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February 17 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China's Coffers Are Depleted Just as Virus Spurs Spending

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

China’s top leaders have kept their official deficit target below 3%, partly through belt-tightening, as a gesture to deter excessive borrowing as the nation fights debt on multiple fronts. Yet it has also given way to all types of off-balance sheet borrowing, a problem S&P Global Ratings said may re-emerge this year.

Signs of more proactive fiscal policy have already appeared. The Ministry of Finance allowed local governments to sell more than 1.8 trillion yuan ($258 billion) of debt before the annual budget has been approved. The ministry has also announced targeted tax cuts to help companies and households hit by the virus, partially waived social security premiums or delayed taxes.

“Fiscal policy ought to be counter-cyclical, and the tension between revenue and expenditure shouldn’t be a reason to constrain it,” said Xu Gao, chief economist at BOCI Securities Ltd. in Beijing. “The government should increase the fiscal deficit to cope with the virus, and ease spending pressure by selling more debt.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Economic activity in much of China has ground to a halt. Factories are struggling to get back to full capacity, where they can open at all, and consumer confidence has taken a significant hit so discretionary spending is cratering. That is particularly true in the leisure and travel sectors. There was news today that casinos in Macau are now allowed to open again but it will be a while before consumers have the confidence to go back. We were at lunch with another expat Asian couple yesterday and they are going to skip visiting Asia this year. That’s a pretty common reaction to the evolving scenario. Most people’s conclusion is why take the risk?



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February 13 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China's Record Car-Sales Slump Throws a Curve Ball on Palladium

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

Output in the world’s largest auto market could be cut by more than 1.7 million cars should the spreading virus resulted in more shutdowns of manufacturing facilities across China, lasting into mid-March, according to an IHS Markit estimate last month.

The auto industry accounts for more than 80% of demand for the precious metal, according to a Johnson Matthey report released Wednesday. That makes it difficult for the market to ignore the shutdowns in China.

“The effects on the wider, global supply-chain are also starting to show,” refiner Heraeus Holding GmbH said in a research note. “Plants across Europe and the wider Asia region are also at risk now because of problems sourcing Chinese-made parts.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

The palladium market is another area where investors and traders are paying scant regard to the risk of a Chinese slowdown despite the fact prices are at elevated levels.



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February 12 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

All Your Favorite Brands, From BSTOEM to ZGGCD

This article by John Herrman for the New York Times may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Almost half of top Amazon sellers — those selling more than $1 million in the U.S. — are in China; about a third of Amazon’s Chinese sellers overall are estimated to be in Shenzhen. (This according to Marketplace Pulse, which tracks e-commerce marketplaces.)

Amazon shuttered its Chinese store, Amazon.cn, in 2019, after it failed to crack a market dominated by domestic giants like JD and Alibaba.

But it has been much more successful in recruiting Chinese entrepreneurs to sell abroad, opening “cross-border e-commerce parks,” where sellers can get assistance with logistics, branding, and navigating Amazon’s platform. For the last five years, the company has also hosted summits for Chinese cross-border sellers. Last year’s conference, held in Shanghai, was attended by more than 10,000 sellers, many of whom see, in Amazon, an alternative to increasingly saturated domestic platforms like Taobao.

A seller in America might start with a brand idea and need to figure out how to get it manufactured; a seller connected to a factory in China’s manufacturing capital needs to figure out how to sell to Americans, which Amazon has been working hard to facilitate.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The vast majority of household and personal use products sold in Wal-Mart, Amazon, Target and elsewhere are manufactured in China. Most of the electronics, clothing, and jewellery in stores come from Guangdong. The majority of paper bags, nuts and bolts, toys and other small items come from Zhejiang which is just outside the quarantine area. Manufacturing is also spread over the rest of the country. That suggests the ability of companies to fulfil orders is going to be spotty if they don’t get back to work soon.



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February 11 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

3 Trillion Can't Buy China Out of Virus Trouble

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

Finally, the economic model underlying the reserves creates a complex financial interdependence between Asian central banks and advanced economies, termed the “fatal embrace” by the late Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve. Foreign-exchange reserves represent advances allowing the importing country to buy the exporter’s goods and services on credit. Withdrawing support would risk destroying the value of existing investments and damaging the borrowers’ real economy and export demand.

The interdependence runs deeper. Since 2009, the growth of developing-country reserves is highly correlated to the growth of the balance sheets of advanced-economy central banks, which has been driven by quantitative easing. Attracted by higher returns than available at home, investors moved capital into emerging markets, which in turn supported demand and economic activity in developed economies. This is evident in the increased reliance of many North American, European and Japanese businesses on emerging economies for growth and earnings.

Unfortunately, this cheap capital encouraged rapid rises in debt and increased the risk of future financial instability in many emerging countries. The solution lies in international co-operation to create a new international monetary system and for surplus countries to boost domestic demand.

In a world of rising political tensions, trade wars and adherence to debt and export driven economic models, the prospects for that may appear bleak. Still, this is unfinished business the world will have to return to — once it has got past the economic shock of the coronavirus epidemic.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The strength of the US Dollar over the last ten sessions is at odds with the efforts by the US government and Federal reserve to increase the supply of the currency relative to just about all others. That suggests both repatriation of funds invested overseas as well as the proceeds of carry trades being invested in the USA are supporting the currency. This trend coupled with continued fears about the knock-on effects of the virus scare on economies dependent on China is weighing on Asian markets.



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February 07 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on the coronavirus:

You will have plenty to read on this subject. But this does scare me:

Chinese financial shock gathers steam as world holds its breath on coronavirus

A major slowdown in China could trigger recession and defaults in other parts of the world

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2020/02/07/china-contract-europe-near-recession-world-holds-breath-coronavirus/

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this article which highlights the acute risk to market, particularly in Europe, which rely on Chinese demand. That is as true of the automotive sector as it is of luxury goods. Here is a section:

The disturbing feature is that the European Central Bank’s emergency rate cut and renewed quantitative easing in September have gained so little traction. While it was not literally the ECB’s ‘last throw of the dice’ there is precious little left to play with.

There must now be a serious risk that China’s coronavirus crisis - if prolonged - will push Germany, Italy, and perhaps France into a technical recession, and in so doing expose both the ECB’s credible limits and the eurozone inability to launch meaningful fiscal stimulus under its deflationary ideology and spending laws.

Markets have not yet looked so many moves ahead on the global financial chess board but they might do so within two or three weeks if the corona fever is not broken, and traders tend to shoot first and ask questions later once fear takes hold.

Everything depends on the spread rate and the doubling rate, 2.68 per case and 6.4 days respectively, according to a Lancet study last week. If these figures improve markedly (and can be believed), the storm should blow over. If they do not materially change, the global recessionary dynamic may become unstoppable within weeks.



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February 06 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Wall Street Warnings Grow Louder for Investors Defying Virus

This article by Cecile Gutscher and Anchalee Worrachate for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“Pretty much every client we talk to wants to buy the dip,” wrote Tobias Levkovich, Citigroup Inc.‘s chief U.S. equity strategist in a note. “And that is not comforting.”

The S&P 500 edged higher Thursday, extending the week’s gains to more than 3.5%, as the Stoxx Europe 600 Index climbed to a record and stocks soared in Asia. A gauge of European credit risk hit its lowest since 2007.

Yet the battle against the virus could suffer a setback as factories reopen in China in the coming days and more people come into contact with each other. On the other hand, if factories fail to reopen, the economic impact could prove much more severe.

At Robeco, money manager Jeroen Blokland is eyeing the rally warily. The head of multi-asset funds at the Rotterdam-based firm recently cut an overweight allocation to stocks to neutral because of the spread of coronavirus. He says it’s not yet time to dive back in.

“Every investor is looking for the bottom and wants to find it a little bit earlier than his neighbor,” he said. “We need a little bit more confirmation that the outbreak will be contained before moving again.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

The stock market responds to liquidity because that has an influence on all asset prices and regardless of other short-term factors the Treasury yield is below that of the S&P500 which is generally supportive of the buy the dip strategy. Nevertheless, the stresses coming to bear as a result of the Wuhan Acute Respiratory Syndrome (WARS) are significant and need to be taken seriously.



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February 06 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Japan Seen Needing U.S. Help to Check China's Digital Yuan

This article by Yuko Takeo, Emi Urabe and Toru Fujioka for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section

“We sense the digital yuan is a challenge to the existing global reserve currency system and currency hegemony,” said Nakayama, a top member of the ruling party group that drafted the proposals. “Without the U.S., we cannot counter China’s efforts to challenge the existing reserve currency and international settlement system.”

The comments indicate the heightened concern among policy makers in Japan over the likely impact of a digitized yuan expected for later this year. China’s plan and Facebook’s efforts to launch its own Libra currency have sparked central banks around the world to get up to speed on how digital currencies would function and what their impact could be.

“There are 1.4 billion people in China, so within the one belt, one road digital economic framework, the digital yuan has a high likelihood of becoming the standard within that digital economy,” 

Eoin Treacy's view -

There is no telling just yet how serious China is about setting up a digital currency system but the security and supply elasticity in how it is set up, together with how much it is used on the mainland will be determining factors is whether it is ultimately a success.



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February 06 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Goldman's Currie Likes Palladium on Potential Deficit in China

This article by Elena Mazneva, Francine Lacqua and Tom Keene for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Palladium could be an interesting trade given potential supply disruptions to China because of the coronavirus, Jeffrey Currie, head of global commodities research at Goldman Sachs, told Bloomberg TV.

“The one I like right now that we are watching in the commodity market is palladium -- when palladium gets so tight that you actually start to shut down auto manufacturing.”

Yet, “you don’t know when you hit one of these physical shortages until you actually hit them.”

NOTE: Spot palladium traded near $2,412/oz Thursday, heading for a ~5% weekly gain after dropping a week earlier from record highs.

Currie said last month he sees the potential for palladium to test $3,000/oz, then slide.

Eoin Treacy's view -

With auto manufacturers shutting down production because of a lack of Chinese manufactured intermediate parts, the most bullish forecasts for palladium are being questioned.



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February 03 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Cuts Rates, Injects Liquidity as Mainland Markets Sink

This article by Tian Chen, Yinan Zhao and Miao Han for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“We are fully capable and confident to minimize the impact of the epidemic on the economy.”

Lian also said that while the government would work to ensure the coronavirus didn’t spread further, it would encourage major projects and enterprises in good condition to resume work and production. Policy makers will also roll out measures to soften the impact of the epidemic on a case-by-case basis, especially to try to help industries that have been hit hard, Lian said.

Vice Commerce Minister Wang Bingnan said at the same press conference that many exporters in China have been resuming production, and local governments have been issuing policies to help small and medium-sized companies.

Authorities have pledged to provide abundant liquidity and there seems to be more easing measures in the pipeline. In an interview with the PBOC’s Financial News newspaper, central bank adviser Ma Jun said he expects the PBOC to push the interest rate for new loans lower and to also cut the rate for medium-term funding in February if it uses that facility mid-month, as it usually does.

If that were to happen, it would be a change to a “rather strong” easing bias for the central bank, according to Peiqian Liu, China economist at Natwest Markets Plc in Singapore.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Chinese CSI300 Index opened down 9.1% today with the majority of issues down the 10% limit. While this is a headline grabbing phenomenon, which draws parallels with the pullback in 2015 and also in 2007, the reality is the mainland market is just catching up with the H-Shares in Hong Kong following an extended break to trading.



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February 03 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Saut Strategy February 4th 2020

Thanks to a subscriber for this report which may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

The impeachment argument was indeed a source of worry for the media but the market never seemed to pay it much attention for the simple reason the Republicans have a solid majority in the Senate. Therefore, the entire spectacle was nothing more than crowd pleasing electioneering which did little more than to further emphasise the trend of political polarisation



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January 31 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Says U.S. Response Harmful; Flights Halted: Virus Update

This summary of today’s news from Bloomberg may be of interest. Here is a section:

Chinese officials took issue with U.S. comments about the country’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, and promised they would bring the infection under control.

“U.S. comments are inconsistent with the facts and inappropriate.” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in statement posted online Friday. The World Health Organization “called on countries to avoid adopting travel bans. Yet shortly afterward, the U.S. went in the opposite direction, and started a very bad turn. It is so unkind.”

U.S. officials said this week that they had difficulty getting specialists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the front lines of the outbreak in China, and late Thursday the State Department advised Americans traveling in China to come home. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Thursday also said the outbreak may help bring jobs back to the U.S.

China’s ambassador to the United Nations, Chen Xu, said during a press conference in Geneva that the country had been transparent about the disease.

“We have conducted our business in an open and transparent manner with the outside world,” he said.

Xu said that China would work with the World Health Organization to bring the disease under control, following a declaration by the WHO that the outbreak was an international emergency. The declaration will “not only coordinate global prevention control measures but enables us to mobilize international resources to respond to the epidemic,” he said.

Eoin Treacy's view -

“Official” figures are just below 10,000. This Lancet article suggests 76000 infections. The death toll is reported at around 200 but if that is the case why are crematoria running 24/7? The biggest challenge the Chinese administration has is their claims of full disclosure are being met with doubt because they have such a poor record of reporting accurate facts about any part of the economy. Little wonder that other countries are taking more forceful measures to isolate the country until the infection rate peaks and begins to decline.  



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January 31 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Amazon Set to Break Record for One-Day Gain in Market Cap

This article by Brandon Kochkodin for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

If its pre-market trading holds up, Amazon Inc. is about to break a bigger record than just its own peak share price.

The largest U.S. e-commerce company saw its shares jump by more than 10% after Thursday’s earnings report crushed Wall Street estimates. If that gain stands through Friday’s close of trading, the company could see its market capitalization surge by more than $90 billion, and push the total value above $1 trillion -- a level the stock has flirted with intraday, but never held through the market close. The company’s market capitalization gain stood at $91.7 billion as of 9:30 a.m. in New York when trading began.

That’d be the biggest single-day gain on record for a U.S. company, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The previous record was $78 billion, set by Alphabet Inc. on July 26, after its shares surged on its own strong results and a $25 billion share-buyback program.

To be sure, with markets near all-time highs, marks such as this are bound to be challenged. But it’s also not every day that one of the largest companies in the world gains 10% or more in a single session. Over the last five years, the six companies in the S&P 500 Index with current market caps exceeding $500 billion have had just 10 such days combined. Today would be the 11th such occurrence, and the fourth time Amazon has done so, the most of any company in the group.

Even if it doesn’t break the market value record today, the company has already set another new high-water mark for itself. Shares opened trading $181 above Thursday’s closing price, its biggest ever gain in dollars per share.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Amazon has been a notable laggard as both mega-caps and the equal weight S&P500 have broken on the upside over the course of the last month. Last night’s surprisingly good results highlight the robust position of the US consumer in the 4th quarter and Amazon’s success in implementing 1-day delivery.



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January 30 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Carnival Ship in Italy Lockdown as Suspect Virus Traps 7,000

This article by Alberto Brambilla and Jonathan Levin for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The ship was bound for La Spezia in the Liguria region, with 1,000 crew and 6,000 passengers, 750 of whom came from China, a port spokesman said.

Eoin Treacy's view -

It is looking like the ill person did not in fact have the coronavirus but the fact that 1/8th of the passengers are from China highlights just how influential Chinese tourists are for the global sector. The cancelling of flights both to and from China is going to have a material effect on all tourist destinations and the longer it lasts the greater the impact will be.



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January 29 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

January 28 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Pledges Liquidity, Asks for Rational Investor Reaction

This article by Christopher Anstey and Claire Che for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

China pledged to provide abundant liquidity for money markets and urged investors to evaluate the impact of the coronavirus objectively, as the nation prepared for a potentially tumultuous resumption of trading next Monday.

Along with a potential sell-off in Chinese stocks, which haven’t traded onshore since Jan. 23, there’s a “large amount of funds” coming due Feb. 3, the People’s Bank of China said in a statement. It will conduct operations “to provide abundant liquidity in a timely manner to maintain reasonable and sufficient liquidity in the banking system,” it said.

China’s top securities regulator separately told brokerages to prepare for off-site trading as the country’s market infrastructure girds for strained conditions as a result of measures aimed at containing the coronavirus epidemic.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The question of what would be required for China to kickstart meaningful stimulus again now appears to have been answered. The coronavirus and the economic shutdown it has necessitated are going to result in a meaningful hit to growth in the first quarter. With the extension of its holiday season into early February, China is taking advantage of the break to announce market calming measures aimed at averting a crash once the market opens up again. That means a significant stimulus infusion to allay growth fears.



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January 27 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on corona virus outbreak.

Two aspects of the current outbreak I find especially concerning, speaking as a retired veterinarian of some fifty years’ experience. I understand the symptoms can vary from barely perceptible with no fever to severe and fatal Some. people with the virus may be unaware they have it but may be very infectious to others, acting as symptomless carriers. My experience with animals which are subject to lockdown on account of infectious disease is that they tend to become very stressed and anxious, this in turn tends to make them more liable to spread infection on account of diminished resistance. I would suggest bottling up millions of Chinese in these cities has its own hazards regarding virus spread.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this insight which I believe will be of interest to other subscribers. The reaction of the Chinese administration to the speed of the outbreak has been panicky. The long gestation period where no symptoms are evident but where transmission is possible represents a significant challenge to containment. That was the reason for the quarantine but it is impossible to corral that many people. On top of that 5 million left the city before the quarantine and very little comment has been made on how migrant workers are counted.



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January 21 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Virus Spreads to U.S. With Health Officials on High Alert

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

The new virus “could be No. 2 or 3, that’s the concern,” Heymann said in an interview. “We need enough information to make a proper risk assessment.”

Despite the worries, the new virus is likely less deadly than SARS, said University of Sydney associate professor Adam Kamradt-Scott.

“It’s important to stress that this virus at the moment has been causing mild illness in the vast majority of people that have been affected,” he said in an interview on Bloomberg TV. “There’s around 10% of cases that have ended up in critical condition and there’s been deaths, but the vast majority of the 200-plus people infected have resulted in mild illness.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Chinese New Year Holiday begins Friday evening and lasts about a week. Internally, it is a time for families to get together but the length of the break affords many people the opportunity to travel abroad which is why there is so much concern being expressed at present. The reality however is that there are probably about 300 confirmed cases and perhaps triple that which have gone unreported, but there will be hundreds of thousands of people travelling abroad over the next couple of weeks. There is obviously risk of further contagion but it is unlikely to represent the pandemic many fear.



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January 17 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Fiat Chrysler and Foxconn plan Chinese electric vehicle joint venture

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

Fiat Chrysler and Foxconn plan Chinese electric vehicle joint venture - This article from Reuters may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

FCA last month reached a binding agreement for a $50 billion tie-up with France’s PSA (PEUP.PA) that will create the world’s No. 4 carmaker. FCA said that the proposed cooperation was initially focused on the Chinese market.

It “would enable the parties to bring together the capabilities of two established global leaders across the spectrum of automobile design, engineering and manufacturing and mobile software technology to focus on the growing battery electric vehicle market,” it said.

FCA said it was in the process of signing a preliminary agreement with Hon Hai, aiming to reach final binding agreements in the next few months.

However, it added there was no assurance that final binding agreements would be reached or would be completed in that timeframe.

Foxconn has been investing heavily in a variety of future transport ventures for several years, including Didi Chuxing, the Chinese ride services giant, and Chinese electric vehicle start-ups Byton and Xpeng.

Foxconn also has invested in Chinese battery giant CATL and a variety of other mostly Chinese transportation tech start-ups.

Eoin Treacy's view -

This is an example of the most profound change batteries are bringing to the automotive sector. They are rapidly commoditizing the car. The difference between an Apple, Samsung or Google phone is less about what is on the inside than familiarity with the brand, ease of operation. software, the app ecosystem and the camera. Other than that, they all have pretty much the same internal composition with some minor differences in the design of the chips while manufacturing is outsourced to a third party.  



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January 15 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

U.S. and China Sign Phase One of Trade Deal

This article by Shawn Donnan, Josh Wingrove, and Saleha Mohsin for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The U.S. and China signed what they’re billing as the first phase of a broader trade pact on Wednesday amid persistent questions over whether President Donald Trump’s efforts to rewrite the economic relationship with Beijing will ever go any further.

The deal commits China to do more to crack down on the theft of American technology and corporate secrets by its companies and state entities, while outlining a $200 billion spending spree to try to close its trade imbalance with the U.S. It also binds Beijing to avoiding currency manipulation to gain an advantage and includes an enforcement system to ensure promises are kept.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The most important point about the trade deal is the stock market did not sell off immediately following the signing. Considering the rally that has been underway for the last three and half months there is clear risk of some consolidation on a buy the rumour to sell the news, but no evidence it has started just yet.



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January 14 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Iron Ore Imports Surge to Near Record as Shipments Swell

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

Iron ore imports by China surged in December to the second-highest volume on record as mills boosted purchases ahead of the earlier Lunar New Year and Australian supply picked up.

Inbound shipments totaled 101.3 million tons last month, just shy of the record 102.8 million tons in September 2017, according to customs data. The end-of-year surge saw full-year imports increase 0.5% to 1.07 billion tons.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The ramping up of the Chinese steel production sector is a positive development for the argument supporting the global reflation theme.

This report from Bloomberg highlights the capacity buildout for industrial robot, semiconductor and increasing demand for 5G enabled products is potentially one of the primary drivers behind renewed demand for Chinese steel.



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January 13 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China's Strengthening Yuan Is Smashing Every Key Level in Sight

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

While analysts say the exchange rate is being driven by improving market sentiment as China’s economy steadies and trade tensions ease, the recent bout of strength comes at a pivotal time for U.S.-China negotiations. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is expected to sign the long-awaited phase one agreement in Washington Wednesday.

Some now predict the currency will touch 6.8 per dollar within three months -- a level not seen since May last year.

“Having a stronger currency is one way to show good will,” said Mitul Kotecha, a senior emerging-markets strategist at Toronto-Dominion Bank in Singapore. “Signs of a gradual, as opposed to rapid, slowdown in China’s economy and limited decline in China rates will provide support to the currency.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

I did not think we were going to see the Renminbi trade stronger than the trend mean but it is now clearly breaking out. That is as much about the willingness of China to tolerate a stronger currency as it is about the supply of Dollars resulting from the ongoing repo operations.



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January 09 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China's Steadying Inflation Leaves Door Open for Monetary Easing

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

“The PBOC is likely to continue to use interest rate and liquidity tools to loosen monetary conditions in 2020, though the easing will probably be less pronounced than last year,” David Qu, a China economist at Bloomberg Economics in Hong Kong, wrote in a note. “We expect the PBOC to stick to a stance of measured easing to counter the economic slowdown.”

For the year, consumer inflation for 2019 stood at 2.9%, in line with the government-set target of 3%, while producer prices declined 0.3%. Core inflation, which removes the more volatile food and energy prices, stabilized at 1.4% in December, signaling ongoing weakness in the broader economy.

China’s economy has shown signs of recovery in recent months as global demand steadies and trade tensions ease. As commodity prices rise and factories start restocking, PPI deflation is set to continue to moderate and some see it turning positive as soon as January.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The outlook for the Chinese economy represents the lynchpin for the global reflation trade and the prospects of steadying growth and continued stimulus are helping aid in the positivity surrounding the hiatus in the trade war.



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January 02 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Approves New GMO Soybeans in Positive Sign Amid U.S. Talks

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

China approved a new strain of genetically modified soybeans developed by a U.S. company, a move that could bolster looming trade talks.

The variety approved for import is an insect-resistant soybean from Dow AgroSciences LLC, according to a list published by China’s agriculture ministry on Monday. The nation also approved a new type of GMO papaya and renewed permits for 10 crop varieties, including corn and canola.

China and the U.S. are gearing up to sign the first phase of a trade deal, with the South China Morning Post reporting Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is set to lead a delegation to Washington on Jan. 4. The countries agreed to speed up the approval process for imports of GMO crops as part of efforts to boost bilateral trade.

“The news helps confirm China’s opening of its market to U.S. GMO products and dropping additional non-tariff barriers,“ said John Payne, senior futures and options broker at Daniels Trading in Chicago.

GMO crops have been a source of tension with the U.S. arguing China’s stance isn’t based on science and has been used as a non-tariff barrier. In 2013, China rejected several cargoes of corn and distillers dried grain from the U.S. due to the presence of a GMO variety that took the Asia nation almost five years to approve, said Darin Friedrichs, a senior analyst at INTL FCStone in China.
 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Phase 1 agreement to at least usher in a hiatus in the trade war means China will be buying a lot more US agricultural products. The challenge is that will bring the total to a record and there are questions about how sustainable that is with the USA’s current production figures. The move to accept more genetically modified grain is reflective of the efforts under way to lower barriers to additional imports.



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December 24 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

David Hume & The PBOC: He Who Laughs Last

Thanks to a subscriber for edition of Russell Napier’s letter which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full article is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

The control the Chinese government holds over the banking sector and the various modes of production afford it a great deal of leeway in dealing with the massive build up of debt over the last decade which has fuelled continued growth in the economy. The only way that system is sustained is by containing domestic savings within the financial system. Capital flight is the biggest threat to the status quo in China’s economy which is why the government is investing so heavily in every imaginable form of control. Nevertheless, it is next to hear impossible to stop motivated individuals from moving capital overseas.



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December 23 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Denies Report of Forced Labor Over Tesco Christmas Cards

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

Such notes have been discovered in products sold by brands like Walmart Inc. and Saks Inc. in the past decade as western companies’ reliance on Chinese production has meant exposure to chains of sub-contractors that reportedly make use of prison labor. Low-cost sourcing in China has been a double-edged sword for companies caught up in questions over the provenance of the goods they sell.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Prison labour is widespread in China but it would seem to be a major lapse in judgement to use prisoners in a facility warehousing English speaking journalists who could narrate messages to inmates.



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December 20 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Longtime China Watchers Predict What's Next for Slowing Economy

This article by Enda Curran and April Ma for Bloomberg may b of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Michael Pettis, a finance professor at Peking University and former Bear Stearns Cos. banker

My best call was probably to insist, even in 2015-16 when the market strongly expected otherwise, that as quickly as debt was rising, China was unlikely to experience a financial crisis and a sharp depreciation of the currency. I think the market didn’t understand that these are mainly balance sheet events, and as long as China’s financial system was closed and its regulators powerful, Beijing could easily extend and restructure liabilities so as to prevent a crisis.

My worst call was to propose that Beijing would recognize the extent of investment misallocation and the inexorable rise in debt by 2015-16, and would begin to lower the GDP growth target rapidly after that. I did not recognize how politically difficult this would prove, and that it couldn’t happen until Xi Jinping and the people around him had done a lot more to consolidate political power.

Every historical precedent -- and the logic of the growth dynamics -- suggests it will be another Japan. GDP growth rates will drop consistently every year until China is growing at below 3%, and the longer it takes to get there, the more debt it will have to work off and the greater the macroeconomic financial distress costs it will have to absorb.

Eoin Treacy's view -

China trades on very low multiples for many of the same reasons Russia does. It’s about governance. There is no mystery to how China has been able to maintain a high growth rate over the last decade despite increasing authoritarianism and tighter government control. The answer is debt.



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December 12 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China to Unveil Plan to Make Macau Finance Hub, Reuters Says

This article by Jihye Lee and Jinshan Hong for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The policies include establishing a yuan-denominated stock exchange, accelerating a yuan settlement center which is currently being developed and allocating land for Macau, Reuters said, citing unidentified government officials and company executives. The measures were intended to mark the 20th anniversary of the former Portuguese colony’s return to Chinese rule, an event that will bring Xi to Macau, the report said.

The bourse would focus on bond trading first to encourage local and mainland companies to issue debt in the city, Reuters said. The exchange would also focus on startups and target companies from Portuguese-speaking countries to avoid direct competition with Hong Kong or Shenzhen, it reported, citing six Macau executives and Chinese officials.

Xi will also announce Macau’s decision to join the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Future priorities will include tourism and finance, and for Macau to be used as venue to host international meetings like Singapore, an official told Reuters.

Eoin Treacy's view -

This is a none too subtle signal to Hong Kong that unless it gets its act together there is clear intention to excise the city from the broader plan to create a unified coastal economy which is to include Macau, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. The problem is that today some effort to offset reliance on Hong Kong’s dominance of the financial services sector is largely inevitable regardless of what happens because evidence of disruption is already in existence.



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December 10 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Great Moscow Bank Shakedown

This is an interesting article by Anna Baraulina, Evgenia Pismennaya and Irina Reznik for Bloomberg. Here is a section:

Cherkalin’s case highlights the economic footprint of the security apparatus forged during Vladimir Putin’s 20 years in power. While it doesn’t show up in official statistics or reports, the reach of the FSB and other law enforcement agencies extends across the business landscape, distorting markets and sapping investment. The vast sums of money at stake go a long way toward explaining why Putin hasn’t followed through on years of pledges to rein in the appetites of his powerful security underlings. “They’ve become one of the key elements of the economy,” says Oleg Vyugin, a former senior official at the Bank of Russia and the Ministry of Finance. “Unfortunately, they’re an element that’s an obstacle to its normal development.”

For years the banking sector was a gold mine for the security services, combining huge, often-illicit flows of cash with plenty of leeway for officials to either turn the screws or look the other way. The numbers are big even by oil-rich Russian standards. Regulators—including the central bank—say managers stole some 7 trillion rubles ($110 billion) in assets from their banks in the past decade, and the central bank has spent more than 5 trillion rubles on bailouts or to pay off depositors at those that didn’t survive, according to Fitch Ratings. Bankers fleeing the country as their institutions failed have become such a problem that Bank of Russia Governor Elvira Nabiullina asked Putin for the power to stop them at the border. He hasn’t granted it.
 

Eoin Treacy's view -

This is a well written, engaging informative piece providing facts and figures relating to the corruption of Russia’s regulatory infrastructure by the security forces. It provides a testament to how low standards of governance in Russia are and how important it is for companies to be on the winning side of an internal divisions that arise.



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December 04 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Uses DNA to Map Faces, With Help From the West

This article from the New York Times may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The technology, which is also being developed in the United States and elsewhere, is in the early stages of development and can produce rough pictures good enough only to narrow a manhunt or perhaps eliminate suspects. But given the crackdown in Xinjiang, experts on ethics in science worry that China is building a tool that could be used to justify and intensify racial profiling and other state discrimination against Uighurs.

In the long term, experts say, it may even be possible for the Communist government to feed images produced from a DNA sample into the mass surveillance and facial recognition systems that it is building, tightening its grip on society by improving its ability to track dissidents and protesters as well as criminals.

Some of this research is taking place in labs run by China’s Ministry of Public Security, and at least two Chinese scientists working with the ministry on the technology have received funding from respected institutions in Europe. International scientific journals have published their findings without examining the origin of the DNA used in the studies or vetting the ethical questions raised by collecting such samples in Xinjiang.

Eoin Treacy's view -

This article from the Wall Street Journal details how the capturing facial recognition data is now mandatory when purchasing a new phone. Here is a section:

The new regulation gives the Chinese state, which backs the country’s three main telecom providers, the ability to better track people based on ethnicity and other factors, said Ben Cavender, Shanghai-based managing director at China Market Research Group.



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November 29 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Financial Warning Signs Are Flashing Almost Everywhere

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

From rural bank runs to surging consumer indebtedness and an unprecedented bond restructuring, mounting signs of financial stress in China are putting the nation’s policy makers to the test.

Xi Jinping’s government faces an increasingly difficult balancing act as it tries to support the world’s second-largest economy without encouraging moral hazard and reckless spending. While authorities have so far been reluctant to rescue troubled borrowers and ramp up stimulus, the costs of maintaining that stance are rising as defaults increase and China’s slowdown deepens.

Policy makers are attempting to do the “minimum necessary to keep the economy on the rails,” Andrew Tilton, chief Asia-Pacific economist at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., said in a Bloomberg TV interview.

Among China’s most vexing challenges is the deteriorating health of smaller lenders and regional state-owned companies, whose financial linkages risk triggering a downward spiral without support from Beijing. A landmark debt recast proposed this week by Tewoo Group, a state-owned commodities trader, has raised concerns about more financial turbulence in its home city of Tianjin.

Concerns have popped up across the country in recent months, often centered around smaller banks. Confidence in these institutions has waned since May, when regulators seized control of a lender in Inner Mongolia and imposed losses on some creditors. Authorities have since intervened to quell at least two bank runs and orchestrated bailouts for two other lenders.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Two years ago China’s central banks Zhou Xiaochuan gave a speech where he talked about the risk of a Minsky Moment and what could be done to avoid it. A Minsky Moment is when asset prices experience a sharp reversal following a long and prolonged advance. That kind of risk evolves from deploying procyclical policies for a prolonged period.



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November 26 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Draws Bumper Demand for Multi-Tranche Dollar Bond

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

With the latest sale, China will have dollar securities outstanding with maturity dates ranging from 2022 to 2096 (the result of a small century bond sold in the 1990s). There will be an increasing variety of maturities off which Chinese corporate debt can price, with sovereign benchmarks at maturities from 2022 to 2048 of at least half a billion dollars each.

The total Chinese dollar bond market now tops $740 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, and issuance so far this year has run at a record pace. On a single day in early November, some six property developers were selling dollar securities.

Earlier this month, China also sold euro debt, the first time since 2004 that it issued in that currency. That deal saw blowout demand, with a majority orders coming from European funds in a region that’s been beset by negative-yielding securities.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The rapid growth of the China Dollar bond market was one of the primary reasons the Chinese central bank expressed worry about local government funding mechanisms in 2018. They quickly moved into a curtail the practice but that effort now appears to be over with demand for overseas debt increasing once more. 



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November 25 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Hong Kong's Pro-Democracy Forces Win Landslide, Rebuking China

This article by Julia Fioretti, Iain Marlow and Fion Li for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Pro-democracy candidates won 86% seats of the 444 seats counted as of 9 a.m., official results showed, with eight seats still up for grabs. In the last election in 2015, they had won about a quarter of all seats. The pro-government camp won about 12% of seats this time around, versus 65% four years ago. The vote saw record turnout of 71%, with more than 2.94 million people casting ballots -- roughly double the number in the previous election.

The vote came at a time of unprecedented political polarization in the city, with divisions hardening as the protests become more disruptive and the government refuses to compromise. While the district councils are considered the lowest rung of Hong Kong’s government, the results will add pressure on the government to meet demands including an independent inquiry into police abuses and the ability to nominate and elect the city’s leader, including one who would stand up to Beijing.

“The government respects the results of this election,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in a statement on Monday. “I am aware there’s lots of analysis about the results among the community, which said the results are a reflection of the public’s dissatisfaction towards the current situation and deep-seated problems in society. The government will listen to the public’s feedback with humility and reflect on it.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

The success of pro-democracy candidates in the Hong Kong election puts to rest any argument the protests were not widely supported by the community. The challenge for protestors now is the absence of any real power for those elected.



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November 20 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

U.K. Accuses China of Torturing Ex-Hong Kong Consulate Worker

This article by Iain Marlow and Lucille Liu for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The intervention comes after Simon Cheng -- a Hong Kong resident who worked for the consulate’s business-development team before he went missing in mainland China for 15 days in August -- said on Wednesday he was beaten and forced to confess while detained by Chinese agents, who pressed him for information on participants in the city’s protests.

“Simon Cheng was a valued member of our team,” U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement. “We were shocked and appalled by the mistreatment he suffered while in Chinese detention, which amounts to torture.” Raab said he summoned the Chinese ambassador in London to demand an investigation into the “brutal and disgraceful treatment of Simon in violation of China’s international obligations.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

China claims anyone with Chinese heritage as its own, regardless of where they were born or what passport they hold. It’s what forms the basis for the greater China argument and is used to back up their territorial claims well beyond their land border. It also ensures that people who look Chinese tend to be treated as if they are Chinese when in custody. It’s questionable whether Simon Cheng would have been treated the same were he Caucasian.



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November 19 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

What future? It's the end of Hong Kong as we know it

This article by Alex Lo for the South China Morning Post may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section from the conclusion:

I get something else, too. If there is no hope, there is only the present. Things you do today will have no consequences. That, actually, can be a liberating realisation. If there is no tomorrow, then anything is possible, nothing is prohibited.

Violence is its own liberation – an ecstatic orgy of destruction alongside your comrades. It’s not a means but an end in and of itself. But you are not doing it because you are fighting for freedom and democracy, or against tyranny. You only say you are.

Maybe we self-serving old-timers have robbed our children of their future. But they are helping us dig our own graves. It’s not: “If we burn, you burn with us.” It’s: “We are all burning together.”

Well, dear young people, you now have your wish: we can all self-destruct together. It’s the end of Hong Kong as we know it, and many local people are fine with it.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Hong Kong is the subject of a major transition. The great Pearl River Delta is the focus on a major industrial hub where Hong Kong has long acted as an interlocutor for international trade. The future as outlined by the central government is that the cities of Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Macau will form unified trading and financial hub aimed at rivalling the Bay Area in California. For Hong Kong that represents a major change because it is more a marriage of equals at best or at worst it represents the terminal decline of the island economy in preference to the mainland.



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November 14 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Sputtering China Growth Underscores Need for Trade Reprieve

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

The investment data shows how cautious private companies have become, with their spending in the first 10 months of the year at the lowest level since 2016. The continued stability in spending by state-owned firms’ is preventing an even stronger drop in the headline data.

Investment in the property market is one bright spot, with spending by the manufacturing sector barely above the record low recorded in September. Infrastructure investment growth continued to bounce along around 4% as it has all year.

“I’m quite concerned with property investment, the only stable element in fixed-asset investment now,” according to Xue Zhou, analyst at Mizuho Securities Asia Ltd in Hong Kong. “Monetary policy needs to be more supportive on economic growth and there should be more cuts to banks’ reserve ratios to help smaller banks.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

The first couple of months of the year are when the Chinese financial system gets its annual quota for lending and generally makes its full allocation by around Chinese New Year. That sends a surge of liquidity into the market in January and February but the broader question is how much of that is already priced in considering it is so predictable.



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November 14 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Luckin Coffee's Stock Shoots Up After Revenue Rises Above Expectations

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

Shares of Luckin Coffee Inc. (LK) shot up 7.6% in premarket trading Wednesday, after the China-based coffee seller reported wider third-quarter loss but revenue that rose above expectations. The net loss was RMB531.9 million ($74.4 million), or RMB3.60 per American Depository Share, after a loss of RMB484.9 million, or RMB2.24 per ADS a year ago. Excluding non-recurring items, the adjusted per-ADS loss was RMB2.08, compared with the FactSet consensus for loss per ADS was RMB2.75. Revenue rose to RMB1.54 billion ($219.6 million) from RMB240.8 million, to beat expectations of RMB1.47 billion. Average monthly items sold were 44.2 million, up from 7.8 million a year ago, while the average monthly transacting customers grew to 9.3 million from 1.9 million. "During the third quarter, sales from freshly-brewed coffee drinks continued to maintain very strong growth, and we believe we will reach our goal to become the largest coffee player in China by the end of this year," said Chief Executive Jenny Qian. The stock. which went public on May 17, has tumbled 22.7% over the past three months, while the S&P 500 has gained 5.7%.

Eoin Treacy's view -

I wanted to try a Luckin Coffee while in Guangzhou over the summer but I was voted down by my daughters who could not get enough of boba tea. Since they discovered smores frappacinos the two alternatives are more balanced but they will always still choose a boba tea over a trip to Starbucks.



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November 13 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Photos: Hong Kong police and students are fighting a war in one of the city's top universities

This article by Mary Hui for Quartz may be of interest. Here is a section:

Continuing on from the hours-long siege yesterday (Nov. 11), when police fired tear gas at the school and made arrests on campus, protesters took their positions again this morning as they faced off with police stationed on a bridge just outside the school grounds. Shortly after 3pm local time, riot police charged onto the hilly tree-lined campus, deploying round after round of tear gas continuously for at least a quarter of an hour.

Just after sunset, police finally appeared to retreat as university vice-chancellor Rocky Tuan addressed a crowd after speaking with students and police separately. But tear gas was again fired soon after, breaking the momentary cease fire. Another attempt by pro-vice-chancellor Dennis Ng to broker a deal, with the school official speaking on the phone to the police commander as a student relayed the message in real time over a microphone to the crowd, similarly faltered. Clashes stretched late into the night, as students and police battled it out on a bridge that connects to campus from across a harbor.

Eoin Treacy's view -

There is no sign the protests in Hong Kong are moderating. In fact, the trend is towards further intensification which is obviously a challenge to Beijing’s policy to date of waiting it out. When schools are closed there are tens of thousands of students with nothing to do so many find themselves on the street. In such an emotional volatile situation there is ample scope for further escalation.



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November 07 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China, U.S. Agree to Tariff Rollback If Trade Deal Reached

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

“If China, U.S. reach a phase-one deal, both sides should roll back existing additional tariffs in the same proportion simultaneously based on the content of the agreement, which is an important condition for reaching the agreement,” Gao said.

Such an understanding could help provide a road-map to a deal de-escalating the trade war that’s cast a shadow over the world economy. China’s key demand since the start of negotiations has been the removal of punitive tariffs imposed by Trump, which by now apply to the majority of its exports to the U.S.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The US Presidential election is less than a year away. The time to prime the pump so growth is humming by the time people vote is now. China might have suffered more from the tariffs, because it has more to lose, but it is also well aware of the electoral timing the Trump administration is pressured by. That suggests a deal is likely to be signed and it is likely to be valid for at least a year.



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November 06 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

On Target November 6th 2019

Thank to Martin Spring for this edition of his letter which may be of interest. Here is a section on the Dollar:

Are we about to see a “currency pact” between the US and China? Investment bank Jefferies’ Hong Kong-based Christopher Wood sees it as a possible significant development in the difficult ongoing trade negotiations between the two countries.

It could give Donald Trump “a face-saving ‘out’ in terms of declaring victory in negotiations, where he has clearly over-estimated his leverage, for the simple reason that the Chinese leader has more tolerance to take pain than does America’s.”

A currency agreement based on a Chinese commitment not to engage in a competitive devaluation of its renminbi makes sense as both Washington and Beijing want the same thing. Neither wants a stronger dollar and a weaker yuan.
Beijing may see such an agreement as a way at least to end an escalation of the trade war or even to end it. It has no desire to see a major devaluation against the dollar. That would encourage accelerating capital outflow – “the Achilles heel of China’s command economy” -- at a time when such pressures are rising because wealthy citizens are keen to achieve international diversification. The outflow reached about $240 billion in the 12 months to the second quarter.

Devaluation would also make Chinese consumers poorer in dollar terms, undermining the policy of seeking to make the economy more driven by domestic consumption. And it would undermine the current successful policy of attracting foreigners to invest in China’s stock and bond markets.

“The last thing China needs right now is a further sharp appreciation of the US dollar – and that also seems the last thing Trump wants.”  

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted is in the Subscriber's Area.

China has to manage capital flight risk. The drop below the psychological CNY 7 area earlier this year was a catalyst both for a breakout by the gold price for Chinese investors and the desire to become globally diversified.



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October 30 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Fed Cuts Rates by Quarter Point, Hints It May Be Done for Now

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

Federal Reserve officials reduced interest rates by a quarter-percentage point for the third time this year and hinted they may be done loosening monetary policy, at least for one meeting.

The Federal Open Market Committee altered language in its statement following the two-day meeting Wednesday, dropping its pledge to “act as appropriate to sustain the expansion,” while adding a promise to monitor data as it “assesses the appropriate path of the target range for the federal funds rate.”

As with the September statement, the FOMC cited the implications of global developments in deciding to lower the target range for the central bank’s benchmark rate to 1.5% to 1.75%.

Treasuries weakened on the Fed’s announcement, pushing the 10-year yield up briefly to 1.81% from 1.80%. Stocks were little changed and the U.S. dollar gained. Traders also pared wagers on a fourth consecutive rate cut in December.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Fed has been of the opinion we are in the midst of a mid-cycle slowdown. I think we can think of that as a best-case scenario which is why there is so much uncertainty about the outlook for rates amid the surge in bond prices. Let’s see what the charts tell us.



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October 15 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Inside a Brazen Scheme to Woo China: Gifts, Golf and a $4,254 Wine

This article from the New York Times may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The bank gave a Chinese president a crystal tiger and a Bang & Olufsen sound system, together worth $18,000. A premier received a $15,000 crystal horse, his Chinese zodiac animal, and his son got $10,000 in golf outings and a trip to Las Vegas. A top state banking official, a son of one of China’s founding fathers, accepted a $4,254 bottle of French wine — Château Lafite Rothschild, vintage 1945, the year he was born.

Millions of dollars were paid out to Chinese consultants, including a business partner of the premier’s family and a firm that secured a meeting for the bank’s chief executive with the president. And more than 100 relatives of the Communist Party’s ruling elite were hired for jobs at the bank, even though it had deemed many unqualified.

This was all part of Deutsche Bank’s strategy to become a major player in China, beginning nearly two decades ago when it had virtually no presence there. And it worked. By 2011, the German company would be ranked by Bloomberg as the top bank for managing initial public offerings in China and elsewhere in Asia, outside Japan.

Eoin Treacy's view -

If anyone knows of an alternative route to building a business in China, I’d like to hear it.



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October 11 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

U.S., China Said to Reach Partial Deal, Could Set Up Trade Truce

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

The U.S. and China reached a partial agreement Friday that would broker a truce in the trade war and lay the groundwork for a broader deal that Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping could sign later this year, according to people familiar with the matter.

As part of the deal, China would agree to some agricultural concessions and the U.S. would provide some tariff relief. The pact is tentative and subject to change as Trump prepares to sit down with China’s Vice Premier Liu He later Friday.

Stocks jumped Friday after the news. Equities had advanced globally earlier in the day amid growing conviction that the U.S. and China would negotiate a trade truce. Trump tweeted earlier Friday that “good things” were happening in the meetings -- and that if the countries did reach an agreement, he would be able to sign it without a lengthy congressional approval process.

On Thursday and earlier Friday, Liu and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer held the first senior-level discussions between Washington and Beijing since a previous agreement fell apart in May and tariffs were raised in the months after. The world’s two biggest economies have been trying for the past year and a half to settle their trade dispute.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The words from Bill Clinton’s early ‘90s election campaign must be ringing in President Trump’s ears, “It’s the economy, stupid”. There is a clear rationale for pressuring China on trade but is it worth losing the election for? The hardest hit parts of the US economy just about all voted for President Trump in the last election and have been specifically targeted by Chinese tariffs. Little wonder then that agricultural imports are front and centre in whatever deal is to be announced. With the election less than 13 months away it’s time to at least put the trade war on hold and let animal spirits loose. 



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October 10 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Market Internals

Eoin Treacy's view -

I have to admit I don’t look at the internals of the market all that often because it is the trend rather than the day to day moves which lend some insight into the health of the market. I thought it might be useful to look at some of the most common measures to discern if any clues to market direction are evident.

The Total Number of New 52 Week Highs on the NYSE Index is coming back down towards the lows December 2018 and towards the end of 2015. The significant spike on the upside in late 2017 was an anomaly suggesting a period of underperformance ahead, but generally lows are better predictors of market bottoms than spikes are of tops.



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October 01 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Xi Says China's Rise Unstoppable in Face of Protests, Trade War

This article by Annie Lee, Peter Martin and James Mayger for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

President Xi Jinping declared that no force could stop China’s rise, exuding confidence during a key
anniversary as he faced unprecedented challenges from protesters in Hong Kong and Donald Trump’s trade war.

Speaking at the start of grand parade marking 70 years since the founding of the People’s Republic, Xi called for stability in Hong Kong, unity among Chinese ethnic groups, and the “complete unification” of the country. Xi delivered the remarks at the site where late Communist Party patriarch Mao Zedong proclaimed the nation’s founding on Oct. 1, 1949.

“Today, a socialist China is standing in the east of the world and there is no force that can shake the foundation of this great nation,” Xi told a crowd of carefully vetted guests under smoggy skies in the center of the capital. “No force can stop the Chinese people and the Chinese nation forging ahead.”
Xi’s rallying cry came before an hours-long pageant showcasing China’s industrial and scientific achievements, including sophisticated weaponry such as DF-17 ballistic missiles believed capable of circumventing U.S. defense systems.

The closely scripted proceedings sought to reinforce the strength of a party facing multiple threats, from the slowest economic growth in decades to violent unrest in one of Asia’s top financial hubs.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Sometimes I feel like a broken record always repeating the same point about China, but governance is everything. The ranks of apologists for tyranny continue to advocate strongly for China despite its record on human rights, the environment, intellectual property, corruption, censorship and a host of additional factors.

The one thing China has going for it, is its economic expansion. Investors will be willing to give it the benefit of the doubt provided the expansion persists. It will an entirely different narrative if China has a recession.



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September 27 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

White House Weighs Limits on U.S. Portfolio Flows Into China

This article by Jenny Leonard and Shawn Donnan for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The arguments for action inside the Trump team vary from simply enforcing U.S. transparency laws and creating a level of reciprocity, to raising national-security concerns with some of the Chinese companies that American pension funds are exposed to, according to people familiar with the conversations.

Some of those companies are firms that the U.S. government has identified as bad actors or has imposed sanctions against. The argument continues that Americans would unlikely want to invest in those companies if they had the choice.

The market capitalization of the 156 Chinese companies, including at least 11 state-owned firms, listed on the three-largest U.S. exchanges — the NASDAQ, New York Stock Exchange and NYSE American — stood at a collective $1.2 trillion as of late February, according to a report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

China earlier this month removed a $300 billion cap on overseas purchases of Chinese stocks and bonds meaning global funds no longer need to apply to purchase quotas to buy the assets. The move is designed to lure more foreign capital into Chinese markets.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The removal of the cap on QFII investments was largely moot since only about a third of the allocation was being used anyway. The point I have been making for years is the only incentive China has to open up its financial sector is to diversify its risk. Today’s most of the risk resides domestically. The only way China can expect to receive assistance from the rest of the world during a crisis is if that risk is shared. That is the only reason for opening up to the financial sector to overseas investment. Risk pooling is the most basic factor in insurance planning and that is what China is doing. It therefore makes logical sense to question whether it is wise to buy what they are now so desperate to sell?



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September 27 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

13.5 tons of gold found in Chinese Ex Mayor's Basement

This article from crimerussia.com may be of interest to subscribers.

Police of the PRC searched the house of Zhang Qi, 57, the former mayor of Danzhou and found a large amount of cash, as well as 13.5 tons of gold in ingots in a secret basement of his home, reported local media.

In addition to the mayor’s post, the official held others, such as the Secretary of the Communist Party. According to unofficial reports, in addition to the gold, cash worth 268 billion yuan was discovered.

Luxurious real estate with a total area of ​​several thousand square meters, which the former city manager had been hiding for a long time, became the cherry on the cake for the Chinese Anti-Corruption Committee.

Eoin Treacy's view -

One of the most memorable quotes I’ve heard in China was back in 2011 when the communist official from a small town a couple of hours north of Beijing said to me “I’m only a small guy so I’m only a little corrupt”. His boss was the county head and the gift to attend his daughter’s wedding was a stack of CNY100 notes six inches tall. They were counting the money in cubic metres. Then think about the head of the head of a province like Hainan which is being developed as “China’s Hawaii”. From that perspective the monopoly money sums are still huge but do help to highlight just how engrained corruption is.



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September 26 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Chinese Tech Companies Turn to Financial Services

This article by Stella Yigan Xie for the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Hao Jianyu, 26, who works at Google in Beijing and owns a Xiaomi phone, says he holds credit cards from China’s four biggest banks but prefers taking out loans from Xiaomi Finance to fund his daily spending. He says daily interest on what he borrows is 0.065%, an annualized rate of 23.4%. That’s higher than the interest rate on his credit cards, Mr. Hao says, but he has been able to increase his credit limit much faster with Xiaomi. The more often he uses Xiaomi’s short-term loans and repays on time, the bigger his credit line, which now exceeds the limits on his credit cards. He says his credit limit from Xiaomi has increased to 60,000 yuan from a few thousand yuan over two years.

In a stock-exchange filing last year before Xiaomi went public, the Beijing-headquartered company said its finance business had a “highly advanced and customized credit assessment and risk management approach” that was built on its big database of users. The company said its proprietary risk-assessment model is used to preapprove individuals for certain amounts of credit. Xiaomi said in reporting its results for the second quarter of this year that revenue from its fintech business grew 63% from a year earlier to 792 million yuan ($112 million) in the three months through June.

Eoin Treacy's view -

China is attempting to implement countercyclical monetary policy. There is a bubble in the housing market and 50 million homes are vacant. Their consumer sector, particularly younger upwardly mobile generations have taken to credit like just about all new consumers in other countries before them.



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September 24 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Financial Services Exports

I found this graphic from howmuch.net to be particularly interesting. The obvious point is the UK’s financial services is a major component of the global sector; second only to the USA.

September 23 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China to place government officials inside 100 private companies, including Alibaba

Thanks to a subscriber for this article by Chloe Taylor for CNBC may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

State media reported over the weekend that the Hangzhou Municipal Government would transfer 100 representatives to “key enterprises such as Alibaba, Geely Holdings and Wahaha.”

A full list of the 100 companies included in the initiative was not released.

The directive, which media said was part of the Hangzhou government’s “New Manufacturing Plan,” is reportedly an attempt to boost manufacturing and bolster the local economy in the eastern province of Zhejiang.

It is the latest strategy signalling the Chinese government’s efforts to transform the country’s economy. Its core strategy, Made in China 2025, aims to catch China up with its economic rivals in high-value industries such as robotics and aerospace.

Eoin Treacy's view -

This is not exactly new news. The trend of overt government involvement in the management and strategic thinking of the Chinese private sector has been underway for at least the couple of years.



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September 17 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Stocks Fall, Yuan Weakens as Central Bank Holds Loan Rate

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

China’s central bank drained funds from the financial system and kept the one-year rate on medium-term loans steady on Tuesday morning, a move analysts said shows it’s sticking with its prudent approach to stimulus. That’s even after data Monday signaled the economy slowed in August, with industrial output, retail sales and fixed-asset investment rising less than anticipated.

“Investors now realize the central bank won’t ease its monetary policy as aggressively,” Zhang Gang, a strategist with Central China Securities Co. “The market was due for a pullback after the Shanghai index climbed above 3,000-point level. Turnover failed to keep up.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

China’s government is more worried about a property bubble than a growth slowdown. it would be tempting to think they have reached the conclusion that massive money printing only helps to inflate asset prices and does not deliver quality growth which is capable of sustaining the economy during tough times. On the other hand perhaps they have an inflationary problem and don't want to exacerbate it. 



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September 16 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China's Economy Slows Again, Adding Pressure for Policy Action

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

Industrial output rose 4.4% from a year earlier in August, the lowest for a single month since 2002, while retail sales came in below expectations. Fixed-asset investment slowed to 5.5% in the first eight months, with the private sector lagging state investment for the 6th month.

The data add support to the argument that policy makers’ efforts to brake the slowing economy aren’t sufficient as the nation grapples with structural downward pressure at home, the risk of yet-higher tariffs on exports to the U.S. and now surging oil prices. Nomura International Ltd. said this all raises the likelihood that the People’s Bank of China will cut its medium-term lending rate on Tuesday.

Eoin Treacy's view -

China’s monetary and fiscal policy arms are walking a tight wire between overstimulating the property market, which already has bubbly characteristics, versus trying to support flagging growth in the industrial sector which is hurting from the global slowdown and the trade war. The devaluation of the Renminbi is a partial solution but there is a clear need for more conclusive action to support the economy not least because a weaker currency stokes inflation for such a large commodity importer.



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September 05 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Unlikely Chinese Cities Where House Prices Rival London

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

 

London, Seattle, Manchester and, um, Xiamen. Some of the world’s priciest housing markets aren’t where you might think. A four-year property boom in China has elevated a collection of little-known cities and turned them into real estate gold.

While that’s been great news for speculators, it’s raising concern about whether China’s educated middle-class is quickly being priced out of these so-called second-tier cities, undermining Beijing’s goal of making them home to the millions moving from rural areas. Another risk is increasingly stretched family budgets: The average household debt-to-income ratio in China soared to a record 92% last year from just 30% a decade ago.

“A property bubble is foaming up in many places in China,” said Chen Gong, the chief researcher at independent strategic think tank Anbound Consulting. “Prices are starting to look
abnormal when compared to residents’ income.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

When something sounds crazy, that’s usually because it is. Xiamen is a smallish city, by Chinese standards, in Fujian. It’s a long way from any of the other coastal metropolis’ stature so its rise as one of the most expensive places in the world to buy property is further evidence of another bubble inflating in financial assets, this time in China.



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August 26 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Trump Says China Talks Back on as Beijing Downplays Breakthrough

This article from Bloomberg News highlights the ebb and flow of commentary on the trade war. Here is a section:

“You can say we’re having very meaningful talks, much more meaningful than I would say at any time frankly,” Trump said while meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday. “Maybe I’m wrong but we’re in a stronger position now to do a deal, a fair deal for everyone,” he added.

Still, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry wasn’t able to immediately confirm the details of the phone calls on Monday. Later, Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of China’s Global Times newspaper, said in a tweet that top trade negotiators hadn’t spoken by phone in recent days and that Trump was exaggerating the significance of the trade contacts.

Trump later, at a separate bilateral meeting, insisted that calls were had at the highest level and was not aware that China was disputing them. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, also in Biarritz, said "there were discussions that went back and forth and let’s just leave it at that.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Let’s look past the rhetoric and repeated announcements of progress and focus instead on the purpose of the trade war. The USA is the current global superpower and China has clearly stated they wish to overtake the USA economically, technologically and militarily. That suggests there is little prospect of relation returning to the status quo of the last 30 years. The question is primarily about the degree of separation which can be achieved without sparking a broader conflict.



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August 23 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Powell Says Economy in Favorable Place, Faces Significant Risks

This article by Craig Torres and Rich Miller for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“Trade policy uncertainty seems to be playing a role in the global slowdown and in weak manufacturing and capital spending in the United States,” Powell said in the text of his remarks Friday to central bankers gathered at the Kansas City Fed’s annual symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. “We will act as appropriate to sustain the expansion, with a strong labor market and inflation near its symmetric 2% objective.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

It is looking like the learning curve for a newly installed Fed chair is about 18 months. Today’s measured statement from Jerome Powell did an excellent job of placating investor fears while leaving open the optionality of how much to cut by. The Fed has made clear they will cut rates if they need to but will not hurry. However, the simultaneous announcement by China that they are increasing tariffs on $75 billion of US goods is likely to be prove the catalyst for deeper cuts.



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August 22 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Hong Kong Retail Sales Plunge in August, Shop Association Says

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

Most Hong Kong retailers have seen sales drop more than 50% in August, according to the city’s Retail Management Association, as the ongoing political protests take a toll on business and the economy.

The association has urged landlords in the city to halve rents for six months to help tenants overcome difficult times, and has called on the government to provide relief measures to retailers, according to a press release. Retailers are facing large cash flow pressures and a few of them will cut jobs or even shut down if the situation continues to worsen, it said.

The release didn’t explain what period it was comparing August’s sales with. Hong Kong’s government expects the city’s businesses to continue to suffer this year. The value of retail sales dropped 6.7% in June from a year earlier, the fifth straight month of declines, while the overall economy contracted in the three months through June from the first quarter. Embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam said earlier this month that she saw “no room for optimism” for the economy this year.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Several hundred thousand people chanting slogans outside your store unsurprisingly puts a dent in sales. Vital tourist traffic has slowed to a trickle as the street protests have persisted for months. Importantly, mainland travellers are staying away and that is a problem for the Hong Kong economy.



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August 13 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Weaker Yuan Tests China's Ability to Prevent Capital Flight

This article by Steven Russolillo for the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Any further selloff could also create problems for Chinese property developers and other corporate borrowers who have borrowed heavily overseas, since their earnings are largely in yuan while their international borrowings are mostly in dollars.

Chinese companies had nearly $900 billion of dollar-denominated debt securities outstanding at the end of March, nearly three times the amount five years ago, according to data from the Bank for International Settlements.

Despite Beijing’s strict capital controls, China could experience capital flight if the yuan weakens further, some observers say.

Louis Kuijs, head of Asia economics at Oxford Economics, said policy makers wouldn’t be comfortable with a major weakening of the yuan, given concerns about triggering large outflows.

“People in China tend to take weakening of the currency as a harbinger of more such weakening to come,” he said. “That is a reason for some to shift money abroad.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Amid the platitudes about having confidence in its ability to deter capital flight, the fact US Dollar denominated debt has continued to trend higher since it was banned more than a year ago should give policy officials pause. China needs a weaker currency and we are unlikely to see it trade stronger than CNY7 any time soon. The bigger question is how long it will take to hit CNY8.



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August 08 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Bridgewater's Ray Dalio Discusses the Impact of China's Growth on the World Economy

This is a fascinating interview where Ray Dalio discusses the merits of betting on China.

Eoin Treacy's view -

There are two very big questions we have to answer which are fundamental to the construction of a long-term portfolio. The first is does governance really mean anything? The second is how do you value private assets in a portfolio?
 
At this service we have long held that governance is everything. Is that still true? Ray Dalio appears to be agnostic on whether property rights, respect for minority shareholder interests, an independent judiciary and a free press are important. What I personally find particularly interesting is that the performance of China’s stock market, during the decade where it has achieved the heights of its ambition has been dismal.



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August 06 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

"Trappedâ"

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Jeffrey Saut which may be of interest. Here is a section:

In 55 years of observing markets, we have NEVER seen such a downside capitulation as October 2008; and, we have believed we are in the biggest secular bull market of my lifetime!  This morning Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hau Chunving said, “China will not accept any kind of extreme exertion of pressure, intimidation or blackmail. Neither will China give in an inch on major issues of principle.  Now it's time for Washington to show sincerity and demonstrate to the world that the US is still a reliable partner that can carry out negotiations.”  And with that the renminbi is at decade lows versus most currencies.  Such action has the preopening S&P 500 futures off some 40-points . . . Good Grief!

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber;s Area.

This was the front page of the China Daily newspaper on the flight from Beijing to Guangzhou yesterday. The drop below CNY was normal currency activity, there is a clear need for peace to spontaneously break out in Hong Kong’s protests and apparently China is not avoiding US agricultural exports. This is just one more example of how the same news can be spun in a number of different ways.
 



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August 05 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China's Yuan Tumbles Past 7 Per Dollar for First Time Since 2008

This article by Tian Chen and Sofia Horta e Costa for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The yuan declined 0.9% in mainland trading last week, its biggest loss since mid-May, after President Donald Trump abruptly escalated the trade war with new tariffs on Chinese goods. Beijing pledged to respond if the U.S. goes ahead with a plan to impose a 10% tariff on a further $300 billion in Chinese
imports.

“It appears that the tariffs hike suggests the return of tit-for-tat moves and a suspension of trade talks, and the PBOC sees no need to keep the yuan stable in the near term,” said Ken Cheung, a senior currency strategist at Mizuho Bank Ltd. The tumble exacerbated losses in Asia’s financial markets.

Eoin Treacy's view -

China devalued its currency when the first round of tariffs was imposed and it is doing so again now that tariffs have been imposed on all of its exports to the USA. The Renminbi broke below CNY 7 today and that represents the reassertion of its bearish trend.

The devaluation of the currency below CNY7 is a major change of policy for China and it greatly increases potential for capital flight. That is the one thing China cannot afford to allow. The entire rationale for supporting the economy, and ensuring the ability to manage systemic risk in the nonperforming loans sector, is based on the trillions in deposits sitting in the banking and post office systems



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August 02 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Japan-South Korea Feud Boils Over Amid Trade Actions, Protests

This article by Isabel Reynolds and Sam Kim for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

South Korean President Moon Jae-in called Japan “reckless” in a national address Friday and his country planned to cross its neighbor off a preferred-trade list. The move came hours after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet removed South Korea from its list of trusted export destinations.

U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo met his counterparts from both countries Friday, but the dispute, which simmered for months as the Trump administration sat on the sidelines, looks set to worsen amid protests, boycotts and economic warnings. “By bringing economic sanctions, they’ve really escalated it to another level,” said Robert Dujarric, director of the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies, Temple University, Japan. “This isn’t going to make South Korea cave in. If anything, it heightens South Korean nationalism. It makes it harder to de-escalate and harder to have a ‘united front’
against China.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Japan and South Korea compete in many of the same export markets and their rivalry had previously been contained by the global trade network but the historical enmity between the two countries is never far from the surface. The advent of trade wars, mercantilist competition and shifting loyalties is introducing a degree of uncertainty in the region that hasn’t been seen in decades.



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July 31 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day - on lead indicators in this cycle:

Hope all is well.

 I had a question about the comment you made at the end of your video today. You mentioned that the indicator that we should focus on which will lead to this current cycle unwinding is Private equity and the success of their investments, plus on government debt and the deficits they are building.

Are you able to expand on what we can track (tangibly) for these 2 issues?

Thanks v much

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this question. I am very conscious of the temptation of generals to always be fighting the last war. In 2005 and 2006 there was some talk of a housing bubble in the USA but few people understood just how massive the liar loans problem was. Consumers had become extraordinarily overleveraged. As interest rates ground higher the first signs of trouble appeared in the underperformance of banks, rising credit card delinquencies and the collapse of leveraged hedge funds at major investment banks. The big question we need to ask is whether it will be these factors which are most relevant in this cycle?

Let’s think about the economy as made up of consumers, corporations and the government. After a decade of extraordinary monetary policy total debt has gone up but the US consumer has been de-levered while corporations and the government have seen their debt loads balloon.



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July 30 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China: We Won't Use Nuclear Weapons First in a War

This article by David Axe for the NationalInterest.org may be of interest. Here is a section:

China has reaffirmed its policy of never being the first in a conflict to use nuclear weapons. Experts refer to this policy as “no first use,” or NFU.

The NFU policy reaffirmation, contained in Beijing’s July 2019 strategic white paper, surprised some observers who expected a more expansive and aggressive nuclear posture from the rising power.

Eoin Treacy's view -

One has to question why this statement was made now? One possible interpretation is China is stating its position in order to lay the groundwork for what it anticipates is going to be a difficult geopolitical environment in the near future.



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July 22 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Trading Frenzy Grips China's New Stock Venue After Big IPO Gains

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

The board is also a testing ground for regulators, who have waived rules on valuations and debut-day price limits for the first time since 2014. The venue is the only one in China to welcome companies that have yet to make a profit, as well as shares with unequal voting rights. The Shanghai stock exchange will create an index tracking the firms about two weeks after the 30th listing starts trading.

Shares on the Star board have no daily price limits for the first five trading days, followed by a 20% cap in either direction. To limit volatility, the venue suspends activity for 10 minutes if a stock moves by 30% and then 60% from the opening price in the first five trading days, a wider band than the rest of the stock market. Only certain qualified foreign investors can buy the stocks directly, as there’s no access through trading links with Hong Kong.

The first batch of listings included China Railway Signal & Communication Corporation Ltd., whose Hong Kong shares sank on huge volume as traders switched into the A shares. Advanced Micro-Fabrication Equipment Inc., which was the most expensive listing of the batch, jumped as much as 331%. Its 171 multiple compared with an average of 53 times for the group, and 33 for similar stocks on other Chinese venues.

Despite the hype, there are questions about whether the excitement will give way to the lukewarm sentiment that’s blanketing the world’s second-largest equity market. On the other hand, a sustained period of ultra-high demand risks draining funds from other exchanges, where volumes are shrinking. The Shanghai Composite Index fell 1.3% on Monday, while the ChiNext Index was down 1.7%.

Eoin Treacy's view -

There is no doubt China can stage manage product launches and a stock market venue is no different. The question of whether the STAR market becomes the next Nasdaq is much thornier. It will be months before we have a clear idea of how much liquidity the venue can attract and perhaps more importantly whether that will simply siphon interest away from other markets or it will create organic growth in demand for speculative shares.



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July 12 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

A $117 Billion Chinese Wealth Manager Says It Was Scammed

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

To be sure, Noah is not alone. Central China Securities Co., a mid-sized brokerage, said on Thursday two asset management products totaling 240 million yuan are in danger of defaulting after the borrower falsified documents. It didn’t provide more details.

For Noah, the incident has raised questions about the firm’s approach to risk management, said Yan Hong, a finance professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

“It exposed the lack of credit-risk controls and absence of a verification mechanism for contract authenticity, which is a low-level mistake for a manager of private credit products,” Yan said.

It’s not the first time that Noah’s investments have run into trouble, as JPMorgan Chase & Co. analysts noted in a July 8 research report. In 2017, products managed by Gopher had exposure to China Huishan Dairy Holdings Co., which collapsed after being targeted by short sellers. In May 2018, Noah’s Hong Kong unit was fined by the city’s securities regulator for failing to comply with know-your-customer, due diligence and other requirements.

One lesson for asset managers is that they should talk to all of the relevant parties in an investment before committing money, said Jesse Si, a Beijing-based senior manager at Mintz Group, which specializes in due diligence investigations.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A clear trend is emerging of fund managers who invested in opaque instruments in an effort to generate outsized returns and are now suffering the consequences. GAM in Switzerland, Neil Woodford in the UK, France’s H2O and a string of Chinese firms have all suffered from being unable to meet redemption requires because they invested in highly illiquid instruments.



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July 11 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Walmart's Supplier Says Chinese Factories in "Desperate" State

This article by Daniela Wei and Jinshan Hong for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“U.S. clients are definitely very, very worried,” Fung said in an interview with Bloomberg. “Everyone is making razor-thin margins already and most people have a huge percentage in China. So if the biggest source increases the price by 25%, they are worried,” he said, referring to the scale of tariffs threatened on all Chinese imports to the U.S. by President Donald Trump.

Though Fung didn’t specify Walmart by name, the U.S. retailer is the company’s second-biggest customer after Kohl’s, accounting for 7.6% of revenue, according to Bloomberg data. A spokeswoman for Walmart declined to comment.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The size of China’s manufacturing sector dwarves that of any other country and therefore the migration of US business is hitting choke points because of a lack of infrastructure elsewhere to deal with the demand. That represents a once in a lifetime opportunity to spur manufacturing in cheaper locations like India and Africa to pick up US business.



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July 10 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China's Venture Capital Boom Shows Signs of Turning Into a Bust

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

But the rise of China’s tech industry put it squarely in the crossfire of the trade war. The Trump administration has accused China of stealing intellectual property and unfairly subsidizing companies in strategic fields, including semiconductors, artificial intelligence and autonomous driving. In May, the U.S. blacklisted Huawei Technologies Co., preventing the telecom giant from buying American components, and is considering doing the same to a swath of startups.

The trade war gives investors one more reason for caution. Valuations had already grown vertiginous. High-profile startups such as smartphone-maker Xiaomi Corp. and delivery giant Meituan Dianping saw their stocks tumble after they went public, reinforcing the impression that private-market valuations had gotten out of hand.

So-called sharing economy startups have also tested the patience of their investors. Companies like Didi, Meituan and bike-sharing provider Ofo blitzed the market with heavy subsidies to grab market share from rivals, making up for their losses with venture money. Now there’s skepticism that many such companies will ever turn a profit.

“You’re really reaching the end of the shared economy -- this idea of let’s give away services for free and make up for it in volume,” Rieschel said. “Some companies -- Didi is the classic case -- are just not showing any ability to become profitable.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Do visionaries appear at the just the right time, or do they get the opportunities to turn their ideas into a semblance of reality because liquidity is cheap and abundant? A confluence of technological innovations can coalesce to create wonderful new products like the iPhone. Alternatively, we can find new ways of doing things because the cost of running interminable losses is so low relative to the potential pay-out that any venture can secure funding. The latter group have clearly dominated in this cycle which tells us liquidity is the dominant reason behind the surge in valuations for private companies.



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July 08 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Is Forcing Tourists to Install Text-Stealing Malware at its Border

This article from vice.com maybe of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Together with the Guardian and the New York Times, the reporting team commissioned several technical analyses of the app. Penetration testing firm Cure53 on behalf of the Open Technology Fund, researchers at Citizen Lab from the University of Toronto, and researchers from the Ruhr University Bochum as well as the Guardian itself all provided insights about BXAQ. The app's code also includes names such as "CellHunter" and "MobileHunter."

Once installed on an Android phone, by "side-loading" its installation and requesting certain permissions rather than downloading it from the Google Play Store, BXAQ collects all of the phone's calendar entries, phone contacts, call logs, and text messages and uploads them to a server, according to expert analysis. The malware also scans the phone to see which apps are installed, and extracts the subject’s usernames for some installed apps. (Update: after the publication of this piece, multiple antivirus firms updated their products to flag the app as malware).

Eoin Treacy's view -

Xinjiang is one of China’s buffer states which separates the heartland from its neighbours. It is also an energy producer and bread basket so China has additional reasons to quell even a whiff of separatist sentiment. The extend of surveillance and re-education programs (incarceration) is unparalleled in modern history and is a testament to just how overtly authoritarian the administration is.



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June 25 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

A Dark Alley in China's Credit Market Suddenly Getting Rough

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

For firms that obtained funding via unorthodox methods, conditions may become particularly challenging. One of those practices is known as structured issuance, where a company will transfer cash to an asset manager to buy a slice of the bonds the company is itself selling. The manoeuvre helps give the appearance of greater demand for its securities and stronger ability to obtain funding. What could make the practice untenable is if asset managers can no longer use those securities held in custody as collateral for repos.

“Since some repo transactions have defaulted recently, it is unclear whether companies can continue to borrow money from the structured issuance method, said Meng Xiangjuan, chief fixed-income analyst at SWS Research Co. in Shanghai. “If it stops, some issuers will certainly face difficulties operating their business normally, and their debt-repayment pressure will rise,” she said.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The main headline today was the fact some Chinese banks have been breaking the sanction prohibitions on North Korea. However, the fact it is possible for companies to partially fund their own bond issuance by promising to buy it themselves with the funds received is garnering a lot less interest.



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June 18 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Man Who Inherited Australia's Downturn Just Isn't That Fazed

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

That’s all put the economy on track for its weakest fiscal year since the last recession in 1991. Even the Reserve Bank, which rarely wades into political territory, is urging more government stimulus after cutting interest rates for the first time in almost three years.

But whether boxed in by his sunny disposition or pledges to deliver a budget surplus made ahead of the government’s shock re-election last month, Frydenberg appears unfazed. While he’ll push to pass tax cuts when parliament resumes on July 2 and ramp up infrastructure spending, that’s about it, leaving the heavy lifting of stimulus to the central bank.

“I’ve found the treasurer to be remarkably sanguine,” said Danielle Wood, an economist at the Grattan Institute, an independent think tank in Melbourne. “When you’ve got the central bank governor coming out and talking about perhaps moving to stimulatory fiscal policy as well as the need for more long-term structural reforms, I’d be hoping for a more substantive response.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

The RBA cutting interest rates to previously unimagined levels, with more to come, is a bonus for consumers with floating rate mortgages, but the wider concern is about the health of the Chinese economy which Australia depends on for export demand growth.



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June 13 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

What Your Face May Tell Lenders About Whether You're Creditworthy

This article by Zhou Wei for the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

In its lending business, meanwhile, Ping An says it uses its technology to analyze the faces of loan applicants in real time, searching for “micro-expressions” that reveal their emotional and psychological state. Such expressions typically occur within fractions of seconds and are hard for people to control, and loan officers make more accurate judgments on the applicants’ credibility based on this information, according to an article posted by Ping An on its official WeChat social-media account in China last year.

For large loans, applicants often have to answer questions in an online video meeting that typically lasts 10 to 15 minutes. Ping An records and analyzes how the applicant answers questions, and looks for signs of eye-shifting or other suspicious behavior, which would be flagged by its system.

Ping An in January said it has made more than 500 billion yuan worth of loans with the help of its micro-expression technology. It also said the technology has helped shorten its average loan-approval times to two hours from five days.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Tracking movement of large numbers of people and compiling databases on patterns of behaviour, social media activity and even utilities bills is about as a Big Brother as is currently imaginable. The rolling out of the social credit scheme to the insurance sector is just another part of that long-term project to compile a unique score for each individual which will be more exact than a credit score and will have broad spectrum uses beyond credit, not least in quelling political activism.



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June 11 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Sets Yuan Fixing Stronger Than Expected in Sign of Defense

This article by Tian Chen and Ran Li for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

"Forget about the psychological 7 level," said Khoon Goh, head of research at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd., adding that the fixing will stay stronger than 6.9 before the Group of 20 summit. "Today’s fixing sends a clear message that the authorities are still intent on keeping the yuan stable, and
have no desire to see it weaken further."

Trump Says He’ll Raise China Tariffs If Xi Won’t Meet at G-20 U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping may meet at the G-20 summit in Osaka this month. Traders will be closely watching the gathering to gauge the outlook for trade negotiations and the yuan.

"We expect the Chinese authorities to continue defend 7 in the foreseeable future," said Becky Liu, head of China macro strategy at Standard Chartered Plc, adding that a negative outcome at the G-20 summit wouldn’t warrant a change in this stance. "The PBOC may step up the size and frequency of bill issuance should the yuan come under greater depreciation pressures."

Eoin Treacy's view -

With upwards of a million people protesting on the streets of Hong Kong and the world paying attention to the trade war between the USA and China, the Chinese administration has a clear incentive to project an aura of stability and calm.



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June 10 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Faces Showdown in Hong Kong as Mass Protests Roar Back

This article by Shawna Kwan, Carol Zhong and Blake Schmidt for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

China has spent much of the past five years tightening its gripover Hong Kong with little challenge. Now, hundreds of thousands in the city are fighting back.

Hong Kong is bracing for a potentially historic showdown over extradition legislation that could for the first time subject residents to face justice in Chinese courts, further eroding the city’s autonomy. Opponents on Sunday staged one of the largest protests since the former British colony’s return to China: Organizers said more than 1 million participants showed up, while police put the figure at 240,000.

Tensions are only heating up, with demonstrators vowing to surround the city’s Legislative Council on Wednesday, when lawmakers debate scores of proposed amendments. Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam, defended the bill in a 45-minute news briefing Monday, saying it was necessary to prevent the city from becoming a “haven” for fugitives and vowing to press ahead with its passage. China endorsed her government’s efforts later in the day.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Deng promised the “one country, two systems” model would last for a century. Hong Kong will be lucky if it makes it to quarter of that time. Extra judicial disappearances have been a feature of Hong Kong life for the last decade and this extradition law would institutionalise the process. Tightening mainland oversight, particularly of critics of the administration is inevitable regardless of how many people protest. In the meantime, there is a clear intent to express power and control over Chinese territories so this situation has the potential to escalate.



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June 06 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Is silver due to catch up?

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from UBS which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

The Gold/Silver ratio is at rather extreme but not the most extreme levels seen historically. David long described silver as high-beta gold and poor man’s gold. The less liquid nature of silver trading and the various use cases for the metal contribute to it being more volatile than gold.



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June 06 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

"Record 3,000" Hong Kong lawyers in silent march against controversial extradition bill

This article by Alvin Lum may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

If passed, the new legislation would allow the transfer of fugitives from Hong Kong to jurisdictions with which it has no extradition deal, including mainland China.

Organisers estimated the turnout to be between 2,500 and 3,000, but police said attendance peaked at 880.

Four Nordic chambers of commerce also jointly expressed concern that the bill had been “fast tracked without the thorough consultation and full legislative scrutiny that is customary for a piece of legislation of this nature”.

The city’s last colonial governor Chris Patten meanwhile urged the government to shelve the bill, arguing it would “strike a terrible blow” to Hong Kong’s rule of law.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Any hope that Hong Kong will be allowed to host critics of the mainland’s administration are being quashed. The time when Hong Kong is completely subsumed within China is drawing progressively closer as the “one country, two systems” approach is abandoned.  



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June 04 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

One Month, 500,000 Face Scans: How China Is Using A.I. to Profile a Minority

This article by Paul Mazur from New York Times, dated April 14th may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Chinese authorities already maintain a vast surveillance net, including tracking people’s DNA, in the western region of Xinjiang, which many Uighurs call home. But the scope of the new systems, previously unreported, extends that monitoring into many other corners of the country.

The police are now using facial recognition technology to target Uighurs in wealthy eastern cities like Hangzhou and Wenzhou and across the coastal province of Fujian, said two of the people. Law enforcement in the central Chinese city of Sanmenxia, along the Yellow River, ran a system that over the course of a month this year screened whether residents were Uighurs 500,000 times.

Police documents show demand for such capabilities is spreading. Almost two dozen police departments in 16 different provinces and regions across China sought such technology beginning in 2018, according to procurement documents. Law enforcement from the central province of Shaanxi, for example, aimed to acquire a smart camera system last year that “should support facial recognition to identify Uighur/non-Uighur attributes.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Last April, Mrs. Treacy was at a 7-Eleven in Guangzhou and the cashier offered her a 10 Yuan discount for taking her photo and before she could answer had already taken her data. A day later she found herself accidentally paying for items at a different store with her face.

We are having a significant discussion in the West about privacy and how much of our data should be available to corporations. That discussion does not exist in China and regardless of what venue gathers your data, it all ends up in the hands of the government and that is everything from passwords to fingerprints, to facial features, to browsing history, to utility usage, to travel history to social media contacts to purchasing patterns and genetics.



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June 03 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

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.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Where the burden of debt resides in an economy gives us a clue as to where the greatest effect will be felt from a problem. When the credit crisis struck it was mortgage debt in the USA which led the market downwards and it was consumers who felt the brunt of the decline with the foreclosure crisis and erasing of savings. Today, debt resides on company balance sheets and in China’s regional banking sector in particular.

Successive attempts to wring leverage out of the regional banking sector have finally had the desired effect of ending shadow banking. However, without resource to government capital, Dollar loans or private lending clubs, the regional banks are in serious peril. This is a difficult sector to monitor because only a handful are listed on the stock market.



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May 29 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Rare Earth Stocks Give Abundant Returns as Investors Pile In

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

The People’s Daily, a flagship newspaper of the ruling Communist Party, said in a commentary that the U.S. shouldn’t underestimate China’s ability to fight the trade war. The country is “seriously” considering restricting rare earth exports to the U.S., the editor-in-chief of the Global Times, a newspaper affiliated with the Communist Party, said in a tweet. An official at the National Development & Reform Commission told CCTV that people in the country won’t be happy to see products made with exported rare earths being used to suppress China’s development.

 

The U.S. relies on China for about 80% of its imports of rare earths, the group of materials that are used in everything from electric cars to high-tech military equipment. Rare earths, which include elements such as cerium and dysprosium, are relatively abundant in the Earth’s crust but mine-able concentrations are less common than other ores.

China produces about 70% of the world’s mined rare earths and its industry is dominated by a handful of producers including China Northern Rare Earth, China Minmetals Rare Earth Co., Xiamen Tungsten and Chinalco Rare Earth & Metals Co. Some of the country’s listed rare earths stocks are small caps, making them easy targets of speculation.

The country has taken a proactive approach to managing the global market, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a report, citing steady exports in the 1990s that depressed prices and a 40% reduction in its export quota in 2010 that led to a spike.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The last time rare earths were a political football in 2010, it was because China cut off exports to Japan in an effort to force high-end manufacturing to migrate. That set off a massive run-up in rare earth metal prices, investment in new mining facilities and a drive towards substitution. Faced with the threat of losing it dominant position China relented and began exporting again. Prices collapsed, most of the new miners went bust and some semblance of normality returned. How is this occasion different?



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May 22 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Franklin Says Aussie Bonds to Rally as RBA May Ease Four Times

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

Overnight swap markets are currently pricing in two RBA cuts by November. Westpac Banking Corp. economist Bill Evans on Tuesday brought forward his forecast for the first reduction in the cash rate to June, with a second to follow in August. Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Royal Bank of Canada expect the same.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. though says two cuts may not be enough. “From where we are today, this is still not sufficient to fully neutralize risks to the RBA staff’s current forecasts, suggesting risks to a sub-1% cash rate,” economist Ben Jarman wrote in a note.

Franklin Templeton’s Canobi expects the RBA to lower borrowing costs three to four times over the next nine to 12 months as tepid inflation weighs. “We never felt that inflation has really had a grip since the RBA started easing in 2016, and it still looks pretty weak,” he said.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Australian mortgages are full recourse and floating rate. The Australian consumer is carrying some of the highest leverage ratios in the world, second only to Canadians in the G7. That’s fine as long as the property market is rising but when it starts to contract pressure starts to build on leverage at even a slight down turn in the ability of consumers to service their debts.



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May 20 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Google Cuts Off Huawei Smartphones From Some Android Services

This article by Dan Strumpf and Yoko Kubota - for the Wall Street journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

From now, Huawei will be able to use only the public version of Android and won’t have access to proprietary apps and services from Google, according to a person familiar with the matter. Though existing phones are expected to keep functioning largely as usual for now, users could lose some app functions, including some artificial-intelligence and photography features, the person said.

In a separate move, German chip maker Infineon Technologies AG said it was terminating the delivery to Huawei of some components originating in the U.S., in a sign that even non-U.S. suppliers to Huawei are being swept up in the U.S. trade restrictions. Infineon didn’t specify which components were affected by the action but said the “great majority” of products it sells to Huawei aren’t subject to trade restrictions.

Separately, Qualcomm Inc., San Diego, has suspended shipments to Huawei of its chips, and some employees have been told not to communicate with the Huawei side, according to a separate person familiar with the matter. Qualcomm chipsets are used in certain Huawei smartphone models. Huawei also designs a large number of its own chips for higher-end phones.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Huawei is a Chinese national champion, so the Chinese government looks on the efforts to excise it from competing internationally as a direct afront to the Made in China 2025 program which is one of Xi Jinping’s central policy objectives. There is no Chinese company with an operating system capable of replacing Android. Until now they never needed one but we can be sure this sequence of events is going to further accelerate the drive towards Chinese technological independence, however long that takes.



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May 16 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The future of Emerging Markets

This report from Dimitris Melas for MSCI may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The rationale for allocating to emerging markets rests on three pillars: Superior economic growth has resulted in positive market returns historically, low correlation within emerging markets and across asset classes has provided diversification benefits, and relative scarcity of information has created opportunities for active portfolio management. Long-term historical data confirms that emerging markets have provided positive long-term risk-adjusted excess returns and enhanced portfolio diversification. Their diversity has led to high cross-sectional return dispersion, both at the country and at the security level, creating opportunities to add value through active country allocation and stock selection. Omitting this equity segment would have introduced a performance drag on global indexed strategies and reduced the investment opportunity set of active strategies. The opening of the domestic Chinese capital market and its integration into international markets is likely to have a transformative effect on the emerging markets equity segment. MSCI introduced domestic Chinese equities (A shares) into the MSCI Emerging Markets Index in June 2018 at a reduced weight. Chinese equities listed in mainland China and Hong Kong currently represent 30% of the index but could grow to over 40% when A shares are included at full weight. The growing size of China within emerging markets raises the prospect for investors of making dedicated allocations to China. Whether investors make separate China allocations or continue to seek opportunities across global emerging markets, the segment likely will remain an essential element of the global equity universe in the future.

Eoin Treacy's view -

China already dominates the emerging markets sector and its influence is likely to further increases with the increased weighting of A-Shares. At 40% of the Index it will become increasingly difficult to invest in emerging markets without gaining at least some exposure to China. That will be either because of direct participation or because of the reliance of some markets on Chinese demand.



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May 15 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day - on winners form the trade war:

As you say, the US has many alternative sources of cheap goods but there are limited sources of US technology. China also has no alternative buyers of its products. Round One of the international confrontation will be won by the US.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Buyers can always look elsewhere because there is always someone who is willing to provides services at a lower cost or who can manufacture a copycat item which is “good enough” Sellers have to focus on retaining that competitive edge but often have a hard time replacing lost customers, particularly when they are have already maxed out their growth.



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May 13 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Funds Flock to Dollar on Bets Markets Underpricing Trade Divide

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

Uncertainty over how the dispute would be resolved in the one-month deadline set by Washington will reinvigorate a hunt for haven assets in a world already hampered by slowing growth.

An easy bet will be to short the expected losers: risk-sensitive currencies from Asia to South America, they say. “To be honest, I thought the dollar would be rising at a much faster pace than this -- markets were pricing in a Goldilocks environment and they were clearly wrong,” said Stephen Miller, an adviser at asset manager GSFM and a former head of fixed income at BlackRock Inc.’s Australian business.

“Right now I’d be long U.S. dollar versus EM currencies, the likes of Argentina and Turkey.” There’s a 60% chance that China and U.S. won’t reach a deal in the coming weeks, according to analysts at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd., after last week’s talks laid bare divisions including the removal of existing tariffs and a breakdown in trust. While both nations plan to continue negotiations, traders are waiting for Beijing’s retaliation measures after Washington slapped more duties.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Chinese renminbi has long been used as policy tool and tariffs being imposed on a wider range of goods, there is a clear argument for having a weaker currency. The country is obviously going to experience some difficulties from tariffs imposed on exports to one its largest trading partners but the potential for domestic inflation to spike on the back of a weaker currency is likely to limit the scale of devaluation.



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May 10 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Armed With Powerful Market Weapons in Duel With Trump

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

Chinese policy makers could devalue the yuan to offset the impact of U.S. duties on China’s economy. The offshore yuan weakened 5.5% against the dollar in 2018, drawing Trump’s ire and fueling speculation that the country was deliberately weakening its currency. While it has fallen 1.8% this week, the currency rose on Friday after the People’s Bank of China set its daily fixing at a stronger-than-expected level.

However, China’s painful experience with devaluing the yuan in 2015, which prompted capital to flee the nation, is likely to dissuade a similar move, according to Tao Wang, UBS Group AG’s chief China economist and head of Asia economic research. “China doesn’t like the self-fulfilling outflows that come as a result of depreciation, which tend to diminish domestic confidence,” she said. “In addition, yuan depreciation last year angered the Trump administration and led to higher U.S. tariffs.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Watch your own backyard first, worry about everything else afterwards has been the Chinese response to the imposition of additional tariffs on its US exports. The first order of business appears to have been to do what was necessary to avoid a negative reaction in the domestic stock market. That was achieved by clear support coming through for the A-shares market and it posted an upside key day reversal. This action is a testament to the fact that bull markets in China are state sponsored.



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May 09 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Trump, China Signal Harder Stands Ahead of High-Stakes Talks

This article by Shawn Donnan, Jenny Leonard and Miao Han for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

But the mood on both sides going into the talks appears to be hardening with Lighthizer calling members of Congress ahead of the discussions to warn that a deal this week is unlikely, according to people familiar with the conversations. While Trump on Wednesday insisted that Liu was coming to make a deal and dubbed him a "good man," he later told a rally of supporters that China "broke the deal" by backsliding on prior commitments, leading him to order higher tariffs.

China has disputed Trump’s characterization that the country reneged. But it has also sent its own signals that a deal could take time.

Unlike in some of his previous visits to Washington, Liu is not traveling with the designation "special envoy" of Xi Jinping, according to people briefed on his trip. Chinese officials’ public statements have also hardened in recent days with Beijing vowing to retaliate against Trump’s tariff increase and rejecting the idea that it has reneged on any commitments made during the months of tough negotiations that have led to this week’s showdown.

“China is credible and honors its word and that has never changed,” Commerce Ministry Spokesman Gao Feng told reporters on Thursday.

The Ministry of Commerce also announced it would soon publish details of new retaliatory tariffs.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Haggling is a part of Chinese culture and nothing is agreed until everything is agreed is a common tactic. Fawning over one item to distract attention from the real intent of the negotiation, only to introduce that object later in a backhanded manner, in order to get a better price is also common. Why would trade negotiations be any different. Reintroducing points already considered settled appears to be a central tactic in Chinese negotiating style but that is normal in all Chinese dealings rather than being an individual tactic to the trade negotiations. 



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May 08 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Defaults Hit Record in 2018. 2019 Pace Is Triple That

This article form Bloomberg News may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

China continues to press banks to extend credit to the private sector, and small and medium-sized companies especially. The latest move came Monday, when the central bank loosened some reserve-requirement rules for lenders. But President Xi Jinping’s team has also focused on shrinking the shadow-banking system, where credit decisions were made with less regulatory oversight and where it was easier to build up unsustainable leverage.

It’s that funding squeeze that explains the default surge that began in late 2017 and continues today. By contrast, 2016 was more a story of China’s push to shrink excess industrial capacity having reverberating effects in credit markets. “Short bond tenors mean the companies need to refinance frequently,” and weaker ones will likely have difficulty, analysts including Hong Kong-based Nino Siu at Moody’s Investors Service wrote in a note last month. “Banks are reluctant to lend to weaker companies. Additionally, shadow banking, on which weaker Chinese companies rely, continues to contract as the government tightens regulation,” she and her colleagues wrote.

Eoin Treacy's view -

One of the companies listed in the above article is Neoglory. I visited their headquarters in Yiwu about seven years ago. Mrs. Treacy had a tourist focused store at the time and was sourcing costume jewellery. Neoglory was the largest, splashiest company around and was one of our first calls. We never purchased from them because when it came to negotiating prices, they had a complex web of discounts and promotions. When we questioned the accuracy of a salesman’s calculation he said “that’s how I do math”. At that point we walked. That phrase has passed “that’s how I do math” is something we still smile about. It looks like we were not the only ones to walk away from the company.



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May 06 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Wall Street Asks Whether Trump's Tariff Is a Tactic. Or Not

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

Goldman believes a tariff increase may be “narrowly avoided,” putting odds that tariffs rise on Friday at 40 percent, Phillips wrote in a note.

Will be watching whether a large delegation of Chinese officials comes to Washington on May 8, as scheduled; canceling would mean an agreement in the coming week would “seem very unlikely,” and would make an increase in the tariff rate to 25 percent “the base case.”

China trade issues have “negative implications for the outlook for auto tariffs and passage of the USMCA [U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement].” Trump’s “willingness to risk a market disruption by threatening an unexpected tariff hike suggests that he might also be willing to risk the disruption that formally proposing auto tariffs or announcing the intent to withdraw from NAFTA might cause.” Phillips raised the probability that auto tariffs will be implemented later this year to 20 percent from 10 percent, and lowered the probability that USMCA will pass to 60 percent from 70 percent.

Eoin Treacy's view -

How much of this is brinksmanship ahead of a crucial point in the negotiations or should we take the gambit seriously. That’s the big question everyone is asking today and it suggests there is likely to be a pause in buying at the very minimum, at least until we know more at the end of the week. Meanwhile it appears Liu He is travelling to the USA this week afterall. 



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April 23 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Trump Stirs Alarm That He May Be Giving China a New Trade Weapon

This article by Shawn Donnan and Jenny Leonard for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Details of the U.S. commitments and how the enforcement mechanism will operate remain scant. But Mnuchin’s comments have caused plenty of raised eyebrows from legal scholars to the business community and Congress.

If the U.S. allows China reciprocal enforcement powers, it would make China “judge, jury and executioner as to whether we have honored our obligations,’’ said Daniel Price, who served as a senior economic adviser to President George W. Bush and is now at Rock Creek Global Advisors in Washington. “I don’t think the U.S. business community is sufficiently alert to the risk of constantly being exposed to unilateral enforcement action by China.”

Details of the U.S. commitments and how the enforcement mechanism will operate remain scant. But Mnuchin’s comments have caused plenty of raised eyebrows from legal scholars to the business community and Congress.

If the U.S. allows China reciprocal enforcement powers, it would make China “judge, jury and executioner as to whether we have honored our obligations,’’ said Daniel Price, who served as a senior economic adviser to President George W. Bush and is now at Rock Creek Global Advisors in Washington. “I don’t think the U.S. business community is sufficiently alert to the risk of constantly being exposed to unilateral enforcement action by China.”
 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The quid pro quo of testing and enforcement is a clear risk from the impeding trade deal between the USA and China. Perhaps most important of all is that if the deal goes ahead as suggested above it represents a clear admittance that China is on par with the USA geopolitically. That may have already been a fact but it is quite something else to codify it in a treaty governing trade.



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April 18 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

On Target

Thanks to Martin Spring for this edition of his ever-interesting letter. Here is a section on the coal market which I found particularly illuminating: 

While climate-change activists make a lot of fuss about the US, where emission of greenhouse gases has been in decline, they aren’t demonstrating loudly about China -- which attacks developed countries for not doing enough, while itself doing most to worsen it,

The New York Times reports that China, the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases from coal, now admits it’s burning up to 17 per cent more coal than its government previously claimed when it signed up for the Paris accord.

And it’s making things worse. Across China the government is building a fleet of new coal-fired stations with 259 gigawatts of capacity, while outside the country it’s financing even more new coal plants, providing $36 billion for 399 gigawatts.

“Chinese bankers and project planners like coal-backed projects because they are cheap,” says the energy consultancy IEEFA. “While they are restricted by Chinese pollution and emissions targets at home, they are free to fund coal-backed projects abroad.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

The standard of living attained by China’s middle class has resulted in a clear call for cleaner air and the government is intent on showing progress. However, there is no getting around the fact that coal fired power stations are cheap to build and run and are very reliable. Moreover, China has plenty of experience building them and there is a ready market for coal in emerging markets, not least in India and increasingly Africa.



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April 18 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The World's Biggest Electric Vehicle Company Looks Nothing Like Tesla

This article by Matthew Campbell and Ying Tian for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

In automotive circles, Wang’s predictions of the combustion engine’s imminent demise often meet profound skepticism. Chinese sales of new-energy vehicles, a category comprising plug-in hybrids, pure EVs, and fuel-cell cars, more than tripled from 2015 to 2018, but they still account for only 4.5 percent of the total. The doubters, he argues, underestimate the country’s capacity for reinvention. “The Chinese way is to replace everything at once,” Wang says. “When we switched from black-and-white to color TVs, it took three years. In the West it was 10. Going from feature phones to smartphones took about one year. In Europe it was three. Cars will be the same. It will go very fast.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

China is a massive oil and gas importer but has abundant coal reserves. It therefore has a clear incentive to use less gasoline and natural gas and more coal. Electric vehicles fit squarely into that equation. Since coal is massively polluting nuclear energy is another growth industry in China.




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April 15 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Stocks Fall as Better Data Dim Prospects of More Stimulus

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

"The credit data lifted expectations on market liquidity and economic fundamentals," said Wang Jianhui, a Beijing-based analyst with Capital Securities Co. "It provided an excuse for investors who wanted to bottom fish stocks after last week’s correction. But it’s more likely a technical rebound as there hasn’t been any substantial change in fundamentals."

The decline in mainland shares came after some companies issued profit warnings. In Shenzhen, Jiangling Motors Corp. sank by the 10 percent daily limit after it predicted an 84 percent decline in first-quarter net income from a year earlier.

Shandong Chenming Paper Holdings Ltd. slid 8.9 percent after saying its first-quarter profit may plunge 94 percent to 96 percent.

"While the macro numbers suggest a recovering trend, things are still looking weak in the micro segments including corporate profits," said Shen Zhangyang, a Shanghai-based strategist with
Northeast Securities Co.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The catch-22 facing policy makers is if they stimulate too much, they risk a bubble developing but if they don’t do enough, they risk a contraction. That is a clear reflection of the role liquidity has played in the evolution of the bull market over the last decade and how reliant on stimulus it is for continued expansion. They generally err on the side of caution so that is supportive of continued support.



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April 12 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

PBOC Support to Stay Even Amid Credit Upswing

This article by Chang Shu and David Qu from Bloomberg Economics may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The robust rate of credit expansion this year doesn’t rule out continued monetary easing. We think that’s still needed to help the economy find a solid footing, though the focus should increasingly shift to targeted measures.

Broad-based easing is still needed to provide liquidity to the banking sector so it can sustain the expansion in credit. The need is higher in 1H and we continue to see the possibility of reductions in the reserve requirement ratio, with the first potentially coming as early as in April.

There’s less of a necessity for an interest rate cut, in our view.

Targeted measures are important for channeling funding to sectors in greater need of funding -- small, private firms -- to lower their effective borrowing costs.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The result of the People’s Congress was to declare victory in the containment of the shadow banking sector and to signal a clear willingness to boost credit growth to reinvigorate speculative activity. That has resulted in the stock market popping on the upside, reversing the pattern of deterioration that prevailed for all of 2018.



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April 08 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Economic Think Tank Says Korea Now in Recession

This article by Choi Hyun-mook and Shin Su-ji for ChosunMedia may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:  

The state-run Korea Development Institute on Sunday said Korea is slowly going into recession. The KDI said Sunday that the economy is "in a phase of gradual slowdown" as demand both overseas and at home shrinks.

Until last October, the institute had said Korea's economy was improving.

According to market researcher CEO Score, investment at 855 subsidiaries of Korea's top 60 businesses fell 3.1 percent last year to W98.5 trillion (US$1=W1,139).

Some 35 of them slashed spending last year. Samsung's cutbacks were particularly drastic with 46 subsidiaries reducing investment by 25.7 percent to W28.5 trillion.

Eoin Treacy's view -

South Korea is deeply embedded in the global economy and as a major electronics and vehicle exporter its health is an important barometer for the wider global economy.



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April 02 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Taipei blasts 'provocative' Chinese fighter jet incursion across Taiwan Strait line

This article by Jesse Johnson may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

However, Glaser said that the Chinese “haven’t done so for at least a decade, likely longer.”

“I’ve been told that Chinese jets approach the midline, but then veer off,” she said.

The flight came just after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen capped off a tour of several Pacific nations with a visit last week to Hawaii, where she said she had formally submitted new requests to the United States for F-16B fighter jets.

The U.S. has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help it defend itself and is the island’s main source of arms. The Pentagon says Washington has sold Taipei more than $15 billion in weaponry since 2010.

China is suspicious of Tsai and her pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party and any push for the island’s formal independence.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said in January that Beijing reserves the right to use force to bring Taiwan under its control, but would strive to achieve peaceful “reunification.”

Beijing has called Taiwan “the most important and sensitive issue in China-U.S. relations” and has bolstered its military presence near the island, sailing its sole operating aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait in January and March of last year and holding large-scale “encirclement” exercises and bomber training throughout 2018.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Anything that promotes the notion of Taiwan declaring statehood is being met with progressively more strident efforts by China to stamp it out. Xi Jinping has succeeded in having his doctrine written into the constitution and he is economic plan is to make China the preeminent global economy. However, the crown jewel for any Communist Party leader, something that would ensure he is remembered forever in the annals of history would be to reacquire Taiwan.



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March 29 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Chinese Stocks Wrap Up Best Quarter Since 2014 With a Huge Rally

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

Friday’s surge in Chinese stocks rounds up a winning quarter for the country’s investors. China’s equities have outrun every other national market in the world in the three-month period. The CSI 300 Index’s 29 percent rally is its best since the end of 2014, when the nation’s equity bubble was forming. Apart from a Taiwanese chipmaker, a Brazilian steel producer and Latin America’s largest utility, all the top 30 performers on MSCI Inc.’s emerging-market benchmark are Chinese companies.

Managing a momentum-driven investor base, where turnover is in the hands of almost 150 million retail traders, has always been a challenge for the government. China’s experienced two massive bubbles in the past decade, with a tight-grip approach to tame the rally backfiring in 2015, drawing the ire of foreign investors. Analysts predict Beijing will be more successful this time in engineering a slow bull market.

“It’s a critical time for the market,” said Liao Zongkui, an analyst at Lianxun Securities Co. “Investors are keeping a close eye on earnings from heavyweight companies. A good results season will be a big confidence boost, and will ensure the stock-market rally can continue.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Veteran subscribers will be accustomed to our long-time contention that monetary policy beats most other factors most of the time. That’s particularly true on Wall Street and is an even more important factor in the age of extraordinary monetary policy. In China, the state dictates the fate of the market so it is clear that bull markets are state sponsored.



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March 20 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Italy set to formally endorse China's Belt and Road Initiative

This article from the Financial Times may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Chinese investments have become increasingly contentious in the EU. Diplomats in Brussels and influential western European capitals have long worried the 16+1 grouping of China and central and eastern European states, including 11 EU members, is a Trojan horse to divide the bloc. Beijing has denied this suggestion.  EU member states such as Germany and France have pushed for tougher screening criteria for Chinese investments. They want the bloc to develop a more unified strategy amid rising tensions over the security implications of using Chinese technology from companies such as Huawei, the telecoms group. Other countries including Greece and Portugal, where Chinese groups have invested billions of euros since the financial crisis, have adopted a more lenient approach.

Eoin Treacy's view -

I can’t help but think of the adage “a drowning man will clutch at a straw”. Italy’s populist administration has need of both funds for investing in public works and also a desire to snub the federalist ambitions of Northern European creditors. Meanwhile, China has a clear ambition to draw European countries within its sphere of influence in an effort to cement export markets and to weaken the chances of a concerted effort to blunt its expansionism.



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March 18 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Wants Its Stock, Bond Markets to Step Up Funding Role

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

“We need to create a strong capital market,” Guo Shuqing, the country’s chief financial regulator, said at the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislative session which wrapped up last week. “We could do more work especially in the capital market -- stock market, bond market -- for direct financing.”

China is trying to transform how it funds its economy after decades of relying on state-run banks that benefit from the implicit backing of the nation’s treasury -- but tend to direct most loans to other government-owned companies. The difficulty that small and private firms have in securing funding was one reason for an explosion of shadow-banking, and the rapid increase in debt and risk that came with it.

Spurred to act by a record $34 trillion debt pile, authorities in recent years have cracked down on risky loans, squeezing businesses that relied on such funding. While leaders including Guo have called on the banks to do more to finance private companies, lenders are grappling with their own concerns about loan quality and default rates. Even so, outstanding banks loans in China have increased by about 27 percent since 2016, while capital-market funding rose by around 15 percent.

“We shouldn’t put all the pressure on banks,” Xu Kuijun, an NPC delegate and vice president at Bank of China Ltd. In Shanghai said in an interview at the sidelines of the gathering. “We have to rely more on direct financing, and capital markets should do more.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

There is nothing says “We are done with tightening” quite like the statement “capital markets should do more”. The dominant policy narrative in China for the last three years has been the need to curtail speculation and most particularly in the shadow banking sector.



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March 13 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China's economy is 12% smaller than official data say, study finds

This article by Gabriel Wildau for the Financial Times may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

For years, the sum of China’s provincial GDP has exceeded the national figure, a clear sign of statistical inflation at the local level. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has previously acknowledged that “some local statistics are falsified”, and in 2017 the central government accused three provinces in China’s north-east rust belt of fabricating data. 

The Brookings paper highlights how the NBS in Beijing struggles to make adjustments to the inflated data it receives from local officials. The analysis finds that the central government’s adjustments to local data are mostly accurate before 2007-08 but “after this date no longer appear to be accurate”. 

The NBS said last year that it would assert greater control over provincial data collection beginning in 2019 to eliminate discrepancies between local and national data. 

“NBS has done a lot of work to weed out the fake numbers added by local government, but it just doesn’t have enough power and capacity, nor the right incentives,” Michael Zheng Song, economics professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and a co-author of the paper, told the FT. “It would be unfair to blame NBS for fabricating GDP numbers.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

The reliability of Chinese data has been an enigma investors’ have been pondering for decades. It’s not really a question we can answer with any degree of confidence so the best course of action is to monitor the actions that can be backed up with some degree of confidence.



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March 08 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on differences between the performance of the FTSE A50 Index and the Shanghai A-Shares Index.

Would you care to comment on the different behaviour of the China A-50 future and the A-Share indices themselves?  It has been ironic, and frustrating, that while you and all the media talk of surging A-Share prices, the A-50 future, which is the one one can actually trade, has come down very sharply in the last few days.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this email which highlights an interesting development. The FTSE-50 is much more concentrated that the Shanghai A-Shares Index which has 1453 members. In fact, its largest constituent, Ping An Insurance, occupies 12.31% of the Index. That is the largest weighting for an insurer in any of the China focused indices and ensures the Index does not track the performance of the mainland market as closely as one might like.



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March 05 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Sees Tough Battle in Boosting Growth Without Debt Blowout

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

In all, Li rolled out tax cuts worth almost 2 trillion yuan ($298 billion) and pledged further stimulus ahead. While that emphasis on stronger fiscal policy can be seen as a loosening from last year’s vow to curb financial risks and trim the budget, the overall goal is still to buffer the economy without letting debt accelerate once more. That’s a balancing act that will be severely tested should any new threats to growth appear.

“It’s a big fiscal push,” said Michael Spencer, global head of economics at Deutsche Bank AG in Hong Kong. “There’s a reluctance to just turn on the infrastructure tap if they don’t need to.”

Li warned that China faces a graver and more complicated environment this year. He’s trying to rekindle lending to the private sector, mindful that the total debt pile is approaching 300 percent of GDP. “China must be fully prepared for a tough struggle,” he said.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Fiscal stimulus is in fashion and why should China be any different? The global economy is transitioning from a period of synchronised global monetary expansion to fiscal expansion. That is also stimulative but is likely to have more of an effect on consumer demand that central bank balance sheets.



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March 01 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Chinese Shares Gain Global Sway Thanks to Index Firm's Move

This article by Shen Hong and Michael Wursthorn for the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Analysts say managers of funds that track MSCI’s emerging-markets index, such as the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets exchange-traded fund, are expected to make the necessary changes to bring their vehicles in line with the new weightings.

BlackRock Inc.’s global head of markets and investments for iShares and index investing, Manish Mehta, welcomed MSCI’s move, saying “the gradual addition of onshore Chinese securities deepens the investment opportunity for global investors, and we look forward to continued development in the market and regulatory environment to facilitate this increased access.”

Morgan Stanley analysts estimate that foreign inflows into mainland Chinese stocks could reach $100 billion to $220 billion a year over the next decade, with foreign ownership of the market rising to as much as 10%, from 2.6% now.

Eoin Treacy's view -

It will be impossible for the vast majority of foreign investors who invest in emerging markets to avoid China when these index changes go through. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is already heavily weighted by Chinese companies and with the introduction of the State-Owned sector and smaller Chinese tech companies the influence of China on perceptions for the entire emerging world will only increase.



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