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With Currency Manipulator Label, China Trade War Moves Into Unchartered Waters

Last week’s announcement by Trump of more tariffs coming for everything shipped to the U.S. from China and Monday’s move by Beijing to allow for a weaker yuan begins Act III in the trade war.

Here’s the plot twist:

Treasury just hit China with currency manipulator status after market hours on Monday. It came at a time when nothing was trading. Investors were stuck in the Twilight Zone. Tuesday morning is going to be a madhouse rush for “sell China” orders by the algos. Wait for it.

As one hedge fund manager told me, “we’ve just thrown gasoline on the fire.”

Currency manipulator status gives Beijing less wiggle room because if they weaken the yuan to make up for tariffs, tariffs will likely go up to compensate.

We are in unchartered waters. At risk is what amounts to sanctions on key U.S. commodities like soybeans and pork by the Chinese government, and political risk involving Hong Kong as civil unrest continues there, putting its special trade status in the crosshairs of a China-bashing American Congress.

President Trump told reporters last week that he figured China would depreciate the yuan in response to his plan to hike tariffs to 10% on the remaining balance of China imports by Sept 1.

In isolation, a 10% tariff on $300 billion in combination with a 10% yuan depreciation would be functionally equivalent to Chinese households writing a check for $30 billion to the U.S. Treasury. “Trump may not have gotten Mexico to pay for its border wall, but he is getting China to pay (the government) for its tariff wall,” says China bear Brian McCarthy, chief strategist for Macrolens, a big picture investment research firm.

Currency manipulator status makes the trade war worse for China.

Meaningful and enduring negative feedback about China will lead to extreme financial market volatility in Asia, especially in China’s mainland equity market where a gambler’s approach to trading by the dominant retailer investor class there might cash out. And why not? China’s mainland stock indexes are up over 20% this year and this may be seen as the time to take money off the table.

Short sellers shouldn’t discount the possibility of the People’s Bank of China pumping money into the A-shares this week.

It’s too early to start expecting widespread defaults on China’s corporate dollar-denominated debt (which some firms estimate to be around $800 billion). A default would deal a harsh blow to foreign investors who have been big buyers of Chinese bonds as that market opens up and joins the major indexes.

The transmission mechanism from yuan devaluation to global securities is expressed more obviously through Europe and other emerging markets, especially those heavily linked to China — such as South Korea and Brazil. Both currencies had an ugly looking chart on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Fed can potentially isolate the U.S. economy from any economic fallout by cutting rates. Though this opens up a whole other can of worms, namely rates sinking to zero in the event of a recession.

The yuan settled at 7.05 to the dollar today after the central bank set the daily rate at just over 6.9 to the dollar. The currency is allowed to trade within 4% of that daily fixed rate. The yuan is now at its weakest level in over 10 years.

“These moves represent a significant escalation in the trade war,” says Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist for RSM, a global financial advisory firm.

“There is a specific logic and order of operations with respect to the tit-for tat retaliation likely to play out that will not result in longer-term inflation, but will instead create conditions for deflation and negative nominal interest rates along the U.S. maturity spectrum if a longer-term trade compromise cannot be reached,” he says.

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I’ve spent 20 years as a reporter for the best in the business, including as a Brazil-based staffer for WSJ. Since 2011, I focus on business and investing in the big emerging markets exclusively for Forbes. My work has appeared in The Boston Globe, The Nation, Salon and USA Today. Occasional BBC guest. Former holder of the FINRA Series 7 and 66. Doesn’t follow the herd.

Source: With Currency Manipulator Label, China Trade War Moves Into Unchartered Waters

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Cisco, Tilray, Aurora Cannabis, Alibaba, Trade Talks – 5 Things You Must Know

Here are five things you must know for Wednesday, May 15:

1. — Stock Futures Lower Amid Subsiding Trade War Worries

U.S. stock futures were lower Wednesday though sentiment was lifted by a softening of the rhetoric from Donald Trump in the U.S.-China trade war and suggestions that talks could resume in the coming weeks.

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Markets also were soothed by weaker-than-expected economic data from China that pointed to not only slowing growth in the world’s second-largest economy but also a weakening bargaining position in Beijing’s trade standoff with Washington.

With Trumps describing the dispute with China as “a little squabble” on Tuesday, as well as confirmation from the U.S. Treasury that Secretary Steven Mnuchin will soon travel to Beijing to resume trade talks, markets were happy to add risk following Tuesday’s gains on Wall Street.

Contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 85 points, futures for the S&P 500 declined 8.70 points, and Nasdaq futures were down 23 points.

The economic calendar in the U.S. Wednesday includes Retail Sales for April at 8:30 a.m. ET, the Empire State Manufacturing Survey for May at 8:30 a.m., Industrial Production for April at 9:15 a.m., and Oil Inventories for the week ended May 10 at 10:30 a.m.

2. — Cisco, Alibaba and Macy’s Report Earnings Wednesday

Alibaba Group Holding (BABAGet Report)  posted stronger-than-expected fiscal fourth-quarter earnings as consumer growth on its online marketplace surged and its tie-up with Starbucks (SBUXGet Report) , the world’s biggest coffee chain, helped boost revenue and its cloud computing sales surged.

Macy’s (MGet Report)  earned 44 cents a share on an adjusted basis in the first quarter, higher than estimates of 33 cents. Same-store sales rose 0.7% in the quarter vs. estimates that called for a decline of 0.6%.

Earnings reports are also expected Wednesday from Cisco Systems (CSCOGet Report) and Jack in the Box (JACKGet Report) .

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3. — Tilray Rises After Revenue Beat, Aurora Cannabis Slumps

Tilray  (TLRY) shares were rising 4% to $50.71 in premarket trading Wednesday after the Canadian cannabis company posted stronger-than-expected first-quarter sales, while its domestic rival Aurora Cannabis (ACBGet Report) slumped after revenue missed analysts’ forecasts amid caps on retail store growth in the Canadian market.

Tilray said first-quarter revenue rose 195% from a year earlier to $23 million, as sales in Canada surged following the country’s decision to legalize cannabis for recreational use. The adjusted loss in the quarter was 27 cents a share, wider than analysts’ estimates, after a 5.7% drop in the average price per kilogram sold.

CEO Brendan Kennedy also said Tilray was looking to further its partnerships with U.S. and international companies as the potential $150 billion global market for cannabis undergoes a generational change in both regulation and consumer acceptance.

“We’ve been inundated with contacts from Fortune 500 companies who are interested in exploring partnerships with Tilray,” Kennedy told investors on a conference call late Tuesday. “And it’s a range of companies from a broad variety of industries.”

“We’re also starting to have conversations with U.S. retailers who are interested in carrying CBD product in the second half of this year,” he added.

Aurora Cannabis, meanwhile, was tumbling 4.7% to $7.99 in premarket trading after its fiscal third-quarter revenue of C$75.2 million missed Wall Street forecasts of C$77.2 million and consumer cannabis sales were just under C$30 million as provincial regulators limited the number of retail outlets.

The company reported a loss attributable to shareholders in the quarter of $C158 million said Aurora Cannabis said it was “well positioned to achieve positive EBITDA beginning in fiscal Q4.”

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4. — Walmart Considering IPO for U.K. Unit Asda

Walmart (WMTGet Report) is considering an initial public offering for its U.K. grocery subsidiary Asda, a listing that that could value the company at as much as an estimated 8.5 billion pounds ($11 billion), Bloomberg reported.

The news comes just weeks after U.K. antitrust regulators blocked a planned merger between Asda, Britain’s fourth-largest supermarket, and rival J Sainsbury.

“While we are not rushing into anything, I want you to know that we are seriously considering a path to an IPO,” Judith McKenna, the company’s international chief, told employees at an event in Leeds, according to a summary of the event provided by Asda. Any preparations for going public would “take years,” she said, Bloomberg reported.

5. — Nelson Peltz’s Trian May Wage Activist Campaign at Legg Mason – Report

Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management may wage an activist campaign at Legg Mason (LMGet Report) and push the mutual fund company to improve its flagging results, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

It would be the second time in 10 years that Trian has targeted the mutual fund company, according to Reuters.

Trian recently has held discussions with Legg Mason about the need to cut costs and improve profit margins, the people told the Journal. The two sides may still negotiate a settlement that sidesteps a proxy fight, the sources added.

On a conference call with analysts Monday, Legg Mason CEO Joseph Sullivan said the company was moving to slash expenses.

“While there is much work to be done, we now have increased visibility into and have gained even greater confidence in our ability to deliver $100 million or more of annual savings now within two years,” he said.

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Source: Cisco, Tilray, Aurora Cannabis, Alibaba, Trade Talks – 5 Things You Must Know

Trade War Is Hiding China’s Big Problems

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Getty

The ongoing US-China trade war is a distraction from China’s big problems: the blowing of multiple bubbles and the country’s soaring debt, which will eventually kill economic growth.

It happened in Japan in the 1980s. And it’s happening in China nowadays.
The trade war is one of China’s problem that dominates social media these days. It’s blamed for the slow-down in the country’s economic growth, since its economy continues to rely on exports. And it has crippled the ability of its technology companies to compete in global markets.
But it isn’t China’s only problem. The country’s manufacturers have come up with ways to minimize its impact, as evidenced by recent export data. And it will be solved once the US and China find a formula to save face and appease nationalist sentiment on both ends.
One of China’s other big problems , however, is the multiple bubbles that are still blowing in all directions. Like the property bubble—the soaring home prices that makes landlords rich, while it shatters young people’s dreams of starting a family, as discussed in a previous piece here.

New Home Prices 2015-19

New Home Prices 2015-19

Koyfin

Unlike the trade war, that’s a long-term problem. Low marriage rates are followed by low birth rates and a shrinking labor force, as the country strives to compete with labor-rich countries like Vietnam, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Bangladesh—to mention but a few.
Then there’s the unfavorable “dependency rates” — too few workers, who will have to support too many retirees.
And there’s the impact on consumer spending, which could hurt the country’s bet to shift from an investment driven to a consumption driven economy.
Japan encountered these problems over three lost decades, even after it settled its trade disputes with the US back in the 1980s. China experience many more.
Meanwhile, there’s the infrastructure investment bubble at home and abroad, as discussed in a previous piece here. At home infrastructure investments have provided fuel for China’s robust growth. Abroad infrastructure investments have served its ambition to control the South China Sea and secure a waterway all the way to the Middle East oil and Africa’s riches.

City overpass in the morning

City overpass in the morning

Getty

While some of these projects are well designed to serve the needs of the local community, others serve no need other than the ambitions of local bureaucrats to foster economic growth.
The trouble is that these projects aren’t economically viable. They generate incomes and jobs while they last (multiplier effect), but nothing beyond that—no accelerator effect, as economists would say.
That’s why this sort of growth isn’t sustainable. The former Soviet Union tried that in the 1950s, and it didn’t work. Nigeria tried that in the 1960s ;Japan tried that in the 1990s, and it didn’t work in either of those cases.
That’s why bubbles burst – and leave behind tons of debt.
Which is another of China’s other big problem s.
How much is China’s debt? Officially, it is a small number: 47.60%. Unofficially, it’s hard to figure it out. Because banks are owned by the government, and give loans to government-owned contractors, and the government owned mining operations and steel manufacturers. The government is both the lender and the borrower – one branch of the government lends money to another branch of government, as described in a previous piece here.
But there are some unofficial estimates. Like one from the Institute of International Finance (IIF) last year, which placed China’s debt to GDP at 300%!
Worse, the government’s role as both lender and borrower concentrates rather than disperses credit risks. And that creates the potential of a systemic collapse.
Like the Greek crisis so explicitly demonstrated.
Meanwhile, the dual role of government conflicts and contradicts with a third role — that of a regulator, setting rules for lenders and borrowers. And it complicates creditor bailouts in the case of financial crisis, as the Greek crisis has demonstrated in the current decade.

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I’m Professor and Chair of the Department of Economics at LIU Post in New York. I also teach at Columbia University. I’ve published several articles in professional journals and magazines, including Barron’s, The New York Times, Japan Times, Newsday, Plain Dealer, Edge Singapore, European Management Review, Management International Review, and Journal of Risk and Insurance. I’ve have also published several books, including Collective Entrepreneurship, The Ten Golden Rules, WOM and Buzz Marketing, Business Strategy in a Semiglobal Economy, China’s Challenge: Imitation or Innovation in International Business, and New Emerging Japanese Economy: Opportunity and Strategy for World Business. I’ve traveled extensively throughout the world giving lectures and seminars for private and government organizations, including Beijing Academy of Social Science, Nagoya University, Tokyo Science University, Keimung University, University of Adelaide, Saint Gallen University, Duisburg University, University of Edinburgh, and Athens University of Economics and Business. Interests: Global markets, business, investment strategy, personal success.

Source: Trade War Is Hiding China’s Big Problems

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How China Could Ruin 2019 For Apple, Tesla, Boeing

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It was 27 years ago when Deng Xiaoping observed that “Saudi Arabia has oil; China has rare earths.”

Talk about a prescient observation. In the early 1990s, China’s then-supreme leader had zero inkling of the iPhones, Tesla cars, drones, robots and high-tech fighter jets yet to come. Yet China’s dominance over these vital inputs is more relevant than ever as the trade war intensifies.

There is a pervasive view that President Xi Jinping’s government has less leverage over Donald Trump’s. Why, then, is Xi the one walking away from a truce? With Trump increasingly desperate for a win, any win, on the global stage, China could get off cheap.

Xi’s team could be misreading the moment. Or putting testosterone ahead of geopolitical peace. A more interesting reading: Beijing reckons it has more cards to play in this game than investors recognized.

In May, Xi made a pointedly-timed visit to a rare earth facility. Though not quite Saudi oil, China’s massive store of elements vital to myriad tech products gives Beijing considerable leverage over Silicon Valley.

It’s but one example of how China may have Trump over a barrel. What other cards are up Xi’s sleeve?

Louis Gave of Gavekal Research just put out one of the more intriguing lists of possibilities. On it: banning rare-earth exports; making life “impossible” for U.S. executives operating in China; devaluing the currency; dumping huge blocks of U.S. Treasury securities; engineering a plunge in global energy prices; sharp drops in orders of goods across the board.

There are a couple of other options. One, dissuading mainland consumers from visiting America. Two, pull a Huawei Technologies on pivotal U.S. companies. This latter step could wreak immediate havoc with the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Imagine the blow if Xi’s government suddenly closed off Boeing’s access to Asia’s biggest economy. Or if General Motors found its cars parked at Chinese customs. Halting Apple Inc.’s sales would send its own shockwaves through corporate America. Curbing Chinese imports of American soybeans would do the same in agricultural circles.

So far, China has kept retaliatory moves to a minimum. Xi seems to be rolling the dice that Trump will get distracted or impatient and move on to another target—like Japan. His calculation also seems aimed at 2020. Why give away the store to Trump when Americans might elect a less erratic leader?

Weaponizing rate-earths minerals might be Xi’s first real shot across Corporate America’s bow. The U.S. has other sources, of course. If U.S. deposits don’t suffice, companies could turn to Australia, Myanmar, India, Brazil or Thailand. And Trump seems tight enough with Vladimir Putin to score some stock from Russia. But the supply chain disruptions would surely have top CEOs — who tend to be big campaign donors — calling Trump to register their dismay.

It could backfire, too. In 2019, Beijing deprived Tokyo of rare-earth metals and China’s market share has never been the same since. “Unfortunately,” Gave says, “this would give China a ‘feel-good’ boost, but be as productive as landing a mild blow on Mike Tyson’s nose. Such an export ban would undermine China’s long-term production capacity, for the simple reason that rare earths are not that rare.”

The dumping-dollar-debt option could be especially dangerous. Just like an “uncontrolled currency depreciation,” says Michael Hirson of Eurasia Group, selling huge blocks of U.S. Treasuries would “threaten blowback to China’s economy.”

Any surge in bond yields could devastate the American consumer. The shockwaves would quickly zoom from Wall Street to Shanghai. Xi might be hinting at such a move, though, as Beijing buys fewer and fewer Treasuries. At present, China has more than $1.1 trillion of U.S. government securities. Xi seems to think that’s more than enough.

Even so, markets may live in semi-constant fear of a massive bond route bearing Chinese fingerprints. Or any number of ways in which China would ratchet up tensions with Trump and vice versa.

“The path to a potential de-escalating deal is fraught with challenges as both sides dig in, and how markets react will likely help determine the outcome of talks,” say analysts at Fitch Ratings. “Over the longer term, we maintain our long-held view that protectionist trade policy led by the US is likely to persist in the years ahead, marked by cycles of escalation and de-escalation.”

Roughly a week after Xi’s rare-earths pilgrimage, he visited Jiangxi Province, the starting point of Mao Zedong-era 1934-1936 “Long March.” There, Xi called for a new one as Trump’s America does its worst to halt China’s march to the top of the economic rankings.

That hardly sounds like a Chinese leader who’s going to cave to Trump. More like one who’s in this trade battle for the long haul.

Chinese President Xi Jinping visits a memorial hall marking the departure of the Long March by the Central Red Army in Yudu County, Ganzhou City, during an inspection tour of east China's Jiangxi Province.

Chinese President Xi Jinping visits a memorial hall marking the departure of the Long March by the Central Red Army in Yudu County, Ganzhou City, during an inspection tour of east China’s Jiangxi Province.

Xinhua/Xie Huanchi

I am a Tokyo-based journalist, former columnist for Barron’s and Bloomberg and author of “Japanization: What the World Can Learn from Japan’s Lost Decades.”

Source: How China Could Ruin 2019 For Apple, Tesla, Boeing

US Stocks Rise on Positive Trade Talks with China; Bitcoin Cautious

The US stocks opened Wednesday on a higher note as President Donald Trump signaled positive outcomes of their trade talks with China. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 0.5 percent to 23902 points after adding 115 points while the S&P 500 gained 0.3 percent. The Nasdaq Composite Index surged by 43.2 – or 0.6 percent – to 6941. The jump marked the market’s fourth consecutive upside session – the first time since Sep 14 – correcting 9% from its Dec 24 lows. However, the market remained 11% down from its 2017 peak.

Source: US Stocks Rise on Positive Trade Talks with China; Bitcoin Cautious

China Begins To Blink In The Trade War, And That’s Good For Its Citizens – Panos Mourdoukoutas

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America’s tariffs have begun to have an impact on China’s trade policies. Last Sunday, Beijing announced that it will lower tariffs on 1585 products. The policy will take effect on November 1, and it will bring overall tariffs level down to 7.5% from 9.8% last year. The goods covered include textile products, metals, minerals, machinery and electrical equipment, most of which have been the target of US tariffs. The new tariff reduction came a few months after China cut tariffs on most imported medicines, vehicles and auto parts……..

Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/panosmourdoukoutas/2018/10/03/china-begins-to-blink-in-the-trade-war-and-thats-good-for-its-citizens/#494199615363

 

 

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