American Airlines inaugural first to Ocho Rios

Saturday marked another chapter in Jamaica’s tourism history, with American Airlines commencing its inaugural scheduled flight to  Boscobel Ian Flemming International Airport, utilising an Embraer 175 aircraft.
The flight was scheduled to take off at twenty minutes after 10 o’clock, this morning but was delayed by 15 minutes due the traffic congestion in Miami but landed at 11.50 am, well ahead of the 12.20 pm scheduled landing time.
The initial plans call for twice a week flights, but with the region being a major resort in Jamaica the time saved by landing at this airport could be very appealing for tourist who would prefer to forgo the trip into Montego Bay with a near two hours drive by road to get to their destination. a flight into Ian Flemming would see less congestion at the airport making easier and faster to be processed.

Jamaica pulled US$3.44B in remittances in 2023

Remittance inflows to Jamaica, ended in 2023 at US$3.37 billion, down two percent compared to total inflows of US$3.44 billion in 2022, and representing the third consecutive year that remittances exceed $3 billion and the fourth since it has come close to $3 billion, in 2020 in hitting a then record high of US$2.9 billion, well above the previous high of US$2.4 billion in 2019.
Remittance inflows for December 2023 declined by 3.6 percent to US$314 million, compared with US$326 million in December 2022. The data was compiled from data released by Bank of Jamaica

Jamaica’s NIR slips in January but

Jamaica’s Net International Reserves (NIR) fell by US$79 million in January this year to US$4.679 billion from US$4.758 billion at the end of 2023 and is up US$703 million above US$3.976 billion at the end of 2022, but data indicates the country in a far better foreign exchange position than the previous two years.
The Bank of Jamaica NIR report, states that the reserves represent 23.6 weeks of Estimated Gross Official Reserves in weeks of Goods & Services Imports, down from 25.2 weeks in December 2022.
The decline follows the sale of $30 million to the market through the B-FXITT intervention on January 15th, $20 million on January 16th, $30 million on January 25 and US$20 million on January 26 totalling US$100 million and exceeding the reduction in the NIR in January, but the intervention seems to be on the decline since 2021. In January last year, the central bank intervened 5 times with sales of US$140 million and in January 2021 they pumped US$185.68 million into the system on six occasions.

Jamaica’s visitor arrivals climb

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Stopover visitor arrivals into Montego Bay through Sangster International Airport, rose nearly 10 percent in January this year versus last year while activity for the Norman Manley Airport just increased by 1.6 percent over 2023.

Tourists enjoying the Jamaican offerings and helping the sector to a near 9 percent jump in visitors in January 2024.

According to the data released by the operators of Jamaica’s two main international airports, Grupo Aeroportuario Del Pacifico, the Montego Bay based Sangster International Airport handled 9.6 percent more passengers in January this year than it did in 2023. The number of arriving and departing passengers climbed to 491,000 from 449,000 in January 2023, while the Kingston Norman Manley Airport had 1.6 percent more passengers using the airport in January this year, some 148,300, up from 146,000 in January 2023.
The increase is a positive development for Jamaica which relies heavily on the tourist industry for economic development and foreign exchange.

Jamaica’s NIR jumps another $100m

Jamaica’s Net International Reserves (NIR) rose approximately US$113 in the first 10 days of 2024 data published by the country’s central bank, the Bank of Jamaica shows. The latest increase to the total of US$770 million that was added in 2023 to over US$870 million since the beginning of 2023.
The January inflows push the total at the close last year of US$4.76 billion to US$4.87 billion and just short of the US$5 billion mark. The build-up of the NIR comes against the background of the tight monetary policy pursued by the country’s central bank that has sucked local money from the financial market, by use of certificates of deposit (CDs). Over the past year, the Bank of Jamaica’s open market instruments mainly CDs have moved up by J$74 billion to $247 billion. Apart from funds being bought from the market, the NIR would also have grown by interest earned on the funds being held as reserves which could be around US$200 million per year based on current interest rates internationally.

Jamaica’s remittances exceed US$3B in 2023

Jamaica had total remittance Inflows of US$268 million in November last year, down 3.4 percent from US$277 million in November 2022, Jamaica’s central bank data show.  
For the 11 months to November 2023, remittance inflows to the country amounted to US$3.064 billion, a decline of 1.6 percent compared to 2022 for the same period. The decline is just US$50 million short of the US$3.114 billion for the same period in 2022. The full 2023 outcome could fall short of US$3.4 billion based on the trend for the year to date and would be down on the US$3.44 billion that obtained in 2022.


Jamaica’s inflation jumps

Price increases in Jamaica rose at a slower pace than for November with Statin reporting that the All-Jamaica Consumer Price Index increased by 0.5 percent for December 2023 compared with a steep 1.6 percent increase in November.
The latest monthly movement “was mainly due to an upward movement of 2.5 per cent in the index for the ‘Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels’ division as a result of higher prices for rent, electricity, water and sewage rates, “ Statin stated in their release.
The point-to-point inflation rate (December 2022 – December 2023) was 6.9 per cent an increase over the 6.3 percent to November.

Prospects for the Jamaican economy in 2024

Knowledge of a country’s economy is important in making investment decisions. Past performance while important is no guarantee that the future will be the same or better than the past. The Jamaican economy is looking good for 2024, with prospects of slower growth than for 2023, even as the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) maintains a tight monetary policy that could persist for much of 2024.
Barring increased interest rates, the Jamaican economy should grow around two percent in 2024, which will be down from around 2.7 percent in 2023. Growth in tourism and production at the Alcoa Alumina plant has now moderated from the sharp recovery in the early part of 2023, providing the stimulant for higher growth in 2023 but that added stimulant will not be there in 2024 as output from these sectors return to more normal levels.
In support of the above, the September quarter shows GDP growth moderating to 2.10 percent, this level of growth is unlikely to change much over the next few quarters. But BOJ could ease the tight monetary policy to provide some breathing space for increased production of goods and services, but this will have to await continued moderation in inflation, and there will be a lag of months for such easing to start feeding into increased production when such easing takes place. The early months of the year will be a guide as inflation should continue to moderate as the months unfold and pave the way for some interest rate reduction.
Inflation, although down sharply from the highs in 2022, is still not fully under control, with the average for 2023 running close to the upper end of the central bank’s target of 4 to 6 percent. Some developments that should help in bringing the rate down, include world oil prices that have fallen in 2023 to the low US$70 level and prices of some other commodities continue to fall into the latter part of 2023 and will have a moderating effect on inflation going forward. Some local costs may have an upward push on inflation but traditionally the period of December to April is usually months of very low inflation and in many cases, negative price movements as local food prices tend to normalize.
A tighter labour market locally could put upward pressure on wages and prices, but tighter monetary policy now in place from last year and some major wage adjustments from 2023 to compensate for loss of purchasing power then, may mean that the expected high wage adjustments may not feed into price rise as may otherwise be expected and could hold prices down for a while.
Despite the tourism sector returning to the usual historical growth levels it is expected that this sector will contribute to growth in 2024 and help stimulate growth in industries with a strong linkage to the sector. Assuming fair weather conditions, Agriculture, the star performer in the economy for several years should return to positive growth in 2024 in recovering from declines in 2023 and the sector will be helped by continued growth in the tourism sector that feeds off it. The BPO sector seems poised to continue to add to growth but there are issues with available manning. With continued growth in housing, road construction and the need for factories and warehousing space, the construction sector could hold its own during the year, but there may well be a lull in the sector with the two south coast roads coming to completion in 2023 or early in 2024. The Montego Bay perimeter road should take over but may not fully fill the gap. don’t see interest moving higher and most likely will start to decline before midyear with inflation within reach of the BOJ target of 4-6 percent in 2022 and with treasury bill rates seeming to peak in the  8 percent region and remaining relatively stable for several months. Certificate of deposit rates have been holding stable around 10 percent for months.

BOJ interest cuts overnight rate.

Unemployment at 4.5 percent in July last year is expected to fall further in 2024 towards the 3.5 to 4 percent region as more workers are needed to man the economic expansion. Companies will need to find innovative means to keep production going by implementing cost saving initiatives, otherwise, this could mean wage increases could rise above normal in order to retain or attract new workers.
The above is good news for the private sector overall that should see increasing demand for goods and services.
The banking sector showed loans growing at an annual pace of 13.5 percent per annum up to $1,216 billion to September over the $1,071 billion at the end of September 2022, data from Bank of Jamaica shows. Increased loan rates may be negatively affecting some areas and thus stymie demand. With what could be a year of reducing interest rates engineered by BOJ there could be even faster loan growth in 2023 than in 2022.  Data for the September quarter show loans increasing by nearly 4 percent or 16 percent annualized compared with just 2 percent in the June quarter or 8 percent for twelve months.
Remittances in 2023 are down by 1.2 percent to the end of September to US$2.53 billion and appear that it will be just short of the US$3.44 billion generated in 2022 but should come in at just over $3.4 billion for the year. Based on trends it may be steady in 2024.
Jamaica’s Net International Reserves continue to grow and are at a healthy $4.75 billion in December, last year, data released by Bank of Jamaica shows, a huge improvement over $3.98 billion in December 2022.
With continued growth in tourism, the resurgence in the Alumina sector and relatively stable remittances, improvements in local exports and continued growth in the BPO sector, the country should be enjoying record inflows of foreign exchange in 2024, putting BOJ in a good position to lower interest rates during the year as the reserves have been significantly built up.
Developments on the foreign exchange front will result in greater stability in the exchange rate for the local dollar as the tight monetary policy resulted in a US$770 million increase in the NIR and is likely to result in further build-up in the NIR in 2024. Investors should not be surprised if there is some revaluation of the local currency as well, especially in the first half of the year as the tight monetary policy pressures demand for foreign exchange.
The manufacturing sector should continue to continue positively to growth following expansions taking of a number of large companies.
The entertainment and transportation sectors seem poised to get a shot in the arm and benefit from the rebound in tourism, increased employment in the country and the general buoyancy in the wider economy.
Investors should pay attention to developments in the political seen as developments here can cause economic disruptions and muddy the investments environment.
The present government will be in power for four years at the end of August, but they have seen a reversal a huge lead over the opposition party in 2022 evaporated in one poll, with the opposition party having a slim lead. Another polling body done in August had the governing party leading with an increased margin over the previous poll, that showed both parties in a close race. Local government elections are due by February 2024, and barring some major negative development these elections appear ae set to proceed as planned. If the opposition does well in these elections it could result in the political heat being turned up a notch or two on the government going forward and could well trigger the calling of General Elections earlier than September 2025.
The above are positive developments but investors cannot ignore the impact that the war in Ukraine hand the Israeli-Hamas war can have going forward that could affect the world economies.

10% climb in tourist arrivals for December

Tourist traffic into Jamaica for December 2023, seemed to have enjoyed a double digit increase of as much as 10 percent, with passengers passing through Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, the airport that processes the bulk of visitor arrivals to the country, climbing a respectable 13.2 percent compared to the same period in 2022, data from Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacífico, operators of the airport revealed.

Tourism is Jamaica’s largest earner of foreign exchange.

Montego Bay with 437,200 passing through the airport in December 2022 handled 495,100 in December last year and 5.212 million for the year, 19.6 percent above the 4.356 million in 2022.
Traffic passing through Kingston’s Norman Manley International Airport fell 2.4 percent to 155,900 from 159,800 in 2022 but increased 12 percent.
The latest data shows a sharp improvement over November with Sangster International Airport handling 403,600 passengers, just 7.3 percent more than the 376,100 handled in November 2022, while the Kingston Airport processed 123,000 passengers, 6.6 percent fewer than the 131,700 handled in November 2022.
Data out of the Jamaica Tourist Board whose latest release on arrivals is sadly only up to August indicates that 83 percent of arrivals in 2023 represent tourists compared with 71 percent in 2022 but for December 2022 it represented 91 percent of one way traffic thought the a airports.

Jamaica’s NIR jumps US$151M to record high

Jamaica’s net international reserves jumped US$150.6 million in December to end 2023 at a record US$4.75 billion, with the report indicating that the amount represents 34.8 weeks of imports, data released by Bank Jamaica is shows.  
For the calendar year the NIR increased by US$770 million in 2023, that compares with a slight US$21 million fall in 2022 from 2021.

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