Reuters blog archive

from Breakingviews:

Triple financial mystery remains unsolved

By Edward Hadas

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The world of finance is ensnared in a triple mystery: falling bond yields, falling inflation and rising debt. The ignorance is dangerous.

Low inflation and lower yields have puzzled investors in recent months, but the mystery dates back several decades. The yield story started in 1981, when 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds offered 15.6 percent. Though yields have both fallen and risen since, each peak and trough has been lower than the last one. The pattern has been similar for all bonds from all developed countries. The falls in 2014 – yields on German 10-year paper have dropped from 2 percent to 1.4 percent – fit right in.

The decline in the pace of consumer price increases has been less regular, but equally persistent. American inflation was in the low double digits around 1980, then fell to between 3 and 6 percent over the next two decades, and has been heading towards zero in the post-crisis years. The pattern in most European countries has been similar. Japan reached effective price stability in the mid-1990s.

from Breakingviews:

China’s vanishing metals corrode confidence

By John Foley 

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Faith in metal-backed lending in China is corroding – and so is confidence in the country’s giant credit system. Authorities and banks including Standard Chartered and CITIC are investigating whether traders at Qingdao port used the same lot of copper and aluminium to back multiple loans. Vanishing collateral isn’t a new problem, but could prove to be China’s weakest link.

from Breakingviews:

Review: China gives Africa handy investment lesson

By Stephanie Rogan

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

In the last decade nearly a million Chinese citizens have taken up residence in Africa. In his vivid new book, “China’s Second Continent,” Howard French tells stories of these migrants and the Africans whose lives they affect. The book weaves anecdotes and interviews with historical and geopolitical background to tell a larger tale of the PRC’s economic engagement in the continent. The result is an unflattering portrait of China’s involvement.

from MacroScope:

El Niño may not give Brazil much to worry about on food prices

File photo of loaded soybean truck for BRAZIL SOY.

Now that Brazilian food prices are finally settling down, it looks like El Niño will strike back in a couple of months to throw the world's weather into disarray.

Bad news for Brazil's Finance Minister, Guido Mantega?

Not necessarily.

It could just as easily be a blessing, economists say. The changes in climate patterns caused by warmer Pacific waters could actually be a boon for Brazilian soy and corn producers while not necessarily disrupting other crops.

from Breakingviews:

Blythe Masters could chair Glencore

By Christopher Hughes
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Blythe Masters’ exit from JPMorgan with the sale of its physical commodities business could solve Glencore’s longstanding search for a chairman. The brains behind the credit default swap has the expertise to join the trading house’s board, whose all-male roll makes it an anachronism in the FTSE-100. But there is one big obstacle to her leading this or any board – she has never run a company before.

from Breakingviews:

Noble China joint venture still faces market test

By Una Galani

The author is a Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Noble Group’s joint venture with China still faces a test from market forces. The Singapore trader is selling 51 percent of its agricultural business to a consortium led by state-backed COFCO for around $1.5 billion. China’s desire to control its food supply should guarantee volumes for the joint venture. But it’s less clear that will translate into healthy margins.

The precise size of the COFCO’s investment depends on how the unit, which processes everything from grains to coffee, performs over the next nine months. The final price will be equivalent of 1.15 times its book value in 2014. The headline price implies a valuation of $2.94 billion for the business, which accounted for 16 percent of Noble’s revenue last year.

from Breakingviews:

JPMorgan commodities sale shows trading’s opacity

By Kevin Allison and Antony Currie

The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

JPMorgan’s $3.5 billion sale of its physical commodities business is a perfect example of just how opaque trading is. The bank is selling what is probably a low-return business with regulatory headaches to Mercuria, a privately held firm that does not have to make its financials public. The dearth of details does make it hard to judge, but applying some statistics from both the industry and some rivals suggests Mercuria may be paying top whack.

from Breakingviews:

Market adjustment is not over yet

By Ian Campbell

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The golden fear gauge is rising. Gold is up to a six-month high of $1,383 an ounce. A more serious equity and commodity meltdown threatens as markets grow more uneasy about Ukraine, China, emerging economies and global growth. Gold may go a bit higher still - but its rally too may soon prove vulnerable.

from Counterparties:

MORNING BID – Losses continue, and other concerns

The ructions in China have had an interesting effect on commodities prices – good for gold, crappy for copper. And more developments in this area should be expected as the market deals with growing weakness and the threat of a deflating credit bubble coming from the massive lending to various sectors in the world's second-largest economy. Copper has been rather weak of late, but the broader CRB commodities index is actually much higher on the year. This is the biggest divergence since the eurozone debt crisis in 2011, points out Ashraf Laidi, the chief global strategist at City Index in London.

Again, the recent selling has had to do with the Chinese companies using the metal (and iron ore, too) as collateral for cheap dollar financing. So we've hit a weird storm here – weak yuan that makes those loans more expensive, and copper falling too, and again, that also messes with those loans. Put that together and you have a few markets moving in directions that are not beneficial to a major counterparty in several of them, for one, and resulting in the kind of activity that tends to turn into a vicious cycle.

from Counterparties:

MORNING BID – Copper, China and currencies

Markets start on the back foot this morning, with weakness overseas - and particularly in emerging markets - feeding through to a bit of strain on U.S. futures and a bit of flight to quality to the U.S. bond market.

The outlook for China once again comes into play, with the most recent fears being more corporate defaults in the world's second-largest economy and the way in which copper imports are used in China as collateral to raise funds. So it's all nicely intertwined here and has had a detrimental effect on both China's stocks, stocks in various exchanges around the world, and of course the price of copper, which was down 5 percent in Shanghai.