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Is This Really A Currency War Or Just A Tantrum?

Since the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) allowed the yuan to surpass the dreaded level of 7 to the dollar on August 11, rivers of ink have flowed citing a new matter of contention between the U.S. and China, namely using currencies to gain competitiveness or, more simply, a “currency war.”

To describe the events as a currency war may seem logical because another type of “war” between the U.S. and China, namely the trade war, has been on everybody’s mind for the past year and a half. Moreover, the Trump administration itself has continued this game by classifying China as a “manipulator” of its currency immediately after this latest devaluation.

In the same way as the U.S. Treasury is not following its own script when classifying China as a currency manipulator, neither should we think of the yuan mini-devaluation as China initiating a currency war with the U.S. The reason is simple: the yuan–which is not convertible–cannot afford a war with the dollar, nor can the U.S. Federal Reserve control its currency so as to use it as a weapon against China.

In other words, neither of the two rivals have the instruments to successfully engage in a currency war against each other. Starting with the dollar, there is no doubt that its value is determined by the market, as it could not be otherwise being the reserve currency of a world still governed by flexible exchange regimes for major currencies.

The Fed can influence the dollar with expansive or restrictive monetary policies, but there are many other factors that it and the Treasury simply cannot control. One important factor is risk aversion: the more the Trump administration tightens the screws on China and, thereby increases the risk of recession globally, the more the dollar appreciates, contrary to what Trump wants.

Moving to the yuan, the PBOC is much closer to determining its value than the Fed can for the dollar, as it retains control on capital flows and does not need to intervene in a highly liquid forex market like that of the dollar. Nevertheless, the reality is that capital is ubiquitous, so capital controls will never be completely effective.

In other words, the value of the yuan is not exempt from the forces of demand and supply, nor is its value in the medium term, no matter what the PBOC may opt to do on a specific date or period. Considering the yuan’s mini-devaluation, the beginning of a currency war is a mistake for one more very important reason. The PBOC has accommodated market pressure by devaluing while central banks tend to move against the market during currency wars.

It’s true, though, that the timing of the devaluation could mislead us towards the idea of a China-initiated currency war because it happened right after the U.S. announcement of additional import tariffs on Chinese products.

More than a war, we should see this reaction as a tantrum of Chinese policy makers facing additional pressure from the U.S. Besides, as happens for every tantrum, its consequences may not be the desired ones as such mini-devaluation will only prompt more capital outflows from China, undoing part of the monetary stimulus that the Chinese central bank has been carrying out for more than a year to sustain economic growth. In other words, it will not help China to grow, but rather the opposite.

Thus, it is important to distinguish between a war and a tantrum. In the former you control your weapons, in the latter you do not.

I’m the chief economist for Asia Pacific at Natixis. I also serve as a senior fellow at European think-tank BRUEGEL and am a non-resident research fellow at Madrid-based political think tank Real Instituto Elcano. I am also is an adjunct professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and member of the advisory board of Berlin-based China think-tank MERICS, an advisor to the Hong Kong Monetary Authority’s research arm (HKIMR) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) as well as a member of the board of the Hong Kong Forum and cofounder of Bright Hong Kong. I hold a Ph.D. in economics from George Washington University and have published extensively in refereed journals and books. I’m also very active in international media as well as social media. As recognition of my leadership thoughts, I was recently nominated TOP Voices in Economy and Finance by LinkedIn.

Source: Is This Really A Currency War Or Just A Tantrum?

China allowed its currency to fall below the key 7 yuan-per-dollar level for the first time in more than a decade. CNBC’s Eunice Yoon joins “Squawk Box” with the details.

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Stocks Making The Biggest Moves After Hours: Cisco NetApp and Vipshop

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Cisco fell nearly 8% in after-hours trading after announcing better than expected fourth-quarter earnings and weaker-than-expected guidance. The enterprise technology company reported adjusted fourth-quarter earnings per share of 83 cents on revenue of $13.43 billion. Analysts had expected adjusted earnings per share of 82 cents on revenue of $13.38 billion, according to Refinitiv.

For the first quarter, Cisco said it anticipates adjusted earnings per share between 80 cents and 82 cents. The company said it expects flat to 2% revenue growth. Those figures are below analyst projections for earnings of 83 cents per share and revenue growth of 2.5%, according to Refinitiv consensus estimates.

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins said the company’s business in China dropped 25% amid the U.S.-China trade war and early signs of macro shifts that didn’t occur in the previous quarter.

Shares of NetApp jumped nearly 4% after the data services and management company reported promising first-quarter earnings. The company reported adjusted earnings per share of 65 cents on revenue of $1.24 billion. Analysts had expected earnings per share of 58 cents on revenue of $1.23 billion, according to Refinitiv. NetApp CEO George Kurian said gross margin and cost structure improvements will help the company “navigate the ongoing macroeconomic headwinds”

Vipshop soared 8% after announcing higher-than-expected earnings for the second quarter. The Guangzhou, China-based company reported adjusted second-quarter earnings per share of $1.58 yuan on revenue of $22.74 billion yuan. Analysts had expected earnings per share of $1.01 yuan on revenue of $21.52 billion yuan, according to Refinitiv. Eric Shen, chairman and chief executive officer of Vipshop, cited the company’s growing numbers of active users and acquisition of Shanshan Outlets.

Pivotal Software shares skyrocketed nearly 70% in extended trading after VMware said it will acquire all outstanding Class A shares at $15 in cash. That price represents an 80% premium on  Pivotal’s closing price of $8.30 per share.

By : Elizabeth Myong

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/

 

Trade War Is Hiding China’s Big Problems

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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

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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.

Follow me on Twitter.

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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Private Sector GDP Growth is Kind of Anemic

Today’s GDP report got me curious about something: how does private sector GDP compare to total GDP? That is, if you pull out government contributions to GDP growth, what does purely private-sector growth look like? Here it is:

Private sector growth has been declining since the start of the expansion, and that decline has picked up speed over the past two years. It’s no wonder President Trump was so eager to agree to sizeable increases in the federal budget this week. He knows perfectly well that his tax cut has worn off and he needs all the help he can get from government spending to prop up an increasingly anemic private sector. For the next year, anyway.

Personal consumption was up a healthy 4.3 percent, but business investment plummeted -5.5 percent. Exports were down and imports were flat. Federal government spending added more than usual to GDP by about 0.4 percentage points. State government spending was also higher than average, by about 0.2 percentage points. If government spending had been at normal levels, GDP would have increased 1.5 percent instead of 2.1 percent. Inflation was higher than last quarter.

Overall, this is an OK but not great GDP report for the private sector, saved only by higher government spending.

The most remarkable thing about Donald Trump is how eerily stable his approval rating is. Here is 538’s chart over the past year:

After the Republican tax cut passed in late 2017, Trump’s approval rating rose to 41 percent and it’s stayed within two points of that ever since. I don’t know if this is good or bad—bad for Trump, I suppose, since that’s a tough re-elect number—or if there’s much Trump can do to improve it. But it’s definitely unusual. It sure looks like nearly everyone has their mind made up about Trump and isn’t likely to change it.

 

Source: Private sector GDP growth is kind of anemic

Here’s Why We Suddenly Stopped Hearing About A Recession

Topline: Economists—especially after the stock market took a dive in December—had been warning that a recession was coming, and possibly imminent. But a combination of low-interest rates and an improving labor market has quickly silenced those fears — and complicating the hopes of Donald Trump’s foes in 2020.

  • The risk of a recession decreased last week after the Federal Reserve declined to raise interest rates this year, said Brian Rose, senior Americas economist at UBS Global Wealth Management’s Chief Investment Office.
  • Combined with a stock market bounce-back and a growing economy, investors are now optimistic — a big shift from earlier this year.
  • Major economic predictors showing an increased threat of a recession have scaled back it’s predictions in recent weeks.
  • Asterisk: If President Donald Trump escalates the trade conflict with China by adding more tariffs on Chinese imports—particularly auto parts—the economy could suffer, increasing the chances of a recession, Rose said.

Earlier this year, half of economists surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics predicted a recession in 2020. Another poll of economists by the Wall Street Journal in January put the chances of a recession at 25 percent—the highest since 2011.

Coverage piled on (a few examples: “4 Signs Another Recession Is Coming―And What It Means For You,” “A recession is coming, but don’t flee markets yet,” “The Next Recession Is Coming. Now What?”), with many predicting bad news for Trump (Politico: “Trump advisers fear 2020 nightmare: A recession”). Some industries girded for the worst, like online lenders, who tightened its rules to lessen risk.

And then, suddenly, the panic eased. Now Goldman Sachs economists say there is only a 10 percent chance of a recession. What happened?

The biggest factor in that shift came when the Federal Reserve opted not to not raise interest rates, a pleasant surprise to economists. Rose said lower-than-expected inflation led the Fed to keep rates modest.

The economy, too, has grown, allaying recession fears. According to the latest job numbers, the U.S. has the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years.

“It is hard to have a recession when unemployment is this low and interest rates are this low,” Richmond Federal Reserve president Tom Barkin said on Wednesday.

The biggest risk of recession comes from Trump himself. If he increases tariffs on more goods than the $200 billion in Chinese imports he’s already promised, the risk of a recession increases, Rose said. As trade negotiations remain rocky, investors are increasingly concerned.

“Left on it’s own, there’s little risk to the economy,” he said. “The real risk of a recession comes from policy, particularly trade.”

Barring another recession, positive economic growth should mean good news for Trump in 2020. But as it stands, Trump is still relatively unpopular (his approval rating sits at 46 percent, although that is a high for him). And most forecasters agree the economy won’t grow as much as the White House says it will.

“A normal president with these economic numbers would have job approval somewhere in the vicinity of 60%,” Republican pollster Whit Ayres told the Los Angeles Times. “But Donald Trump is a nontraditional president, and he has, at least at this point, severed the traditional relationship between economic well-being and presidential job approval.”

Still, a recent CNN poll found that 56 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the economy. And while many Democrats haven’t focused on the latest job numbers, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who is running for president, tried spinning the numbers a different way during an appearance on CNN, crediting President Obama with job growth.

I’m a San Francisco-based reporter covering breaking news at Forbes. Previously, I’ve reported for USA Today, Business Insider,

Source: Here’s Why We Suddenly Stopped Hearing About A Recession

Jobs Growth Recovers In March After A Disappointing February

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That sound you’re hearing might be a sigh of relief from investors reacting to this morning’s monthly payrolls report.

After a weak showing in February that raised fears of an economic slowdown, job creation bounced back in a big way with 196,000 jobs added by the U.S. economy in March. That was about 20,000 above expectations, and way above revised growth of 33,000 in February. What we’re seeing here is a revergence to the mean in terms of average employment numbers, and that’s reassuring.

With the March number in hand and job growth back on a more healthy pace, the February number might now be chalked up to the after-effects of the government shutdown and bad winter weather. The government said job growth over the last three months has averaged 180,000, and that’s thanks to strong growth in January and again in March.

Average hourly wages grew 3.2% year-over-year last month, another sign of possible economic strength, while the overall unemployment rate stayed at 3.8%, near 50-year lows. Inflation has been a non-starter lately, so the better than 3% wage growth isn’t likely to get many people worried about potential rising prices that sometimes go along with higher wages.

With the jobs data in hand, stocks added to earlier gains in pre-market trading. If we’d gotten another report like February’s, it conceivably might have weighed on the market. Still, one thing to potentially worry about today is a possible “Friday fade,” where investors see a good number, decide jobs growth isn’t something to worry about, and then go back to worrying about other things.

If you want to find imperfections in today’s data, it might be in the type of jobs created. While business and professional services and health care led the gains—which we’ve seen most of the year and looks great—manufacturing and construction again showed little change, the government said, though 16,000 construction jobs did get added. Those are areas many analysts look for when they seek signs of economic strength, but they’ve been a bit quiet the last two months.

Restaurants and bars, along with construction, all had weak growth in February likely due in part to weather, but only restaurants and bars bounced back as temperatures warmed in March. That could be something to keep our eye on, though it’s not worth worrying about too much.

Going into the report, a lot of focus had been on the February number and what it might mean for the economy. When you combine weak jobs growth with some of the low inflation and sluggish retail sales data seen recently, it appeared to send signals about possible underlying consumer weakness. The stock market struggled in early March as investors wrestled with the February jobs data.

Since then, economic data have improved, but that ominous February jobs reading wasn’t far from many investors’ minds. Today’s report could mean one less worry.

China, Strong Data Also in Focus

The market has seemed a bit like an eager dog straining on a leash this week. Excitement about the potential completion of a trade deal between the United States and China has helped provide forward momentum to continue the enthusiasm from Monday’s strong manufacturing data.

But there does seem to be a leash keeping the market from really going gangbusters. One part of that could be some less-than-stellar economic data this week on U.S. durable goods orders, domestic private-sector payrolls, and German industrial orders.

But it’s also possible that investors and traders have kept their optimism in check given the uncertainty ahead of today’s jobs report. And the fact of the S&P 500 nearing an all-time high could be acting as a weight of its own, as the market doesn’t have a huge catalyst to move dramatically higher.

Of the two main causes for worry about global economic growth—the U.S.-China trade war and Britain’s exit from the European Union—it’s a trade deal that seems to be the closest to becoming a catalyst for a rise in stocks. However, it’s also arguable that much of the optimism for a deal has already been priced into the market, as expectations of a resolution have been one of the key drivers for this year’s solid comeback after the market tanked late last year.

Onward and Upward

On Thursday, investors continued to look for developments on the trade front, as President Trump was scheduled to meet with China’s top trade negotiator after the market closed. With sentiment leaning bullish, the S&P 500 continued advancing toward its record Thursday, posting its best close so far this year. The trade meeting ended without too many new details, but stocks moved mostly higher overnight in Europe and Asia.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average also gained yesterday, led by a nearly 2.9% rise in shares of Boeing despite Ethiopia’s transport minister saying the crew in the deadly crash last month of a 737 Max jet made by Boeing had repeatedly performed procedures provided by the company but still couldn’t control the plane. The company’s shares appeared to get some lift after Barron’s highlighted a tweet by Boeing’s CEO about a software update performing safely in a demo flight. Bloomberg reported that the company’s shares gained ground as optimism about a trade deal helped shares shrug off the latest developments on the crash.

In other corporate news, Tesla’s shares fell more than 8% Thursday after the automaker disappointed investors by reporting a bigger-than-expected drop in auto sales. The roughly 63,000 deliveries fell short of what analysts had been expecting.

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Figure 1: Eye on the Greenback: The U.S. dollar (candlestick) has been climbing vs. other currencies, though it leveled off this week. It’s not far from its 2019 highs thanks in part to some strong U.S. data and concerns about Brexit. Meanwhile, gold (purple line) has been descending, which often happens when the dollar gains ground. Data Sources: ICE, CME Group. Chart source: The thinkorswim® platform from TD Ameritrade. For illustrative purposes only. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Data Sources: ICE, CME Group. Chart source: The thinkorswim® platform from TD Ameritrade.

Consumers Keeping Their Jobs: In U.S. economic news, initial jobless claims fell to their lowest level since 1969, according to the latest Labor Department numbers. In the seven days ended March 30, initial claims for state unemployment benefits, a rough gauge of layoffs, fell by 10,000 to about 202,000, the third consecutive decline. “The key takeaway from the report is that it suggests employers are reluctant to let go of employees,” Briefing.com said. “That is a positive consideration in terms of the economic outlook since feelings of job security help fuel increased consumer spending activity.”

Sentiment Data on Tap: Speaking of the U.S. consumer, which drives a huge portion of the domestic and global economies, investors are scheduled to get a reading on consumer sentiment for April from the University of Michigan next week. The last reading, for March, increased from February’s number. “Rising incomes were accompanied by lower expected year-ahead inflation rates, resulting in more favorable real income expectations,” the university said then. “Moreover, all income groups voiced more favorable growth prospects for the overall economy.” It could be interesting to see if consumer sentiment for April continues to improve.

Cain on Rise? On Thursday, President Trump said he had recommended former Republican presidential candidate and pizza chain chief executive Herman Cain for a Fed board seat. The news comes after Trump has expressed displeasure with Fed Chairman Jerome Powell after a series of interest rate hikes. But as CNBC points out, Cain may not end up being as dovish as the president might wish, noting a 2014 tweet where Cain said the central bank “can’t keep the economy running on the fumes of artificially low interest rates forever.” For now, though, the Fed seems committed to a dovish policy as inflation remains muted.

TD Ameritrade® commentary for educational purposes only. Member SIPC.

I am Chief Market Strategist for TD Ameritrade and began my career as a Chicago Board Options Exchange market maker, trading primarily in the S&P 100 and S&P 500…

Source: Jobs Growth Recovers In March After A Disappointing February

Japan-South Korea Tensions Spur The Need For Courage And Creativity

A series of incidents have driven relations between Japan and South Korea to new lows. Frustration has mounted as each government has blamed the other for the sorry state of affairs. Though domestic politics is partially to blame, the real problem is more deeply rooted. Each country sees the other as the cornerstone of its own national identity, and their respective self-images make conflict inevitable. While the U.S. can help the two countries address this problem, only courageous and inventive leadership in Tokyo and Seoul can resolve it…………….

Source: Japan-South Korea Tensions Spur The Need For Courage And Creativity

Is a Recession Coming – Brooke Crothers

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In December 2007, Larry Kudlow, then a talking head for the business network CNBC, proclaimed, “There’s no recession coming. It’s not going to happen.” That same month, the economy plunged into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. This week, Larry Kudlow, now the director of the National Economic Council, stood on the White House lawn and struck a familiar note: “I’m reading some of the weirdest stuff [about] how a recession is right around the corner. Nonsense,” he said. “Recession is so far in the distance, I can’t see it……….

 

 

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