The IsraTransfer Report – December 2017
In currency news, the shekel made headlines as it was named the world’s second strongest currency by Deutsche Bank (trailing only the Chinese yuan)…although not everyone is sold on a continued trend.
Meanwhile, in Israel real estate news, the housing market continues to cool along with the autumn weather. Plus, our trading desk reports that words actually do speak louder than actions when it comes to currency markets, the Ministry of Finance puts tax reform in its sights, and the Israel Tax Authority is “going green” on overseas money transfers. What on Earth are we talking about? Read on to find out!
From the IsraTransfer Trading Desk
In the US we had the historic tax reform passed by the Senate on Saturday morning. While there is a long way to go to get the final plan approved, it is a great step forward for the radical tax changes. Moving forward this should be good for the US dollar, however we have seen a lot of political factors weighing heavy on the dollar last week and this is the reason we have seen three-year lows of the USD/NIS.
For the last year we have seen movements in currency markets moving on words rather than action. For example, Brexit, where all the talk over the last year has been how much money the UK will pay for its “divorce!” If recent reports are to be believed, £50 billion is the amount, considerably greater than the £20 billion mentioned only a few weeks ago. So, why does it seem the UK is willing to move ahead with such a hefty bill? It’s simple….. The EU refuse to move on to negotiations regarding Trade (something the UK really cares about most) until there is agreement on the final divorce bill. With the EU summit in the middle of December, it seems like it is now or never. At this summit, the EU leaders will deliver their verdict on the proposal put forward by Theresa May and inform her whether or not the trade and transition talks can begin, thus the reports that we may have some movement on this is the big reason why we have seen the pound performing strongly last week.
Finally, there’s one other news item that we would be remiss not to mention…… the Royal Engagement. The news last Monday of the engagement of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle is going to be a great boost to sterling. Any feel good factor is good for the currency! In fact, the same actually applies to the World Cup in the summer……if England perform well (which never seems to happen!!) it can have a positive impact on the currency.
Israel Economy Snapshot
It was certainly a newsworthy month for the Israel economy, as the Ministry of Finance announced that a cut in the corporate tax rate could be on the way. The measures are in response to newly passed US tax reforms, and could bring rates down to as low as 23%.
Not to be outdone in the headline-making department, the Bank of Israel kept rates at its historic lows, and does not expect a rate hike again until the third quarter of 2018, as well as announced that it will be purchasing up to $1.5 billion in US dollars to offset the impact on the balance of payments resulting from natural gas production.
Elsewhere, the shekel was the recipient of some kind words from Deutsche Bank, who now rank it as the world’s second-strongest currency, trailing only the Chinese yuan. However, despite no other currency strengthening against the US dollar since 2012, the global financial stalwart now considers the shekel to be overpriced.
Also joining in on the prediction of a weaker shekel was Meitav Dash Investments, citing expected slower economic growth, global monetary policy led by the US Federal Reserve, and currency hedging by institutional investment firms as the key factors to watch for in 2018. That said, nothing has stopped its momentum to date, including nearly $1.5 billion to date in foreign currency reserves purchased by Bank of Israel in 2017, so betting against the shekel may not be such an easy decision.
More Taxing Matters
“Our intention is to lower taxes in order to help with the cost of living, and the second thing is to cut taxes for the middle class which really is collapsing under the burden and paying a lot of tax. We need to help them,” were the words of Israel Finance Minister, Moshe Kahlon, to Channel 2 News about his new tax plan. Included in the proposal is a call for a reduction in income tax for people earning over NIS 10,000 monthly. In addition, Kahlon listed a continued effort to reduce housing and import prices as other items on his to-do list.
Israel Real Estate Developments
While the economy may have been greeted warmly by November, the housing market received a chilly reception. Data recently released showed October mortgage taking falling to to 4 billion NIS, down 10% from the monthly average over the past year. Also adding pressure to home prices include an increase in the time it is taking to sell homes, as well as high exposure rate of Israel Banks to the Israel housing market reported by the OECD.
AACI Currency Exchange Program
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And in case you missed it…
Green is the New Red (Tape)
Back in September, the Israel Tax Authority announced to great fanfare that it was introducing a new “green channel” for streamlining transfer of funds by Israelis for investments abroad, now requiring only a bank declaration, no need to report to the Israel Tax Authority, or deducting tax in advance. Instead, banks will assume the role of reporting these transactions to the Tax Authority with updates to be provided every six months.