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What’s Wrong With The Global Banking System

Robert Mazur, the U.S. Customs special agent who led one of the most successful undercover operations in U.S. law enforcement history, gave us some insight into international money laundering and said the Federal Reserve needs to do more to help.

In the 1980s Mazur spent five years infiltrating the highest circles of Colombia’s drug cartels as a money launderer, transforming more than $34 million in cocaine cash into traceable, paper-trailed bank transactions under the pseudonym Bob L. Musella.

His book, The Infiltrator: My Secret Life Inside the Dirty Banks Behind Pablo Escobar’s Medellín Cartel, explains how “Operation C-Chase” led to the indictment of 85 individuals – including several officials affiliated with the then-seventh largest privately-held bank in the world, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI)—and the conviction of General Manuel Noriega.

Now he is on a mission to “share information with the public about how this money laundering activity has engulfed the will of the financial institutions of the world.”

Mazur says that “the international community is today doing the same thing that BCCI and their officers were doing 20 years ago”—citing the HSBC money-laundering scandal and the tax havens of the super-rich—and told BI that the problem is much larger than the estimated $2.1 trillion that crime generates each year.

“What [the corrupt bankers at BCCI] did was market flight capital, and they identified it as basically money seeking secrecy from governments,” Mazur said. “Yes it does include the items that the $2.1 trillion identifies but it’s bigger than that because there are times that you take legal money and use it for an illegal purpose, and that money is as big if not bigger than the illegal money.”

He calls the practice “a major moneymaker for the banking world” and cites the Standard Chartered scandal, in which bankers “took $250 billion worth of basically legal money and used techniques to hide from governments the fact that the money was being moved in these otherwise-legal transactions on the behalf of sanctioned nations, including Iran.”

He said the HSBC ruling listed six or seven methods “traditionally used by banks in a big way facilitate relationships with people who want to hide money from governments” and explained that bankers provide these services “to entice these people to bank with them” so that the bank is able to increase their deposits.

Mazur said that banking regulators are “not as focused on the issue of criminal conduct as they are on … making sure that the institution itself stays healthy” so investigations take years and result in a lengthy report.

There’s nothing built in the system to engage criminal investigations up front,” Mazur said.” They always come in a very rusty state after they’ve been played with by the regulators. By then everyone’s built in their plausible deniability and it’s a very difficult task to expect the investigators to then come up with the intent evidence,” which is essential for criminal prosecution.

He added that the current regulatory process ignores the fundamental problem, which is that “there are two brains in a bank—there’s this profit brain that’s motivated by earning money … and then we have a compliance department and their whole agenda has nothing to do with profit, it has to do with identifying risk and minimizing it. But when the compliance and the sales brain meet, upper management sides with sales because that’s their gig too—profits. And there has to be a way to try to begin to change that chemistry of the interaction of the two brains.”

One straightforward ways to do that, according to Mazur, would be to crack down on bankers who solicit shady business—like the ones at HSBC—by putting a few “behind bars for a very long period of time” instead of just giving them a fine.

Another simple way is to require the Federal Reserve to share information about member banks who are in the bulk bank note business. If regulators and prosecutors knew which institutions were moving much larger amounts of money through wire transfers (which the Fed tracks), they would know where to focus investigations or covert-type operations.

“You’re honing down all your information to go after, proactively, the institutions most involved in moving this type of money,” Mazur said. “It’s not complicated but the Federal Reserve doesn’t give that information out freely and that’s something that needs to change.”

He noted that concerned individuals in the military, law enforcement and intelligence community have accessed more of that information in the last 2 years than ever before, but emphasized that more has to be done.

“That’s one of the barriers that’s slowly crumbling, and it’s an important barrier to wind up crumbling, but it’s not completely accessed,” Mazur said.

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Filed under: Banking, Colombia, Latin America, Mexico, Risk Management, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mexico replaces China as U.S. Supplier with no Wage Gains.

Bloomberg 15.06.2012 – Julio Don Juan makes $400 a month at a noisy, cramped Mexico City call center. Without a raise in three years, he says he had to pull his 7-year-old son out of a special-needs school he can no longer afford.

In some places he might seek another job. Not in Mexico, where wages after inflation have risen at an annual pace of 0.4 percent since 2005 — worse than other nations in the region including Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay, according to the International Labour Organization. Close to a third of Mexicans toil in the informal economy without steady income. Julio Don Juan says many would envy him.

The cheap labor that is helping Mexico surpass China as a low-cost supplier of manufacturing goods to the U.S. — and lured companies including Nissan Motor Co. (7201) — has restrained progress for many of the country’s 112 million citizens. While Enrique Pena Nieto, the front-runner in polls to capture the July 1 presidential vote, has said wages are too low, whoever wins confronts the challenge of boosting workers’ incomes but not so much that assembly lines leave for other markets.

“The trick isn’t only to pay better salaries, it’s to make raises more sustainable,” said Sergio Luna, chief economist at Citigroup Inc.’s Banamex unit in Mexico City. “We have to be more productive, but it won’t be easy because it implies changing the status quo.”

Mexico’s low wages, cheap peso and surging auto shipments to the U.S. — which buys 80 percent of its exports — have increased manufacturing competitiveness during the past decade as labor costs in China and Japan have risen.

Sounder Footing

This has put Mexico’s economy on a sounder footing than Brazil’s to weather a prolonged global downturn. After trailing growth in Latin America’s biggest economy during the past decade — and watching as a commodities boom allowed Brazil to increase wages an annual average 3.4 percent above inflation from 2005 to 2011 — Mexico is poised to outperform Brazil for the second consecutive year.

President Felipe Calderon’s government forecasts gross domestic product will expand 3.5 percent this year and says exports will probably surpass a 2011 record of $350 billion. By contrast, Brazil will grow around 2.5 percent, according to a central bank survey of economists this month.

“A changing of the guard is slowly but surely taking place,” Nomura Holdings Inc. (8604) analysts wrote in a May report. “Ten years from now, we are confident that Mexico will likely be seen as having become the most dynamic economy in the region.”

Trade Agreements

Low wages aren’t Mexico’s only attraction: Inflation that reached 180 percent in 1988 has been kept under control by a central bank that since January 2010 has been under the stewardship of Agustin Carstens. The former deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund has kept the benchmark rate at 4.5 percent since taking office, helping to fuel a rally in government bonds.

Investors also benefit from laws that limit the government deficit and trade accords with more than 30 nations, including the North American Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. and Canada. Mexico also offers savings for companies that want to be closer to American consumers, after a tripling of oil prices in the past decade raised transportation costs for Asian manufacturers.

Nissan, Japan’s second-largest automaker, shifted production of low-cost cars to Thailand and Mexico in recent years to counter losses as the yen appreciated, while Mexico’s peso slumped 18 percent in the past six years against the U.S. dollar. The company’s Mexican output hit a record 607,087 cars and light-duty trucks last year, rising 20 percent from 2010.

The latest company to expand operations is Plantronics Inc. (PLT), which this month announced a $30 million investment after closing its plant in China as wages began rising there, said Cesar Lopez Ramos, the company’s Mexico legal representative.

Human Capital

Mexico has proven more attractive for the Santa Cruz, California-based headset maker because of its steady wages and “human capital that is more developed and capable of not only making products but innovating,” Lopez Ramos said in a telephone interview from Tijuana.

Some Mexicans criticize Calderon’s National Action Party, or PAN, for not spreading the benefits of economic stability more widely during 12 years of rule. In the absence of a stronger domestic market, jobs remain heavily dependent on U.S. consumers and foreign-operated assembly plants, known as maquiladoras. Unemployment, currently at 4.9 percent, has been more than double a 2000 low of 2.2 percent since 2009.

“We’re scraping by,” said Julio Don Juan, 37, the call- center worker. “Because costs keep rising, I’m actually getting a pay cut each year, rather than a raise.” He lives with his parents, who help him care for his son.

Low Inflation

Economy Minister Bruno Ferrari says that low inflation and expanded social programs have reduced poverty during the past dozen years and stemmed declines in purchasing power from previous decades, he told reporters May 8 in Mexico City. The share of Mexicans suffering from food poverty — lack of access to healthy, nutritious meals — fell to 19 percent in 2010 from 24 percent in 2000, according to government data.

A press official from the Mexican finance ministry didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Partly as a result of muted wage growth, Mexico’s per- capita GDP has risen 48 percent since 1999 on a purchasing- power-parity basis, the least among Latin America’s seven biggest economies, according to the IMF. By comparison, Venezuela climbed 51 percent, Brazil increased 73 percent and Peru more than doubled.

Time Lost

The lack of opportunities has spurred an exodus of 12 million Mexicans to the U.S. in the past four decades, more than half illegally, according to a study published in April by the Washington-based Pew Research Center. While net migration dropped to zero between 2005 and 2010, and some Mexican immigrants may be returning home because of the weak U.S. job market, departures northward could resume if the U.S. expansion picks up, Pew said.

“We need to make up for time lost over the past four or five years in the area of employment and salaries,” former President Vicente Fox, of Calderon’s PAN party, said in a May 2 interview in Mexico City. “The challenge for the next government is very big.”

Poor Performance

Boosting Mexico’s productivity won’t be easy, given the poor performance of the country’s schools and the size of its underground economy, which the government says employs 29 percent of the workforce.

The nation’s education system ranks last out of 34 countries for enrolled high school-age students, behind regional rivals Chile, Argentina and Brazil, according to a 2011 study by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The study included non-OECD members.

Improving education and generating better-paying jobs may also help the next government turn the tide in the battle against the nation’s drug cartels. A bloody turf war between rival gangs has claimed more than 47,000 lives since Calderon took office in 2006 and the government estimates that the drug war shaves 1.2 percentage points off economic output annually.

Skill Shortages

Delphi Automotive Plc (DLPH), the former parts unit of General Motors Co. (GM), has been addressing the skilled-labor shortage by training engineering students at its factories in the border city of Ciudad Juarez. About half of the Troy, Michigan-based company’s global workforce of 101,000 is employed in its 46 Mexico plants, compared with less than 30 percent in China.

While wages for some engineering jobs are rising, Delphi isn’t concerned that salaries will spike anytime soon, said Enrique Calvillo, the company’s human-resources manager in Mexico.

“We are always monitoring this, and we don’t see the possibility of an extreme boom in the next two or three years,” he said in a telephone interview from Ciudad Juarez.

That’s bad news for Antonio Chavero, who makes less than $1,000 a month as an engineering supervisor with three decades of experience in the car industry and who works at a parts plant in the central state of Queretaro. While he does metalwork in his basement to supplement his income and support his daughter, who is a teenage mother, his family still doesn’t earn enough to eat meat more than once a week, he said.

“I supervise 15 workers,” Chavero said. “I should be making more money.”

Source: Bloomberg, 15.06.2012   Nacha Cattan in Mexico City at ncattan@bloomberg.net; Eric Martin in Mexico City at emartin21@bloomberg.net

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

Market Data Technology to Hit $3.6B in 2012

Demand for market data acceleration is driving the global investment in sell-side, market-data distribution technology in 2012 to $3.6 billion, according to a report released by the Tabb Group.

The report, Market Data Acceleration: More than Just Speed, also predicts 4.5% compound annual growth in these investments for the next three years based on expected growth in FX, Derivatives and Commodities as well as movement by Asian markets towards automation.

The largest segment of this investment, 73%, will come from Europe and North America, but according to Tabb Group, there’s considerable growth potential from the Asian markets.

Moreover, while the equities markets are matured from a growth perspective, driving 45% of the global spend, a strong percentage of growth will come from over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives, FX and commodities.

According to the report, market data is an area where performance can play a crucial role for a host of trading activities. Obtaining, decoding and utilizing market data in a timely and efficient manner are no longer the purview of the ultra-low-latency firms; everyone involved needs to be able to get at market data in as timely a fashion as possible.

“This is not to say that everyone needs to be at the ‘tip of the spear’; however, it does mean that anyone who is actively involved in trading needs to be moving in that direction,” said the report.

However, according to the research firm, firms are struggling with conflicting pressures of the “need for speed” in comparison to the “need to save,” as they try reconcile price with performance.

“Market participants need to ensure that their investment in speed gets them more than just a solitary solution for a single platform,” said Tabb partner and report writer Alexander Tabb in a statement.

Different firms, according to Tabb, have different strategies, thus different needs. Whether a firm is a high frequency trader, an institutional market maker, or an algo-trading desk, the challenge is placing speed into its proper context within the accelerated market data equation.

“Due to the democratization of speed, it’s essential for every buyer to remember to factor in total cost of ownership, price versus performance, operational flexibility, control, scalability and time-to-market,” says the report.

Source: Securities Technology Monitor. 23.04.2012

Filed under: Data Management, Data Vendor, Market Data, , , , , , , , , , ,

LEI (Legal Entity Identifier) set to arrive in waves

A new system giving financial institutions standardized Legal Entity Identifiers (LEIs) will start to be phased in next year after an international organization finalizes new standards in January 2012.

LEI requirements for a Global Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) Solution May 2011
LEI industry progress and  recommendation July 2011

The Geneva-based International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is expected to approve a plan for LEIs at the beginning of next year, calling for them to consist of 20 alphanumeric characters. After that happens, the infrastructure is already in place to start issuing the IDs early in 2012, according to officials with the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.

“Assuming the standard is approved by early January, our expectations are that legal entities will be able to register in short order for an LEI,” said Tom Price, managing director and head of SIFMA’s technology, operations and business continuity planning group.

During the financial crisis, both regulators and institutions realized they did not have the information available to quickly address issues of counterparty risk. LEIs aim to change that by using a universal code that would allow counterparties to be easily identified.

The United States has provided much of the leadership behind the push for LEIs, but the concept enjoys broad support around the globe. The registering authority for LEIs will not come from any government, but rather from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT).

After the ISO finalizes the standard, the next step will be rule writing, which is already underway at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission with respect to swaps. Price said LEIs will be used first for swaps participants and then gradually adopted for transactions involving other types of assets until they are required for all trades.

David Strongin, who is also a managing director at SIFMA, said the U.S. will be the first country to require LEIs, but Hong Kong and Canada will likely follow fairly quickly. The European Union has committed to adopting LEIs as well, though it is unclear whether Europe will adopt the system all at once or phase it in country by country.

Strongin stressed, however, that there is a global consensus to move forward, even if not every nation and region mandates LEIs at the same time.

“The G20, both the finance ministers and leaders, have all endorsed this,” Strongin said. “From a very high level, you don’t see disagreement that an LEI is needed. I think everyone agrees that it’s an important tool to build the foundation for risk management.”

Strongin said that while many traders might not see it right now, most firms are currently working hard to prepare for LEIs. Eventually, however, the changes will touch every facet of the industry. “There’s a lot of work going on, though there’s only so much you can do until you see the final rules,” Price added.

Source: Traders Magazine, 18.11.2011

Filed under: Data Management, Reference Data, Risk Management, Standards, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

ETF Industry Highlights – April 2011 – BlackRock

Global ETF and ETP industry:

Record April net inflows with US$25.3 Bn.

Record YTD net inflows in the first four months with US$67.2 Bn through the end of April 2011.

The global ETF industry had 2,670 ETFs with 6,021 listings and assets of US$1,469.8 Bn, from 140 providers on 48 exchanges around the world at the end of April 2011. This compares to 2,189 ETFs with 4,354 listings and assets of US$1,113.1 Bn from 122 providers on 42 exchanges, at the end of April 2010.

The global ETF and ETP industry combined, had 3,819 products with 7,893 listings, assets of US$1,670.9 Bn from 176 providers on 52 exchanges around the world. This compares to 2,967 products with 5,453 listings, assets of US$1,295.1 Bn from 150 providers on 44 exchanges, at the end of April 2010.

United States ETF and ETP industry:

Record April net inflows with US$22.4 Bn.
Record YTD net inflows in the first four months with US$51.5 Bn through the end of April 2011.
The ETF industry in the United States had 972 ETFs and assets of US$997.3 Bn, from 29 providers on two exchanges at the end of April 2011. This compares to 839 ETFs and assets of US$764.0 Bn, from 28 providers on two exchanges at the end of April 2010.
US$22.4 Bn of net new assets went into United States listed ETFs/ETPs in April 2011. US$16.7 Bn net inflows went into equity ETFs/ETPs, of which US$9.8 Bn went into ETFs/ETPs tracking US equity indices and US$3.5 Bn went into ETFs/ETPs tracking emerging markets equity indices. Fixed income ETFs/ETPs saw net inflows of US$2.9 Bn, of which US$0.7 Bn went into corporate bond ETFs/ETPs and US$0.6 Bn went into Government bond ETFs/ETPs. Commodity ETFs/ETPs saw net inflows of US$1.8 Bn, of which US$2.4 Bn went into ETFs/ETPs providing exposure to precious metals, while ETFs/ETPs providing exposure to energy experienced US$0.9 Bn net outflows in April 2011.
Of the US$45.5 Bn of net new assets in United States listed ETFs in April 2011, Vanguard gathered the largest net inflows with US$13.2 Bn, followed by iShares with US$12.7 Bn net inflows, while Bank of New York had the largest net outflows with US$1.4 Bn in 2011 YTD.

European ETF and ETP industry:

The European ETF industry had 1,128 ETFs with 3,952 listings and assets of US$328.2 Bn, from 39 providers on 23 exchanges at the end of April 2011. This compares to 932 ETFs with 2,748 listings and assets of US$234.3 Bn from 36 providers on 18 exchanges, at the end of April 2010.
US$3.6 Bn of net new assets went into European listed ETFs/ETPs in April 2011. US$2.8 Bn net inflows went into equity ETFs/ETPs, of which US$1.6 Bn went into ETFs/ETPs providing emerging markets exposure while ETFs/ETPs providing broad European exposure saw net outflows of US$1.2 Bn. Fixed income ETFs/ETPs saw net outflows of US$0.4 Bn, of which money market ETFs/ETPs experienced US$0.3 Bn net outflows while high yield ETFs/ETPs saw net inflows of US$0.2 Bn. US$1.1 Bn net inflows went into commodity ETFs/ETPs, of which US$0.5 Bn went into ETFs/ETPs providing exposure to precious metals and US$0.4 Bn went into ETFs/ETPs providing broad commodity exposure.
Of the US$2.8 Bn of net new assets in European listed ETFs in April 2011, Source Markets gathered the largest net inflows with US$0.9 Bn, followed by db x-trackers with US$0.6 Bn net inflows, while iShares and Lyxor Asset Management had the largest net outflows with US$0.2 Bn.


Asia Pacific (ex-Japan) ETF industry:

The Asia Pacific (ex-Japan) ETF industry had 250 ETFs with 362 listings and assets of US$58.6 Bn, from 63 providers on 13 exchanges at the end of April 2011. This compares to 168 ETFs with 267 listings and assets of US$44.4 Bn, from 53 providers on 13 exchanges, at the end of April 2010.


Japan ETF industry:

The Japanese ETF industry had 84 ETFs with 88 listings and assets of US$29.4 Bn, from seven providers on three exchanges at the end of April 2011. This compares to 70 ETFs with 73 listings and assets of US$26.3 Bn from six providers on two exchanges, at the end of April 2010. There are 178 ETFs which have filed notifications in Japan.


Latin America ETF industry:

The Latin American ETF industry had 27 ETFs, with 407 listings and assets of US$10.4 Bn, from four providers on three exchanges at the end of April 2011. This compares to 21 ETFs, with 243 listings and assets of US$9.1 Bn from three providers on three exchanges, at the end of April 2010.


Canada ETF industry:

The Canadian ETF industry had 180 ETFs and assets of US$43.1 Bn, from four providers on one exchange at the end of April 2011. This compares to 134 ETFs and assets of US$33.0 Bn from four providers on one exchange, at the end of April 2010.

Source: BlackRock, Carral, May 2011

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

ETF panorama: Aspectos Destacados del 1er Quartal 2011 BlackRock

La industria global de los ETFs mantiene la trayectoria ascendente con la que inició el año, si se comparan los 2,605 ETFs con activos por USD$1,399.4 millones al cierre del primer trimestre de 2011, con respecto de los 2,131 ETFs con activos por USD$1.082 mil millones en el mismo periodo de 2010.  _ETF  Reporte 1er Quartal 2011

En Latinoamérica el sector de ETFs cuenta con 26 ETFs, 405 listados y activos bajo administración por USD $10.2 mil millones, de ocho proveedores en tres bolsas, que se comparan con 21 ETFs, 231 listados y activos por USD$9.3 mil millones de tres proveedores en tres mercados que había a finales del primer trimestre de 2010.

Como sabes, los ETFs son instrumentos que siguen índices, listados y cotizados en mercados bursátiles, que proporcionan transparencia diaria al portafolio. El reporte da cobertura a los productos Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) a escala global e incluye rankings de proveedores de ETFs e índices globales, en Estados Unidos, Europa, Japón, Asia, Latinoamérica, Medio Oriente y Africa.

Además, incluye comentarios respecto al impacto en los mercados de inversión global debido a acontecimientos como los disturbios en países de Oriente Medio y norte de Africa, así como desastres naturales como el terremoto y tsunami, y la consecuente catástrofe nuclear en Japón.

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

Source: BlackRock- Carral Sierra, 06.05.2011

Filed under: Asia, Exchanges, Latin America, Library, News, Services, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Financial Market Predictions for 2011 by BlackRock’s Bob Doll

US STOCKS WILL RECORD  3rd STRAIGHT YEAR OF DOUBLE DIGIT GAINS
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, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Charles River Development Wins Buy-Side Technology’s “Best Buy-Side OMS” Award for 4th Consecutive Year

Single, consolidated platform streamlines workflows and lowers costs and risks for buy-side firms

Charles River Development (Charles River), a front- and middle-office investment software solutions provider, today announced that the Charles River Investment Management System (Charles River IMS) has won the Buy-Side Technology Award for “Best Buy-Side Order Management System” for the fourth consecutive year.

“Once again, this award validates Charles River’s commitment to empower portfolio managers, traders and compliance officers with advanced tools that improve efficiencies and reduce risk and costs,” said Peter Lambertus, President and Chief Executive Officer, Charles River Development. “Our continued investment in research and development delivers flexible, scalable solutions to support requirements of both large and small firms.”

Judges for the Buy-Side Technology Awards 2010 included leading buy-side-focused technology consultancy firms. These experts selected Charles River IMS as a multi-asset, multi-currency solution for automated decision support and portfolio management, real-time pre- and post-trade compliance and global FIX trading.

The Buy-Side Technology award follows Charles River’s recent recognition for “Best Buy-Side Technology Firm” by Asia Asset Management Best of the Best Awards and the “FinTech Top 100,” American Banker/Financial Insights 2010.

Source: Charles River Development, 08.11.2010

Filed under: Asia, Brazil, FIX Connectivity, Latin America, Mexico, Risk Management, Trading Technology, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Brazil: Clouds still surround the US economy – October 2010- IXE BANIF – Monthly Analysis

Fear now is of deflation in the US

The US economy has shown signs of weakness since the beginning of 2H10 and now indications of a possible deflation have surfaced. This new fear is like a two edged sword. On one hand, the imminent risk of deflation is a deterioration from previous conditions but on the other, it might force the Central Bank to accelerate its actions to stimulate the economy. In our opinion, the market would see faster action as positive in the short term. In this respect, it is worth mentioning that the first set of economic indicators released in October displayed neutral results.

In the absence of strong market drivers worldwide in October, and with a weak local agenda (the most important factor is the Presidential elections), we believe the trend is likely to be neutral for the month, although with volatility. We foresaw the same scenario for September, but the 6.6% appreciation of the Ibovespa, caused by the easing of economic concerns, surprised us.

In Europe, we have clouds in Ireland after the Irish Central Bank announced that Allied Irish Bank would need around €30bn of extra capital by year-end. However, in our view, if problems in the region remain contained to Greece and Ireland, Europe should not be a concern and ought to continue its slow recovery. In Asia, we expect neutral events, with no problems arising in China.

Brazil – Monthly Allocation – October 2010

In October, with no major operation scheduled, we believe the market will follow the economic and political news more closely. This month, we have made substantial changes in our portfolio, substituting companies having 35% of our previous total weight. The new names are PDG Realty (with a 10% weight), OGX, CSN and Itaú (with 5% each). We have also increased the weights of Telesp (from 5 to 10%) and Vale (from 15 to 20%).

Outlook for Brazil continues Bright

In Brazil, we expect the current strong economic demand to continue and believe in the likelihood of an upward revision for 2011 GDP growth forecasts, currently at 4.5% (Focus poll). For 2010, growth is relatively undisputed to be in the 7.5-8% range.

In our opinion, the political dispute in the presidential campaign can bring about one of three scenarios to affect the stock market: 1) Labor’s party, Dilma, wins in the first round; 2) a second round takes place, with a continuation of Dilma’s current advantage or 3) Dilma loses ground in a possible second round. We believe that the first and second scenarios are likely to have no effect on the market, as we have seen no response to Dilma’s advantage so far. If the third scenario takes place, it is likely to bring more volatility to the market. Investors may view this as positive but, as they note that the difference between the two candidates is in the details instead of being radical, the event should have limited positive impact. In overall terms, we think a second round would be beneficial, as it would force a greater balance between the country’s political forces.

Source: IXE-BANIF, 01.10.2010

Filed under: BM&FBOVESPA, Brazil, Exchanges, News, , , , , , , , , , ,

Mexico: safer than Canada ? safer than Brazil!

K, so the headline is a bit of a fib. But a report on Mexico’s security situation has painted a more detailed picture than the one we hear about in the news most of the time. When I told friends I was moving to Mexico City, some asked if I would be provided with a bodyguard (no). Business travellers are thinking twice about coming, according to chambers of commerce here. But a detailed breakdown of violence released this week shows that, if you pick your state, you’re as safe—or safer—than in any other North American country.

Mexico’s overall homicide rate is 14 per 100,000 inhabitants: fearsomely high (and possibly an underestimate, given the drugs cartels’ habit of hiding bodies in old mines), but quite a lot lower than its great Latin rival Brazil, whose rate is more like 25. As the chart below shows, Mexico’s death rate is bumped up by extraordinarily high levels of violence in four states: Chihuahua (home of Ciudad Juárez, widely labelled the world’s most murderous city), Durango, Sinaloa and Guerrero (see p.29 of this document). Of the rest, some are blissfully serene: Yucatán, where tourists flock to swim with whale sharks and clamber over Chichen Itzá, has a murder rate of 1.7—slightly lower than Canada’s average of 2.1.

Read full article in the Economist

Before I am buried an avalanche of polite Canadian emails, I should acknowledge that comparing an entire country with one quiet state is hardly fair: there are no doubt parts of Canada where no-one has been so much as kicked in the shin for decades. But Mexico’s predicament is worth highlighting, because the extreme violence around its border with the United States colours people’s view of the rest of the country, though much of it is pretty quiet. A third of Mexico’s states hover around 5 murders per 100,000, about the same rate as the United States. Another third are around 8 per 100,000, similar to Thailand, for instance. A handful of states have rates in the teens—like Russia, say—and a couple are in the low twenties, a little lower than Brazil’s average. Then you have the chaos of the four very violent states, which sends the average soaring.

The carnage in Mexico’s badlands is not to be underestimated, and nor does it seem to be getting any better. Business travellers should certainly watch out in places such as Juárez and, these days, even in cities such as Monterrey. But people doing business south of the Rio Grande should remember that, even on average, Mexico is a less murderous country than places such as Brazil, and that once you avoid the hotspots, it’s downright safe.

Source: The Economist, 27.08.2010

Filed under: Brazil, Latin America, Mexico, News, Thailand, , , , , , , , ,

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’s QDII ETFs … taken with a pinch of salt

Despite the fanfare from QDII ETF issuers and the Shanghai Stock Exchange, these products are unlikely to achieve the lofty aims set for them.

If Shanghai Stock Exchange’s general manager, Zhang Yujun, is to be believed, China’s new generation of exchange-traded funds under the qualified domestic institutional investor (QDII) scheme will be ready for launch shortly.

The Shanghai bourse is keen to put its hotly anticipated products onto the market as soon as possible. It has marked 2010 down as a year of innovation, with the number of domestic and overseas ETF launches potentially hitting 10 for this year.

But it’s not the domestic ETFs that industry execs in Shanghai or around the region are buzzing about, but the overseas ETFs the SSE is championing. Market players are wondering what the developments will mean for the QDII market and what China’s fund flows in the region will look like after these products are made available.

The names now lining up in the QDII ETF pipeline include: China Southern, with its planned launch of a S&P 500 tracker; Beijing-based China Asset Management, which is going with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index; Harvest Fund Management, the new proud owner of Deutsche Asset Management’s Asian investment platform, using the Dow Jones Industrial Average; Shanghai’s Fortune SGAM, which will soon see its foreign stake transferred to Société Générale’s alternatives arm, Lyxor, and whose ETF tracks the Topix Core 30; not to mention Huaan’s newly announced initiative to track the FTSE 100.

In one fell swoop, the SSE is making available assets from around the world. Investors in China, at the click of a trade, will be able to access asset classes from US and UK equities to regional Asian exposures and Hong Kong and Japanese stocks.

(The list above does not cover Guotai Fund Management, one of the earliest Chinese houses wanting to license an index for an overseas ETF, which recently realised it will not attract enough liquidity for a niche index such as the Nasdaq 100. It is now quietly calling its product an “index-tracking fund”, instead of an ETF. Nor does the list include Penghua Fund, whose high-profile announcement of its supposed deal to have contracted three MSCI Barra indices was never confirmed by MSCI.)

Zhang says the Shanghai bourse wants to play its part in ‘standardising’ asset management. Index-based products are easily understood by investors, and through the standardisation process, the SSE believes it will bring transparency and even discourage moral hazards among asset managers.

Better yet, since trading and management fees for ETF instruments are traditionally the lowest for products globally, the introduction of ETF competition into the Chinese market should help bring down the high fees usually seen in the active management sector. And the way Zhang sees it, passive and index-based investments will eventually outperform.

Yet all these laudable ambitions should be taken with a pinch of salt. Far from having developed ETFs that come up to expectations, the SSE’s versions of these products and the underlying mechanism are hardly on a par with developed-market ETFs.

In particular, sources say the SSE boss’s comments are meant for domestic consumption — the exchange has been publicly pressuring the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) into approving the ETF launches, which were planned to have happened as early as November last year.

Why the regulatory hesitation? The CSRC was an early champion of introducing more liquid and transparent ETFs to China. But the SSE has not resolved the multiple technical barriers limiting the listing of an efficient overseas product in the country, as is revealed by an early blueprint for the Harvest Dow tracker jointly designed by Harvest and the SSE, and made public by the exchange. The SSE has made compromises in the design and the trading mechanisms of these supposed ETFs.

Amid the fanfare created by the issuing fund houses and even the SSE itself, one key point appears to be overlooked. The unspoken truth is that since the bourse has failed to tackle the underlying issues, the planned ETFs could only trade on exchanges as closed-end funds and would largely fail to deliver the many benefits normally expected of genuine ETFs.

These products will face challenges from day one, including: time differences in settlement cycles between the SSE and the exchange of the underlying index’s traded market; the lag in trading hours between China and underlying securities; the limitations of China’s lack of market-making mechanisms, and its reliance on its unique arbitrage mechanisms for levelling ETF traded prices and net asset values; and China’s foreign exchange restrictions, which currently only allow for monthly repatriation of capital. All of which the SSE has acknowledged in its white paper on ETFs that is available to the public.

Bound by these limitations, these products will not be able, for example, to perform continuous creation of units like normal ETFs, unlike even the very same strategies traded in Hong Kong. The NAVs will be largely static during the trading hours in China, though the ETF prices will be subject to supply-demand swings. (Hong Kong’s platform is backed by market-makers, unlike Shanghai’s, which is highly sensitive to liquidity and the level of trading among arbitrageurs on underlying strategies.)

The question then becomes: will China ever attract enough interest among arbitrageurs to trade on these faraway markets without real-time information? After all, when China trades, the US and the UK markets will be largely closed. Even for markets that sit in Asian time zones and close at hours overlapping China’s, there will be time differences on the settlement cycles. Arbitrageurs, therefore, will have to trade by assuming and incurring all risks themselves.

For example, a Ping An Hong Kong subsidiary doesn’t trade on the books of Ping An’s mainland entity. Legal status still withstanding, they are very different entities. One unit south of the border going short, cannot be reconciled from an accounting perspective by a separate unit going long north of the border. So, from where and how will these arbitrageurs emerge?

Because of the many compromises the Shanghai bourse has made to fit QDII ETFs into the existing — but highly unique — domestic ETF mechanism, the forthcoming international instruments can largely only be ETFs in name but not substance. An even better way to understand them is actually to see them as the equivalent of ‘listed open funds’ or ‘Lofs’ — products peculiar to China.

Ultimately, QDII ETFs are no different from closed-end funds — so why the current fuss over them? Sources close to the Shanghai bourse’s advisory panel say there’s really no reason for it — they are just another group of products to add to China’s well stocked shelf.

Nonetheless, they offer a slightly better alternative to the many internally managed and largely cost-return-inefficient QDII active funds now available in the market. And the idea of ETFs from a marketing perspective will no doubt catch on.

But even the mere illusion of innovation in the QDII market may be a false dawn. Both active and passive QDII managers will continue to be plagued by domestic expectations of further renminbi appreciation and by the bad reputation of the first generation of QDII products still freshly and firmly fixed in the minds of Chinese investors.

To wit, E-fund — the second biggest Chinese fund house, no less — kicked off the year with a fundraising attempt of just $86.6 million for its first QDII product.

Source: AsianInvestors.net, 10.03.2010 by Liz Mak

Filed under: Asia, China, Exchanges, Hong Kong, Japan, News, , , , , , , , ,

Mexico the NEW China ?

When it comes to global manufacturing, Mexico is quickly emerging as the “new” China.

According to corporate consultant AlixPartners, Mexico has leapfrogged China to be ranked as the cheapest country in the world for companies looking to manufacture products for the U.S. market. India is now No. 2, followed by China and then Brazil.

In fact, Mexico’s cost advantages and has become so cheap that even Chinese companies are moving there to capitalize on the trade advantages that come from geographic proximity.

The influx of Chinese manufacturers began early in the decade, as China-based firms in the cellular telephone, television, textile and automobile sectors began to establish maquiladora operations in Mexico. By 2005, there were 20-25 Chinese manufacturers operating in such Mexican states Chihuahua, Tamaulipas and Baja.

The investments were generally small, but the operations had managed to create nearly 4,000 jobs, Enrique Castro Septien, president of the Consejo Nacional de la Industria Maquiladora de Exportacion (CNIME), told the SourceMex news portal in a 2005 interview.

China’s push into Mexico became more concentrated, with China-based automakers Zhongxing Automobile Co., First Automotive Works (in partnership with Mexican retail/media heavyweight Grupo Salinas), Geely Automobile Holdings (PINK: GELYF) and ChangAn Automobile Group Co. Ltd. (the Chinese partner of Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) and Suzuki Motor Corp.), all announced plans to place automaking factories in Mexico.

Not all the plans would come to fruition. But Geely’s plan called for a three-phase project that would ultimately involve a $270 million investment and have a total annual capacity of 300,000 vehicles. ChangAn wants to churn out 50,000 vehicles a year. Both companies are taking these steps with the ultimate goal of selling cars to U.S. consumers.

Mexico’s allure as a production site that can serve the U.S. market isn’t limited to China-based suitors. U.S. companies are increasingly realizing that Mexico is a better option than China. Analysts are calling it “nearshoring” or “reverse globalization.” But the reality is this: With wages on the rise in China, ongoing worries about whipsaw energy and commodity prices, and a dollar-yuan relationship that’s destined to get much uglier before it has a chance of improving, manufacturers with an eye on the American market are increasingly realizing that Mexico trumps China in virtually every equation the producers run.

“China was like a recent graduate, hitting the job market for the first time and willing to work for next to nothing,” Mexico-manufacturing consultant German Dominguez told the Christian Science Monitor in an interview last year. But now China is experiencing “the perfect storm … it’s making Mexico – a country that had been the ugly duckling when it came to costs – look a lot better.”

The real eye opener was a 2008 speculative frenzy that sent crude oil prices up to a record level in excess of $147 a barrel – an escalation that caused shipping prices to soar. Suddenly, the labor cost advantage China enjoyed wasn’t enough to overcome the costs of shipping finished goods thousands of miles from Asia to North America. And that reality kick-started the concept of “nearshoring,” concluded an investment research report by Canadian investment bank CIBC World Markets Inc. (NYSE: CM)

“In a world of triple-digit oil prices, distance costs money,” the CIBC research analysts wrote. “And while trade liberalization and technology may have flattened the world, rising transport prices will once again make it rounder.”

Indeed, four factors are at work here.

Mexico’s “Fab Four”

  • The U.S.-Mexico Connection: There’s no question that China’s role in the post-financial-crisis world economy will continue to grow in importance. But contrary to the conventional wisdom, U.S. firms still export three times as much to Mexico as they do to China. Mexico gets 75% of its foreign direct investment from the United States, and sends 85% of its exports back across U.S. borders. As China’s cost and currency advantages dissipate, the fact that the United States and Mexico are right next to one another makes it logical to keep the factories in this hemisphere – if for no other reason that to shorten the supply chain and to hold down shipping costs. This is particularly important for companies like Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), Whirlpool Corp. (NYSE: WHR) and even the beleaguered auto parts maker Delphi Corp. (PINK: DPHIQ) which are involved in just-in-time manufacturing that requires parts be delivered only as fast as they are needed.
  • The Lost Cost Advantage: A decade or more ago, in any discussion of manufactured product costs, Asia was hands-down the low-cost producer. That’s a given no more. Recent reports – including the analysis by AlixPartners – show that Asia’s production costs are 15% or 20% higher than they were just four years ago. A U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report from March reaches the same conclusion. Compensation costs in East Asia – a region that includes China but excludes Japan – rose from 32% of U.S. wages in 2002 to 43% in 2007, the most recent statistics available. And since wages are advancing at a rate of 8% to 9% a year, and many types of taxes are escalating, too, East Asia’s overall costs have no doubt escalated even more in the two years since the BLS figures were reported.
  • The Creeping Currency Crisis: For the past few years, U.S. elected officials and corporate executives alike have groused that China keeps its currency artificially low to boost its exports, while also reducing U.S. imports. The U.S. trade deficit with China has soared, growing by $20.2 billion in August alone to reach $143 billion so far this year. The currency debate will be part of the discussion when U.S. President Barack Obama visits China starting Monday. Because China’s yuan has strengthened so much, goods made in China may not be the bargain they once were. Those currency crosscurrents aren’t a problem with the U.S. and Mexico, however. As of Monday, the dollar was down about 15% from its March 2009 high. At the same time, however, the Mexican peso had dropped 20% versus the dollar. So while the yuan was getting stronger as the dollar got cheaper, the peso was getting even cheaper versus the dollar.
  • Trade Alliance Central: Everyone’s familiar with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  But not everyone understands the impact that NAFTA has had. It isn’t just window-dressing: Mexico’s trade with the United States and Canada has tripled since NAFTA was enacted in 1994. What’s more, Mexico has 12 free-trade agreements that involve more than 40 countries – more than any other country and enough to cover more than 90% of the country’s foreign trade. Its goods can be exported – duty-free – to the United States, Canada, the European Union, most of Central and Latin America, and to Japan.

In the global scheme of things, what I am telling you here probably won’t be a game-changer when it comes to China. That country is an economic juggernaut and is a market that U.S. investors cannot afford to ignore.  Given China’s emerging strength and its increasingly dominant financial position, it’s going to have its own consumer markets to service for decades to come.

Two Profit Play Candidates

From a regional standpoint, these developments all show that we’re in the earliest stages of what could be an even-closer Mexican/American relationship – enhancing the existing trade partnership in ways that benefit companies on both sides of the border (even companies that hail from other parts of the world).

In the meantime, we’ll be watching for signs of a resurgent Mexican manufacturing industry that’s ultimately driven by Chinese companies – because we know the American companies doing business with them will enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Since this is an early stage opportunity best for investors capable of stomaching some serious volatility, we’ll be watching for those Mexican companies likely to benefit from the capital that’s being newly deployed in their backyard.

Two of my favorite choices include:

  • Wal Mart de Mexico SAB de CV (OTC ADR: WMMVY): Also known as “Walmex,” this retailer has all the advantages of investing in its U.S. counterpart – albeit with a couple of twists. Walmex’s third-quarter profits were up 18% and the company just started accepting bank deposits, a service that should boost store traffic. And while the U.S. retail market is highly saturated – which limits growth opportunities – there are still plenty of places to build Walmex stores south of the border. After all, somebody has to sell products to all those thousands of workers likely to be involved in the growing maquiladora sector.
  • Coca-Cola FEMSA SAB de CV (NYSE ADR: KOF): Things truly do go better with Coke – especially higher wages and an improved lifestyle. According to Reuters, Mexicans now consume more Coca-Cola beverages per capita than any other nation in the world. The company just posted a 25% jump in its third-quarter net earnings, aided by a strong 21% jump in revenue. Coca-Cola FEMSA continues to experience strong growth from its Oxxo convenience stores, and strong beer sales, too. And all three product groups are logical beneficiaries of strong maquiladora development and the growing incomes and rising family wealth that will translate into higher consumer spending in the immediately surrounding areas.

Source: Money Morning, 13.11.2009 by Keith Fitz-Gerald, Chief Investment Strategist,  Money Morning/The Money Map Report

Filed under: Brazil, China, Countries, India, Latin America, Mexico, News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

Filed under: Asia, Brazil, China, Energy & Environment, India, Japan, Latin America, News, Risk Management, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

World Bank warning on status of the US Dollar

World Bank president Robert Zoellick has given the United States a warning over the future of the dollar as the world’s key reserve currency.

He said: “The United States would be mistaken to take for granted the dollar’s place as the world’s predominant reserve currency. “Looking forward, there will increasingly be other options to the dollar.”

Mr Zoellick will deliver the warning as part of a speech at the John Hopkins University in Washington DC later today (Monday September 28th 2009).

In the speech, he will say that the huge economic changes of the last two decades, which started with the breakdown of Communist economies in the Soviet Union and across Eastern Europe, have seen the emergence of India and China as economic powers thanks to the reforms they made.

Mr Zoellick, who replaced Paul Wolfowitz as World Bank president in 2007, will also call on the G-20 to work as a steering group for international economic co-operation.

He will suggest that countries with emerging economies should be treated as responsible stakeholders by the G-20, while recognizing that many developing nations face the challenge of bringing millions of their citizens out of poverty.

Source: Worldbank, 28.09.2009

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