Egypt tourism suffers with unrest
Heshmat Youssef used to make a decent living sailing foreign tourists down Egypt’s Nile River. Since political unrest flared, business has dried up faster than water in the desert.
Riots and killings that spiked after the Aug. 14 crackdown against followers of ousted President Mohammed Morsi have delivered a severe blow to Egypt’s tourism industry, which until recently accounted for more than 11 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and nearly 20 percent of its foreign-currency revenues.
The chairman of the Egyptian Airports Co., Gad el-Karim Nasr, said arrivals at Egyptian airports have dropped by more than 40 percent from Sunday through Tuesday compared with the same time the previous week. He said that in the same time frame, 13,000 tourists, mostly from Germany and Italy, have left the Red Sea resorts of Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada — with only 3,000 new arrivals.
More Americans seek jobless aid
The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week after reaching the lowest level in 5 1/2 years. But the broader trend suggests companies are laying off fewer workers and could step up hiring in the months ahead.
The Labor Department said Thursday that applications for first-time benefits rose 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 336,000 in the week ending Aug. 17. That’s up from 323,000 in the previous week, which was the lowest since January 2008.
The four-week average, which smooths week-to-week fluctuations, fell by 2,250 to 330,500. That’s the sixth-straight decline and the lowest for the average since November 2007.
At the depths of the recession in March 2009, applications numbered 670,000.
Mortgage rates rise
Average U.S. rates for fixed mortgages rose this week to their highest levels in two years, driven by heightened speculation that the Federal Reserve will slow its bond purchases later this year.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year loan jumped to 4.58 percent, up from 4.40 percent last week. The average on the 15-year fixed loan rose to 3.60 percent from 3.44 percent. Both averages are the highest since July 2011.
Oil prices increase
Oil had its first gain of the week Thursday, driven by a rebound in manufacturing in China and Europe.
Benchmark oil for October delivery rose $1.18 to close at $105.03 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Oil fell $3.61 a barrel, or 3.6 percent, over the first three days of the week mostly due to expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will start phasing out its monetary stimulus, possibly starting next month. The manufacturing data overrode those concerns, at least for a day.