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DELOITTE ESTABLISHES A DIGITAL DELIVERY CENTER IN SAUDI ARABIA

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DELOITTE ESTABLISHES A DIGITAL DELIVERY CENTER IN SAUDI ARABIA

-New Center supports the Kingdom’s Digital Transformation Initiative

-Hundreds of high-tech, highly skilled jobs and training opportunities to be created

-Deloitte and MCIT collaborate to support Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030

Deloitte, supported by the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), announced today a significant investment to build a state-of-the art Deloitte Digital Center (DDC) in Riyadh.  When complete, the DDC will support the growing focus on digital initiatives by businesses and the public sector in KSA and across the Middle East, by enabling the delivery of end-to-end innovative digital solutions at scale – from strategy and design through to implementation. The DDC will provide employment and training opportunities for hundreds of Saudi nationals, as well as attracting the best digital talent from abroad.

The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT) joined Deloitte in a signing ceremony on March 4, 2018 in Riyadh, which was attended by his Excellency the Minister Abdullah Alswaha and His Excellency Deputy Minister Dr. Ahmed H. Al-Theneyan of the MCIT, Punit Renjen, CEO, Deloitte Global, David Sproul, CEO, Deloitte UK and North West Europe and Omar Fahoum, CEO, Deloitte Middle East. Also attending were Khaled AlSagga, Consulting Partner, Deloitte &Touche Middle East Limited, Saudi Arabia, and Rashid Bashir, Public Sector leader at Deloitte Middle East.

“Digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, data analytics and cloud computing are going to change life as we know it,” said Renjen, CEO, Deloitte Global. “Deloitte’s investment in the digital infrastructure of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will contribute to building a thriving economy and vibrant innovative society with new job opportunities for many Saudi citizens,” he said.

The significant investment in building the new DDC and the associated talent development programmes clearly demonstrates Deloitte’s commitment to supporting the Kingdom’s Saudi Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Programme.

The DDC will be the first Deloitte digital delivery center in the region and is expected to support the digital skills development for Saudi youth, foster technology-driven entrepreneurship and advance the delivery of consulting services within the Kingdom and throughout the Middle East.

“The Deloitte Middle East Consulting business, supported by investment and resources from the UK and Deloitte North West Europe, will form alliances with the Saudi government and businesses to help ensure alignment to their key strategic objectives. By bringing together the best of the Deloitte network’s experience globally in digital transformation and change we will support a market that increasingly needs expertise in the delivery of large scale transformation programmes,” added Sproul, CEO, Deloitte UK and North West Europe.

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U.S. job growth likely regained steam in February

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U.S. job growth likely regained steam in February 1

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. job growth likely accelerated in February as more services businesses reopened amid falling new COVID-19 cases, quickening vaccination rates and additional pandemic relief money from the government, putting the labor market recovery back on firmer footing and on course for further gains in the months ahead.

The Labor Department’s closely watched employment report on Friday will, however, also offer a reminder that as the United States enters the second year of the coronavirus pandemic the recovery remains excruciatingly slow, with millions of Americans experiencing long spells of joblessness and permanent unemployment.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell on Thursday offered an optimistic view of the labor market, but cautioned a return to full employment this year was “highly unlikely.”

“We will probably see more people having gone back on payrolls,” said Sung Won Sohn, a finance and economics professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. “Many will be related to service jobs, but that will not mean a rapid increase in jobs. It’s a slow progress toward eventual full recovery.”

Nonfarm payrolls likely increased by 182,000 jobs last month after rising only 49,000 in January, according to a Reuters poll of economists. Payrolls declined in December for the first time in eight months.

Economists saw no impact from the mid-February deep freeze in the densely populated South as the winter storms hit after the week during which the government surveyed establishments and businesses for the employment report.

But unseasonably cold weather last month, especially in the Northeast, and production cuts at auto assembly plants because of a global semiconductor chip shortage likely shortened the average workweek.

The labor market has been slow to respond to the drop in daily coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, which helped fuel a boost in consumer spending in January that prompted economists to sharply upgrade their gross domestic product growth estimates for the first quarter.

Historically, employment lags GDP growth by about a quarter. But economists believe the catching up started in February, a year after the economy fell into recession at the start of the U.S. COVID-19 outbreak.

A survey last week showed consumers’ perceptions of the labor market improved in February after deteriorating in January and December. In addition, a measure of manufacturing employment increased to a two-year high in February.

Though millions are unemployed, companies are struggling to find workers, which is contributing to holding back job growth. A survey on Wednesday showed employment growth in the services industry slowed last month, with businesses reporting they were “unable to fill vacant positions with qualified applicants.”

That was underscored by an NFIB survey on Thursday showing 91% of small businesses trying to hire in February reported few or no qualified applicants for their open positions.

WORKER SHORTAGE

This labor market dichotomy is because the pandemic is keeping some workers at home, fearful of accepting or returning to jobs that could expose them to the virus.

It has also disproportionately affected women who have been forced to drop out of the labor force to look after children as many schools remain closed for in-person learning. According to Census Bureau data, around 10 million mothers living with their own school-age children were not actively working in January, 1.4 million more than during the same month in 2020.

The Fed’s Beige Book report on Wednesday showed there are shortages of workers in both low-skill and skilled trade occupations. The vacancies are mainly in the high-growth industries that have fared well throughout the pandemic, such as information technology, engineering, construction, customer support, manufacturing, and accounting and finance.

“Jobseekers are more hesitant to pursue many of the in-demand roles that are required to be onsite, particularly in industries like manufacturing, which has seen double digit increases in job roles like assemblers and warehouse managers,” said Karen Fichuk, CEO of Randstad North America.

The virus has greatly altered the economic landscape and many of the services industry jobs lost will likely not return.

Though the unemployment rate has dropped below 10%, it has been understated by people misclassifying themselves as being “employed but absent from work.” It is expected to have held steady at 6.3% in February. Just over 4 million Americans had been unemployed for more than six months in January, while 3.5 million were permanently unemployed.

Given the difficulties of retraining, structural unemployment could account for a bigger share of joblessness in the near future.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Economists believe the labor market will gather steam in the spring and through summer, with vaccinations increasing daily, even though the pace of decline in COVID-19 infections has flattened recently.

A boost to hiring is also expected from President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion recovery plan, which is under consideration by Congress.

“The labor force will begin a meaningful recovery in mid-2021 as extensive vaccine distribution will push toward herd immunity, reducing health concerns and allowing for a more complete recovery of some hard-hit industries,” said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Dan Burns and Andrea Ricci)

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Oil prices surge as OPEC+ extends output cuts into April

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Oil prices surge as OPEC+ extends output cuts into April 2

By Sonali Paul and Koustav Samanta

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices rose on Friday, extending gains from the previous session, after OPEC and its allies agreed not to increase supply in April as they await a more substantial recovery in demand amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Brent crude futures for May rose 60 cents, or 0.9%, to $67.34 a barrel at 0337 GMT, and was on track for a near 2% gain in the week.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 56 cents, or 0.9%, to $64.39 per barrel.

Both contracts surged more than 4% on Thursday after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, together called OPEC+, extended oil output curbs into April, with small exemptions to Russia and Kazakhstan.

“It just goes to show how much of a surprise the OPEC+ discipline is,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

“What makes the gain even more impressive is that it comes against a risk-off backdrop and a higher U.S. dollar,” he said.

Oil prices usually fall when the dollar rises as a higher greenback makes oil more expensive for buyers with other currencies.

Investors were surprised that Saudi Arabia had decided to maintain its voluntary cut of 1 million barrels per day through April even after oil prices rallied over the past two months.

“An array of factors coalesced to bring the parties together, but the resultant price increase will almost certainly push the parties to change their minds when they meet again on April 1, 2021,” commodity analysts at Citigroup said in a note.

“Whatever its rationale, from a pure market balancing perspective, OPEC itself has indicated that more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil will be required in the market by end-June. That need starts by mid- to late Apr’21, as refinery demand for crude starts growing before escalating through Aug’21.”

Analysts are reviewing their price forecasts to reflect the continued supply restraint by OPEC+ as well as U.S. shale producers, who are holding back spending in order to boost returns to investors.

“Oil prices could rip higher now that a tight market is likely up through the summer. WTI crude at $75 no longer seems outlandish and Brent could easily top $80 by the summer,” OANDA analyst Edward Moya said in a note.

(Reporting by Sonali Paul in Melbourne and Koustav Samanta in Singapore; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Jane Wardell)

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White House says closely tracking Microsoft’s emergency patch

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White House says closely tracking Microsoft's emergency patch 3

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House is closely tracking an emergency patch Microsoft Corp has released, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Thursday, after an unknown hacking group recently broke into organizations using a flaw in the company’s mail server software.

“We are closely tracking Microsoft’s emergency patch for previously unknown vulnerabilities in Exchange Server software and reports of potential compromises of U.S. think tanks and defense industrial base entities,” Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, said on Twitter.

“We encourage network owners to patch ASAP,” he said. His tweet included a link to a notice by Microsoft of the security update. (https://bit.ly/3kLPWJQ)

Microsoft’s near-ubiquitous suite of products has been under scrutiny since the hack of SolarWinds Corp, a Texas-based software firm that served as a springboard for several intrusions across government and the private sector.

In other cases, hackers took advantage of the way customers had set up their Microsoft services to compromise their targets or dive further into affected networks.

Hackers who went after SolarWinds also breached Microsoft itself, accessing and downloading source code – including elements of Exchange, the company’s email and calendaring product.

(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Jacqueline Wong & Shri Navaratnam)

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