debt

During the New Orleans Investment Conference, Peter Schiff participated in a panel discussion with Ben Hunt and Mike Larson. They talked about bubbles, booms and busts.

Hunt called it the “bubble of everything.” But he said the “gravitational force” created by all of the assets central banks have purchased over the last year have changed the “bubble-popping process.” That makes it hard to predict when things will actually start to deflate. He said it will take something the undermines the market confidence that central banks can bail us out. Hunt said inflation was possibly the pin that could prick the bubble.

Larson called it the “uber-bubble,” and he said he already sees some of the background concerns that have been simmering for  a long time are starting to “bubble over.” (Pun intended.) He said the last two bubbles were high in amplitude, but limited to certain parts of the economy (dot-coms and housing). The current bubble isn’t as high in amplitude, but it’s broader-based. We see bubbles in stocks, high-yield bonds, housing (again), and commercial real estate, along with a lot of other assets you don’t hear as much about – such as art and comic books.

“I think the process of unwinding this is already beginning.”

Peter focused in on the cause of the bubbles.

“When you see rampant, wide-scale bad decisions, generally a central banker is behind it, and they have made a bad decision to create too much money and to artificially manipulate interest rates down.”

This creates distortions in the economy because interest rates are really nothing more than price signals.

“And like all prices, they need to be determined by the free market.”

Whenever the government – and central banks are really an extension of governments – price fixes something, it creates big distortions and malinvestments.

“We have had artificially low-interest rates for an unprecedented number of years at an unprecedented low rate. So, the mistakes that have been made during this time period dwarf the mistakes that have ever been made in any bubble in the past because the bubble is so much bigger.”

When a bubble finally bursts, it’s really just the free market trying to clean up the mess created by the intervention. The bigger the boom, the bigger the bust.

“The problem now is that the boom is so big that the bust will be catastrophic. And what’s going to make this bust different is that there is no bailout. There is no stimulus. It is impossible to reflate this bubble, because, as has been said, this is a bubble of everything. They can’t make a bubble go someplace else. It already is everyplace.”

(Photo by Wikimedia Commons)

Peter said the only place there isn’t a bubble is in gold. That means there is also a bubble in complacency and optimism.

“People are so drunk on all this cheap money, they think nothing can go wrong.”

As far as what pin will prick the bubble, Peter said there are all kinds of pins out there. The problem is that when you’re in a bubble, you can’t see the pins.

The panel goes on to discuss some of the specific manifestations of the bubbles and where they see trouble spots.

And Peter makes a pitch for gold, saying his 24 karat gold cufflinks will outperform the S&P 500 over the next five years. He pointed out that when they started popping the dot-com bubble, gold was under $300. It got as high as $1,900 in 2011.

“This game is not over. The fat lady hasn’t sung yet. When this final bubble pops, gold is going through the roof –I do think that by the time this bubble has run its course, you’ll be able to buy the Dow Jones for an ounce of gold.”

Owen Shroyer delivers an epic rant on how U.S. soldiers were disrespected at the southern border by the Mexican Army.

Source: InfoWars

President Donald Trump’s one-time personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has walked back part of his guilty plea, claiming he did not evade taxes and a criminal charge related to a home-equity line of credit was “a lie,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

The newspaper said Cohen made his comments in a phone call to actor and comedian Tom Arnold, a vocal critic of Trump. The newspaper said the March 25 call was recorded without Cohen’s knowledge by Arnold.

Cohen has pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges, including campaign-finance violations regarding hush-money payments to former porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal. He has also admitted to five counts of evading personal income taxes and one count of understating his expenses and debt in an application for a home-equity line of credit, or Heloc, the newspaper noted.

“There is no tax evasion,” he said during the call. “And the Heloc? I have an 18% loan-to-value on my home. How could there be a Heloc issue? How? Right? . . . It’s a lie.”

During the call, Cohen, who is preparing for a three-year prison term, confessed he felt like “a man all alone.”

“You would think that you would have folks, you know, stepping up and saying, ‘You know what, this guy’s lost everything,'” Cohen said.

“My family’s happiness, and my law license. I lost my business . . . my insurance, my bank accounts, all for what? All for what? Because Trump, you know, had an affair with a porn star? That’s really what this is about.”

Source: NewsMax America

FILE PHOTO: The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney leaves after a news conference at the Bank of England in London
FILE PHOTO: The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney leaves after a news conference at the Bank of England in London, Britain February 7, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/Pool/File Photo

April 24, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is searching for a new governor of the Bank of England to succeed Mark Carney in early 2020.

Finance minister Philip Hammond is hoping that concerns about Brexit will not deter potential applicants.

Below are possible contenders to run the BoE which oversees the world’s fifth-biggest economy and its huge finance industry.

ANDREW BAILEY

The former deputy BoE governor was tipped by analysts as Carney’s most likely successor. But delays to the search, after Carney extended his time in London, have raised questions about whether Hammond sees him as the best candidate.

Bailey, 60, was deputy governor with a focus on banks before becoming chief executive of the Financial Conduct Authority, a markets regulator.

While at the BoE, Bailey helped to steer Britain’s banks through the global financial crisis.

Heading the FCA is fraught with risks. Lawmakers criticised Bailey for not publishing all of a report into alleged misconduct by bank RBS. Bailey cited privacy restrictions.

As FCA boss, Bailey sits on important panels at the BoE that oversee banks. Although he has never been interest-rate setter, he once ran the BoE international economic analysis team.

RAGHURAM RAJAN

Rajan, 56, headed the Reserve Bank of India from 2013 to 2016, and was chief economist at the International Monetary Fund between 2003 and 2006 when he warned of the risk of a financial crisis.

Now a professor at Chicago Booth business school, Rajan has published a book on dissatisfaction with markets and the state – touching on some of the underlying issues behind Brexit.

Rajan unexpectedly did not seek a renewal of his three-year term at the RBI, having faced hostility from some sections of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP party who disliked his less nationalist stance and brief forays into political territory.

Rajan declined to comment when asked by Reuters last week whether he would consider a return to active policymaking.

MINOUCHE SHAFIK

Egyptian-born Shafik, 57, was a BoE deputy governor between 2014 and 2017, in charge of markets and banking, including the central bank’s asset purchase programme. She quit the job early to become director of the London School of Economics.

Between 2008 and 2011 she was the top civil servant at Britain’s ministry for overseas aid and was then deputy managing director at the International Monetary Fund, where she represented the fund in the Greek debt crisis.

Shafik would become the first woman to head the BoE, and was only its second female deputy governor.

BEN BROADBENT AND DAVE RAMSDEN

Broadbent, 54, and Ramsden, 55, are deputy governors for monetary policy and for markets and banking respectively.

Broadbent, a former Goldman Sachs economist who trained as a classical pianist, is respected for his economic analysis but has less experience on banking oversight.

Ramsden was the Treasury’s chief economic advisor.

The two other BoE deputy governors, Jon Cunliffe and Sam Woods, are less likely contenders. Woods focuses mostly on financial regulation while Cunliffe – a former British ambassador to the European Union – would be aged 66 at the start of the term which usually runs for eight years.

SHRITI VADERA

Vadera, 56, has no central banking experience but is seen as a contender due to her current role as non-executive chairwoman of Santander UK, one of Britain’s biggest banks, and her time as a junior business minister during the financial crisis.

Vadera served as a minister from 2007 to 2009 after a career in investment banking and a period at the finance ministry.

In 2008, she was part of a small group of ministers and officials who devised a plan worth hundreds of billions of pounds in loan guarantees to keep high-street banks in business.

ANDY HALDANE

The BoE’s chief economist, Haldane has developed a reputation for floating unconventional ideas, including the possibility that music apps such as Spotify and multiplayer online games might give central bankers just as a good a sense of what is going on in the economy as traditional surveys.

In 2012, he praised the anti-capitalist Occupy movement for suggesting new ways to fix the shortcomings of global finance. Haldane has experience of both sides of the BoE, having served as executive director for financial stability, overseeing the risks to the economy from the banking system. But he might be seen as too much of a maverick to take the job of governor.

A LABOUR PARTY GOVERNOR?

The prospect of the left-wing Labour Party taking power has grown as Prime Minister Theresa May struggles to break the Brexit impasse.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his would-be finance minister John McDonnell are socialists and have in the past proposed that the BoE should fund investment in infrastructure, a big change from its current focus on inflation.

Former members of Labour’s economic advisory committee included U.S. academic and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz and Ann Pettifor, a British economist who is an austerity critic, and former BoE rate-setter David Blanchflower.

(Writing by William Schomberg and David Milliken, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: 'The Vessel,' a large public art sculpture made up of 155 flights of stairs, is seen at the center of The Hudson Yards development, in New York
FILE PHOTO: The Hudson Yards development, a residential, commercial, and retail space on Manhattan’s West side, during the grand opening in New York City, New York, U.S., March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

April 24, 2019

By Herbert Lash

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Developer Related Companies said on Tuesday one of its affiliates has agreed to buy the global headquarters of AT&T’s WarnerMedia in Manhattan for about $2.2 billion, in one of the city’s most expensive commercial real estate deals.

The affiliate has entered into a contract expected to close late in the second quarter for WarnerMedia’s offices spanning 26 floors at 30 Hudson Yards, Related said in a statement.

Related will enter into a long-term lease-back until early 2034 for the space of about 1.5 million square feet (139,355 meters) in an office tower that has the highest observation deck in the Western Hemisphere.

Hudson Yards is a new $25 billion complex of commercial and residential skyscrapers built on Manhattan’s far west side above the rail yards.

Related won bidding to buy WarnerMedia’s stake, as Reuters reported earlier this month. WarnerMedia, formerly Time Warner, became a partner in the building’s development in 2014.

AT&T has sought to cut its debt by about $20 billion in 2019 after last year’s $85 billion takeover of Time Warner.

A team led by Doug Harmon at brokerage Cushman & Wakefield represented WarnerMedia in the transaction, the most expensive in Manhattan since the sale of Chelsea Market to Alphabet Inc’s Google last year for $2.4 billion in a deal Harmon also handled.

(This story corrects last paragraph to say WarnerMedia, not Related)

(Reporting by Herbert Lash; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO - The Goldman Sachs company logo is seen in the company's space on the floor of the NYSE in New York
FILE PHOTO – The Goldman Sachs company logo is seen in the company’s space on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, (NYSE) in New York, U.S., April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

April 24, 2019

By Ebru Tuncay and Birsen Altayli

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Goldman Sachs is in talks with Turkish banks and companies to buy large distressed loans following a wave of corporate restructurings in the country last year, two sources close to the matter told Reuters.

The sources, who requested anonymity, did not specify the size of the restructured loans but said Goldman was looking at those valued in the range of $2 billion to $6 billion.

Turkish banks, grappling with fallout from a recession and a weak lira, could be interested in selling loans to bolster their stressed balance sheets and to gain access to liquidity, the sources said. One of the Turkish government’s priorities is to relieve banks of bad loans.

One of the sources said that non-performing loans specialists at Goldman Sachs Group Inc, as well as at certain large London-based banks, were in “intense talks right now” over restructured Turkish loans.

A representative for Goldman Sachs in Turkey declined to comment.

Since Turkey’s currency crisis last year, where the lira halved in value at one stage, companies constrained by the currency weakness have sought to restructure their debts.

The weaker lira, which has fallen another 10 percent this year, has made it difficult for Turkish companies to service foreign-currency debts.

“They (Goldman Sachs) are not interested in complicated situations. They are interested in good loans for which the bank could provide a relative hair cut,” or discount, a second source with direct knowledge of the matter said.

Some of the big corporate loans in Turkey that have been restructured or are being restructured include a $5.5 billion loan taken out by Yildiz Holding, which owns Godiva chocolates; a 2 billion euro ($2.2 billion) loan from restaurant group Dogus Holding; and a $4.75 billion loan for Turk Telekom’s previous shareholder OTAS.

Restructured loans make up more than 100 billion liras ($17 billion) of the loans in Turkey’s banking sector, which total 2.5 trillion lira, Finance Ministry data showed.

The non-performing loan ratio at banks rose to 4.2 percent in the wake of last year’s crisis and is expected to reach 6 percent by year-end, according to the ministry data.

The potential for big returns from distressed debt deals has already attracted attention in the financial markets.

Earlier this month, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development said it was ready to help with Turkish banks’ non-performing loans. In March, sources told Reuters that Japan’s Orix and U.S.-based Bain Capital were in talks to buy problematic loans from Turkish banks.

“Investment banks can talk to (Turkish) banks and take over these loans with a hair cut,” a distressed asset trader in London said. “But what is important here is how much of a hair cut there will be. It may take some time to be agreed upon,” he said.

As part of a reform plan announced this month by Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, loans in the energy and construction sector would be taken off banks’ balance sheets.

The Treasury will also issue 5-year debt instruments worth a total of 3.7 billion euros to strengthen the capital of state banks, it said on Monday.

(Writing by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Jane Merriman)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih speaks during the Gulf Intelligence Saudi Arabia Energy Forum in Riyadh
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih speaks during the Gulf Intelligence Saudi Arabia Energy Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia April 8, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

April 24, 2019

By Stephen Kalin and Saeed Azhar

RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil producer, will remain active in the debt markets after its debut $12 billion bond earlier this month, which was “only the beginning”, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said on Wednesday.

Falih, speaking at a financial conference in Riyadh, also said Aramco would access the equity markets earlier than expected after the company gained exposure among investors through the bond sale.

Many saw the debt deal as a relationship-building exercise with international investors ahead of Aramco’s planned initial public offering, aimed at raising money for the government as Saudi Arabia looks to cut its budget deficit and diversify its economy.

Saudi officials have said the new planned listing date is 2021, but Falih told the conference on Wednesday that the share sale “could slip or come forward a little bit”.

Aramco received more than $100 billion in orders by April 9 for its debut bond – even after its prospectus said the kingdom would not guarantee Aramco’s notes – but chose to sell only $12 billion.

The bond came on the heels of Aramco’s planned $69.1 billion acquisition of a 70 percent stake in petrochemicals firm Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, HSBC, Citi, Goldman Sachs and National Commercial Bank were the bonds’ bookrunners.

JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley, along with other banks, worked on the planned stock market listing of Aramco before the move was postponed last year.

(Reporting by Stephen Kalin and Saeed Azhar; Writing by Hadeel Al Sayegh and Davide Barbuscia; Editing by Dale Hudson)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Matteo Salvini, Italy's Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the far-right League Party, speaks as he launches campaigning for the European elections
FILE PHOTO: Matteo Salvini, Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the far-right League Party, speaks as he launches campaigning for the European elections, in Milan, Italy April 8, 2019. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo/File Photo

April 24, 2019

By Giuseppe Fonte and Gavin Jones

ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s government approved an economic growth plan in the early hours of Wednesday after a bad-tempered cabinet meeting that exposed divisions in the ruling coalition and fuelled speculation about a government collapse.

The infighting overshadowed media coverage of the “growth decree” which called for tax breaks and investment incentives and for simplified procedures for public tenders.

The ruling parties, the right-wing League and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, are feuding as they compete for votes ahead of European Parliament elections on May 26, stoking investor fears that the government could fall.

The government had presented the decree as a landmark in its efforts to kickstart Italian growth, which has lagged euro zone peers for two decades, but it instead served to underline an intensifying feud between the coalition partners’ leaders.

5-Star chief Luigi Di Maio showed up for the meeting more than an hour late, after using a TV appearance to call for a junior League minister to resign over a corruption scandal. League leader Matteo Salvini has refused to sack the minister.

“It’s official – there are two governments,” read the front-page headline in national daily newspaper La Repubblica.

Di Maio and Salvini repeatedly say they want the alliance to continue even as they attack each other on a range of issues, and they have shown no willingness to compromise over the future of the League official at the centre of the scandal.

Armando Siri, a transport ministry undersecretary and economic adviser to Salvini, has been put under investigation for allegedly accepting bribes to promote the interests of renewable energy firms. Siri denies any wrongdoing.

“I plan to govern for a full mandate and I have no intention of sending Italians to (early) elections,” Salvini told reporters on Wednesday.

He added that he would not push for a cabinet reshuffle to have more weight in government after the EU elections, where the League is likely to be the largest party, opinion polls suggest.

He said Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte – an academic who is from neither ruling party but is close to 5-Star – had not asked for Siri’s resignation. Shortly afterwards Conte said he would speak to Siri, without giving further details.

DEBT RELIEF CHANGE

The growth decree contained few surprises, though the dispute was reflected in a change to one of the decree’s major measures – debt relief for the municipality of Rome, which is run by 5-Star.

The decree was less generous than an original draft of the plan after criticism from the League.

Cabinet also broadened the scope of its plan to compensate savers hit by the country’s recent banking crisis, making the money available to those with an annual income of up to 35,000 euros ($39,000) or with assets of up 200,000 euros.

The asset test was raised from 100,000 euros in the original draft, but it later emerged the amended scheme with the higher threshold would be conditional on EU approval.

The decree also gave the green light for the government to potentially take an equity stake in any vehicle set up to rescue loss-making airline Alitalia. The government is desperate to save the carrier and avoid mass layoffs.

Italy last year unveiled a big-spending budget for 2019, rattling the euro and other financial markets, but it has so far had little impact on growth. The economy slipped into technical recession at the end of 2018 and is now barely expanding.

Italy, the euro zone’s second-most indebted nation after Greece, had public debts equalling 132.2 percent of GDP in 2018, up from 131.4 percent in 2017.

($1 = 0.8923 euros)

(Editing by Giselda Vagnoni, Mark Bendeich and Alison Williams)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Hyderabad House in New Delhi
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, February 20, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/File Photo

April 24, 2019

By Stephen Kalin and Saeed Azhar

RIYADH (Reuters) – Global finance chiefs who boycotted a Saudi investment summit last year following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi returned to Riyadh this week as the Gulf kingdom gets business back on track.

Dozens of Western politicians and business executives pulled out of Saudi Arabia’s showcase summit in October amid global uproar over Khashoggi’s killing at the hands of Saudi agents inside the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate three weeks earlier.

A Saudi court has charged 11 suspects in a secretive trial and Western allies imposed sanctions on individuals. But Riyadh still faces criticism with some Western governments saying Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder. Saudi authorities have denied any connection to the country’s de facto ruler.

Big investors in Saudi Arabia appear to be focused on potential deals in the largest Arab economy and the world’s top oil exporter as it opens up under a transformation drive led by Prince Mohammed.

HSBC CEO John Flint and Blackrock CEO Larry Fink, who had stayed away from last year’s event, joined panels at the two-day financial forum that began on Wednesday, as did co-president of JPMorgan Chase & Co, Daniel Pinto.

“This is an economy that we have a lot of confidence in, I think the future is bright,” Flint told the gathering. “We are excited about the role that we can continue to play here.”

Fink told another panel: “The changes here in the kingdom in the last two years are pretty amazing.”

The CEO of the London Stock Exchange, who had pulled out of last year’s event, is also scheduled to speak at the financial conference. Also slated to attend is the chairman of Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc, whose CEO decided to abstain from the October summit.

Riyadh has been trying for months to refocus attention on its reforms, sending a senior delegation to the World Economic Forum in Davos and unveiling an industrial plan to attract hundreds of billions of dollars in investments in January.

The summit is taking place days after Saudi security forces thwarted an attack on a state security building in central Riyadh province, which authorities blamed on Islamic State.

On Tuesday Saudi Arabia announced it had executed 37 people in connection with terrorism crimes, the majority of whom were Shi’ite Muslims. Amnesty International criticized the executions as a “gruesome indication of how the death penalty is being used as a political tool to crush dissent” in the kingdom.

Asked how Saudi Arabia was addressing national security issues, Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan told the audience the Gulf region is “one of the safest worldwide”.

“These incidents will happen,” he said of the Riyadh province attack. “We are working with the world to make sure that we combat the financing of terrorism… and we work very closely with the West and the regional forces to make sure that we intercept and fight terrorism.”

MARKET CONFIDENCE

Earlier this month, state oil giant Saudi Aramco received more than $100 billion in orders for its first international bond issue, a record breaking vote of market confidence.

Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih told the forum that Aramco would be active in debt markets and that the $12 billion it raised in its debut bond issue was “only the beginning”.

The Saudi stock market has also seen an upsurge in foreign fund flows since the start of 2019 as the market enters global emerging market benchmarks. The index is up nearly 18 percent year-to-date, one of the best performing markets in the region.

The domestic financial sector is seeing a relative uptick in activity this year, fueled by an economic recovery from higher oil prices and government-led spending on big projects.

Jadaan told the forum that the ministry is launching a 12.5 billion riyal($3.33 billion)initiative to support private sector growth in the kingdom.

While some foreign investors are pushing ahead, other firms continue to keep Saudi Arabia at arm’s length, fearing a potential backlash at home over Khashoggi’s murder, the Yemen war and Riyadh’s detention of women’s rights activists.

Virgin Group last year suspended talks with the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) over a planned $1 billion investment. Hollywood talent agency Endeavor and PIF “parted ways” after talks on the fund investing $400 million, a source familiar with the matter has said.

(Editing by William Maclean)

Source: OANN

The Occidental Petroleum Corp headquarters in Los Angeles
FILE PHOTO: The Occidental Petroleum Corp headquarters is pictured in Los Angeles, California September 16, 2013. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

April 24, 2019

(Reuters) – Oil and gas producer Occidental Petroleum Corp on Wednesday offered to buy rival Anadarko Petroleum Corp in a $57 billion deal, topping Chevron Corp’s agreement to buy Anadarko for $50 billion.

Both cash-and-stock deals include Anadarko’s debt.

Occidental’s $76 per share offer comprises $38 in cash and 0.6094 shares of Occidental for each share of Anadarko, representing a premium of 19 percent to Anadarko’s closing price on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Debroop Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri addresses his supporters during a commemoration ceremony marking the 13th anniversary of the assassination of his father, former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, in Beirut
FILE PHOTO: Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri addresses his supporters during a commemoration ceremony marking the 13th anniversary of the assassination of his father in Beirut, Lebanon February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo

April 24, 2019

BEIRUT (Reuters) – More people have visited Lebanon since Saudi Arabia lifted its travel warning in February, pointing to a “promising summer” ahead, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said on Wednesday.

A fall in visitors from Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies has hit Lebanon’s tourism industry, once a mainstay of a now-battered economy that Hariri’s new government has pledged to revive.

Saudi Arabia was once a major supporter both of its political allies in Beirut, chiefly Hariri, and of the Lebanese state. However, mindful of its overarching rivalry with Iran, Riyadh stepped back as Iran’s Lebanese ally, the political and military Hezbollah movement, grew in strength.

Saudi Arabia had been advising its citizens since 2011 to avoid Lebanon, citing Hezbollah’s influence and instability from the war in neighboring Syria.

“Without doubt the Saudi leadership’s decision … had the most impact in increasing the number of visitors to Lebanon recently, which gives the best proof of a promising summer,” Hariri said at a Beirut conference attended by the head of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman humanitarian center.

Hariri also said he hoped that a pledge from Riyadh to help Lebanese families in need would spark a series of agreements between the two countries.

With pillars of the economy such as tourism and real estate in the doldrums, Lebanon has suffered years of low economic growth, and run up one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens.

Saudi ties with Lebanon hit a low in November 2017, when Hariri was held against his will in Riyadh, announcing his resignation in a TV statement.

After French intervention, Hariri returned to Lebanon and withdrew the resignation, resolving the crisis. Though Hariri has always denied having been held in Saudi Arabia, French President Emmanuel Macron publicly confirmed it last year.

(Reporting by Ellen Francis; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Source: OANN


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