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from Breakingviews:

China’s “biggests” come early, late or not at all

By Ethan Bilby and John Foley
The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

China collects superlatives. In 2013, it added biggest goods trader, top red wine consumer and number one oil importer. Some “biggests” are a sign of investment potential, but others suggest inequality and inefficiency. Meanwhile, some of the most meaningful, like having the world’s dominant currency, still look a long way off.

Mainland oenophiles drank almost 1.9 billion bottles of red wine in 2013 according to Vinexpo. The country's shoppers also made up the world’s largest grocery market for the third year, worth some $1 trillion according to IGD, and extended its lead as the biggest buyer of cars. Being the biggest is something to strive for in China. The opening of the world’s largest building in 2013, and plans for the world’s tallest skyscraper in Changsha, are part of a rich tradition of gigantomania.

The world’s most populous country should one day have markets and monuments to match. Becoming the biggest trading nation in 2013, for example, sounds appropriate. But some accolades have probably come too early, reflecting China’s unequal development. It’s not encouraging that China is the biggest consumer of gold, yet may have to wait until 2020 to be the largest market for medicines. Some get rich before the rest get healthy.

from Breakingviews:

China’s Singles’ Day shows market power of one

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By John Foley

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

China’s retail sector is about to be plunged into collective madness. On Nov. 11, online shoppers are likely to snap up over $4 billion of goods when prices halve in celebration of “Singles’ Day”. Billed as a celebration of unmarried people, the event is actually a cue for massive online discounting. Consumers benefit, but the best deal goes to Alibaba, which reinforces the dominance of its Tmall and Taobao online marketplaces while leaving sellers to do the heavy lifting.

from The Great Debate:

With unemployment high, France forces stores to close early

The French like to refer to the Champs Elysées in Paris as “the most beautiful avenue in the world,” and 300,000 people stroll up and down it every day to see for themselves, many of them tourists looking to shop. No surprise, then, to find that retailers from Nike to LVMH are willing to pay premium rents for space on the avenue, which runs in a straight line from the Place de la Concorde up to the triumphal arch at Etoile.

Just don’t try to buy anything in the evening. This week a Paris court of appeal ordered the cosmetics chain Sephora to close its flagship store on the avenue at 9 p.m., rather than staying open until midnight during the week and until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. It was the latest ruling over store-closing hours that has already forced several other big name retailers in Paris both on and off the avenue to close early, including Apple, France’s Monoprix and the Japanese clothing retailer Uniqlo. Two other stores on the Champs Elysées, Abercrombie and Fitch and perfumer Marionnaud, are also facing legal action.

from Global Investing:

‘Ivanovs’ keen on new cars despite high inflation – Sberbank

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Sberbank's hypothetical Russian middle-class family metric - the 'Ivanovs'- shows the average Russian family is concerned about high inflation, though that is still barely denting some peoples' aspirations of getting behind the steering wheel of a new car.

April's Ivanov index, a survey of more than 2,300 adults across 164 cities in Russia with a population of more than 100,000, notes people are still concerned about persistently high inflation, which in Russia is at around 7 percent.

from Breakingviews:

Where did Apple’s missing market value go?

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

Mr Market has slashed Apple’s market value by $260 billion in six months. Meanwhile, the combined worth of a wide group of smartphone and tablet rivals has added less than half that. If investors think Apple is fading, the competing Android complex could be worth far more - to someone.

from Breakingviews:

Japan tensions rewrite China shopping lists

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By Katrina Hamlin

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

China’s buying habits have taken on an air of the patriotic, at least where Japan is concerned. As tensions rose last year over who owns a group of remote islands, sales of Japanese cars and arrivals of Chinese tourists showed a marked slowdown. Even Chinese acquisitions of Japanese companies fell in the last quarter of 2012.

from Global Investing:

Russia’s consumers — a promise for the stock market

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As we wrote here last week, Russian bond markets are bracing for a flood of foreign capital. But there appears to be a surprising lack of interest in Russian equities.

Russia's stock market trades on average at 5 times forward earnings, less than half the valuation for broader emerging markets. That's cheaper than unstable countries such as Pakistan or those in dire economic straits such as Greece. But here's the rub. Look within the market and here are some of the most expensive companies in emerging markets -- mostly consumer-facing names. Retailers such as Dixy and Magnit and internet provider Yandex trade at up to 25 times forward earnings. These compare to some of the turbo-charged valuations in typically expensive markets such as India.

from Breakingviews:

Americans can’t feel better than companies forever

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

Consumers are feeling better than companies these days, but that might not last long. Cheerier shoppers splashing out more cash could transform business’s bad attitude. But gloomy executives may be more likely to pour cold water on enthusiastic Americans if their pessimism leads to slower hiring.

from Global Investing:

Three snapshots for Tuesday

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Is now the time to shift to equities vs. bonds? Goldman Sachs think so and traditional valuation measures such as the equity risk premium (chart) make bonds look expensive relative to equities when compared to the average over the last 20 years.

It isn't surprising that the performance of equities relative to bonds tends to be closely correlated with economic activity. However as the chart below shows this does break down from time to time, equities are currently still trailing bonds over a 12-month period while an ISM above 50 suggests equities should be winning.

from Global Investing:

Three snapshots for Friday

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One Apple chart that has been going down for 10 years is its forward P/E ratio:

Rising gasoline prices push up American's inflation expectations for the next year:

Currency moves this year:

 

 

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