuing the airline another 30 days ultimatum to meet the requirements.

Alhaji Abdulmunaf Yinusa, the Chairman of Azman Air could not be reached for comments.

Details later…

Aero To Start Flight Operations Month End As Umza Invests N21.425bn - DAILY TRUST

SEPTEMBER 15, 2022

By  Chris Agabi

Aero Contractors, Nigeria’s oldest airline, is scaling up regulatory compliance to commence flight operations by the end of September 2022.

This is even as the airline took delivery of another aircraft, a Q-400 Bombardier, the second from five expected to beef up its fleet. 

By this delivery, Aero has six serviceable aircraft to use for its scheduled flight operations.

Umza Aviation Services invested the five aircraft in Aero, worth about $50 million (over N21.425bn at CBN fate), on an agreed profit-sharing basis. 

Speaking to journalists shortly after the aircraft touched down at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, Capt Abdullahi Mahmood, the MD/CEO of Aero Contractors said with the additional aircraft “Nigerians should expect efficient, prompt and reliable service.”

The MD who was represented by the Head of Security, Adah Daniel said, “Aero is looking at the end of the month” to commence flight operations.

“We wrote to the NCAA that we want to start operations, but we have to finish with the ongoing audit process. So, once we are through with the NCAA audit process and we are cleared, we will commence immediately. It could be earlier and it could be early next month but it depends on the audit.

“We are confident that the audit will end this month because we have already started. So, they will be coming in to do the final paperwork and once that is done, we are good to go,” he explained.

On the choice of aircraft, the MD said “the aircraft is very dependable; it has fuel efficiency and its capacity is 75 seater.

“So with this, we hope to meet aviation demand in terms of passengers and also cost because we have noticed that cost is a concern for a lot of travelling passengers.

“So, we believe when you operate a fuel-efficient aircraft, you will be able to fly passengers with a reasonable fare, so that is what we are looking at for the passengers,” he noted.

The chairman, Umza Aviation Services, Honourable Mohammed Abubakar, said he has invested almost $50 million in the purchase of the five aircraft. 

He said the aircraft were not on lease but an outright purchase. 

Also commenting on the deal, an aviation expert and former MD, Aero Contractors, Capt. Ado Sanusi, said the choice of aircraft can give Aero to run at a reduced cost and this might impact ticket costs. 

“If the aircraft you are using does not consume too much of the Jet A1, then you can drive down the cost which is why the choice of Dash 8Q400 is a good one.

“Any aircraft that does not consume too much fuel and will deliver the same product to the passengers will be a welcome development to investors because you can afford to sell your ticket a bit less because you are consuming less fuel,” he explained.


FAA Hits Airlines on Flight Delays After United Chief’s Comments - BLOOMBERG

SEPTEMBER 16, 2022

(Bloomberg) -- US aviation regulators struck back at major airline’s reliability Thursday after the head of United Airlines Holdings Inc. called government’s the air-traffic system “by far the No. 1 issue” leading to flight delays. 

United Chief Executive Officer Scott Kirby made the comments in Washington during a conference. Within hours, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a statement, including a chart showing US airlines were responsible for more than twice as many minutes of delay as the agency through May of this year.

“The FAA’s mission is keeping airline passengers safe,” the FAA said. “Airlines should focus on restoring customers’ faith by being transparent about the cause of interruptions and by delivering what they promise.”

Delays and cancellations have surged this year as travel rebounded from the pandemic. Airlines, which have struggled with staff shortages and other issues, have been the biggest cause of the increase, according to data they report to the Department of Transportation.

The tense summer of delays led to fingerpointing, not only from airline officials including Kirby, but also by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and even President Joe Biden. 

Oil exports account for 80% total national revenue - PUNCH

SEPTEMBER 16, 2022

The oil and gas sector still accounts for 80 per cent of Nigeria’s total national revenue despite crude oil theft, OPEOLUWANI AKINTAYO writes.

Nigeria’s exports in the second quarter of 2022 were dominated by crude oil, accounting for 80 per cent of total export revenue despite the huge oil theft recorded in recent times.

Data sourced from the National Bureau of Statistics latest report on Merchandise Trade showed that crude oil exports valued at N5.9bn accounted for 80 per cent of total exports undertaken by Nigeria in the period under review.

The country had in recent times recorded an increase in the activities of pipeline vandals, resulting in a rise in crude oil theft, according to the Group Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, Mele Kyari.

Kyari had stated in an interview late last month, that the country’s low crude oil output was due to theft resulting from pipeline vandalism in the Niger Delta.

According to him, 295 illegal connections had been located around the pipelines, which led to the shutdown of production.

 “When you say we are losing 700,000 barrels of crude oil per day, we mean it. There is no company that will produce and lose 80 per cent of its crude oil that will continue to produce.

“So we deliberately shut down the pipeline whenever we see these infractions getting to a limit we cannot control. That means as we speak today, we know that there are at least 700,000 lock-ins that we could have produced that we can’t do because we can’t guarantee the safety of the pipelines.

“While we agree that some of the oil losses are due to technical issues, a larger percentage of it is due to theft. It is impossible for any oil company to continue to operate in such an environment.

“None produces oil for the next person to continue to steal it. If you produce and someone continues to take it, the wise thing is for you to stop the production. This is why we can’t produce.”


In its report for August, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries said Nigeria’s July crude oil production was about one million barrels per day, down from 1.2mb/d recorded in June.

OPEC had raised Nigeria’s September production to 1.830mb/d from 1.826mb/d in August.

According to the statistics on the Nigerian oil sector, crude oil production averaged 1.8 million barrels per day from 1.973mb/d, hitting an all-time high of 2.475mb/d in November 2005.

Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Akpan Ekpo, told The PUNCH that despite crude oil retaining 80 per cent of the total trade, Nigeria should diversify as oil revenue was no longer reliable.

“Oil prices are volatile, and we need to think of other ways to boost revenue,” he said.

In the second quarter of 2022, Nigeria’s total trade stood at N12.8bn, this was lower than the value recorded in the first quarter of 2022 (N13bn) but was higher than the value recorded in the corresponding period of 2021 which stood at N9.7bn.

Total exports was N7.4bn, of which re-exports stood at N9.6bn, while total imports stood at N5.4bn, according to the NBS report.

In the quarter under review, total exports increased by four per cent when compared to the first quarter of 2022 (N7.1bn) and by 47 per cent of the value recorded in the second quarter of 2021 (N5bn).

On the other hand, total imports decreased by eight per cent in the second quarter of 2022 when compared to the value recorded in the first quarter of 2022 (N5.9bn) and grew by 16 per cent when compared to the value recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2021 (N4.6bn).

Re-exports in the second quarter of 2022, which stood at N9.6bn, decreased when compared to the same quarter of 2021 (N6bn) and also, in the first quarter of 2022 (N115.8bn) by 85 per cent and 92 per cent respectively.

Commenting on the development, a lawyer advising NNPC Ltd on oil and gas projects and transactions and partner at Bloomfield Law Practice, Ayodele Oni, advised the Federal Government to provide solutions to oil theft.

“Plans need to be put in place to ensure that crude is not stolen. Our leaders need to be proactive and think outside the box,” he said.

The lawyer added, “As we speak, many companies are already working on alternative structures for moving their crude to the export terminals.

“If we can sell more crude at this time when crude prices have increased in the international market, then it is good for our revenue, our balance of trade and payment.”

Nigeria rakes in N1.6tn from crude oil

Meanwhile, the country made a total of N1.6tn from crude oil sale in July, according to statistics from OPEC.

Foreign airlines’ stranded fund may hit $500m as fare hike worsens - THE GUARDIAN

SEPTEMBER 16, 2022

By Wole Oyebade

•Govt has refused to engage operators, build confidence, say travel agencies

About three weeks after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) released a fraction of the foreign airlines’ stuck funds in the country, there has been no reprieve in the crisis rocking the international travel segment.

Affordable travel tickets that were earlier withdrawn by the foreign airlines in the wake of the crisis have continued to elude the Nigerian market, even as the stuck funds accumulate and are now projected to hit $500 million by November.

Travel agencies, who raised the alarm, said though the foreign carriers have recovered a part of their stranded funds, the process of disbursement lacked transparency, just as their future on the Nigerian routes remain uncertain.

President of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), Susan Akporiaye, said the consequence was the misfortune of Nigerian travellers still buying an average six-hour Economy Class ticket for between N1.5 to N2.2 million. The Business Class variant sells at an average of N4 to N5 million – being over 200 per cent spike of the rate sold in other parts of the world.

Akporiaye explained that the available tickets in Nigeria are the premium because most of the airlines have withdrawn the affordable layers.

“Some foreign airlines are blocking travel agencies from selling their tickets on the Global Distribution System (GDS) platform. The inventories are blocked on the platform, meaning travel agencies and even airline offices cannot issue because the inventory was blocked for Nigeria.

“The ones that have not closed inventories are restricting sales to the highest fares in each cabin (Economy, Business and First Class). You don’t even want to know what the prices are. It is just crazy and totally out of reach,” she lamented.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) earlier warned that Nigeria and other countries withholding airline funds risk a 200 to 300 per cent spike in airfares. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had recently released $265 million out of the $464 million trapped in Nigeria as at July 2022, much to the applause of IATA and relief of travel agencies.

Akporiaye told The Guardian that they heaved a sigh of relief too early. “Since the last week of August, we have been visiting the airlines. The information reaching us is that the airlines have not got the money. Right now, there is the issue of transparency and trust.

“Information reaching us is that out of the 50 per cent of funds released, the airlines have just received only 25 per cent. Some have not even gotten at all. Even the ones that have the 25 per cent are even paid short of their expectations.

“For instance, if the 25 per cent is $20 million, at the end of the day, what hits their accounts is probably $12 million. This is creating a trust issue with the airlines. There is no transparency, so that airlines are not confident that we really mean to give them their money, hence the reason they are still holding forth. They are watching to see how it goes,” she said.

First Vice President of the association, Yinka Folami, added that the implication of foreign airlines selling at a premium is more Naira chasing limited tickets and further swelling the unrepatriated fund in the country.

Folami noted the stuck fund was $464 million as at July. By now, the backlog is already well over that and may reach over $500 million by November because the airlines are still selling on a daily basis.

“Nigeria is a huge travel market. So, airlines are exploiting our travel identity,” he said.

He added that the way forward is for proper engagement with the foreign airlines as business partners of the Nigerian economy.

“Actually, we (travel agencies) have been engaging the government but they have refused to open doors to us. We have gone even on appointments that were cancelled for whatever reasons.

“But the government needs to engage them. Even the airlines desire the government to engage them to acknowledge that there is a problem and have plans to resolve them. The airlines are saying that if they can hear that from the government, perhaps they can reconsider some of their actions. It is like saying ‘give us hope’.

“We (Nigeria) put ourselves in this situation in the first place; otherwise the airlines will not be blocking inventories. Lest we forget, we failed the airlines and failed in the BASA agreement that says the airlines should be able to repatriate their funds unhindered. So, we don’t have any legal right to penalise any airline. We should not be talking about that but calling them to the table to work together on stopping the sufferings of Nigerian air travellers,” he said.

Domestic airlines struggle to pay insurance premium –NAICOM - PUNCH

SEPTEMBER 17, 2022

Nigerian airline operators are finding it extremely difficult to pay the premium on their assets such as aircraft and others, the Director, Policy and Regulations, Nigerian Insurance Commission, Leo Akah, has said.

He said any carriers were breaking the insurance premium into bits with some opting to do so monthly, some quarterly and others in pieces.

Akah disclosed this while speaking on the sidelines of a two-day aviation, cargo, and export conference in Lagos.

The NAICOM director stated that insurance premium was often raised any time there was a plane crash.

He noted that though aviation risks were low, they were high in severity and required strict legal framework and regulatory principles in the insurance sector.

He said, “Our law says no premium no cover and if you don’t pay, you are on your own. You can’t fly if you don’t have insurance. This is an issue. Even accessing foreign exchange to pay your insurance overseas is among the challenges in the sector. The insurance company won’t collect naira from you.

“It is not optional for you not to have insurance as an airline operator. If you don’t insure your liabilities for example, you cannot fly. We liaise with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority to ensure that whatever paper is submitted to them at NCAA is an evidence that you have insurance so that they can allow you to fly.”

The huge insurance premium in the aviation sector is impacting on the cost of operations of airlines, which are transferred to consumers.

However, despite Nigeria’s low air crashes, insurance firms, especially those based overseas, charge the country’s airline operators high insurance premiums, a situation which has been attributed to the bad rating of the continent’s airlines in terms of safety.

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