David Fuller and Eoin Treacy's Comment of the Day
Category - General

    As China's Debt Balloons, Emerging Markets Fail to Take Off

    This article by John Authers and Lauren Leatherby for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    Within China, all forms of debt have risen, reflecting a shift in the dynamics of its economy. Before the crisis, China had largely managed to finance its growth without recourse to much debt. The inflows from exports had done the job. The population, fast reaching middle-class living standards, still tended to fund itself conservatively. But household debt has almost tripled from 18.8% of China’s GDP before the crisis to 51.2%. All this debt has successively less impact in stimulating economic growth.

    There are reasons why China’s debt is not creating greater fears. If countries want to avoid crisis, issuing a greater share of debt in their own currency is key. This avoids the risk that a devaluation can force them into default, and it leaves them with the option—not necessarily a good one—of printing money to escape difficulties.

    China does more than 90% of its borrowing in local currency, which limits the risks somewhat. Meanwhile, almost all large emerging markets now do more than half of their borrowing in their own currency. But not all emerging markets have made uniform progress in converting to local market debt. The two biggest exceptions are Argentina and Turkey—and it is no coincidence that these two countries both slipped into crisis during 2018 as a strong dollar put pressure on their currencies.

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    Google, Facebook Tumble Amid Heightened Antitrust Scrutiny

    This article by Gerrit De Vynck and David McLaughlin for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    American antitrust officials are under increasing pressure from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers to step up scrutiny of technology giants, and several presidential candidates have already weighed in. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren laid out a detailed plan for breaking up the
    tech giants in March.

    European officials have already been aggressively pursuing antitrust cases against American tech firms, including Google, while so far the U.S. has been mostly hands-off.  That may be changing amid continuing criticism that lax enforcement in the U.S. has allowed tech platforms to dominate their markets. The FTC earlier this year set up a task force to examine the conduct of tech companies and their past mergers.

    President Donald Trump and many Republicans have complained that Facebook, Google and Twitter Inc. suppress conservative views.

    Google, with a sprawling empire of businesses that could feasibly be targets, is in the dark about the focus of the investigation and hopes to learn more this week, according to another person familiar with the situation.

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    What Trade War? Africa Sidesteps Tariffs, Starts Free-Trade Pact

    This article by Prinesha Naidoo for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    Africa, largely ignored in a U.S.-China trade war that could roil economies worldwide, is quietly piecing together the world’s largest free-trade zone.

    The African Continental Free Trade Area comes into force on paper on Thursday after the required 22 countries ratified the deal a month ago. Once it’s passed by all 55 nations recognized as part of the African Union, it would cover a market of 1.2 billion people, with a combined gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion. The potential benefits are obvious, if the usual hurdles of nationalism and protectionism don’t yet stand in the way.

    The deal would help the continent move away from mainly exporting commodities to build manufacturing capacity and industrialize, said Jakkie Cilliers, head of African Futures and Innovation at the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies. Boosting intra-regional trade would spur the construction of roads and railways, reducing the infrastructure gap in Africa, he said.

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    China Threatens Sweeping Blacklist of Firms After Huawei Ban

    This article from Bloomberg news may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:  

    The vague wording of the Chinese state media report opens the door for Beijing to target a broad swathe of the global tech industry -- from U.S. giants like Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Qualcomm Inc. and Intel Corp. to even non-American suppliers that have cut off China’s largest technology company. Those run the gamut from Japan’s Toshiba to Britain’s Arm.

    Shares in Apple Inc. slipped less than 1% while Qualcomm Inc. gained less than 1% and Intel Corp. was little changed in U.S. trading Friday. U.S. stocks slumped as the Trump administration’s trade spats intensified.

    “Surely companies that have announced cutting supplies to Huawei, such as Panasonic and Toshiba, would be under threat,” said Michelle Lam, Greater China economist at Societe Generale SA in Hong Kong. “It could be very damaging to multinational companies.’’

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    Border at 'Breaking Point' as More Than 76,000 Unauthorized Migrants Cross in a Month

    This article from the New York Times posted earlier this month puts some numbers on the scale of the challenge faced in handling migrant issue on the USA’s southern border. Here is a section:

    Understanding what is happening on the border is difficult because, while the numbers are currently higher than they have been in several years, they are nowhere near the historic levels of migration seen across the southwest border. Arrests for illegally crossing the border reached up to 1.64 million in 2000, under President Clinton. In the 2018 fiscal year, they reached 396,579. For the first five months of the current fiscal year, 268,044 have been apprehended.

    The difference is that the nature of immigration has changed, and the demographics of those arriving now are proving more taxing for border officials to accommodate. Most of those entering the country in earlier years were single men, most of them from Mexico, coming to look for work. If they were arrested, they could quickly be deported.

    Now, the majority of border crossers are not single men but families — fathers from Honduras with adolescent boys they are pulling away from gang violence, mothers with toddlers from Guatemala whose farms have been lost to drought. While they may not have a good case to remain in the United States permanently, it is not so easy to speedily deport them if they arrive with children and claim protection under the asylum laws.

    Families with children can be held in detention for no longer than 20 days, under a much-debated court ruling, and since there are a limited number of detention centers certified to hold families, the practical effect is that most families are released into the country to await their hearings in immigration court. The courts are so backlogged that it could take months or years for cases to be decided. Some people never show up for court at all.

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    Energy Prices Crash in Europe as Old and New Fuels Vie for Share

    This article by Mathew Carr, Jeremy Hodges and Eddie van der Walt for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    “LNG is now so cheap it’s competing with coal almost,” said Caroline Bain, chief commodities economist at Capital Economics Ltd., who sees slowing demand for coal. “It’s not actually falling off a cliff. We think it’s going to be a long slow death rather than tomorrow.”

    The price slump is one sign of Europe’s determination to phase out coal as it seeks to slash climate warming emissions without holding back the economy. Renewables are also in the fight for market share, with onshore wind and solar power “fast becoming cheaper than average power prices in Europe’s largest markets,” according to a research by BloombergNEF.

    Front-month Dutch gas prices, a benchmark for Europe, plunged 50% this year as record volumes of LNG landed in northwest Europe. Coal for next year has dropped 30% after a mild winter left inventories at European ports unusually high.

    “There’s too much coal,” said Hans Gunnar Navik, a senior analyst at StormGeo AS. As “natural gas out-competes coal,” renewable generation is replacing both of them, he said.

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    Bond Bears Dust Off Debt Insurance on Wave of Corporate Pain

    This article by Katie Linsell for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    “There are many people now focusing on single-name distressed situations rather than doing plain-vanilla index trades,” said Jochen Felsenheimer, the Munich-based managing director of XAIA Investment GmbH. “There are lots of idiosyncratic situations rather than systematic triggers.”

    Distressed situations are increasing as companies struggle to manage the debt piles they built up during years of largesse. The cost of insuring such companies is surging, with swaps on some of Europe’s riskiest names costing thousands of basis points compared to about 300 basis points for the region’s high-yield benchmark.

    Investors are paying up for protection amid speculation they’ll cash out when companies collapse. Moody’s Investors Service forecasts the speculative-grade default rate in Europe will nearly double to about 2% next year from 0.9% in April.

    “Defaults are still quite low, but swaps are definitely more relevant today than they were a few years ago,” said Justin Jewell, senior portfolio manager at BlueBay Asset Management in London. “For funds that have the flexibility, these tools are becoming effective again.”

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