Global Investing

Time to kick Russia out of the BRICs?

It may end up sounding like a famous ball-point pen maker, but an argument is being made that Goldman Sach’s famous marketing device, the BRICs, should really be the BICs. Does Russia really deserve to be a BRIC, asks Anders Åslund, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, in an article for Foreign Policy.

Åslund, who is also co-author with Andrew Kuchins of “The Russian Balance Sheet”, reckons the Russia of Putin and Medvedev is just not worthy of inclusion alongside Brazil, India and China  in the list of blue-chip economic powerhouses. He writes:

The country’s economic performance has plummeted to such a dismal level that one must ask whether it is entitled to have any say at all on the global economy, compared with the other, more functional members of its cohort.

I have just returned from Moscow, which is always dreary around this season. But this year, the mood among the capital’s eloquent liberal economists has hit a new low. For the last seven years, Russia has undertaken no significant economic reforms. Instead, the state has been living off oil and gas, like a lucky but undeserving rentier.”

Economically, Åslund has the numbers on his side. The International Monetary Fund estimates that the Russian economic will contract by 6.7 percent this year, while China will grow 8.5 percent and India 5.4 percent. There is less of a case for Brazil, with a contraction of 0.7 percent projected, but it is still doing far better than Russia.

Competition for rare earth metals

China’s dominant position in the arena of rare earth metals used in new technology such as batteries for hybrid cars and magnetic motors could be eroded by an Australian listed company – Greenland Mineral and Energy. The company is planning to list in London next year, pending the resolution of a couple of issues.

Greenland Minerals and Energy thinks it probably has access to the world’s largest depositis of rare earth metals and uranium — used to make nuclear energy.

Global consumption of rare earths last year is estimated at 135,000 tonnes or $1.5-$2.0 billion in 2008. Demand is forecast to grow by 65 percent by 2012 from 2008 levels.

From Reuters TV: ING’s Greater China fund likes telcos, banks

Michael Chiu, senior investment manager at ING Investment Management, has China Mobile as its biggest holding, and is overweight the banks as it plays down the potential impact of NPLs.

The Great Rebalancing

Many investment portfolios are not positioned for the major shifts in consumption that will occur in the next 10 years, according to Anatole Kaletsky, chief economist and co-founder of GaveKal Research.

At the recent G20 meeting in Pittsburgh there was growing support for the idea that the world had to rebalance its out-of-kilter economy, with the surplus countries in emerging markets needing to spend and the deficit countries in developed markets needing to save. But even if your portfolio has a large allocation to Asian equities, you’re probably holding the wrong stocks, argues Kaletsky.

This is because fund managers have tended to focus on the big manufacturing exporters in Asia, rather than domestic demand-oriented stocks such as retailers and food and beverage companies.

from Changing China:

Starbucks and the overvalued yuan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is latte at Starbucks in China overpriced or is the local currency, the yuan, unexpectedly overvalued? The former is certainly more plausible, but it might be equally true that the yuan, if not overvalued, is at least not as undervalued as other measures suggest.

This conclusion would come from my proposed Grande Latte index, the caffeinated equivalent of The Economist's Big Mac index. The Grande Latte index, like its burger brother, is a light-hearted attempt to find a basket of goods that can be compared across countries to assess purchasing power parity (PPP) and, by extension, fair currency value. There are serious flaws, but I will save these for, ahem, the bottom of this blog.

The cross-country cost comparison of grande (i.e. medium in Starbucks-speak) lattes shows that the Seattle-based coffee chain's brew is rather dear in China. A grande latte costs $3.75 in the United States but $4.10 in China in dollar terms. It is even more expensive in Japan. The conclusion, that the yen is currently overvalued by 23 percent, accords well with the views of many analysts. But the idea that the yuan might be overvalued by 9 percent flies in the face of pretty much all conventional wisdom. It is also a drastically different perspective than that of the Big Mac index, which in its latest edition showed the yuan to be 49 percent undervalued.

Another nail in the Malthusian coffin?

All the talk of addressing the global imbalances throws a spotlight on contrasting demographic trends in the world’s two most populous nations — China and India.

Prior to the financial crisis, India’s annual growth rate of about 9 percent seemed positively moribund next to China’s double-digit economic expansion. But purely on demographics, the dimming power of the US consumer could give India an edge over its neighbour in the longer run.

That’s what India’s trade minister Anand Sharma seemed to suggest last week when he reminded the audience at a London conference that the country had “20 percent of the world’s children”:

from MacroScope:

China leading other markets?

It's becoming increasingly common to blame Chinese stocks for recent volatility in global markets.

In some places, numbers do back up why China and other markets are increasingly moving in tandem.

According to Brown Brothers Harriman, the correlation based on percentage change between Shanghai stocks and the S&P 500 index has risen to 18 percent in the last three months. This compares with year-to-date correlation of 9 percent and 4.5 percent in the past two years.

The Big Five: Themes for the Week Ahead

Five things to think about this week:

CENTRAL BANKERS IN A HOLE
– The global economy and financial system appear on the road to recovery but that is in large part due to unprecedented official stimulus that will have to be withdrawn at some point – the questions investors want answered are when, and how.  Central bankers no longer appear to be quite as shoulder to shoulder with one another on coordinated policy as they were last year in the aftermath of Lehman’s collapse.
 

CHINA STOCK WATCHING
–  It is August, liquidity has dried up with the summer holiday season in full swing, and investors are palpably more cautious about the economic outlook now than they have been for months. It is against this backdrop that that the Chinese stock market is emerging as the focal point and driver of all other asset markets. The Shanghai Composite technically slipped into bear market territory earlier last week, shedding 20 percent in the two weeks from Aug. 4 to Aug. 19 on profit taking from the 90 percent surge this year. There is no major Chinese economic data scheduled for release this week, leaving thin markets at the whim of sentiment in what is a notoriously volatile stock market.
 

GROWTH FOUNDATIONS
– The United States, Britain and Germany unveil revised estimates of Q2 economic growth. Revised GDP figures rarely garner much attention but with initial estimates from Germany, France and Japan earlier this month all showing that these countries exited recession in the last quarter, investors will be looking for further evidence the world economy has turned the corner. The hard data is stronger now than it has been for some time but is the global economy building a solid base for recovery, or is it more likely to buckle were authorities to begin withdrawing the massive fiscal and monetary stimulus?
 

from DealZone:

Truckin’ in China

It may be a fertile market, but Caterpillar and Navistar are hardly breaking new ground with plans to set up a joint venture in the People's Republic. A source tells us the two U.S. machine makers are teaming up with China's Jianghuai Automobile to set up a truck venture, a source said, hoping to gain a foothold in China's 150 billion yuan ($22 billion) heavy truck market. But while the market may be fertile, it is a crowded space for foreign firms, with Daimler, MAN and others already tied-up with local partners.

Heavy truck sales in China rose 11.75 percent to 541,256 units in 2008, more than double the level in 2003, according to Nomura Securities, and are set to rise in the coming years on state pump-priming and infrastructure development.

While the money might be there, demand might not be for bourgeois trucks. "Foreign truck makers face a much bigger challenge in China comparatively because an Audi is a status symbol, while a Volvo truck can only push up trucking firms operating cost," said Chen Qiaoning, an industry analyst with ABN AMRO TEDA Fund Management.

The Big Five: themes for the week ahead

Five things to think about this week:

APPETITE TO CHASE? 
- Equity bulls have managed to retain the upper hand so far and the MSCI world index is up almost 50 percent from its March lows. However, earnings may need to show signs of rebounding for the rally’s momentum to be sustained. Even those looking for further equity gains think the rise in stock prices will lag that in earnings once the earnings recovery gets underway, as was the case in past cycles. The symmetry/asymmetry of market reaction to data this week — as much from China as from the major developed economies — will show how much appetite there is to keep chasing the rally higher. 

TAKING CONSUMERS’ PULSE 
- A better picture of the health of the consumer will emerge this week as U.S. retailers’ earnings coincides with the release of U.S. July retail sales data and the UK BRC retail survey comes out on the other side of the Atlantic. With joblessness still rising, the reports will show how willing households are to spend and whether deep discounts, which eat into retailers’ profit margins, are the only thing that will tempt them to shop — both key issues for the macroeconomic and corporate outlook. 

CENTRAL BANK WATCH 
- After last week’s Bank of England surprise, all eyes turn to what sort of signals the U.S. Federal Reserve and Bank of Japan will send on the outlook for their respective economies and QE programmes. After the BOE’s expansion of its QE programme the short sterling strip repriced how soon UK rates would rise. But the broader trend recently in the U.S., euro zone and the UK has been to discount rate rises in 2010 — and possibly as soon as this year in Australia. Benchmark interbank euro rates have risen for the first time in two months, and central bankers everywhere, including China, face the delicate balancing act of managing monetary tightening expectations in the months ahead.