FiNETIK – Asia and Latin America – Market News Network

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Latin America Fund and Investment News Aug-Oct 2011 – Alternative Latin Investor

American Business Practices in Brazil: A Contrarian’s View

Premium Article OCT, 2011 U.S. companies have been investing heavily in Brazilian private equity in recent years, capitalizing on the across-the-board growth in the country’s small, mid and large cap companies. But according to Malcolm McLelland, an American-born, Brazil-based consultant and…Read Full Article

Latin American Hedge Funds

Premium Article OCT, 2011 Hedge funds have become one of the most vital asset classes in LatAm in recent years, and LatAm hedge funds some of the most successful in the global industry, as local investors aim to diversify their strategies and exposure in the region while foreign investors vie for b…Read Full Article


Premium Article OCT, 2011 Given its robust growth in recent years and massive wealth compared to its neighbors, Brazil has attracted the lion’s share of global investment in LatAm, with foreign investors allocating especially aggressively to equity and government bonds. Brazilian investors, …Read Full Article

MILA Integrated Latin American Market

OCT, 2011 On May 30 of this year, the Integrated Latin American Market (Mercado Integrado Latinoamericano, or MILA) was launched, combining the stock markets of Colombia, Chile and Peru into a single cross-trading platform. A key component of a regional trend toward integration, MILA has been wide…Read Full Article

Brazilian Pension Funds

Premium Article OCT, 2011 Alternative asset managers around the globe are vying for the attention of Brazil’s swelling pension funds. As of early 2011, these funds had a total of $342 billion under management and had grown an average of 14% per year for the last five years, one of the highest…Read Full Article

Meta-Trends in LatAm Investment

Premium Article OCT, 2011 The progress of alternative asset investment in LatAm is following two basic meta-trends, that is, large-scale and long-term patterns that transcend specific products, firms or opportunities. These meta-trends are, first, the increasing interpenetration of managers from th…Read Full Article

High Net Worth Individuals in LatAm

Premium Article AUGUST, 2011 The wealth and quantity of high net worth individuals (HNWI) in LatAm has grown in recent years. According to the Capgemini/Merrill Lynch World Wealth Report 2011, the number of LatAm HNWI grew by 6.2% in 2010, and its total HNWI wealth by 9.2%. There are about a half…Read Full Article

Quant Funds

Premium Article AUGUST, 2011 After taking a battering during the 2008 credit crunch and struggling in the early stages of recovery, quantitative (or ‘quant’) funds are trying to reassert themselves in the industry. And a small, but growing, number are looking to start afresh in the …Read Full Article

LatAm Funds

Premium Article AUGUST, 2011 U.S. Institutional investors looking to increase their exposure to emerging markets have been turning increasingly to a handful of LATAM countries, where they see a swelling pool of experienced fund managers working within a context of political stability and economic g…Read Full Article

Institutional Investing in LatAm

Premium Article AUGUST, 2011 For most institutional investors, there is an uncertainty about LatAm´s quality and future – and a certainty about its checkered past – that gives them pause as they investigate young managers in the region. Most of these investors want to see a stron…Read Full Article

Source:Alternative Latin Investor, October 2011


Filed under: Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Exchanges, Latin America, Library, Mexico, News, Peru, Risk Management, Services, Wealth Management, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What to expect during the Year of the Rabbit for China and Mexico?

This 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit (兔). It will start on February 3, 2011 and end January 22 of 2012. Based in the Chinese zodiac, this animal could represent a more easygoing year when compared with the Year of the Tiger (虎). As we enter this new year, the bilateral business agenda between Mexico and China will face both new and old issues.

The Dragon´s Challenges (China)
No one is surprised China has placed itself as the world´s second biggest economy; however, before the Asian economy inflates its ego dreams, there are domestic and international issues that require immediate attention.
Among the domestic ones, managing consumer price inflation and encouraging domestic consumption are key priority. Last November, China reported its highest inflation rate in the last two years, reaching 5.1%. The Chinese population has suffered higher food prices and labor shortages, while companies rise input costs. Society is demanding larger public expenditure particularly in healthcare, education and pension provision. At the same time, the central authorities recognize a growing inequality as many people have failed to benefit from the country’s economic growth.

The Chinese government knows the country cannot longer rely in an export-oriented economy and that it is critical to encourage consumption expenditure to the country’s long term sustained growth. Therefore, central authorities will keep incentivizing consumption by lowering taxes like the ones on automobile sales or the aid programs encouraging farmers to buy home electronics.

China´s integration in the global economy will continue to cause political and trade tensions. While China´s import has undeniably increased, the current account surplus is still coming under intense international pressure. Most of its main trading partners will not hesitate in rising antidumping measures;, political parties will oppose to takeovers from Chinese on what might be considered “strategic industries” and the international community will pressure for a faster appreciation of the renminbi as a means to enhance competitiveness to their products in the eyes of Chinese´s pockets.

The Eagle´s Challenges (Mexico)
For companies, growth in Mexico’s labor legislation, among other factors, is being perceived as a main obstacle when it comes to hiring and firing employees. Specialists consider this has resulted in many individuals operating outside the formal sector, incentivizing the informal economy while reducing the government´s revenue coming from tax collection. The latest results of the National Survey on Occupation and Employment sponsored by the Mexican government pointed out that around 12.5 million people work in the informal sector. This represents a serious challenge not only for today, but for the near future. According to the official survey, almost 60% of the Mexican population is above 14 years old and a growing generation of youngsters is demanding and will keep on demanding new jobs.

During the last two decades, the Mexican government has built an extensive network of free trade and investment protection agreements from North to South, from East to West as a way to diversify trade and investment relations. However, the Mexican economy still is closely synchronized with the US business cycle. Some other factors that have played a significant role too in affecting business diversification include: cultural proximity within the region, years of trading within neighboring markets and lack of experience in internationalizing business.

There is growing concern on sustainable development and climate change. The Mexican society and leading companies are gradually pushing the domestic market to rise the standards of industry practices that focus more on making business profitable while complying with economic, social and environmental interests. There is an expectation for government and political parties, non-governmental organizations and society to push either for the establishment of new regulations to protect the environment or encouraging consumers’ preference in choosing products from companies with sound sustainable development business practices.
Following the international trend, mandatory conversion to IFSR in Mexico will be a challenge during 2011, especially when senior executives have not yet considered this a key issue and have expressed their concern about the complexity of implementing them.

Catching the Rabbit
During the last decades, China built the largest export manufacturing base. This has represented the rise of uncountable companies (from S&M companies to unnoticed billion USD dominant local players) and a growing vast universe of non-homogeneous consumer class market.

Foreign investors have traditionally focused in coastal zones and high-priced markets, while local companies have spread faster in second tier markets in China and focusing on large low-medium base. The strategic need to keep building critical mass is pushing western companies to launch new products targeting low-medium markets while local companies expanding aggressively into the mid-range market with lower prices.
Under this scenario, most industries will keep going through a process of market consolidation. Hence, domestic players to better compete in their home market, among other things, will look for: working capital, operational and manufacturing knowhow, aggressively pursuing partners or acquiring companies to expand product portfolio offering and brands.

On the other hand, overseas players will need to move faster to: consolidate first tier cities and pursuing further expansion in second and third tier cities before the opportunity “goes by” or becomes even more “pricey”. In addition, companies will follow closely the free trade agreement between China and the Association of South East Asian Nations which took effect in 2010.
Another trend to follow is that, while most of the international attention has focused on the “invasion” of “Made in China”, it is being almost unnoticed that a large proportion of China´s export relies on imported components that are assembled in China before being shipped abroad again.

Profitable growth will not be executable without involving reliable suppliers. China-based international executives usually find challenging to deal with: local companies focusing on competing exclusively on price, suppliers’ contractual enforcement, inventory management, execution, and “cultural” misunderstandings. While year on year the gap is quickly closing, it is expected international players will welcome joint ventures of home market suppliers with local players to leverage know-how.

Flying the Eagle
It is expected that the current federal administration will continue struggling to progress on the reform agenda and most of the attention will shift to the next presidential election in 2012. However, Mexican authorities will keep pushing on improving investment conditions and diversifying trading. For instance, the tax incentive “Fomento al Primer Empleo” for hiring young employees and the “Estímulos Fiscales de Investigación y Desarrollo 2011” aimed to provide tax incentives on companies investing on Research and Development, both recently became effective.

Rising costs and the Renminbi ´s gradual appreciation, and market entry barriers to the north or south of Mexican boarders might find attractive more cost-effective locations in Mexico. In addition, Chinese that do not live up to US standards will find attractive production partnerships in Mexico as well as establishing local sales partnerships to access the Mexican and Latin American markets.

Doing business successfully in China or Mexico during the Year of the Rabbit will require pragmatic strategic ideas balanced with operational recommendations that are actually executable. Moreover, since solutions required depend on company´s experience and maturity either in China or Mexico, needs will change over time. For instance, a company may require initially assistance developing an entry strategy, conducting M&A due diligence and integration, and establishing a baseline HR infrastructure. Later, profitable expansion, organizational transformation and technological implementation may become more important.

Source: Deloitte Mexico, 19.01.2011  by José Luis Enciso

Filed under: China, Mexico, News, , , , , ,

Financial Market Predictions for 2011 by BlackRock’s Bob Doll

Market Risks Will Be “To the Upside”
As Improving Economic Growth,
Consumer/Business Confidence Boost Stocks
US Real GDP Will Hit All Time High in ’11,
Marking Economy’s Transition from Recovery to Expansion
 Stocks Will Outperform Bonds and Cash as Flows to Equities Accelerate
New York, January 5, 2010 –- US stocks in 2011 will record a third straight year of double digit percentage returns, the first time this has occurred in more than a decade, according to Robert C. Doll, Chief Equity Strategist for Fundamental Equities at BlackRock, Inc. (NYSE: BLK). In the new year, risk assets in general and equities in particular will draw strength from continued improvement in US economic growth—in particular, a more sustainable growth path—coupled with improved business and consumer confidence, and a less hostile capital markets attitude in Washington, D.C., according to Doll. “By the close of 2011, the S&P 500 Index will be at 1,350-plus, a target that implies that the market will appreciate at least in line with corporate earnings,” Doll said. The S&P 500 Index closed out 2010 last Friday, Dec. 31, at 1,257, rising over 15% for the year. “Our expected gains for the equity markets for 2011 are not much different from what we expected for 2010,” he said. “What’s different for 2011 is that market risk will be more to the upside than was the case in 2010.” The possible upside factors include an acceleration in jobs gains, a surprise in real GDP, earnings exceeding expectations as occurred in 2010, and Washington D.C. beginning to address the nation’s fundamental debt and budget problems.

 On the other hand, Doll’s “what can go wrong?” list includes the possibility of credit problems resurfacing (including US housing, sovereign nations, and state and local governments), commodities price increases causing profit margin pressure, inflation fears, a greater than expected rise in interest rates, undue emerging markets tightening to curb asset bubbles, and currency and capital flow concerns leading to protectionist trade wars.

 Additionally, Doll indicated that the magnitude of the market return since the August 2010 lows (US stocks rose over 20% from mid August through the end of the year) means equity markets may have come too far, too quickly. “I do have a concern that the exceptionally strong returns we have seen over the last couple of months may mean that we ‘borrowed’ some of 2011’s returns in late 2010,’ Doll said.

 “The upside possibilities could lead to stock market appreciation of 10% to 20% more than we expect,” Doll said. “The downside issues could result in low double-digit percentage loss.”

 US Real GDP Hits All Time High in 2011
 Doll has been publishing his annual “10 Predictions” for the year ahead in the financial markets and the economy for over a decade.

 In 2011 the ongoing cyclical recovery will continue, Doll believes, but economic growth will continue to proceed at a less-than-normal pace due to the structural problems that continue to face most of the developed world.

 In the United States, although the recovery remains subpar, real GDP will move to new all time highs sometime during 2011’s first half, Doll said. “Real final sales will increase from around 2% to almost 4% as the impact of the government stimulus program and inventory restocking wanes,” he said. “The good news is that this kind of growth is more sustainable and therefore ‘higher quality.’

 “Hitting a new high for real GDP also means, of course, that the economy will have moved into a truly expansionary mode,” he said.

 In this environment, the Federal Reserve is unlikely to increase interest rates in 2011. “Assuming our growth outlook is correct, the Fed is likely to keep rates at near-zero through the year, although we think it’s possible that by the end of 2011 the futures curve may begin to price an increase into the markets,” Doll said.

 Unemployment Dips to 9 Percent

 Job growth also will improve as 2011 progresses, with unemployment falling to around 9% from the current 9.8% rate. “We believe the removal of the Bush tax cut uncertainties and the fears of a double dip recession as well as improved confidence will lead to more hiring,” Doll said.

 The likely employment trend in 2011 is historically associated with solid market performance, Doll said. “Compared with any other time, equity market returns have been most ebullient when unemployment rates have been high and falling,” he said.

 Stock On Pace to Outperform Bonds, Cash

 As they did in 2010, stocks will outperform both bonds and cash in 2011, Doll said.

 “Stocks pulled ahead of bonds in 2010’s fourth quarter, and we expect that trend to continue in 2011,” he said. “Interest rate risk will be to the upside, given accelerating economic and job growth, the revival of business capital investment, the likelihood that bonds inflows will slow, and fading deflation fears.”

 Because the recovery remains “sub par,” the Federal Reserve will likely remain accommodative, which will probably result in some further steepening of the yield curve, Doll believes. Equities are likely to take over from fixed income as the preferred asset class, both in terms of price appreciation and investor flows.

 US Markets Set to Continue Their Dominance

 In an outcome that surprised many, the United States was one of the world’s strongest markets, and US stocks outperformed the MSCI World Index in 2010—a trend Doll expects will be maintained in the new year. “Strong balance sheets and free cash flow income statements will likely lead to significant increases in dividends, share buybacks, merger and acquisition activity, and business reinvestment,” he said. “Companies delivering earnings with solid growth prospects will likely lead the way, as high intra-stock market correlations continue to fall.”

 At the same time, differences between developed and emerging markets will be less pronounced in 2011 than before, Doll believes. “The gap between higher growth rates in the developing world and the lower ones of the developed world will likely shrink somewhat in 2011, causing continued less differentiation in equity returns.”

 Predictions for 2011

 Here are Doll’s predictions for 2011 with his full commentary on the key trends.

 1.     US growth accelerates as US Real GDP reaches a new all time high.

Not only is US growth likely to be stronger in 2011 than it was in 2010, but more importantly, the quality of growth will improve. Economic growth in 2010 was based heavily on government stimulus and inventory rebuilding. Both of these factors will be less significant in 2011 than they were in 2010, meaning final demand is going to make up the slack. In particular, we believe that real final sales will increase from around 2% to almost 4%. This sort of growth is healthier for the economy and more sustainable. Additionally, we believe that economic growth in 2011 will be supported by an increase in money growth, a steeper yield curve and easing credit conditions. Nominal gross domestic growth in the United States already reached a new all time high in 2010, and we expect real GDP growth to also reach a new high at some point during the first half of 2011. Despite this outlook, however, we would caution that growth levels will still remain below trend.

2.     The US economy creates two to three million jobs in 2011 as unemployment falls to 9%.

We expect improved job growth as 2011 progresses, finally making some dent in the unemployment rate. Our prediction represents a clear acceleration over the 1 million plus number of new jobs that were created in 2010 and, in effect, would represent a doubling in the rate of jobs growth. It takes approximately 125,000 jobs per month to accommodate new entrants into the labor force and our view is growth will be noticeably higher than that, averaging 175,000 to 250,000 per month. We believe the removal of the Bush tax cut uncertainties and the fears of a double-dip recession as well as improved confidence will lead to more hiring. Leading indicators of hiring, including hours worked, productivity, initial jobless claims and profitability all point to more jobs. We note with interest that new hiring plans on the part of corporations have improved as well. Historically, equity market returns have been most ebullient when unemployment rates have been high and falling than at any other time.

 3.     US stocks experience a third year of double-digit percentage returns for the first time in over a decade as earnings reach a new all time high.

The last time the stock market had three annual double-digit percentage gains in a row was the late 1990s. Our view is a double-digit percentage return again for 2011 is certainly possible. We expect earnings growth to continue to be better than economic growth, stocks are reasonably inexpensive and confidence levels are improving. We are using a 1,350 target as a floor for our 2011 S&P 500 forecast, which is consistent with expected earnings gains. Our view is that the risks in 2011 are more to the upside when compared with the downside risks of 2010 meaning that, if anything, our 1,350 target may be overly conservative. Should business and consumer confidence levels continue to improve, if credit problems remain manageable and if politicians remain reasonably capital markets friendly, then we could see some valuation improvements, which could push market prices even higher. Regarding the earnings component of this prediction, operating earnings per share achieved an all time high of $91.47 for the S&P 500 in June 2007, and we believe corporate earnings will exceed that number sometime around the middle of 2011. We note that in recent months earnings revisions have again turned positive after faltering in mid 2010.

 4.     Stocks outperform bonds and cash.

While stocks did outperform bonds and cash in 2010, it wasn’t until the fourth quarter that stocks pulled ahead of bonds. We expect that environment to continue in 2011. Assuming that stocks have any sort of positive return in 2011, they will outperform cash investments, since short-term interest rates (and cash returns) are essentially stuck at just over 0%. The bigger question is bonds, but we believe that interest rates are likely headed higher given accelerating economic and jobs growth, the revival of business capital investment, the likelihood of bond fund inflows slowing and deflation fears fading. At present, there is still a wide gap between the S&P 500 earnings yield and BAA corporate bond yields in favor of stocks, and we expect that gap to close somewhat in 2011 as stocks outperform bonds.

 5.     The US stock market outperforms the MSCI World Index.

Before 2010, there was a multi-year pattern in which the MSCI World Index outperformed US stocks. In a surprise to many, that streak ended last year with US stocks beating the MSCI World Index in 2010 by nearly 400 basis points. We think 2011 will mark the second year of US outperformance. Compared with the rest of the world, the United States is benefitting from more fiscal and monetary stimulus, and has a more innovative economy and better earnings growth prospects, all of which should help US stock market performance. We also expect that emerging market economies will perform well, but that the gap between emerging and developed economies is likely to narrow in 2011 (which should also help US stocks on a relative basis). In other markets, we expect Europe will continue to struggle with credit and sovereign funding issues and Japan’s secular growth problems will likely remain.

 6.     The US, Germany and Brazil outperform Japan, Spain and China.

2010 was a year in which geographic allocations played an important role in determining investors’ overall portfolio returns, and we think 2011 will see a continuation of this trend. From our perspective, we favor markets that have evidence of accelerating economic momentum and low levels of inflationary threats. We also prefer to avoid markets that are facing significant credit risks. As a result, we are predicting that a basket of US, German and Brazilian stocks would outperform a basket of Japanese, Spanish and Chinese stocks. As we indicated in our fifth prediction, there are a host of reasons to favor US stocks, including its improving quality and quantity of economic growth. Germany is exhibiting strength in manufacturing and exports and Brazil is benefitting from a rapidly growing middle class and solid consumer spending levels. On the other side of our equation, Japan is suffering from persistently slow growth and Spain has a troubled banking system and ongoing credit woes. Regarding China, we expect economic growth will remain strong, but that market is in the midst of a tightening cycle designed to combat inflation—an environment that does not bode especially well for market performance.

 7.     Commodities and emerging market currencies  outperform a basket of the dollar, euro and yen.

As long as global growth is at least reasonably strong (as it was in 2010), commodities prices should appreciate in 2011. We believe that oil could top $100 per barrel at some point during the year due to better macro demand and continued inventory declines and since gold is “the only currency without debt,” gold prices are likely to move higher over the course of the year (albeit at a slower pace and more irregularly than it has over the past couple of years. Additionally, industrial commodities such as copper should benefit from continued global growth and urbanization in emerging markets. As we indicated earlier, we expect the growth differential between emerging market countries and developed markets will narrow in 2011, but we remain preferential toward emerging market currencies over a basket of the dollar, euro and yen.

 8.     Strong balance sheets  and free cash flow lead to significant increases in dividends, share buybacks, mergers & acquisitions and business reinvestment.

Corporations in America are doing very well. Balance sheets are strong and income statements are showing high levels of free cash flow. This backdrop led to high levels of M&A activity and business reinvestment in 2010, and in the year ahead we are calling for double-digit increases in dividends, buybacks, M&A and business reinvestment. We believe the key to getting this prediction right is for business confidence to improve, signs of which became evident toward the end of 2010. In addition we would argue that unlocking the 2+ trillion dollars of cash on corporate balance sheets is a significant key to better and more sustained US GDP growth.

 9.     Investor flows move from bond funds to equity funds.

Should the economic and market backdrop play out as we expect, we should see fixed income flows slow and equity fund flows pick up materially in 2011. This would reverse a multi-year trend in which investors have been embracing bond funds and shunning equity funds. Indeed, we began seeing this reversal happen in the fourth quarter of 2010 when equities began to noticeably outperform fixed income. Flows tend to follow prices, and we would expect that during the course of this year, we will see a noticeable slowdown in bond fund flows and the switch into equity funds. The “era of fear” that we have seen in equities in the last couple of years is in contrast to the “era of greed” we saw in the late 1990’s.

 10.  The 2012 Presidential campaign sees a plethora of Republican candidates while President Obama continues to move to the center.

Election seasons  seem to grow longer every cycle, and already there appears to be a long list of potential GOP presidential candidates. While it is impossible to know exactly who will run, our view is that many will declare their intention to run for president during 2011. Meanwhile, after a very difficult election for President Obama in November of last year, his move toward the political center is likely to continue as  he attempts to be more business- and capital markets friendly. It is clear that elections are decided by independents and the President needs to increase his support within the independent ranks significantly in order to have a chance for reelection.

 The 2010 Scorecard

 In 2010, risk assets continued the choppy advance they began in 2009. “The S&P 500 ended the year up a double-digit percentage and close to our 1,250 target, as US stocks outpaced most developed markets and many important emerging markets,” Doll said.

 Real GDP growth continued in a positive direction but remained subpar compared with most recoveries. In the United States, jobs growth was not strong enough to reduce the unemployment rate.  Inflation remained a non-issue in the developed world but began to rear its ugly head in some emerging economies. Government deficit spending and debt levels continued to haunt investors but corporate financial health remained remarkably strong both in balance sheet and income statement terms. “Corporations produced fantastic earnings gains despite mediocre economic growth,” Doll noted.

 “To sum it up, although we missed on a couple of the predictions made one year ago, most did come to pass,” he said.

 1.     The US economy grows above 3% in 2010 and outpaces the G-7.

Score = Correct

Although final fourth-quarter growth numbers will not be available for a while yet, economists are currently revising their estimates upward, and it looks like GDP will have grown in the fourth quarter by around 3%. Also, it is looking like US growth for all of 2010 should just clear the 3% hurdle. Among other G-7 countries, other than Canada, no other country’s growth level will surpass that of the United States.

2.     Job growth in the United States turns positive early in 2010, but the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high.

Score = Correct

It would have been almost impossible to have phrased this prediction any better, since this exactly described what happened on the labor market front in 2010. Employment growth did turn positive toward the end of the first quarter, but gains were not strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

 3.     Earnings rise significantly despite mediocre economic growth.

Score = Correct

When we made this prediction at the beginning of the year, our point was that earnings improvements would outpace the broader improvements in the overall economy, and that is exactly what came to pass. In many ways, the degree to which corporate America weathered slow levels of economic growth, ongoing credit issues and a still-troubled financial system was quite a surprise.

 4.     Inflation remains a non-issue in the developed world.

Score = Correct

While there have been some inflationary concerns in areas of the developing world, for the developed markets, deflationary pressures persisted through 2010. We acknowledge that in the years ahead, inflation may become a concern given high deficits and some of the structural problems facing the United States, but such an environment is not likely to develop in the near future.

 5.     Interest rates rise at all points on the Treasury curve, including fed funds.

Score = Incorrect

This is a prediction that we will have to mark in the “incorrect” column for this year. Some might say that we were not exactly wrong on this call, but just early since interest rates have begun to climb strongly over the last several weeks. For the year as a whole, however, credit concerns, quantitative easing and deflationary issues pushed the yield curve lower. On the fed funds front, rates are likely to remain lower for some time, and we have no expectation that the Fed will raise the fed funds rate at any point in the coming months.

 6.     US stocks outperform cash and Treasuries, and most developed markets.

Score = Correct

The broad asset class call we made at the beginning of the year has come to pass. With US equity market returns well into the double-digits, US stocks handily outperformed Treasuries (which came in at less than 10%) and cash (which returned just over 0%). With few exceptions, US stocks also outperformed other developed markets.

 7.     Emerging markets outperform as emerging economies grow significantly faster than developed regions.

Score = Correct

Economic growth in emerging markets has been much stronger than in the developed world, and emerging markets on balance have outperformed. The degree of outperformance, however, was narrower than we expected.

 8.     Healthcare, information technology and telecommunications outperform financials, utilities and materials.

Score = Incorrect

This is a prediction that came down to the wire, as going into the last week of the year we were slightly in the “correct” column on this one. Unfortunately (for our predictions scorecard) we were wrong on this call, if only barely, since a basket of healthcare, information technology and telecommunications stocks very slightly underperformed a basket of financials, utilities and materials stocks.

 9.     Strong free cash flow and slow growth lead to an increase in M&A activity.

Score = Correct

Strong free cash flow and strong balance sheets allowed companies to put their cash to work by ramping up merger-and-acquisition activity. Dividend increases and share buybacks also increased strongly this year.

 10.  Republicans make noticeable gains in the House and Senate, but Democrats remain firmly in control of Congress.

Score = Half-correct

We got the first part of this sentence correct, but the second part wrong, since Republicans did, of course, take over the House of Representatives. In retrospect, there was a much larger non-incumbent wave that dominated the midterms than we expected.

 Final 2010 Scorecard:

Correct:           7

Half-Correct:    1

Incorrect:         2

Total:               7.5/10

Opportunities  for Investors

 The start of a new year is always a good time to review your investment goals and asset allocation with your financial professional, and to make portfolio changes where necessary. With that in mind, following are some ideas investors may wish to consider:

 Retain equity overweights: A combination of supportive fiscal and monetary policy, decent economic growth, low inflation, strong corporate earnings and decent valuations should be a recipe for stock prices to move higher in 2011. As such, retaining overweight positions in equities relative to cash and bonds could be beneficial.

 Focus on free cash flow: One of our primary investment themes for the coming year will be to focus on companies that have high levels of free cash flows, and we are seeing opportunities across capitalizations, investment styles and geographies.

 Think about geography: As indicated by our overall market outlook and our specific predictions, we expect US stocks to continue to outperform most other global markets. US economic growth should be stronger than almost any other developed market, as should corporate earnings growth. At the same time, it remains important to keep some allocation to better-positioned international markets, including emerging markets.

 Stay with commodities: Gains will likely be uneven, and volatility in the commodities markets is likely to remain high, but long-term investment in commodities continues to make sense.

 Remember that gains will be harder to come by: In many ways the “easy money” in this bull market has already been made. The year ahead will likely see ongoing volatility and heightened dispersion between the winners and the losers. In this sort of environment, selectivity will be critical.

Source: BlackRock, Carral Sierra, 05.01.2011

Filed under: Asia, Latin America, News, , , , , , , , , , , ,

BlackRock Forecast: 2011 may be a rerun of 2010 for global economy

London, December 22nd, 2010 – Richard Urwin, Head of Investment within BlackRock’s Fiduciary Mandate Team, believes 2011 is likely to be another positive year for global equities and other risk assets, despite persistent headwinds.

Expanding on this view, Richard offers the following outlook for the global economy in 2011:

  • Inflation risk remains low in developed economies, but is more pronounced in emerging markets: For the developed economies, 2011 is expected to be a year in which central banks see inflation as too low rather than accelerating. Low inflation does not imply deflation. Indeed, if deflation risk were to rise, so should the degree of monetary stimulus from central banks.  While the inflation risk in emerging economies is significant, inflation is unlikely to accelerate substantially.
  • Economic growth should continue through 2011: Global growth could be more balanced with developed markets contributing more to growth next year as the momentum built up in the second half of 2010 continues. For instance, growth in Germany, Japan and the UK in recent quarters has averaged between and 3% and 4%.
  • The demise of the euro is a very low probability event: The most significant event to affect financial markets in 2010 was arguably the European sovereign debt crisis. This is likely to have a significant influence on markets well into 2011 and beyond, given that southern Europe faces an extended period of retrenchment. However, the demise of the euro is very improbable.
  • There is no sign of irrational exuberance in equity market valuations: On the contrary, equity multiples towards the end of 2010 appear modest by historical standards. We believe the market reflects concerns about the length and strength of the global economic recovery. In these circumstances, additional returns to risk assets do not require utopian outturns, rather an environment in which challenging news is simply not quite as challenging as expected.
  • Equity returns in 2011 will be heavily dependent on the global cycle: Valuations are not so supportive that equity markets could rise on material growth disappointments, even if these stop short of recession. In addition, corporate earnings growth could slow from the strong rates of the past year or so.  Similarly, with a moderately favourable cyclical background, most forms of credit should outperform sovereign bond returns.
  • The low level of bond yields implies low returns to bonds in the medium term: However, for yields to back up significantly in 2011, one of two conditions would have to apply. Either global growth or inflation picks up enough so that central banks abandon their easy-money policy and raise interest policy rates sharply, or concerns over large and sustained budget deficits increase.
  • Policy rates in developed economies are expected to be kept low: We doubt that animal spirits will recover in 2011 even if global savings fall significantly. Hence, the catalyst for significant increases in bond yields during 2011 appears lacking. This suggests that government bond yields, excluding those in peripheral euro zone countries, will remain at stretched valuations for an extended period, delivering negative real returns.

Richard commented:  “In some respects, 2011 may feel like a re-run of this year.  Equities are likely to grind higher – with emerging market equities outperforming modestly rather than spectacularly, partly as a result of currency appreciation in these markets – while commodities could make further gains as supply/demand imbalances persist.

“The most marked difference in returns from 2010 could emerge in the sovereign debt market, with the headwind of very low yields. While diversification into corporate bonds and other non-government debt could add value, the scope for material spread narrowing is more limited. In short, 2011 could be another year where many investors find it difficult to take investment risk.  It is, however, likely to pay off.”

Notes to Editors:

Richard Urwin, Managing Director, is the head of Investments within BlackRock’s Fiduciary Mandate Investment team (FMIT). Mr. Urwin is responsible for asset allocation and manager selection within the fiduciary client base.

Source: BlackRock, 22.12.2010

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , ,

10 Trends for 2011 by Gerald Celente

After the tumultuous years of the Great Recession, a battered people may wish that 2011 will bring a return to kinder, gentler times. But that is not what we are predicting. Instead, the fruits of government and institutional action – and inaction – on many fronts will ripen in unplanned-for fashions.

Trends we have previously identified, and that have been brewing for some time, will reach maturity in 2011, impacting just about everyone in the world.

1. Wake-Up Call In 2011, the people of all nations will fully recognize how grave economic conditions have become, how ineffectual and self-serving the so-called solutions have been, and how dire the consequences will be. Having become convinced of the inability of leaders and know-it-all “arbiters of everything” to fulfill their promises, the people will do more than just question authority, they will defy authority. The seeds of revolution will be sown….

2. Crack-Up 2011 Among our Top Trends for last year was the “Crash of 2010.” What happened? The stock market didn’t crash. We know. We made it clear in our Autumn Trends Journal that we were not forecasting a stock market crash – the equity markets were no longer a legitimate indicator of recovery or the real state of the economy. Yet the reliable indicators (employment numbers, the real estate market, currency pressures, sovereign debt problems) all bordered between crisis and disaster. In 2011, with the arsenal of schemes to prop them up depleted, we predict “Crack-Up 2011”: teetering economies will collapse, currency wars will ensue, trade barriers will be erected, economic unions will splinter, and the onset of the “Greatest Depression” will be recognized by everyone….

3. Screw the People As times get even tougher and people get even poorer, the “authorities” will intensify their efforts to extract the funds needed to meet fiscal obligations. While there will be variations on the theme, the governments’ song will be the same: cut what you give, raise what you take.

4. Crime Waves No job + no money + compounding debt = high stress, strained relations, short fuses. In 2011, with the fuse lit, it will be prime time for Crime Time. When people lose everything and they have nothing left to lose, they lose it. Hardship-driven crimes will be committed across the socioeconomic spectrum by legions of the on-the-edge desperate who will do whatever they must to keep a roof over their heads and put food on the table….

5. Crackdown on Liberty As crime rates rise, so will the voices demanding a crackdown. A national crusade to “Get Tough on Crime” will be waged against the citizenry. And just as in the “War on Terror,” where “suspected terrorists” are killed before proven guilty or jailed without trial, in the “War on Crime” everyone is a suspect until proven innocent….

6. Alternative Energy In laboratories and workshops unnoticed by mainstream analysts, scientific visionaries and entrepreneurs are forging a new physics incorporating principles once thought impossible, working to create devices that liberate more energy than they consume. What are they, and how long will it be before they can be brought to market? Shrewd investors will ignore the “can’t be done” skepticism, and examine the newly emerging energy trend opportunities that will come of age in 2011….

7. Journalism 2.0 Though the trend has been in the making since the dawn of the Internet Revolution, 2011 will mark the year that new methods of news and information distribution will render the 20th century model obsolete. With its unparalleled reach across borders and language barriers, “Journalism 2.0” has the potential to influence and educate citizens in a way that governments and corporate media moguls would never permit. Of the hundreds of trends we have forecast over three decades, few have the possibility of such far-reaching effects….

8. Cyberwars Just a decade ago, when the digital age was blooming and hackers were looked upon as annoying geeks, we forecast that the intrinsic fragility of the Internet and the vulnerability of the data it carried made it ripe for cyber-crime and cyber-warfare to flourish. In 2010, every major government acknowledged that Cyberwar was a clear and present danger and, in fact, had already begun. The demonstrable effects of Cyberwar and its companion, Cybercrime, are already significant – and will come of age in 2011. Equally disruptive will be the harsh measures taken by global governments to control free access to the web, identify its users, and literally shut down computers that it considers a threat to national security….

9. Youth of the World Unite University degrees in hand yet out of work, in debt and with no prospects on the horizon, feeling betrayed and angry, forced to live back at home, young adults and 20-somethings are mad as hell, and they’re not going to take it anymore. Filled with vigor, rife with passion, but not mature enough to control their impulses, the confrontations they engage in will often escalate disproportionately. Government efforts to exert control and return the youth to quiet complacency will be ham-fisted and ineffectual. The Revolution will be televised … blogged, YouTubed, Twittered and….

10. End of The World! The closer we get to 2012, the louder the calls will be that the “End is Near!” There have always been sects, at any time in history, that saw signs and portents proving the end of the world was imminent. But 2012 seems to hold a special meaning across a wide segment of “End-time” believers. Among the Armageddonites, the actual end of the world and annihilation of the Earth in 2012 is a matter of certainty. Even the rational and informed that carefully follow the news of never-ending global crises, may sometimes feel the world is in a perilous state. Both streams of thought are leading many to reevaluate their chances for personal survival, be it in heaven or on earth….

See also

Source: Gerald Celente, Trendsresearch, 18.12.2010

Filed under: Banking, Energy & Environment, News, Risk Management, Services, Wealth Management, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kroll LATAM Risk Report December 2010: Brazil Land Ownership & Infrastructure Fraud, Private Banking KYC, Colombia Corruption

FRAUD – Brazil – Steering Clear of the Potholes
Brazil has committed to billions of dollars worth of infrastructure investments in preparation for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. The opportunities for international suppliers, contractors and investors are considerable. So, too, are the risks of fraud.

Vander Giordano, Sao Paulo & Allie Nichols, New York  GO TO FULL STORY

CORRUPTION – Colombia – Battling Fraud & Corruption
By leveraging public outrage, the new administration of President Juan Manuel Santos has an opportunity to change Colombia’s “anything goes” culture and attack the scourge of corruption with a new sense of purpose.

Andrés Otero, Miami & Ernesto Carrasco, Bogota GO TO FULL STORY

PRIVATE BANKING – The Good, the Bad & the Ugly
For private bankers, there’s nothing more enticing than the prospect of landing a wealthy foreign client, but the client’s background and source of funds must be carefully analyzed. Often, only an enhanced due diligence will identify the risks.

John Price, Miami GO TO FULL STORY

LAND RIGHTS – Brazil – Sending the Wrong Message
Turning back the clock, the Brazilian government tightens land rights legislation, restricting land purchases for foreign companies and individuals. Real Estated

Paulo Sérgio Franco & Scheila Santos São Paulo  GO TO FULL STORY

Source: Kroll, 14.12.2010

Filed under: Banking, Brazil, Colombia, Latin America, News, Risk Management, Services, Wealth Management, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

BlackRock Bob Dolls: 10 prediction for the next 10 years

“10 Predictions for the Next 10 Years” by BlackRock’s Bob Doll and what it means to investors:

  1. U.S. equities experience high single-digit percentage total returns after the worst decade since the 1930s.
  2. Recessions occur more frequently during this decade than only once a decade as occurred in the last 20 years.
  3. Healthcare, information technology and energy alternatives are leading growth areas for the U.S.
  4. The U.S. dollar continues to be less dominant as the decade progresses.
  5. Interest rates move irregularly higher in the developing world.
  6. Country self-interest leads to more trade and political conflicts.
  7. An aging and declining population gives Europe some of Japan’s problems.
  8. World growth is led by emerging market consumers.
  9. Emerging markets weighting in global indices rises significantly.
  10. China’s economic and political ascent continues.

Read Bob Doll’s full report  10 Predictions for the next Decade

Source:BlackRock / Carral Sierra, 02.08.2010

Filed under: Banking, Brazil, China, Energy & Environment, Japan, Korea, Mexico, News, Risk Management, 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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

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

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

Jim Rogers’ Crystal Ball on Latin America and China

The legendary investment guru and long-time commodities booster shares his views on the global economy, the commodity bull market and how Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and other Latin American economies will hold up in 2010 and beyond.

Ian McCluskey, Miami, Kroll – Tendencias January 2010

Alabama-raised Jim Rogers is perhaps best known as co-founder, with George Soros, of the Quantum Fund, which made him a wealthy man by his mid-30’s. But that was 30 years ago. Since then, he has circumnavigated the globe on a motorcycle and in a souped-up yellow Mercedes, written several best-selling books, and made countless millions more investing and dishing out advice in his customary blunt, yet southern gentlemanly manner.

A regular face on financial news networks and at investment summits the world over, Rogers – his timing impeccable — pulled up stakes in Manhattan in late 2007, selling his Riverside Drive mansion for a record $15 million just as the real estate market began to sour. He now makes his home in Singapore, while running his business out of a law office in downtown Miami. Rogers spoke with Kroll Tendencias in late December during a brief stopover.

Like other soothsayers, Rogers is bullish on much of South America. He foresees a great future for Colombia, but is not smitten by Brazil’s long-term prospects. Rogers, whose Rogers’ International Commodities Index (RICI) provides a compass for investment funds worldwide, predicts that the commodity bull market has another 10 years or so to run its course. He expects gold to hit $2,000 an ounce and oil to reach $200 a barrel sometime this decade.

Here are some excerpts from our conversation.

The Global Economy At least in the first half of 2010, he global economy will be better than in 2008 or 2009, but I would worry about 2011 and 2012, because governments are printing and spending so much money. We’re still in an ongoing economic problem that started in 2000 or 2001. We’ll see it get better for a little while, but over the next couple of years, things will not be better than they were in 2007, and perhaps never will be, in some countries.

Commodity Prices If the world economy gets better, commodity prices will go up because of shortages and, if the economy does not get better, commodities will still go up because governments are printing so much money. Will commodities go up in 2010?  I have no idea. If there is some big surprise – if the U.K. goes bankrupt, if America invades Iran — everything will go down for a while. But whatever happens, I expect commodities to be among the best places to be in 2010.

Crises on the Horizon I don’t foresee any critical events that will impact commodities in 2010. I would expect there to be a currency crisis or semi-crisis in the next year or two. I don’t think many people expect it, except me.

Bubbles in the Making Some emerging markets may be over-priced, but that does not mean a bubble. That’s just being expensive. Every market gets over-priced one time or another in any given year. The only bubble I see developing anywhere in the world is in the U.S. bond market, the long-term government bond market. I cannot conceive of lending to the U.S. government for 30 years in U.S. dollars at 3, 4, 5 or even 6% interest. It’s just mind-boggling to me.

Outlook for Latin America I am much more optimistic about most of Latin America, especially South America, than I am about North America, with the exception of Canada. I am more optimistic about parts of Latin America than I am about much of Europe. And that’s partly because of all the natural resources. South America is a commodity story.

Gushing over Colombia It looks like there will be real peace in Colombia and, if so, that would be one of the phenomenal opportunities of our time, because they have it all. Colombia’s been at war for, what, 30 years, 40 years? Any time you can get to a country shortly after a war ends, there are usually enormous opportunities because everything is so cheap. There’s not much energy, not much capital, not much optimism, still a lot of malaise. I’ve seen it happen over and over again. And Colombia has natural resources – coal, oil, agriculture – and, of course, it could become a tourist destination again. Terrific country. (Note: Last summer, after Sri Lanka declared an end to its long-running civil war, Rogers paid a visit to look around. “I didn’t buy anything yet,” he says.)

Not Sold on Brazil Whenever commodities have done well, Brazil has done extremely well. People get excited about Brazil, they start talking about the new Brazil, but then the bear market comes back to commodities, and the same old thing happens – [Brazil] prints money, inflation, military problems, military coups – and I suspect that will happen again, perhaps in 20 years or so. Right now, of course, things are great. Brazil’s economy is commodity-based and commodities are going through the roof. Do not get me wrong; I’m just suggesting that I have heard this story before about the great new Brazil.

Brazil’s President Lula The country is run by a socialist, but nobody really wants to be a socialist any more, and the ones that do want to be rich socialists. [Lula] came in in 2002 just as the bull market was gathering steam, so he looks like a genius.

More Attractive South America
Chile is doing well, even Uruguay. I’m still optimistic about Peru, too. It’s got a lot of natural resources and a reasonably good government. It, too, had a long war. Look around South America and, other than Venezuela and perhaps Ecuador, there are better things happening than before. But, again, whenever there’s a boom in commodities, if you’re a commodity country, you look better, you feel better. There’s nothing like having lots of money in the bank, lots of income, to make countries feel better and more attractive.

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop in Argentina (Note: In a November 2000 article in AmericaEconomia magazine, Rogers famously announced that, after driving around Argentina for several weeks, he was liquidating his remaining investments in the country and encouraged everyone else to do the same.)  The good on the horizon in Argentina is that things have gotten so much worse over the last seven years or so, that we are getting closer to a bottom. I’m not putting a single peso back into Argentina and have not done so since the [the 2001 debt default] because their governments – I don’t know how they do it – it’s astonishing how bad they can be. I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop — another default, another debt crisis or whatever it might be. Argentina is a great agricultural nation, but they tell their farmers “You can’t export your stuff.” What they desperately need is foreign exchange and yet they say “We’re not going to earn any foreign exchange.” It’s stupefying how hopeless they can be at times.

Wary about Mexico Mexico has some huge problems. Forty percent of its income comes from oil but the oil is depleting at a very rapid rate. And of the country’s 100 million people, they are mainly young people.  I suspect you’ll see serious problems in Mexico over the next decade because young people get agitated pretty easily. If the government faces serious economic problems because they don’t have any money any more, Mexico could boil over.

China’s LatAm Connection China sees huge shortages of raw materials developing. The Chinese are not just going to Latin America. They are all over Central Asia, Africa. They are buying up everything in sight, because they know what’s coming. They are going where the commodities are and are willing to pay proper prices. And, in most countries the Chinese don’t tell the locals what to do. They say “Here’s your money, now let’s develop those mines, or grow those cops.” Most countries seem to be welcoming the Chinese with open arms.

Commodities Trading in China (Note: China’s Dalian Commodities Exchange recently invited Rogers to become its first foreign advisor.)  The main problem with doing anything with the Chinese as far as exchanges are concerned, is that their currency is blocked. You cannot trade the currency. It’s illegal for me to buy and sell commodities in China because I am not Chinese. Even if a foreigner could invest on the commodities exchange in China, the currency is still blocked. Not many people are going to take their money to China if they can’t get it out. Some companies, like Cargill, have licenses to trade but there aren’t many. If and when China does open up to foreign investors, I suspect China would become the largest commodities trading exchange in Asia, perhaps even in the world.

Hugo Chavez’ Perennial Threat to Stop Selling Oil to the U.S. and Sell Instead to China Chavez could conceivably do it, but oil is oil. It’s not like we’re talking about Picassos. Even if Chavez told the U.S. “We’re not going to sell you oil any more,” who cares? We’ll buy it somewhere else. There would be a temporary dislocation in the market. Some refineries would suffer, some ships would suffer, but it would all be re-jiggered. Chavez has to sell his oil somewhere; he can’t simply stop selling. So that oil is still in the market. If he sells it to China instead of America, those who were selling to China would now sell to the America. Oil’s a fungible product.

The author: Ian McCluskey ( ) is Editor of Kroll Tendencias, a monthly online thought leadership platform that focuses on business trends and business challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean. Articles are produced by Kroll consultants and other thought leaders in the region.

Source: Kroll – Tendencias January 2010

Filed under: Argentina, Asia, Brazil, Central America, Chile, China, Colombia, Latin America, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

China Latin America: The decade of the Panda?

Before China can deliver on its promise of massive investments in Latin America, Chinese companies need to overcome their fear of Latin American volatility and political risk.  And Latin America needs to prepare more cross-border suitors to bridge the cultural divide.

John Price, Shanghai –  Kroll Tendencias, January 2010

When President Hu Jintao toured Latin American capitals in November 2004, he predicted that trade and investment flows between China and Latin America would both surpass $100 billion within a decade.  His forecasts turned out to be too conservative on trade but naively ambitious regarding the flow of Chinese investment to Latin America.  Two-way trade topped $140 billion in 2008 but, according to Shanghai’s SinoLatin Capital Analysis, accumulated Chinese investment in the region at the end of 2008 stood at a meager $12 billion, considerably less than the foreign direct investment into Latin America from the U.S. state of Michigan.

What the booming trade figures underscore is the growing dependency between China and resource-rich Latin America and the compelling logic of partnership.  The disappointing investment flow levels, on the other hand, reflect the many challenges in bringing together two utterly different cultural, political, business and legal systems, in spite of the economic imperative to do so.   The missing actor, whose absence has prevented the marriage of the Latin American suitor and the Chinese bride, is the proverbial marriage broker — the bi-cultural professional class of bankers, lawyers, and consultants that can construct and maintain cross-border investments.

It takes time to develop effective marriage brokers in global business, but progress is being made.  As his company’s name would suggest, Erik Bethel, principal of private equity firm Sino-Latin Capital in Shanghai, is one such cross-border broker.  Bethel recognizes the potential of Latin America to Chinese investors and is gambling his professional career on that promise.  Born in Miami to Cuban parents, educated in the Ivy League of U.S. colleges, Bethel honed his investment banking skills in Latin America, then decided to pursue the China dream and moved to Shanghai seven years ago.  At that time, Shanghai was still a would-be financial center, littered with cranes and covered in construction dust.

Since then Shanghai as boomed as a financial hub and Bethel has learned Mandarin.  More importantly, after searching high and low, Bethel has identified some of the elusive cast of dealmakers among China’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs), whom he must woo into investing in Latin America. “Unlike the traditional global financial centers of Wall Street or the City of London where big investors walk with the swagger of pseudo-celebrities,” Bethel explains, “the guy writing the check in China is likely to be a humble bureaucrat working diligently behind a non-descript desk.  He doesn’t frequent fancy clubs or high profile conferences.  Finding him is half the battle.”

Bethel and other pioneers like him may be the key to China making good on Hu Jintao’s investment forecast.  “My job,” says Bethel, “is to find that SOE investor, who by and large has a rudimentary, if not distorted, perception of Latin America, educate him on the opportunities and realities of doing business in the region, and hopefully convince him to get on a plane and go kick the tires on the great potential that exists for Chinese companies.  I realize that this is both a frightening and exciting prospect for someone, who may never have left China other than to go to Hong Kong, and who speaks only a smattering of English and no Spanish or Portuguese, but the opportunities are just too great to ignore.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but without someone like us undertaking this great effort, how on earth is Chinese money ever going to find its way to Latin America?”

Indeed, the challenge of bringing together Chinese capital and Latin American resources requires many more foot soldiers like Bethel in China.  From the Chinese investor’s perspective, Latin America still seems more distant and exotic than the many investment opportunities at home or within China’s continental sphere.  Nothing less than a full-press educational and public relations effort is needed inside China by all those with an interest in attracting Chinese capital to Latin America, be they diplomats, multi-latinas or the professional service firms bent on catching the wave of investment.

China, the new source of global investment capital

While many Chinese investors have yet to discover Latin America, no one now doubts the tectonic shift of capital flow coming out of China.  For the last 15 years, China has absorbed more direct investment than it exported as the global Fortune 1000 bet their futures on the Middle Kingdom.  When the year-end numbers are in, however, 2009 is expected to mark the first year of positive net outflow of investment capital for China, with over $100 billion in the form of direct foreign investment overseas.

China’s sudden emergence as the new FDI source on the world stage is explained in large part by its export-driven economic growth model. In order to maintain an undervalued currency and, with it, full employment — a political imperative — China must export $250 billion of capital each year to balance its excess trade and tourism surpluses.  For several years now, the easy solution was for the Central Bank of China to buy U.S. Treasury bills, thus helping to stoke the engine of U.S. consumerism (and Chinese exports) with record low U.S. interest rates.  That formula looks less attractive thanks to undisciplined U.S. monetary and fiscal management which represses U.S. interest rates and weakens the dollar, as the prospect of much higher U.S. inflation looms ahead.

The one-trick pony model of exporting to the over-indebted U.S. middle class is now passé.  China must look to other markets for its exports and simultaneously speed the rise of its internal consumer base. Middle income emerging markets like most of Latin America, South and North Africa, SouthEast Asia and Central Asia are in many ways more natural markets than the U.S. for China’s portfolio of mass-produced consumer goods.  Building bridges both politically and commercially in those markets requires outbound Chinese direct foreign investment. 

Garrigues, Spain’s largest commercial law firm, whose transactional practice follows closely the global flows of capital, set up an office in China in 2005, when Spanish firms had caught the China bug and were pouring in capital.  Francisco Soler Caballero, head of the Shanghai office, explains, however, that the firm’s business, like the international capital flows, has reversed course.  “We came to China to help Spanish companies enter the Chinese market,” says Soler. “We continue to help Spanish companies expand in China but the economic crisis in Spain has curbed the appetite of Spanish companies for costly Chinese acquisitions. Today, we find more cross-border opportunities with Chinese companies who want to expand abroad.  Having helped countless Spanish companies enter Latin America, we are now doing the same for Chinese SOEs.  It is a welcome but unpredicted turn of events for our China practice.”

Internally, China has all it needs to develop its economy save one important element, natural resources.  There is a growing sense of concern among Chinese economic planners that medium-term growth is threatened by an uncertain supply of raw materials, which presently China must import from foreign controlled firms.  When Japan and South Korea reached a similar impasse during their rise to developed-nation status, they chose to negotiate long-term supply contracts with oil, gas and mineral producers, carefully selecting downturn years to lock in attractive pricing over 10-30 years.  With their strengthening currencies and relatively low commodity prices, such a strategy made sense for Japan and Korea in the late 80s and 90s. Given China’s obsession with maintaining its cheap currency, its resulting excess liquidity and the likelihood of continued elevated pricing with commodities, it makes far more sense for China to venture out and buy operational control of its raw material supply.  

In 2008, China had 19.6 billion barrels of proven oil reserves and 2.3 trillion cubic meters of proven natural gas reserves (14th and 16th largest reserves in the world, respectively).  But given China’s vast energy demands, China still had to import 55% of its crude oil consumption in 2008, according to the China National Information Center.

By 2020, Chinese natural gas production is expected to fall short of consumption by 50-100 billion cubic meters, which explains why PetroChina went on a recent shopping trip to Australia in search of gas production assets.

Even more dramatic are China’s shortages of metals and minerals. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Chinese reserves of copper, manganese, and nickel are 5.4%, 8%, and 2.5% of the world’s total, while China accounts for 27%, 48% and 22% of the world’s total consumption of these metals.

Even in the politically sensitive terrain of food supply where China spends billions subsidizing its agricultural base, the country cannot avoid a reliance on imports.  Soybean is a good example.  China currently imports over 60% of its annual 50 million tons of consumption.  In terms of forestry, China is one of the largest importers of wood pulp and industrial round wood (7.4 million tons and 38.6 million tons in 2007, respectively) not only to satisfy the domestic market but also the export-driven demand of its paper and furniture industries.

Chinas Risk Adversity

Latin America has the good fortune of having many of the top producers of the resources that China so badly needs.  And there is clearly no shortage of capital in China.

New suburban homes in the Pudong district of Shanghai are sold before they are built, at a cost of $3-$5 million for a 3,000 square foot, two-floor home in a gated community.  China’s own economic stimulus package includes vast, and some say, opulent infrastructure projects.  The 30 kilometers of high speed rail track from central Pudong to Shanghai’s airport carries its passengers up to 430 km/hr for a total of 8 minutes at a construction cost of almost $2 billion.  If Chinese money can find its way into such questionable investments, why can’t Latin America attract more Yuan to its compelling array of resource companies and infrastructure opportunities?

The small and nascent talent pool of service professionals that can bridge the regions may be the most important reason for the disconnect thus far, but equally important are Latin America’s lingering perception problems.

Predictability, which the Chinese value above all else, is not a traditional Latin American virtue.  Chinese investors are disheartened by Latin America’s history of volatility.  Rather than seeing currency fluctuation as an opportunity like many savvy Latin American investors do, the Chinese loath the uncertainty that it adds to their forecasts.  Many Latin American economies have made tremendous strides to curb currency volatility and build international reserves through floating currency regimes and fiscal discipline.  Chinese investors need to be enlightened about this change and to become better versed in the science of currency hedging.  They also need to learn how to navigate and mitigate the legal and political risks of doing business in Latin America.

At home, large Chinese SOEs can rely on the rule of law or their own political power to manipulate the rule of law to ensure legal and regulatory certainty.  When the same companies look abroad, they tend to prefer one of three models; a sound legal environment, like Australia, Canada, the U.S. or Europe, where their investments are defendable through the courts; or small, undemocratic economies like the Sudan and Burma, where they can exercise political influence to their liking; or satellite economies like Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan where they enjoy political sway and legal protections.

The perception in China of Latin America is that the region offers neither the protections of a transparent legal system nor the ability to exercise unperturbed political influence.  Some of the largest mergers and acquisitions to date in the region have been via the purchase of foreign-listed companies, such as Corriente Resources (copper mining) and EnCana (oil and gas), both Canadian companies with significant investments in Latin America.  In this respect, it is the legal community that must lead the effort to illustrate the defendable legal rights of foreign investors in Latin America’s more advanced economies and differentiate those from the list of countries in the region where legal risk remains a serious obstacle.

Related to legal risk is the acute Chinese sensibility to political risk.  Latin America’s political dynamic is frankly too fluid and complex for most Chinese investors to grasp.  The need to campaign from the left and govern from the right, which is Latin America’s political hallmark, can prove both alarming and confounding to Chinese investors.  The relatively decentralized governance of most Latin American countries adds another source of anxiety to Chinese investors, who must get used to idea that in Latin America they are as vulnerable to the vagaries of local politics and local political players like labor unions, NGOs, and indigenous advocates, as they are to the whims of the executive branches or national legislatures.  China learned this lesson when Chinese copper giant Zijin faced violent labor conflict with its Rio Blanco mine investment in Peru.

When it comes to political risk, the Chinese need to alter their thinking, not just to deal with Latin America, but with most countries in which they wish to invest.  China’s lack of understanding of political risk cost them dearly in the U.S. when in 2005 the China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) was denied by the U.S. government in its bid to purchase Unocal, subsequently gobbled up by Chevron.  China miscalculated again when telecom equipment maker Huawei was turned down in its quest of 3Com.

Perhaps Latin America’s most difficult image problem is that of physical insecurity. In a country like China where physical violence toward the business class is unheard of, where guns cannot be owned by its citizens, Latin America is the wild west by comparison.

It is one thing for a company to visit Latin America to sell goods or buy raw materials.  In either case, the risk of physical violence intruding on the negotiations is minimal.  But in the case of Chinese foreign investment, which typically relies on securing Chinese managerial control through the transfer of dozens, if not hundreds of employees from China to the foreign operation, the risk is considerably greater.  The internationally readied managerial labor pool in China is very thin, such that sending people to an “unsafe” environment is not an easy internal sell for many Chinese firms.  Overcoming the security hurdle requires a dual effort.  Latin Americans need to more openly address their security shortcomings when presenting their countries, regions and companies as investment destinations.  Meanwhile, Chinese investors need to embrace security risk by better understanding it and learning how to mitigate such risks through preventive measures and insurance products.

In November 2008, the economic imperative of Chinese natural resource investment in Latin America received a boost from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs when it published in its Latin American regional policy paper a centerpiece mandate titled “Go Outward” (走出去).  In China, government directives still matter because it is the government controlled SOEs (typically 70% government, 30% private ownership) that naturally lead the charge of outbound foreign direct investment.  These vast oligarchy-like enterprises have the capital (or privileged access to it) and the need to invest in their supply base.

High-level policy embracement of a “Buy Latin America” strategy was slow in developing in part because China always considered it an untouchable zone of influence of the U.S.  That fear has evidently subsided or been usurped by the sheer economic imperative of securing natural resource supplies.  The recent push by the government has prompted a new sense of urgency to invest in Latin American resource companies and resource related infrastructure projects.

The onus now lies upon vested interests to build the bridges that will bind this vital, though still awkward, partnership.  Latin Americans, with the help of service professionals, especially investment bankers, private equity funds, law firms, risk consultants and insurance firms, must step up their efforts to educate their future Chinese partners on how to evaluate, navigate the opportunities and mitigate the risks of investing in  Latin America.

Source: Kroll- Tendencias January 2010

Filed under: Argentina, Brazil, Central America, Chile, China, Colombia, Energy & Environment, Latin America, Library, Mexico, News, Peru, Risk Management, Venezuela, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Goldman Sachs ‘to monitor potential Asian real estate bubbles’

Fred Hu, Goldman Sachs’s chairman of Greater China, has said that the financial institution’s operations in Asia are keeping a close eye on the development of potential real estate bubbles.

Among the countries causing the most concern to Goldman Sachs are Hong Kong, Singapore and China, Mr Hu said.

China recorded its highest growth in property prices for 18 months in December, Singapore saw a record number of residential real estate sales in 2009 and Hong Kong house prices currently stand at their highest point in more than a decade, reports Bloomberg.

Mr Hu gave a particular warning about growth in Hong Kong and Singapore.  “I would be very skeptical about this kind of pace,” he said.

Last week, it was reported that Goldman Sachs is close to selling off a luxury real estate development in Shanghai. It is to sell the Shanghai Garden Plaza to Chinese property developer Shanghai Forte Land for $200 million, people close to the deal told Reuters.

Source: Bobsguide, 18.10.2010

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