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Scary! Rising US-China Trade War Tensions Could Take 10% Off the S&P

Global markets continue to digest the impact of President Donald Trump’s Sunday evening tweetstorm. Meanwhile, analysts from some of the world’s biggest investment banks including UBS and Bank of America Merrill Lynch have detailed their forecasts for what a full-on trade war between the U.S. and China would look should the worst happen.

Among the many hair-raising projections is the prospect of the S&P 500 entering a correction by losing 10% of its value, which would almost certainly trigger a long-feared recession. That particular forecast was made by UBS analyst Keith Parker, according to CNBC. Parker specified that key European and American cyclical markets would bear the brunt of the declines.

S&P 500

| Source: Yahoo Finance

“FASTEN YOUR SEATBELT AND DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH”

There is an old saying that when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. In this case, both elephants will also sustain a significant amount of damage if Parker’s projections hold true. He predicts that a full-scale trade conflict between the world’s two biggest economies will see China shed anything from 1.2% to 1.5% of its GDP, which is equivalent to a drop of between $132 billion and $165 billion.

If China responds to Donald Trump’s threatened 25% tariff with a tariff increment of its own from 7% to 15% on approximately $60 billion worth of American imports, this could see the U.S. shed 0.1% of its GDP, or about $14 billion. In the ensuing scenario, Bank of America projects that China may hike tariffs on U.S.-made vehicles and reduce its soybean imports from the U.S. Meanwhile, Chinese imports of American soybeans have already fallen off a cliffsince 2017, dropping roughly 98% last year as China looks toward less antagonistic partners like Brazil.

According to a Bank of America report also cited by CNBC:

“Fasten your seatbelt and don’t hold your breath. The latest escalation of the trade war was completely unexpected, despite the strength of the economy and the markets. This is evident from the immediate negative reaction of U.S. equity futures to the news.”

As the two elephants knock heads, the amount they are erasing from each other’s economies is equivalent to the GDP of mid-sized nations. European and Asian economies will also feel some pain, according to UBS.

IS TRUMP BLUFFING?

According to the White House, the new 25% tariff regime that could potentially kick off this entire sequence of events will come into effect just after midnight on Friday. Expectedly, markets have been in virtual freefall since Monday, with the NASDAQ and S&P 500 both shedding close to 1% on Monday alone. The miserable market conditions continued through Tuesday, with little sign of respite as investors react with horror at the thought of a damaging 20th-century-style trade conflict between economic superpowers.

Dow

The Dow Jones Industrial Average continues to trend downward following Sunday evening’s shock announcement. | Source: Yahoo Finance

Not everyone believes that the panic is warranted, however. JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, for example, believes that the shock announcement by Trump was nothing more than a way of cornering a formidable opponent and forcing them to negotiate. Speaking to CNN Money’s Poppy Harlow, Dimon stated that regardless of the market’s reaction, Trump will count it as a win because it has become the only successful way of getting the Chinese to the negotiating table on his terms.

Whether this is a considered masterstroke of strategy or simply a typical Trump action, it certainly appears to have done the trick. Chinese Vice Vice Premier Liu He will be part of a trade delegation to the U.S. later in the week, which at the very least is a sign that China is willing to give ground so as to avoid a damaging trade war.

Source: Scary! Rising US-China Trade War Tensions Could Take 10% Off the S&P

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Job Cuts And No More Snacks: China’s Internet Companies Brace For Slowest Growth In Years

Peolple walk past a sign for Chinese ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Job losses and other cost-cutting measures are beginning to emerge from China’s once unbeatable internet sector.

Games operator NetEase, ride-sharing giant Didi Chuxing and e-commerce firm JD.com are reportedly cutting jobs and reducing employee perks amid faltering growth in the wider economy and increasing regulation of China’s internet companies.

“No matter its Didi, NetEase or JD.com, the only reason for them to do this is business performance pressure,” says Zhang Yi, founder of Guangzhou-based consultancy iiMedia Group. “Their old businesses are fraught with uncertainties, while the new business lines haven’t taken off. It is inevitable to have cut jobs during this process.”

The number of jobs vacancies at China’s internet companies declined 20% in the final quarter of 2018 from a year earlier, according to Zhaopin.com, a Beijing-based recruitment firm. And analysts are expecting to see further pressure down the road, as more internet companies grapple with the country’s sputtering economy.

More On ForbesChina’s Didi Cuts 2,000 Jobs In Business Restructuring

Didi Chuxing is a case in point. Once touted as a national champion that drove Uber out of China in 2016, the company is now cutting 15% of its workforce, or about 2,000 employees. Also gone are the free snacks and complimentary yoga sessions that employees had once enjoyed, as the company reportedly seeks to stem mounting losses. Regulators have been scrutinizing its ride-sharing service following a series of passenger safety scandals. Didi has since issued a public apology, while installing safety measures such as in-app police assistance and sharing vehicle routes with friends and family members. The company is now betting on an international expansion plan as a catalyst for new growth, and says that it intends to hire more people to support that effort.

Other companies have been rolling out new strategies to cope with the challenges. A NetEase spokesperson said the company is “optimizing its structure to stay more focused,” but would not confirm local media reports of “wide-scale layoffs” at its e-commerce, public relations and farming units. Like the rest of the gaming industry, NetEase has to contend with a regulator that has been slow to approve new titles following a 10-month suspension of new licenses in 2018.

Billionaire Richard Liu, founder and CEO of JD.com Inc. (Photo: Billy H.C. Kwok/Bloomberg)© 2017 Bloomberg Finance LP

Meanwhile, a spokesman for JD.com declined to comment on reports that it was in the process of cutting 10% of its senior ranks. Instead, China’s second-largest e-commerce site said it would be hiring 15,000 new employees primarily for entry-level positions at its logistics and customer service units. JD.com’s growth in active customers slowed to 4% in the final quarter of last year, down from 15% in the previous quarter, as competitors like budget shopping service Pinduoduo continued to grab a larger share of the market.

To be sure, not all of China’s internet firms are cutting back. Alibaba’s CEO Daniel Zhang vowed not to lay off any staff this year, stating in a  post on China’s Twitter-equivalent Weibo: “When the economy is bad, the biggest advantage for online platforms is to create jobs.”

More On ForbesThe Reality Of China’s Economic Slowdown

Compounding the challenges faced by China’s internet companies is a slowdown in consumer spending. Beijing is now targeting economic growth of between 6% and 6.5% this year, marking the slowest growth in almost three decades, as government and corporate debt mounts and trade tensions with the U.S. have depressed manufacturing output and consumer sentiment. With China also trying to curb risky funding to reduce financial risks, capital flows to investment funds has been slowing. Private equity firms raised 1.01 trillion yuan ($149 billion) last year, falling almost 30% from 2017, according to Beijing-based research firm Zero2IPO Research.

This means there is less funding available for China’s smaller startups, which are now struggling as investors grow increasingly cautious. “A lot of startups can’t raise money, so they have to cut headcounts,” says Ken Xu, a partner at Shanghai-based investment firm Gobi Partners.

Aware of such struggles, Chinese policymakers recently announced as much as 2 trillion yuan ($298 billion) in corporate tax cuts, and told local banks to grant more loans to private enterprises. But analysts say it remains to be seen if Beijing’s stimulus measures will bring about enough changes as the details still have yet to be clarified.

“They will be helpful, but whether the impact will be as big as people think is a matter of debate,” says Cui Ernan, an analyst at Beijing-based research firm Gavekal Dragonomics. “The job market is likely to remain weak in the first half this year before recovering a bit in the second half.”

Follow me on Twitter @yueyueyuewang

Source: Job Cuts And No More Snacks: China’s Internet Companies Brace For Slowest Growth In Years

New Survey Shows China Not Dead Yet

China’s services sector growth rose for the second month in a row and hit its highest level since June 2018 , according to the Caixin China General Services Business Activity Index, released on Friday. Caixin said that increased foreign demand for Made in China goods and improving business confidence helped. The Index hit 53.9 in December from 53.8 in November and 50.8 in October. While the number is generally flat from November, it is much higher than the third-quarter average and comes at a time when trade tensions remain high.

Source: New Survey Shows China Not Dead Yet

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