Global Investing

from Reuters Investigates:

China’s rebalancing act puts consumer to the fore

consumerWal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, now has 189 stories in China, according to its website. Soon it will have many more.  The U.S. chain has announced plans to open a series of "compact hypermarkets", using a bare-bones model developed in Latin America, the Financial Times said.

Wal-Mart stores are a bit different than the one's you might find in, say, Little Rock Arkansas. They sell live toads and turtles for one thing, The Economist reported. But they also sell the appliances, gadgets, and housewares that Wal-Mart stores merchandise everywhere.

And business is booming. Third-quarters sales in China soared 15.2 percent from a year earlier, according to the Financial Times story, compared with a paltry 1.4 percent inthe United States.

China's consumption has been growing. Quite fast, in fact. Yet it still acounts for just a third of GDP, compared with around 60 percent in Europe and about 70 percentin the United States. But that is starting to fundamentally change. A Reuters Special Report by Alan Wheatley, "The Chinese Consumer Awakens" notes that wages are rising fast. People are moving into new cities in China's vast interior, and manufacturers and retailers are following them. Call it China's great rebalancing act, as the government tries to promote more consumption and rely less on cheap exports from "the workshop of the world" for future growth.

Timothy Geithner certainly hopes to see this. The U.S. Treasury Secretary is counting on hundreds of millions of Chinese to spend more and save less. That way, Chinese factories would produce more for domestic consumption and less for export, helping to narrow the trade imbalances that are destabilizing the global economy.

Which BRIC? Russia scores late goal for 2010

How quickly times change. Russia’s stock market, unloved for months, last week overtook India to be the best-performing of
the four BRICs.  The Moscow stock index jumped 5 percent last week, posting its biggest weekly rise in seven months, bringing
year-to-date gains to 17.5 percent. Fund managers such as Goldman Sach’s Jim O’Neill, creator of the BRICs term, are predicting it will lead the group next year too.

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So what’s with the sudden burst of enthusiasm for Moscow? One catalyst is of course soccer body FIFA’s decision to award
the 2018 Soccer World cup to Russia. Investors are piling into infrastructure stocks, with steel producers especially tipped to
benefit as Russia starts building stadia, roads and hotels.  But the bigger factor, according to John Lomax, HSBC‘s head of emerging equity strategy, is the optimism that has started creeping in about U.S. — and world economic growth.

Some of that may have been dampened by Friday’s lacklustre U.S. jobs data. But overall, checks of U.S. economic vital signs show the economy looking sturdier than it was six months ago and most banks, including the pessimists at Goldman Sachs, have upped 2011 growth forecasts for the world’s biggest economy. And China and India are continuing to grow at rates close to 10 percent.  All that is great news for the commodity and oil stocks — the mainstay of the Russian market. Merrill Lynch, for instance, expects oil prices to be $10 higher by next December than now.

Between optimism and pessimism

“Bull markets are born on pessimism, grow on skepticism, mature on optimism, and die on euphoria. The time of maximum pessimism is the best time to buy, and the time of maximum optimism is the best time to sell,” wrote late billionaire investor and philanthropist John Templeton in 1994.

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Investors might have done exactly that. After hitting a trough in March 2009, world stocks have gained  83 percent, with many analysts and investors saying that the rally may have further to run.

But with valuations becoming less attractive compared with the absolute trough last year, what should investors buy now?

from Reuters Investigates:

Mongolia’s El Dorado stirs shareholder battle

friedlandIn Mongolia's South Gobi desert lies Oyu Tolgoi, touted as having the world's largest untapped copper and gold deposits. Little wonder then that this "El Dorado" has become a boardroom battleground between the relatively unknown Ivanhoe Mines and its biggest shareholder, the giant Australian mining company, Rio Tinto.  

Our attempts to get near this mine or elicit any comment from Ivanhoe were about as fruitless as the Spanish conquistadors attempts to find the legendary "El Dorado", or "Lost City of Gold" in the 16th century. Twice Ivanhoe stopped our reporters from visiting the mine with delegations from the investment community, saying reporters were not  allowed to mingle with bankers on visits to the mine. We don't know why that would be. We mingle with them pretty often in other contexts and usually find each other's company amusing and mutually informative.

Perhaps that's the point of Ivanhoe's policy. The company and its executive chairman, Robert Friedland, do not seem to trust the media much. They maintain a robust website,   http://www.ivanhoemines.com/s/The_Facts.asp., that pretty much takes issue with every story written about them. Friedland is legendary in the business for spinning a story and trying to control the narrative.

from Jeremy Gaunt:

The rule of three

It is beginning to look like financial markets cannot handle more than three risks. First we have, as MacroScope reported earlier,  Barclays Wealth worrying about U.S. consumers, euro zone debt and Asian overheating.

Now comes Jim O'Neill and his economic team at Goldman Sachs, with three slightly different notions about risks in the second half, this time in the form of questions. To whit:

1) How deep will the U.S. economic slowdown be and what will  the policy response be? (That's two questions, actually, but let's not nitpick).

from MacroScope:

What are the risks to growth?

Mike Dicks, chief economist and blogger at Barclays Wealth, has identified what he sees as the three biggest problems facing the global economy, and conveniently found that they are linked with three separate regions.

First, there is the risk that U.S., t consumers won't increase spending. Dicks notes that the increase in U.S. consumption has been "extremely moderate" and far less than after previous recessions. His firm has lowered is U.S. GDP forecast for 2011 to 2.7 percent from a bit over 3 percent.

Next comes the euro zone. While the wealth manager is not looking for any immediate collapse in EMU, Dicks reckons that without the ability to devalue, Greece and other struggling countries won't see any great improvement in competitiveness. Germany, in the meantime, has sped up plans to cut its own deficit.  It leaves the Barclays Wealth's euro zone GDP forecast at just 1 percent for next year.

from MacroScope:

Unlocking the Yuan

Reuters's top news and innovation teams have put together a web site on the yuan and the debate over its revaluation. Particularly worth a look after the weekend's statement by China that it would allow more flexibility in its currency exchange. You can access it here, but it looks like this:

Yuan2

What fund managers think

Bank of America-Merrill Lynch’s monthly poll of around 200 fund managers had a few nuggets in the June version, aside from the usual mood-taking.

Gold is too expensive.  A net 27 percent of respondent thought it overvalued, up from 13 percent in May. Then again, the respondents to this poll have reckoned gold is too pricey since September 2009.

The fall in the euro should be tailing off. A net 14 percent reckon the single currency is still overvalued, but that is way down from the net 45 percent who thought so in the May poll.

from MacroScope:

Spend Save Man Woman

Far from being lauded as a virtue, China's high savings rate has been blamed for the economic imbalances underlying the global financial crisis. The criticism being that the Chinese spend too little and rely too much on exporting to Western consumers.

The IMF and World Bank have long called for Beijing to ramp up social spending so its citizens will feel less need to save for a rainy day and instead consume more.

But in their intriguingly named paper,  'A Sexually Unbalanced Model of Current Account Imbalances', New York-based researchers Du Qingyuan and Wei Shang-Jin suggest China's gender imbalance could also be a significant factor in the persistence of its high savings rate. spendsavemanwoman

from Sebastian Tong:

Stop pushing and we’ll do it

The growing acrimony in the international debate over China's currency policy has led some to warn that Beijing could dig in its heels if pushed to hard to let its yuan rise. crybaby

But Barclays Capital says Beijing could let its currency strengthen as early as next month, notwithstanding its public resolve against Washington's threat to label it as a currency manipulator.

"They do have a 'If you stop pushing, we'll do it' attitude, which is kind of childish, really. But it will happen because they are the only country in the world, besides India, where there is a whiff of inflation," says Barclays' asset allocation head Tim Bond.