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The Global Crisis Reaches China: Unrest Spreads as Growth Stalls

China’s leaders are currently contending with declining demand, rising debt and a real estate bubble. Some factories are laying off workers, suffering financial losses or even closing as orders from crisis-plagued Europe dry up. The economic strains are frustrating workers and consumers in the country, threatening the political establishment and Beijing’s economic miracle.

This October was the third straight month Chinese exports decreased. Along with it, the hopes of German manufacturers that Asia’s growth market might help lift them out of the global crisis as it did in 2008 are also evaporating. This time China faces enormous challenges of its own — a real estate market bubble and local government debt — that could even pose a risk to the global economy.

Related article: Every Chinese Province bankrupt like Greece –  Chinese Regime nearly bankrupt  – 17.11.2011

A police special forces unit appears suddenly. One moment, a worker named Liu* is marching back and forth in front of city hall in Dongguan, China, with about 300 colleagues from the bankrupt factory Bill Electronic. “Give us back the money from our blood and sweat!” they chant.

The next moment, their shouts turn to screams as a few hundred uniformed police with helmets, shields and batons, along with numerous plainclothes security forces, leap out of olive green police vans. The demonstration leaders, including Liu, are rounded up on the side of the street by police dogs. Within just a few minutes’ time, the communist authorities have successfully suffocated the protest.

The men and women, most of them young adults, are packed into yellow buses and hauled back to their factory, where the government exerts massive pressure: By afternoon, they must consent to make do with 60 percent of the wages they are owed by the employment office. Anyone who refuses, officials warn, will receive nothing at all.

The new global crisis has reached China. Debt problems in Europe, the country’s most important trading partner, are starting to dim prospects here in the nation that has effectively become the world’s factory, as well. The unstable United States economy and threat of a trade war between the two superpowers make the situation even more uncertain. As the US presidential election campaign starts too heat up, American politicians are vying to outdo one another in protectionist declarations directed toward their communist rival.

Disillusioned Workers

For Liu, the factory worker, his country’s economic miracle is certainly over for now. Until recently, he worked 12 hours a day assembling accessories for DVD players. But then there was less and less work to do, he says, and a while back, the boss informed workers that fewer orders were coming in from Europe.

After the police break up the demonstration, Liu, now daunted, wanders through his city’s dusty streets, passing row upon row of factories and residential buildings. “We just wanted our full wages, but they set the police on us,” he says. He’s lost his faith in the party and the government.

Especially here in the export region of Guangdong, an experimental laboratory of Chinese capitalism, hardly a day goes by without new bankruptcies or protests. The Yue Chen shoe factory in Dongguan, which produces athletic shoes for a parent company in Taiwan that supplies brands such as New Balance, is in a state of emergency. With orders dropping off, the manufacturer has fired 18 managers. Workers have seen overtime pay eliminated, and normal wages are barely enough to live on. Frustration is so high that some shoe factory workers also went to protest in front of city hall. About 10 of them were injured in the clash with police, some young women from the factory report.

The situation outside the gray factory complex is tense. Thugs in plainclothes guard the entrance, photographing and intimidating anyone who talks to the workers. Inside the factory, the showdown between bosses and employees goes on. Workers sit inactive in cheerless factory rooms. The management has switched off the power in some of the halls where workers normally sew and glue together shoes.

In the rest of China as well, more and more assembly lines are grinding to a halt. In Wenzhou in eastern China, a city known for making cheap lighters, shoes and clothes, a large number of business owners are on the run from their creditors, the private shadow banks that last lent them money. Some of these businesspeople even secretly removed machinery from their factories before taking off.

Demand Drop in Europe and China

China’s showcase industries are also feeling the crunch of the drop in European demand. Suntech Power Holdings, for example, which manufactures solar panels in Wuxi, near Shanghai, reported third-quarter losses of $116 million (€87 million). During the same quarter of the previous year, the company generated $33 million in profits.

Just recently, Asia’s champion exporter was the object of admiration from foreign executives and politicians, a victor in the global financial crisis. Some even believed they’d found a superior alternative to crisis-ridden Western-style market economies in Beijing’s authoritarian-style capitalism.

German carmakers, in particular, let themselves be carried away by China’s growth and made enormous investments. China is Volkswagen’s most important market, and the company hopes to sell 2 million cars there by the end of this year.

But the car boom is slowing. “We haven’t received a single new order in nine days,” admits a smartly dressed salesman at Dongguan’s Porsche dealership. “We’ve never experienced that before.” Many business owners are short on cash, he adds. “They used to mostly pay cash, but now they prefer to buy on credit.”

Cheap Chinese brands such as BYD (“Build Your Dreams”) are also having a harder time selling their cars. Important governmental tax incentives for buying cars ran out last year, and major cities such as Beijing are attempting to ease their congested streets by restricting the number of new automobiles. In October, people in China bought roughly 7 percent fewer cars than in the previous month.

Economic Missteps?

At first, it seemed as if Beijing’s state capitalists had found the magic recipe for endless growth. In 2009, they pumped 4 trillion yuan (the equivalent of €430 billion) — China’s largest stimulus package in history — into building ever more modern highways, train stations and airports. Tax incentives led millions of farmers to purchase refrigerators and computers for the first time.

More or less on the party’s orders, banks threw their money at the people’s feet, and local governments were particularly free about getting themselves into debt. By the end of 2010, outstanding debt stood at 10.7 trillion yuan — nearly a quarter of China’s entire economic output.

Much of these funds went, directly or indirectly, into real estate construction. Local governments discovered that selling land for building made for a lucrative source of revenue — and of collateral, so banks would continue to issue new loans. Thousands of farmers were driven off their fields so that villas and apartment buildings could be built.

Many of those development projects, often megalomaniac undertakings from the start, are now ghost towns. In China’s 15 largest cities in October, the number of newly auctioned building plots decreased by 39 percent compared to October 2010.

While many in the West hold out hope that China can solve the euro and dollar debt crisis with its foreign currency holdings, the rift between rich and poor within the country is growing. The “harmonious society” promised by Hu Jintao, head of the government and of the Communist Party, is at risk.

The country’s central bank has increased interest rates five times since mid-2010 to get inflation under control, while at the same time forcing banks to hold larger reserve funds. Beijing hopes this method will allow it to orchestrate a “soft landing” from its own economic boom. But the maneuver entails risks. Along with the construction industry, the motor driving China’s economy up until now, other sectors such as cement production, steelmaking and furniture construction stand to lose vitality as well.

Part 2: Will Rising Middle Class Turn against Government?

If the real estate bubble bursts, it is sure to turn China’s rising middle class against the government. Until now, the nouveau riche has viewed the Communist Party as a guarantee of their own prosperity. Recently, however, outraged apartment owners organized a demonstration in downtown Shanghai, protesting the decline in the value of their property.

Wang Jiang, 28, points to a nearly complete apartment block in Anting, one of the city’s suburbs. The software company manager bought an apartment on the 16th floor of the building for €138,000 in early September. It was a steep price for 82 square meters (883 square feet), especially since the building is located in an industrial area, hemmed in by factories and highways. But Wang was determined to get in on the boom. He didn’t even take the time to view the housing complex before he bought the apartment. Where else, after all, should he have invested his assets, if not in real estate?

Now China’s state-run banks are paying their customers negative interest and Shanghai’s stock market is considered a high-risk casino, where a few major governmental investors are believed to manipulate exchange rates at will.

Wang’s apartment isn’t even finished yet, but he no longer feels any joy about moving in — not now that the real estate company is offering similar apartments in the same complex for about 20 percent less.

Wang feels he was deceived about his apartment’s resale value. “What are they thinking?” he demands. “Surely they can’t just erase a portion of my assets?”

But they can.

Wang and many other furious apartment owners went to the real estate company’s salesroom to protest the drop in value. Suddenly, Wang relates, someone started smashing the miniature models of apartments. After that, in the blink of an eye, the company’s guards grabbed him and hauled the protesters to the police in minibuses. “We were interrogated until 2 a.m. in the morning,” Wang says. Some of the protesters, he adds, are still in prison and authorities won’t tell their families anything.

A Political Quandary

Whether in Dongguan or Shanghai, cracks seem to be forming everywhere in Chinese society. As long as the one-party dictatorship kept growth in the double digits, most people accepted their lack of freedom. Now, though, Beijing is facing a dilemma. Tough police crackdowns will hardly get the consequences of the stagnating economy under control in the long term. But nor are government subsidies enough to stimulate the economy. It seems neither money nor force will help.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao recently announced a “fine-tuning” of his economic policy: Banks should grant more generous loans, especially to small and medium-sized export companies, he said.

The economic situation now is far more complicated than it was after the 2008 global financial crisis, says economist Lin Jiang. In 2008, Chinese exports collapsed and roughly 25 million migrant workers had to return from factories to their home provinces.

Back in Dongguan, authorities have no cause at the moment to fear any further protest from Liu, the factory worker. He’s too busy looking for a new place to stay. When he lost his job, he also lost his spot in one of the electronics factory’s residences.

* Liu’s name has been changed by the editors in order to protect his identity.

Source: Spiegl Online, 08.12.2011 By Wieland Wagner

Filed under: China, Countries, News, Risk Management, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Every Chinese Province bankrupt like Greece – Host Says Chinese Regime nearly bankrupt

China’s economy has a reputation for being strong and prosperous, but according to a well-known Chinese television personality the country’s Gross Domestic Product is going in reverse.

Larry Lang, chair professor of Finance at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said in a lecture that he didn’t think was being recorded that the Chinese regime is in a serious economic crisis—on the brink of bankruptcy. In his memorable formulation: every province in China is Greece.

Related Article:

Bobsguide – China reduces lenders’ ratio requirements (02.12.2011)
EpochTimes – China’s Economy on the Brink of Collaps (Nov.2011)
The Guardian – IMF sounds warning  on Chinese Banking System (Nov.2011)
 
The restrictions Lang placed on the Oct. 22 speech in Shenyang City, in northern China’s Liaoning Province, included no audio or video recording, and no media. He can be heard saying that people should not post his speech online, or “everyone will look bad,” in the audio that is now on Youtube. 

In the unusual, closed-door lecture, Lang gave a frank analysis of the Chinese economy and the censorship that is placed on intellectuals and public figures. “What I’m about to say is all true. But under this system, we are not allowed to speak the truth,” he said.

Despite Lang’s polished appearance on his high-profile TV shows, he said: “Don’t think that we are living in a peaceful time now. Actually the media cannot report anything at all. Those of us who do TV shows are so miserable and frustrated, because we cannot do any programs. As long as something is related to the government, we cannot report about it.”

He said that the regime doesn’t listen to experts, and that Party officials are insufferably arrogant. “If you don’t agree with him, he thinks you are against him,” he said.

Lang’s assessment that the regime is bankrupt was based on five conjectures.

Firstly, that the regime’s debt sits at about 36 trillion yuan (US$5.68 trillion). This calculation is arrived at by adding up Chinese local government debt (between 16 trillion and 19.5 trillion yuan, or US$2.5 trillion and US$3 trillion), and the debt owed by state-owned enterprises (another 16 trillion, he said). But with interest of two trillion per year, he thinks things will unravel quickly.

Secondly, that the regime’s officially published inflation rate of 6.2 percent is fabricated. The real inflation rate is 16 percent, according to Lang.

Thirdly, that there is serious excess capacity in the economy, and that private consumption is only 30 percent of economic activity. Lang said that beginning this July, the Purchasing Managers Index, a measure of the manufacturing industry, plunged to a new low of 50.7. This is an indication, in his view, that China’s economy is in recession.

Fourthly, that the regime’s officially published GDP of 9 percent is also fabricated. According to Lang’s data, China’s GDP has decreased 10 percent. He said that the bloated figures come from the dramatic increase in infrastructure construction, including real estate development, railways, and highways each year (accounting for up to 70 percent of GDP in 2010).

Fifthly, that taxes are too high. Last year, the taxes on Chinese businesses (including direct and indirect taxes) were at 70 percent of earnings. The individual tax rate sits at 81.6 percent, Lang said.

Once the “economic tsunami” starts, the regime will lose credibility and China will become the poorest country in the world, Lang said.

Several commentators have expressed broad agreement with Lang’s analysis.

Professor Frank Xie at the University of South Carolina, Aiken, said that the idea of China going bankrupt isn’t far fetched. Major construction projects have helped inflate the GDP, he says. “On the surface, it is a big number, but inflation is even higher. So in reality, China’s economy is in recession.”

Further, Xie said that official figures shouldn’t be relied on. The regime’s vice premier, Li Keqiang for example, admitted to a U.S. diplomat that he doesn’t believe the statistics produced by lower-level officials, and when he was the governor of Liaoning Province “had to personally see the hard data.”

Cheng Xiaonong, an economist and former aide to ousted Party leader Zhao Ziyang, said that high praise of the “China model” is often made on the basis of the high-visibility construction projects, a big GDP, and much money in foreign reserves. “They pay little attention to things such as whether people’s basic rights are guaranteed, or their living standard has improved or not,” he said.

Behind the fiat control of the economy, which can have the appearance of being efficient, there is enormous waste and corruption, Cheng said. It means that little spending is done on education, welfare, the health system, etc.

Cheng says that for the last decade the Chinese regime has accumulated its wealth primarily by promoting real estate development, buying urban and suburban residential properties at low prices (or simply taking them), and selling them to developers at high prices.

According to Cheng, the goals of regime officials (to enrich themselves and increase their power) are in direct conflict with those of the people–so social injustice expands, and economic propaganda meant to portray the situation as otherwise prevails.

Few scholars inside the country dare to speak as Lang has, Cheng said. And that’s probably because he has a professorship in Hong Kong.

Source: TheEpochTimes, 15.11.2011

Filed under: Asia, Banking, China, News, Risk Management, , , , , , , , , , , ,

China: BlackRock – Puede el ahorro de China salvar al mundo?

China ha experimentado en años recientes un rápido crecimiento impulsado por el crédito, el cual ha sido un factor importante en la recuperación económica global. Sin embargo:

  • Muchos analistas anticipan que la rápida condición del crecimiento chino gracias al crédito, junto con un proceso de distribución de capital dirigido por sus políticos y emprendido a tasas de interés altamente subsidiadas, inevitablemente derivará en una caída crediticia.
  • Estos comentarios señalan la naturaleza opaca del sistema bancario de China, una rápida exposición de las hojas de balance y un sector inmobiliario inflado, como la evidencia de un sistema financiero frágil susceptible a una crisis que, a su vez, afectará el crecimiento mundial y a otros sistemas financieros.

    Opiniones del BlackRock Investment Institute: ¿Puede el Ahorro de China Salvar al Mundo?

  • En la nueva publicación del BlackRock Investment Institute, “¿Puede el ahorro de China salvar al mundo? (Can China Savers Save the World?)”, los autores analizan las razones que están en la base de estos temores. Al respecto, afirman que esta inquietud podría estar basada en un análisis débil.
  • Asimismo, creen que los llamados “pandas” no consideran el hecho de que gran parte de la expansión de la balanza financiera de China se ha basado en préstamos casi fiscales y que tienen el respaldo y garantía de un sistema que experimenta un rápido crecimiento de su ingreso y cuenta con un nivel bajo de deuda.
  • En consecuencia, los autores sugieren que China no sufrirá un colapso financiero, sino a lo sumo un descenso en su potencial y en su tasa de crecimiento.

Adjunto te hacemos llegar el documento completo en inglés en formato PDF. En caso de cualquier duda adicional, quedamos a tu disposición.

Para leer el reporte completo click aqui.  Can China´s Savers save the world

Source: Black Rock / Carral Sierra, 12.07.2011

Filed under: China, News, Risk Management, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

China’s banking sector Serious Problem with Bad Loans

Professor Pettis at Peking University explains that“in China, even if you believe that all the NPLs currently in the banking system have been correctly identified (a claim which few Chinese bankers believe), no one doubts we are about to see a surge in NPLs thanks to the out-of-control lending expansion of the past two years.  But things are even worse than the nominal numbers imply.  As I discussed in my April 6 entry, when we are trying to estimate the cost of a banking crisis we need to think about more than simply the ability of borrowers to meet current obligations.

This is because, as in the case of the Japanese government obligations, when borrowers are able to benefit from artificially low interest rates, the effect is of hidden debt forgiveness which must be paid for by the net lenders, who are, as in the case of Japan, the beleaguered households.  In other words, if you want to know how much real bad debt there is out there that must be cleaned up, you need to calculate what share of the loans would go bad if interest rates were raised by at least 300-400 basis points, the minimum needed to bring Chinese interest rates in line with an appropriate rate.  This suggests that the Chinese banks, if obligations were correctly counted, might have much larger amounts of bad debt than any of us realize, and this needs directly or indirectly to be cleaned up.”

Here are some recent reports from financial press sources regarding the health China’s banking sector:

-”SHANGHAI -(Dow Jones)- The non-performing loan ratio in China’s banking industry declined to 1.58% by the end of 2009, 0.84 percentage point lower than the figure at the beginning of 2009, China’s banking regulator said Saturday.”(1)

-”BEIJING: Chinese financial institutions’ non-performing loans (NPL) ratio edged down 0.1 percentage points to 1.48 percent in January, the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) said Friday.”(2)

-”BEIJING, Apr 14, 2010 (SinoCast Daily Business Beat via COMTEX) — Non-performing loan (NPL) ratio of China Development Bank, a policy bank, had reached 0.85% by the end of March”(3)

I don’t believe those reported percentages are accurate.

For context, here is an analysis of China’s non performing loan issue from 2002:

“Standard and Poor’s (S&P), which rates China as investment grade, said on Thursday it would take Chinese banks 10 to 20 years to cut average non-performing loans (NPLs) ratio to a manageable five per cent.

It estimates the Chinese banking sector’s average NPL ratio is atleast 50 per cent, higher than the 30 per cent estimate of China’s central bank governor Dai Xianglong.

“The cost of necessary write-offs could be equivalent to $518 billion or almost half of China’s estimated gross domestic product of $1.1 trillion for 2001,” Mr Terry Chan, a S&P director in Hong Kong said.

The agency said China would be unlikely to cut NPLs in its banking sector to 15 per cent within five years, as its central bank wishes, given the current operating performance of the sector.”

I seriously doubt that the problem identified in 2002 has been resolved yet.  There is an analysis here that supports my assertion.

Source:SinoRock, 07.07.2010

Filed under: Banking, China, News, Risk Management, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

China Property Market Beginning Collapse That May Hit Banks, Rogoff says

July 6 (Bloomberg) — China’s property market is beginning a “collapse” that will hit the nation’s banking system, said Kenneth Rogoff, the Harvard University professor and former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund.

As China’s economy develops, “especially at the speed it’s growing, it’s going to have bumps,” said Rogoff, speaking in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Hong Kong. He also said that while recoveries across the global economy are “very slow,” the danger of a return to recession isn’t “elevated.”

Rogoff’s concern echoes that of investors, who sent China’s benchmark stock index to its worst loss in more than a year last week. China’s data have been a focus because the nation has led the global recovery from the worst postwar recession.

Chinese authorities have this year been trying to cool the economy as it expanded at an 11.9 percent annual pace in the first quarter, and to reduce property-market speculation. The central bank has told lenders to set aside more money as reserves, and targeted a 22 percent cut in credit growth at banks this year, to 7.5 trillion yuan ($1.1 trillion).

The efforts have contributed to a slump in real-estate sales, while prices continue to climb. The value of property sales dropped 25 percent in May from the previous month.

“You’re starting to see that collapse in property and it’s going to hit the banking system,” Rogoff said today. “They have a lot of tools and some very competent management, but it’s not easy.”

Growth Outlook
Goldman Sachs last week cut its growth forecast for China this year to 10.1 percent from 11.4 percent because of the government’s monetary tightening measures.
Rogoff also said it’s unrealistic to expect China to continue growing its exports to the rest of the world “at the pace it’s been doing.”

“It’s impossible. At some point they have to redirect their strategy” for economic growth, he said.

For your info:
1) About one third of the total bank lending (about 40 trillion) is in real estate sector in China.
2) Most of the bank lending has used land and real estate properties as collateral.

Source: Bloomberg, 06.07.2010

Filed under: China, News, Risk Management, Services, Wealth Management, , , , , , , , , ,

China: The collapse of the Asian growth model

Over the last three decades there has been a dramatic shift in the stance of development policy with import-substitution being replaced by the export-led growth. A significant concern with this latter model is that it may risk turning global growth into a zero-sum game. This can happen if one country’s export growth comes by poaching of domestic demand elsewhere or by displacing exports of other countries.

China on ‘Treadmill to Hell’ Amid Bubble, Chanos, Faber, Rogoff Say

Rather than focusing on production for domestic markets, countries were advised to focus on production for export. This shift away from import-substitution toward the export-led growth was driven significantly by the economic troubles that emerged in the 1970s. At that time many developing countries, who had prospered under regimes of import-substitution, began to experience slower growth and accelerated inflation.
This led to claims that the import-substitution model had exhausted itself, and that the easy possibilities for growth by substitution had been used up.second factor fostering adoption of the export-led model was the shift in intellectual outlook amongst economists in favor of market directed economic activity. Import-substitution requires government provided tariff and quota protections, and economists increasingly came to portray these measures as economic distortions that contribute to productive inefficiency and rent seeking.
The shift in policy stance was also propelled by the empirical fact of Japan’s spectacular success in growing its economy in the twenty five years after World War II, and by the subsequent growth success of the four east Asian “tiger” economies – South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. All of these economies relied on increased exports.

The problem is that the export-led growth model suffers from a fallacy of composition whereby it assumes that all countries can grow by relying on demand growth in other countries. When the model is applied globally in a demand-constrained world, there is a danger of a beggar-thy-neighbor outcome in which all try to grow on the backs of demand expansion in other countries, and the result is global excess supply and deflation. In this connection, it is not exporting per se that is the problem, but rather making exports the focus of development. Countries will still need to export to pay for their imported capital and intermediate goods needs, but exporting should be organized so as to maximize its contribution to domestic development and not viewed as an end in itself.
Export led growth model prompts countries to shift ever more output onto global markets, and in doing so aggravates the long-standing trend deterioration in developing country terms of trade. This pattern partakes of a vicious cycle since declining terms of trade and falling prices compel developing countries to export even more, thereby compounding the downward price pressure. This vicious cycle has long been visible for producers of primary commodities. However, as a result of the transfer of manufacturing capacity to developing countries who lack the consumer markets to buy their own output, the same process may now be present in all but highest-end manufacturing.
In the 1950’s, Western opinion leaders found themselves both impressed and frightened by the extraordinary growth rates achieved by an Eastern economy, although it was still substantially poorer and smaller than those of the West.
The speed with which it had transformed itself from a peasant society into an industrial powerhouse, and it’s perceived ability to achieve growth rates several times higher than the advanced nations, seemed to call into question the dominance not only of Western power but of Western ideology.
The leaders of that nation did not share Western faith in free markets or unlimited civil liberties. They asserted with increasing self-confidence that their system was superior: societies that accepted strong, even authoritarian governments and are willing to limit individual liberties in the interest of the common good, take charge of their economies, and sacrifice short-run consumer interests for the sake of long-run growth that would eventually outperform the increasingly chaotic societies of the West.
China’s economic growth has averaged 9pc a year over the past 10 years, compared with a paltry 1.9pc for the British economy. Last year, despite the credit crunch, China posted a remarkable growth rate of 10.7pc against a British contraction of 3.2pc.some are extrapolating present trends forward, and proclaiming that China will usurp the United States as the world’s largest economy.
However, in the absence of expanding foreign demand for its exports, it has instead come to rely on a massive surge in domestic bank lending to fuel its growth rate. When measured relative to the size of its economy, the 27pc point jump in bank loans to GDP is unprecedented; at no point in history has a nation ever attempted such an incredible increase in state-directed bank lending.
This appetite for cheap Chinese exports, which had at one point seemed insatiable, means that the West has come to owe China over 2 trillion $. China has become the world’s biggest creditor, but creditor nations running persistent trade surpluses has two historical examples. The US economy in the Twenties and the Japanese economy in the Eighties.
In both of the previous examples a failure to allow exchange rates to adjust to the new reality created a large speculative pool of credit that, in turn, led to overvalued domestic assets and, eventually, an economic crisis.
The banks in China are lending money at breakneck speed, but China’s state planners have favoured investment over consumption. High-speed rail networks, first-class infrastructure projects and the urban migration of 55 million people every year are common explanations for the ability of the nimble Chinese to overcome the frailties of this global economy. But the goal of economic policy, is to maximise households’ wellbeing and consumption. Unfortunately, and China’s share of consumption within its economy has fallen relentlessly, reaching 35pc of GDP in 2008.
In China, investment spending has tripled since 2001 and the consequences are staggering. A country that represents just 7pc of global GDP is now responsible for 30pc of global aluminum consumption, 47pc of global steel consumption and 40pc of global copper consumption. The overriding problem is that the Chinese model leads to a deflationary spiral that is perpetual in nature. Domestic consumption never grows fast enough to absorb the supply, prompting the planners to commit to ever-higher levels of investment. Over-capacity inevitably plagues many sectors of the economy and Chinese profitability is already low.

The story in China has been one of imperiled, marginally profitable enterprises relying on generous state-provided incentives for utilities, credit, etc. now having to deal with slowing global demand. The drying up of trade finance isn’t helping, either. The giant stimulus worldwide, and especially in China, helped the world economy for one year but that has now dried up.

Source and full article at  Israel Financial Experts, 08.06. 2010,

Filed under: Asia, China, Energy & Environment, Hong Kong, News, Risk Management, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Brazil’s economy may be overheating: Roubini

Nouriel Roubini, the New York University professor who predicted the global financial crisis, said the Brazilian, Chinese and Indian economies may be overheating and developing asset bubbles.

The outlook for Brazil’s economy is “very positive,” though the crisis in the Eurozone countries and a slow “u- shaped” recovery globally could dent the country’s growth, Roubini said today at an event in Sao Paulo. “In Brazil, like in many other emerging market economies, there is now evidence of overheating of the economy,” Roubini said. “Expected and actual inflation is starting to rise, and that implies that over the next few quarters there has to be a tightening of monetary policy, gradually but progressively, in order to make sure that inflation expectations remain anchored.” Roubini recommended that Brazilian policy makers take steps to limit the appreciation of the real, including the “judicious” use of capital controls.

Source: IXE, 31.05.2010

Filed under: Asia, Brazil, China, India, Latin America, News, Risk Management, , , , , , , ,

Chinas growing worries

China is in the midst of “the greatest bubble in history,”
March 17 (Bloomberg) –The Chinese central bank’s balance sheet resembles that of a hedge fund buying dollars and short-selling the yuan, said Rickards, now the senior managing director for market intelligence at McLean, Virginia-based consulting firm Omnis Inc.

“As I see it, it is the greatest bubble in history with the most massive misallocation of wealth,” Rickards said at the Asset Allocation Summit Asia 2010 organized by Terrapinn Pte in Hong Kong yesterday. China “is a bubble waiting to burst.”
Rickards joins hedge fund manager Jim Chanos, Gloom, Boom & Doom publisher Marc Faber and Harvard University professor Kenneth Rogoff in warning of an overheating and potential crash in China’s economy following a rally in stocks and property prices. The government has raised lenders’ reserve requirements twice this year to cool an economy that grew at the fastest pace since 2007 in the fourth quarter.

Leveraged speculation in the stock market, wasteful allocation of resources by state-owned enterprises, off-balance- sheet debt through regional governments and the country’s human rights record are concerns, said Rickards, who worked for LTCM between 1994 and 1999, helping negotiate a $3.6 billion rescue after the hedge fund lost $4 billion in a few weeks in 1998.

“Take Russia and China together, neither of them is really deserving any investment” except for short-term speculation, Rickards said. India and Brazil are two of the “real economies” among the developing countries, he said.

U.S. Treasuries
Rickards also disputed an argument that China could hold U.S. policies hostage through its U.S. Treasury securities holdings. The Asian nation remained the largest overseas owner of the debt after trimming its holdings by $5.8 billion in January to $889 billion, according to Treasury Department data released March 15.

China would suffer massive losses if the debt was dumped, reducing the funds available in the U.S. securities market and forcing the prices lower, he said. The U.S. president also has the authority, rarely used, to freeze such positions, he said.
Harvard’s Rogoff said Feb. 23 that a debt-fueled bubble in China may trigger a regional recession within a decade, while Chanos, founder of New York-based Kynikos Associates Ltd., predicted a slump after excessive property investments.
To contact the reporter on this story: Bei Hu in Hong Kong at bhu5@bloomberg.net.

March 18 (Bloomberg) — Chinese companies owned by the central government should speed up plans to pull out of property development if it doesn’t form part of their main business, their watchdog said today amid complaints that private real- estate groups are being squeezed out of the market.

PEs preferring China, India for investments in 2010
The survey noted that distressed private equity and small to mid-market buyout funds continue to attract a significant degree of investor interest, with 35 per cent and 36 per cent of respondents citing these as areas of the market that present the best current opportunities respectively.
Economics Inside China bubbling, NPL rising and local government fiscal insolvency are clearly increasing. Though still under debate, macro tightening (monetary policy and property) has begun
China’s 8,000 Credit Risks
Beijing’s stimulus has spawned thousands of special government investment funds holding billions of dollars in off-balance-sheet debt.

As the world struggles to recover from the most severe economic slowdown in a generation, China seemingly has accomplished a miracle. Growth registered at almost 9% last year, yet the government debt-to-GDP ratio still stood around a modest 20% as of December 31. Has China enjoyed the proverbial free lunch?

Far from it: The Chinese government has financed much of an enormous stimulus package through thousands of investment entities created by local governments. If Beijing doesn’t soon recognize this problem and put a stop to it, banks in China, which have provided the bulk of the funding, may soon face …

Source: SinoRock, 18.03.2010

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Fears of China property bubble

A large bubble is forming in China’s property market as a result of Beijing’s credit-driven stimulus programme, one of the country’s most prominent real estate developers warned.

Zhang Xin, chief executive of Soho China, one of the country’s most successful privately owned property developers, told the Financial Times the asset bubble was leading to rampant wasteful investment in the sector, undermining the country’s long-term growth prospects.

“Real estate prices should only go up because people want to actually use the space, but at the moment we can see more and more empty buildings across the whole country and in every real estate segment,” Ms Zhang said. “The rising prices are a direct result of so much money coming from the banks and the Chinese banks should be very worried.”

Ms Zhang’s assessment was echoed by Fan Gang, a member of the central bank’s monetary policy committee, who warned on Wednesday that real estate in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen was expensive and there was a growing risk of asset price bubbles.

Urban property prices in 70 big and medium-sized Chinese cities rose 3.9 per cent in October from a year earlier, accelerating from September’s 2.8 per cent rise, according to government figures.

Price rises in top-tier markets such as Beijing and Shanghai have been much faster. Analysts say the rebound has largely been driven by an unprecedented government-led expansion of bank lending. It is also being driven by government policies, including tax breaks, low interest rates and smaller down-payment requirements.

Investment in real estate development, a key driver of economic growth, rose 18.9 per cent in the first 10 months of the year on a year earlier, a marked acceleration from 17.7 per cent growth in January-September.

Ms Zhang said the current speculation should be a serious warning for the industry and the general economy.

“In Manhattan, they have vacancy rates of 10-15 per cent and they feel like the sky is falling, but in Pudong [the central business district in Shanghai] vacancy rates are as high as 50 per cent and they are still building new skyscrapers,” she said.

“If you look at GDP growth, then China looks like a new engine driving the global economy, but if you look at how growth is being created here by so much wasteful investment you wouldn’t be so optimistic.”

Source: FT, 18.11.2009 Jamil Anderlini in Beijing

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China and India – Himalayas, Water and growing conflicts

The brewing disputes and growing concerns of the Himalayan Region by worlds two most populus nations, is a further indication of increasing dangers of latent resource wars, particularly on water. The continuing desertification in China and migration to coastal region increase pressure. While planned deviation of water ways to Chinese low lands could severely affect South- and South East Asia, see also

Political Hands across the Himalayas, FT, 15.11.2009

Excerpt: India and China are touted as white knights coming to the rescue of the world economy. Considerable hope rests on these two countries, with fast-paced growth, developing domestic markets and high savings rates, reviving demand and leading other languishing parts of the world out of recession.

The two rising powers, however, may yet be clashing knights. For in New Delhi it is fear of Beijing, rather than partnership, that all too frequently characterises the trans-Himalayan relationship. While some size up trade balances and growth trajectories, others are measuring missile ranges and comparing military parades.

Mr Mishra advised Atul Behari Vajpayee, the former premier. His views, albeit hawkish, are respected by the current Congress party-led government and carry weight with the diplomatic community.

So his recent forecast that India might face a second military front within five years turned heads. The former intelligence chief predicted that India could find itself locked in an armed stand-off simultaneously with Beijing and Pakistan, the traditional rival.

Mr Mishra’s suspicions of China have been newly aroused by Beijing’s warm relationship with Islamabad and its supply of military hardware to Pakistan’s army.

They have also been stoked by territorial claims to Arunachal Pradesh, a north-eastern Indian state, and predictions on Chinese websites that India, a country of huge diversity, is doomed to fall apart.

Mr Mishra says China’s stridency in its territorial ambitions has grown over the past two years to a level not seen since the early 1960s. Moreover, he accuses China of trying to bring into question India’s sovereignty over the state at the international level.

Military strategists interpret China’s policies as a regional power play. They say that tying India up within its own borders prevents it from projecting itself in the region and rivalling China.

In spite of the fighting talk in India, the relationship between India and China holds much more potential than antagonism. China’s impressive record of infrastructure development and lifting people out of poverty holds lessons for India. Likewise, India’s democratic credentials and inclusiveness are instructive to China.

Read full article hear:  15.11. 2009 by James Lamont in New Delhi

The high stakes of melting Himalayan glaciers, CNN 05.10.2009

Execerpt – The glaciers in the Himalayas are receding quicker than those in other parts of the world and could disappear altogether by 2035 according to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. The result of this deglaciation could be conflict as Himalayan glacial runoff has an essential role in the economies, agriculture and even religions of the regions countries.

Satellite data from the Indian Space Applications Center, in Ahmedabad, India, indicates that from 1962 to 2004, more than 1,000 Himalayan glaciers have retreated by around 16 percent. According to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, China’s glaciers have shrunk by 5 percent since 1950s.

Dr. Vandana Shiva, an environmental activist, physicist and leader in the International Forum on Globalization, has just returned from a “Climate Yatra,” a research journey to the Himalayas to study the impact of climate change and the glacial melt upon communities in Asia.

“Himalayan rivers support nearly half of humanity,” Dr. Shiva told CNN. “Everyone who depends on water from the Himalayas will be affected.”

Both India and China are exploring opportunities to harness Himalayan waters for hydroelectric power projects, and while the initial melt promises to provide plenty of water for both sides, the loss of glaciers could lead to water shortages further in the future.

Water-related conflicts have already been witnessed in other parts of the globe such as in the West Bank and in Darfur.

According to Himanshu Thakkar of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, almost 70 percent of the non-monsoon flows in almost all the Himalayan rivers come from glacier melt.

International water security issues within Asia could be likely since the waters of the Indus, Ganges and the Brahmaptura basins flow into China in the upstream, and are shared across South Asia in the downstream.

Dr. Shiva believes the situation will render major security issues, between India and China particularly, as flows reduce and demands intensify.

Read full article here: CNN, 05.10.2009


In retreat: the roof of the world is experiencing rapid summer melting.

 

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The Demise of the Dollar, Robert Frisk

In a graphic illustration of the new world order, Arab states have launched secret moves with China, Russia and France to stop using the US currency for oil trading

By Robert Fisk

October 06, 2009 “The Independent” — — In the most profound financial change in recent Middle East history, Gulf Arabs are planning – along with China, Russia, Japan and France – to end dollar dealings for oil, moving instead to a basket of currencies including the Japanese yen and Chinese yuan, the euro, gold and a new, unified currency planned for nations in the Gulf Co-operation Council, including Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Qatar.

Secret meetings have already been held by finance ministers and central bank governors in Russia, China, Japan and Brazil to work on the scheme, which will mean that oil will no longer be priced in dollars. The plans, confirmed to The Independent by both Gulf Arab and Chinese banking sources in Hong Kong, may help to explain the sudden rise in gold prices, but it also augurs an extraordinary transition from dollar markets within nine years.

The Americans, who are aware the meetings have taken place – although they have not discovered the details – are sure to fight this international cabal which will include hitherto loyal allies Japan and the Gulf Arabs. Against the background to these currency meetings, Sun Bigan, China’s former special envoy to the Middle East, has warned there is a risk of deepening divisions between China and the US over influence and oil in the Middle East. “Bilateral quarrels and clashes are unavoidable,” he told the Asia and Africa Review. “We cannot lower vigilance against hostility in the Middle East over energy interests and security.”

This sounds like a dangerous prediction of a future economic war between the US and China over Middle East oil – yet again turning the region’s conflicts into a battle for great power supremacy. China uses more oil incrementally than the US because its growth is less energy efficient. The transitional currency in the move away from dollars, according to Chinese banking sources, may well be gold. An indication of the huge amounts involved can be gained from the wealth of Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar who together hold an estimated $2.1 trillion in dollar reserves.

The decline of American economic power linked to the current global recession was implicitly acknowledged by the World Bank president Robert Zoellick. “One of the legacies of this crisis may be a recognition of changed economic power relations,” he said in Istanbul ahead of meetings this week of the IMF and World Bank. But it is China’s extraordinary new financial power – along with past anger among oil-producing and oil-consuming nations at America’s power to interfere in the international financial system – which has prompted the latest discussions involving the Gulf states.

Brazil has shown interest in collaborating in non-dollar oil payments, along with India. Indeed, China appears to be the most enthusiastic of all the financial powers involved, not least because of its enormous trade with the Middle East.

China imports 60 per cent of its oil, much of it from the Middle East and Russia. The Chinese have oil production concessions in Iraq – blocked by the US until this year – and since 2008 have held an $8bn agreement with Iran to develop refining capacity and gas resources. China has oil deals in Sudan (where it has substituted for US interests) and has been negotiating for oil concessions with Libya, where all such contracts are joint ventures.

Furthermore, Chinese exports to the region now account for no fewer than 10 per cent of the imports of every country in the Middle East, including a huge range of products from cars to weapon systems, food, clothes, even dolls. In a clear sign of China’s growing financial muscle, the president of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, yesterday pleaded with Beijing to let the yuan appreciate against a sliding dollar and, by extension, loosen China’s reliance on US monetary policy, to help rebalance the world economy and ease upward pressure on the euro.

Ever since the Bretton Woods agreements – the accords after the Second World War which bequeathed the architecture for the modern international financial system – America’s trading partners have been left to cope with the impact of Washington’s control and, in more recent years, the hegemony of the dollar as the dominant global reserve currency.

The Chinese believe, for example, that the Americans persuaded Britain to stay out of the euro in order to prevent an earlier move away from the dollar. But Chinese banking sources say their discussions have gone too far to be blocked now. “The Russians will eventually bring in the rouble to the basket of currencies,” a prominent Hong Kong broker told The Independent. “The Brits are stuck in the middle and will come into the euro. They have no choice because they won’t be able to use the US dollar.”

Chinese financial sources believe President Barack Obama is too busy fixing the US economy to concentrate on the extraordinary implications of the transition from the dollar in nine years’ time. The current deadline for the currency transition is 2018.

The US discussed the trend briefly at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh; the Chinese Central Bank governor and other officials have been worrying aloud about the dollar for years. Their problem is that much of their national wealth is tied up in dollar assets.

“These plans will change the face of international financial transactions,” one Chinese banker said. “America and Britain must be very worried. You will know how worried by the thunder of denials this news will generate.”

Iran announced late last month that its foreign currency reserves would henceforth be held in euros rather than dollars. Bankers remember, of course, what happened to the last Middle East oil producer to sell its oil in euros rather than dollars. A few months after Saddam Hussein trumpeted his decision, the Americans and British invaded Iraq.

Source: The Independent, 06.10.2009

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Nassim Nicholas Taleb points to the black swan

It’s you and me, and everyone else gathered last night at the Grand Hyatt to receive his lecture on why the financial crisis is far from over.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb of “Black Swan” fame reminds me of the court jesters of medieval Europe. What made them comedic was not their slapstick or bawdy antics, but their ability to speak truth to power. The jester, dressed in his clown suit, might have looked ridiculous, but he told the king the plain truth — truth that was so overpowering, so obvious and so tragic, that the king and his courtesans could do little but laugh.

Taleb addressed a full-capacity crowd at the Hong Kong Grand Hyatt last night as the speaker for the Asia Society’s annual gala dinner. He noted in his erudite and often piercingly funny remarks that he was the only male in the room not wearing a tie — this jester preferred a Chinese mandarin collar.

And, like the jesters of yore, he told truth to power. The room was Power incarnate, full of glitterati. Investment bankers of course, but also central bankers, big-time private equity and fund managers, government officials and diplomats — and even a few journalists, another favourite whipping post of Taleb’s.

Power heard the truth — overpowering, obvious and tragic. And it laughed at his wit, it nodded at his wisdom, it even spent yesterday evening writing up his words, and this morning as you read this, it is going about its business as usual.

Power did not take it all sitting down. The Q&A with Taleb saw quite a few brave bankers challenge his arguments. A bond underwriter and a high executive from a Tarp recipient both argued that debt is necessary to economic prosperity. But the jester would have none of it. While he did make the distinction that he appreciates the role bankers should play, he was not about to accept the argument that debt or bailouts are in any way healthy to society at large. In fact, he skewered these representatives – flunkies – of Power.

Taleb has written two famous books. The first, “Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets”, was a tour de force of incisive logic (and egotism) that exploded many of the myths behind asset management. It introduced the concept of the black swan event — an event beyond the usual measurement of expectation, but which has a high impact, like the subprime mortgage-fuelled credit debacle in America.

The second book, “Fooled by Randomness: The Impact of the Highly Improbable”, came out in 2007, just in time to make Taleb one of the intellectual stars of the global financial crisis. He had seen it coming. (This second book, by the way, is twice as long and half as interesting as the first.)

He drew upon a set of 10 lessons outlined in “Fooled” that must be implemented to avoid further breakdowns such as the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Ominously, it seems that policymakers, particularly in the US, have failed to meet a single one.

Here’s a flavour. What is going on in America today is not capitalism. Bailing out banks that are ‘too big to fail’ is socialising losses and privatising profits. It is the bastard spawn of capitalism and socialism, taking the worst aspects of both systems.

If an organism is fragile, it’s best to break it yourself, early, before it poses a systemic threat (by becoming ‘too big to fail’). The US government (and those in Western Europe) have helped the ‘too big to fail’ banks become even bigger. For every cry that a bailout is ‘un-American’, Taleb can point to a litany of bailouts that have continuously set a precedent, even under Ronald Reagan’s presidency (Continental Illinois, Chrysler).

Taleb repeatedly compared economic activity to nature. In nature, there’s no such thing as too big to fail. Nature can’t tolerate overly large organisms, and if one dies, the rest of the herd isn’t doomed to die with it. Why? Because nature doesn’t believe in myths. It doesn’t care about ‘value at risk’ or other misleading metrics. It doesn’t have an ideology. It just has natural selection and a uniform impulse among organisms to reproduce, to survive via competition.

That’s capitalism. Taleb can denounce big-bank statism with one breath and praise California tech entrepreneurs with the next, as examples of what is and what is not capitalism. He also praises hedge funds, which fail by the thousands every year without a whimper of complaint or public money — unless they are run by fools with Nobel prizes, in which case a government bailout is then required.

Death is necessary to make capitalism work — death, and a lack of debt. Taleb has no patience for a hint that debt can help society. He’s heard it all before — the velocity of money, the uses it has in helping ordinary people buy a home.

He has no time for Ben Bernanke. Bernanke is among the trio of failed bureaucrats (he says) running US economic policy (along with Larry Summers, ex Citi, and Tim Geithner). Bernanke’s academic claim to fame is having understood the Great Depression. “Any grandmother who remembers the Great Depression knows you shouldn’t have debt,” Taleb says, dismissing the academic career of the chairman of the Federal Reserve System in a single line.

He has no time either for bonuses, particularly when there’s no punishment for people like Robert Rubin — ex Citi, ex Treasury — who got paid $120 million in bonuses, initially from Citi shareholders and now by US taxpayers, retrospectively. And he has no time for complex financial products, risk metrics or economic policy that is about propping up models of indebtedness rather than allowing for failure.

Much of what Taleb had to say last night was familiar. We’ve read about it all year long. But it was Taleb who was often the first to say these things, and it took time and a horrible crisis to get others to repeat his warnings and his prescriptions.

If policymakers did adhere to Taleb’s principles, society would be better off, but Power would not be. How many of you in the Grand Hyatt ballroom, who applauded him so profusely, would really like to sell simple, vanilla financial products? How many would really like to see indebted consumers convert to equity-only means of saving and investment? How many would prefer to see MBAs and trained economists all fired and ignored? How many would like to have their bonuses tied to future performance? How many would like to see the bank you work for (or is your client, or your custodian, or your financier) collapse rather than be propped up by Uncle Sam? And if all of this came to pass, would you want to pay AsianInvestor for our content or our advertising or our conferences?

Overpowering, obvious, tragic. Prepare for more black swan events. We’re breeding them.

Source: AsianInvestor, 29.09.2009

Asian Investor

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‘Bubble-Mania’ in Shanghai Spreads to Global Markets

The S&P-500 Index, a global bellwether for the world stock markets, extended its best five-month winning streak since 1938, by advancing through the psychological 1,000-level, and is up nearly 50% from its 12-year low set on March 10th. The S&P-500 gained 7.4% in July, its best monthly performance since 1997, even as average earnings per-share tumbled -32% and sales slid -16% from a year ago.

Industrial commodities, often viewed as barometers for global economic trends, have also moved sharply higher. So far this year, copper has soared by +96%, nickel is up 62%, and zinc is +50% higher. China, which buys two-thirds of the world’s seaborne iron ore shipments, boosted imports 30% in the first seven-months of this year to 353-million tons, lifting its spot price to $91 /ton, up from $60 per ton in February. Crude oil rose above $71 /barrel this week, doubling in value since December.

In hindsight, while the “Group of Seven” (G-7) economies in North America, Europe, and Japan, were experiencing the most severe economic contractions since the Great Depression of the 1930’s, coupled with unemployment rates ratcheting upward to multi-decade highs, the emerging economic giant – China – was demonstrating its prowess, with the most ambitious stimulus plan the world has ever seen, to rescue its juggernaut economy from the brink of social disaster and unrest.

In a little more than nine months, the pendulum of investor sentiment in Asia has swung from the extreme of terrifying panic and fear, to the opposite side of the emotional spectrum – hope and unbridled greed. The Shanghai stock market index has surged +90% this year, owing its good fortune to 1.2-trillion of bank loans clandestinely funneled into the stock market by brokerage firms, leaving it awash with yuan and lifting share prices above what economic reality can support.

China’s ruling Politburo is demonstrating to the world its command and control over its stock market and economy. Over the past few years, Beijing has proven its ability to either massively deflate a stock market bubble, as seen in 2008, and the wizardry to re-inflate a stock market bubble this year. Beijing is following the Greenspan – Bernanke blueprints, – turning to massive money printing to re-inflate bubbles in asset markets, in order to jump start an economy from the doldrums, or in this latest case, from the grip of the Great Recession.

A relatively healthy banking system enabled the Chinese central bank to work its magic. China’s M2 money supply is growing at a record +28.5% annualized rate, and the money supply surge is coinciding with big rallies in stocks and property, spilling over into neighboring Hong Kong. State-controlled Chinese banks extended 7.4-trillion yuan ($1.2-trillion) of new loans in the first half of this year, equal to 25% of China’s entire economy – helping to fuel a powerful Shanghai red-chip rally.

One of the beneficiaries of the explosive growth of the Chinese money supply is the Shanghai gold market, which is trading near 6,600-yuan /ounce, and is also tracking powerful rallies in industrial commodities. China is poised to overtake India as the world’s top gold consumer this year, and there is speculation that Beijing will quietly buy the gold which the IMF wants to sell in the years ahead.

China, the world’s biggest gold mining nation, is seeking to boost gold output by 3% to 290-tons this year, far less than the 400-tons it consumed last year. Thus, China could become an even bigger importer of the yellow metal in the months ahead, helping to cushion inevitable corrections in the gold market. Given the trade-off between expanding growth and fighting asset-price inflation, Shanghai traders are betting that Beijing will opt to blow even bigger bubbles in asset markets.

Industrial Commodities Eyeing Shanghai

China’s super-easy monetary policy is designed to offset the damage to its export-dependent regions, which are suffering from the collapse in global trade. Beijing is also spending 4-trillion yuan on infrastructure projects, equal to roughly 15% of its economic output per year, to create jobs and stoke economic growth. So it was of great interest to global traders, when the Shanghai red-chips suddenly plunged -5% on July 29th, the biggest daily loss in eight-months, on rumors that Beijing would curb bank lending in the second half of this year.

The Shanghai index is prone to sudden shake-outs, with the index trading at 35-times earnings, and Shenzhen’s small-cap shares trading at 45-times earnings. The Shanghai red-chip index has evolved into the locomotive for key industrial commodities, such as crude oil, base metals, and rubber. Industrial commodities rebounded from a nasty one-day shake-out on July 29th, after the People’s Bank of China wasted little time in denying rumors swirling in the media that it was considering the idea of enforcing quotas on bank loans.

The prospects for Chinese corporate earnings growth are of critical importance, with the Shanghai stock index flying higher in bubble territory. Large-scale industrial companies in 22 Chinese provinces saw their profits decline -21.2% in the first half to 894.14 billion yuan, but the decline rate was less from the first quarter’s 32% slide, and nowadays, “less bad,” means signs of recovery.

The most optimistic scenario calls for Chinese industrial profits to rebound to an annualized growth rate of +30% in the fourth quarter, due to the government’s massive stimulus. China’s Bank of Communications predicts the economy’s growth rate will accelerate to a pace of +9% in the third-quarter and +9.8% in the fourth-quarter. China’s crude steel output would surely top 500-million tons this year, equaling 40% of the world’s total production.

Korea Joins Alignment of B-R-I-C-K

Upbeat markets in China are helping underpin the BRIC nations, including Brazil, India, and Russia, which have the four best performing stock markets this year. Brazil’s Bovespa Index is up 79%, India’s Sensex Index is up 63%, and Russia’s RTS Index has gained 62-percent. The S&P-500 Index by comparison, is up 9.4% this year, while Japan’s Nikkei-225 index is up 7.5-percent.

One could add Korea to the alignment of B-R-I-C-K stars, since the Kospi Index has rebounded by 72% above its November low, emerging as the most favored market among global investors. With growing appetites for risky assets, global investors have rushed to snatch up Korean Kospi shares, particularly those in the information technology (IT) and the auto sectors. Foreigners were net buyers of $4.7 of Korean stocks in July, much larger than net-purchases of $2.6-billion of stocks in Taiwan, $1.9-billion shares in India, and $1.29 billion shares in South Africa.

“Money has no motherland, financiers are without patriotism and without decency, – their sole object is gain,” observed Napoleon Bonaparte. Highlighting the fickle nature of speculators, – foreigners bought a record $18-billion of Korean securities in the second-quarter of this year, or 24-times more than $750 million the previous quarter. In the third and fourth quarters of 2008, foreigners sold $17.9-billion and $17.4-billion, respectively, at the height of the global financial turmoil.

Foreign buying of Korean equities knocked the US-dollar 28% lower against the Korean-won, and the Japanese yen has tumbled 20% to 12.8-won, since March 10th, when global stock markets bottomed out. “Carry traders” are active in Seoul, and profiting from a stronger won. In a world where G-7 central banks are pegging rates at record low levels, it does not take much imagination to envision the Federal Reserve, the ECB, and the Bank of Japan underwriting rallies in the emerging currencies of Brazil, Russia, India, and Korea, just as Tokyo pumped massive liquidity straight into New Zealand and Australian dollars during its flirtation with the hallucinogenic drug – “Quantitative Easing” (QE) between 2001 and 2006.

Virtuous Cycle Swings in the Kremlin’s Favor

The resilience of China’s economy has rekindled the de-coupling debate, which hinges on the premise that the emerging economies in Brazil, Russia, India, China, (BRIC) can grow in spite of a declining G-7 economies. The so-called BRIC countries accounted for half of global growth in 2008 – China alone accounted for a quarter, and Brazil, India, and Russia combined equaled another quarter. Furthermore, the IMF notes that BRIC “accounted for more than 90% of the rise in consumption of energy products and metals, and 80% of grains since 2002.”

The virtuous cycle of events are now swinging back in the Kremlin’s favor, as global speculators flock back into hard-hit resource shares trading in Moscow. Russia’s central bank cut its main interest rates for the fourth time in less than three-months, after Moscow said the local economy contracted an annual 10.2% in the January-May period. Bank Rossii lowered the refinancing rate a half-point to 11% following on initial reduction on April 24th and two further cuts on May 13th and June 5th.

The Russian rouble has rebounded 16% against the US-dollar, since the first quarter, as Urals blend crude oil rebounded towards $70 a barrel, and base metals surged higher, boosting demand for Russia’s currency, a world leader in commodity exports. Russia is the world’s second-largest oil exporter behind Saudi Arabia, and supplies a quarter of Europe’s natural gas needs. Russia is also the world’s largest nickel and palladium miner, the second largest platinum miner, and the fourth-largest iron ore miner, behind Brazil, Australia, and India.

After reaching a record high of $597-billion last August, Moscow’s foreign currency reserves were dramatically depleted in the second-half of 2008, as the central bank spent more than $200-billion supporting the Russian rouble and bolstering the capital position of domestic banks. This year’s rebound in Urals blend crude oil has improved the Kremlin’s coffers, to the tune of $404-billion today. China, the world’s second-largest oil guzzler, imported 3.83-million barrels per day in July, or 25% more than a year earlier, the fastest pace in nearly two-years.

The BRIC nations are rethinking how their US-dollar currency reserves are managed, underlining a power shift from the United States, which spawned the global financial crisis. Russian chief Dmitry Medvedev has repeatedly questioned the US-dollar’s future as a global reserve currency. China is allowing companies in its southern provinces of Yunnan and Guangxi to use yuan to settle cross-border trade with Hong Kong and Southeast Asia to reduce exposure to the US-dollar.

India Weathers the “Great Recession”

Reserve Bank of India chief Duvvuri Subbarao says India’s modest dependence on exports will help Asia’s third largest economy, to weather the “Great Recession” and even stage a modest recovery later this year. Even during the depths of the October massacre in the Bombay Sensex Index, India managed to maintain a 5.3% growth rate in the fourth quarter, and India’s banking system had virtually no exposure to any kind of toxic asset, manufactured in the United States.

India’s factory output contracted by a slim 0.25% in January, the first decline this decade, and export earnings had fallen for six straight months. In January exports were 16% lower from a year earlier tumbling to $12.3-billion. So the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) scrambled to rescue the Bombay stock market, by slashing its lending rates six times from September thru April, by a total of 425-basis points.

click to enlarge

The Indian Sensex index began to decouple from Wall Street and Tokyo in early May, after it rallied 14% for its biggest weekly gain since 1992, when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh won a second term. Bombay stocks soared with enthusiasm at the prospect that Singh’s new government, shorn of Communists, would privatize up to $20-billion of state-owned assets, increase foreign investment in highly profitable crown jewel companies, begin deregulation of banking and financial services, and gut restrictions on the closing of factories.

India’s factory sector, measured by the Purchasing Mgr’s Index, held strongly at a reading of 55.3 in July, or 2-points higher than China’s, signaling a strong industrial recovery in the second half of this year. If the decoupling of China, India, Russia, and Brazil becomes a reality, it could be good for the developed G-7 nations, as growing wealth in BRIC nations could, in theory, increase demand for goods made in battered nations like Japan, Germany, and the United States.

A decoupling between the emerging BRICK nations and the more developed G-7 economies would mean a huge shift in the global financial markets, away from the traditional pattern of emerging markets dancing to the tune of G-7 economies, which still account for 60% of global GDP. Instead, increasing independence could lead to a greater sphere of influence of the emerging giants, led by Beijing.

In the United States, Fed chief Bernanke is pumping a “bailout bubble” for Wall Street, similar to the policies of his mentor “Easy” Al Greenspan, who inflated the housing bubble, the sub-prime debt bubble, and the high-tech bubble. It’s a never ending cycle of boom-and-busts of bubbles, engineered by central banks. The revival of the “Commodity Super Cycle,” might already be in motion, and if a global economic recovery gains traction, soaring input costs would begin to crimp the profit margins of the giant Asian industrialists.

All the liquidity that’s been unleashed into the global banking system would play havoc with accelerating inflation. History shows that central banks won’t pre-empt inflation by withdrawing liquidity early. Instead, the money printers tend to inflate bubbles to dangerous proportions. Add to the mix, the vast leverage of the US-dollar and Japanese yen carry trades, it’s going to be a wild ride for the US Treasury bond market, which is increasingly dependent upon the whims of BRICK.

Source: SeekingAlpha, 05.08.2009 by Gary Dorsch

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Coming Doom vs Coming Recovery

While unemployment, bankruptcy and defaults are growing and retail consumtion is falling,  financial institutions which just a few months ago where on the brink of collaps are claiming profits and  the media, analysts and government start claiming to have found the road to recovery.   Too good to be true?  Here are a few alternative view:


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Carbon Politics and Climat National Securities Risks

Trading Places: IPCC Boss Slams U.S. Plan for Carbon Tariffs, 23.07.2009
The debate over cap-and-trade is turning out to be a debate over trade. The head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, is the latest to take aim at U.S. “carbon tariffs” that would be slapped on imports from countries that don’t take steps to reduce emissions. He said carbon tariffs undermine the chances of a global deal on climate change by angering developing countries (like China and India).

US officials mull national security risks of climate change, 23.07.2009
Committees in the US Congress that deal with national security and intelligence issues should play a role in crafting bills to cap greenhouse gas emissions from American power plants, oil refineries and other industries, a former Republican lawmaker and ex-military official said Tuesday.

John Warner, who represented Virginia in the US Senate for 30 years and who previously served as secretary of the US Navy, maintains that climate change is a national security issue because it could spawn global conflicts that could require a US military response.

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