Saudi Arabia suffered another cut to its credit rating on Saturday as Moody's Investors Service downgraded the country along with Bahrain and Oman because of the slump in oil prices.
"A combination of lower growth, higher debt levels and smaller domestic and external buffers leave the Kingdom less well positioned to weather future shocks," the agency said. But "ambitious plans" announced by Riyadh to diversify its economy could "offer a route back to a higher rating level over time."
Fitch cuts Saudi Arabia from a AA credit to AA-, citing the low price of oil as having "major negative implications for [the country's] fiscal and external balances." Fitch's outlook remains negative, suggesting another rating cut could be in the cards.
This coming weekend will see OPEC and non-OPEC producers gather in Doha to try and agree on a oil production freeze.
Saudi Arabia has withdrawn $50B-$70B from global asset managers over the last six months to plug its budget deficit, according to Insight Discovery.
The country's finances are deteriorating as plunging oil prices combine with an expensive war with Yemen. Foreign currency reserves held by the central bank peaked at $737B in August 2014, and fell to $661B in July.
The IMF says Saudi Arabia's budget deficit could widen to 20% of GDP, or roughly $150B this year.
France has opened a trade office in Tehran, leading the charge of European countries seeking to renew economic ties with Iran after July's nuclear accord.
Although several European and Asian business delegations have been visiting the Islamic Republic since the signing of the agreement, the U.S. still seems to be a political outcast in the country at the order of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The iShares MSCI Saudi Arabia Capped ETF (KSA) is the first ETF with significant exposure to that country - an impossibility until June when Saudi Arabia opened up (limited) direct foreign investment in its stock market.
The ETF will track the MSCI Saudi Arabia IMI 25/50 Index which holds about 50 large-, mid-, and small-cap stocks. Interestingly, the index has 30% allocated to both financials and materials, but just 1.4% to energy stocks - it makes sense considering the country's oil production is state-owned and not publicly traded.
The next step for Saudi Arabia could be inclusion in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index - a possibility as soon as June 2017, according to the WSJ.
In the latest escalation of Yemen’s five-month war, Houthi rebels said they've fired a Scud missile into Saudi Arabia while a Saudi official acknowledged sending forces into northern Yemen in a bid to stop border attacks.
A Saudi-led coalition recently stepped up its ground offensive after months of airstrikes against the Houthis, who seized the Yemeni capital Sana'a in September and forced President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi’s government to flee to neighboring Saudi Arabia.