February 3 – February 9, 2017

Chinese companies stashing cash ($110bn) in wealth management products. Italian banking sector depending on UniCredit?

Headlines

FT – Bank of Japan intervenes to buy 10-year JGBs 2/3. Well for now it appears that the Bank of Japan’s tolerance for the Japanese 10-year bond is about 0.11% – the point at which it just intervened in the market indicating it would buy an unlimited amount of bonds to keep them at that rate or less.

FT – Overseas Chinese acquisitions worth $75bn cancelled last year 2/5. “Chinese overseas deals worth almost $75bn were cancelled last year as a regulatory clampdown and restrictions on foreign exchange caused 30 acquisitions with European and US groups to fall through.”

WSJ – U.S. Firms Slash Interest Tab in $100 Billion Refinancing Blitz 2/8. Borrowers are using investor demand for yield to impose rate reductions on their debt.

NYT – A Crack in an Antarctic Ice Shelf Grew 17 Miles in the Last Two Months 2/7. A rift in the Larsen C ice shelf (one of the largest) that started in late 2014 is about 2 months away from pushing a very large glacier into the sea and leading to an eventual collapse of the Larsen C – which is not good.

Bloomberg – Supply Is the Technical Factor Behind Global Rally in Markets 2/8. “In short, a world with excess savings is still struggling to sate its appetite for investable assets in public markets, amid a net shortage of new stocks and corporate bonds.”

Special Reports / Opinion Pieces

Briefs

  • Stephen Foley and Hannah Kuchler of the Financial Times elaborated on institutional investor anger over Snap’s decision to offer voteless shares.
    • Snapchat (Snap) is a first in pursuing an IPO that will issue shares to the market with NO voting power. “The two founders, Evan Spiegel, chief executive, and Bobby Murphy, chief technology officer, will control the company and continue to do so even if they step down.”
    • “The prospectus says a founder’s voting power will only be diluted if he cuts his stake substantially or ‘nine months after his death.'”
    • “Other technology companies, including Google and Facebook, have concentrated control in the hands of their founders, creating different classes of stock. But none has gone public with a class that has no votes whatsoever.”
    • The pros – management can focus on long-term value. The cons – management is not accountable to its outside shareholders.
    • The downside to index funds – “many funds will be forced to own Snap when it is included in major stock market indices…”
    • The concern is the precedent this could set…
  • Anne Richards of the Financial Times discussed the challenges posed to markets by long-term demographic trends.
    • “The global economy has now passed an important tipping point. For the first time in recorded history, children under the age of five no longer outnumber those aged 65 and above. We have arrived at ‘peak child.'”
    • “The United Nations has estimated that the global population will continue to age and, by 2050, more than 15% of the global population will be aged over 65. Economists often point to the challenges that Japan faces as the population ages; by 2050, most of the G7 will have a similar demographic profile as Japan does today, as will China, Brazil and Russia.”
    • “In a world where immigration policy reform is increasingly dominating political agendas, policymakers should recognize that gross domestic product largely reflects a demographic profile where more workers enter the workforce, who (if everything goes to plan) will then produce, earn and consume more than the previous quarter.”
    • “Naturally, as the workforce shrinks due to aging, the reverse will be true. However, it does not necessarily mean than an economy is underperforming if the trend rate of growth is falling to reflect a smaller workforce.”
  • Peter Grant of The Wall Street Journal highlighted that several large investors have cut back on their property exposure due to the bull market losing steam.
    • Some prominent real-estate investors (i.e. Blackstone Group, Brookfield Asset Management, United Parcel Service Inc’s pension trust and Harvard Management Company) are reducing their holdings and getting more selective about new deals, in a sign that the eight-year bull market for U.S. commercial property is coming to a close.”
    • “Deal volume decreased by $58.3 billion, or 11% in 2016, the first annual decrease since 2009, according to data firm Real Capital Analytics.
    • “Caution among investors in the $11 trillion U.S. commercial property sector is being driven by lofty prices, the length of the market cycle so far and the recent rise in interest rates, which makes bonds look more attractive compared with commercial property. Also, developers are adding new supply of some property types at the fastest rate since the recovery began.”
    • “For example, more than 378,000 new apartments are expected to be completed across the country this year, almost 35% more than the 20-year average, according to real-estate tracker Axiometrics Inc.”
  • Lucy Hornby of the Financial Times covered the vow made by Beijing’s mayor to banish parts of the city to the provinces.
    • “Beijing’s new mayor has vowed to gut the city of all functions unrelated to its status as national capital, in an effort to push the growing population into the surrounding provinces.”
    • “Mr. Cai said he would reduce Beijing’s land zoned for construction and cap the city’s population at 23m.”
    • “Almost 22m people now live in Beijing or surrounding satellite cities, up from 4m in 1950 and 9m in 1980.”
  • Robin Wigglesworth of the Financial Times pointed US small-caps guru Henry Ellenbogen’s recent concerns over the post-election rally.
    • “US small stocks guru Henry Ellenbogen is concerned that the ferocious post-election equity rally could unravel unless the economy accelerates sharply to justify the frothy valuations, warning that most of the gains were powered by fickle inflows into exchange traded funds.”
    • “Over $20.6bn has gushed into US small-caps ETFs since early November, according to EPFR, while dedicated small-caps mutual funds have actually suffered some outflows, underscoring the role of passive investment vehicles in the move.”
    • “‘When you have those kind of flows into an illiquid asset class, you can really drive performance. Stuff that was outside the index has been roughly flat, while everything in the index has risen significantly,’ Mr. Ellenbogen said. ‘If there is a setback, the fund flows that drove small-caps higher will be just as aggressive on the way out.'”

Graphics

WSJ – Daily Shot: US Major Inflation Components 02/02

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WSJ – Daily Shot: US Cord Cutting 02/02

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WSJ – Daily Shot: FRED – Domestic Bank Demand for Commercial Real Estate Loans 02/06

wsj_daily-shot_fred-domestic-bank-demand-for-cre-loans_2-6-17

WSJ – Daily Shot: S&P Retail – S&P 500 Relative Performance 02/06

  • “US retail shares continue to underperform as investors question business models.”

wsj_daily-shot_sp-retail-v-sp-500_2-6-17

WSJ – Daily Shot: Domestic Water Use Per Capita by U.S. State 02/06

wsj_daily-shot_us-domestic-water-use-per-capita-by-state_2-6-17

WSJ – Daily Shot: FRED – US Student Loan Balance 02/07

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WSJ – Daily Shot: Statista – Lawsuits filed against US Administrations in first 14 days 02/07

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WSJ – Daily Shot: Global Skyscraper Construction 02/07

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FT – China forex reserves dip under $3tn to touch 5-year low – Gabriel Wildau 2/7

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FT – Investors pile into risky bonds in bet on Trump economy – Eric Platt 2/8

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WSJ – Daily Shot: EIA – US Electricity Production 02/08

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WSJ – Daily Shot: US Market Volatility 02/08

  • “Volatility is dead. We’ve now hit 85 consecutive days without a 1% drop in the S&P 500. The last time this occurred was in 2006.”

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Bloomberg – The Race to the Speed of Light Is Accelerating – John Detrixhe 2/8

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WSJ – For Chinese Home Buyers, Seattle Is the New Vancouver – Laura Kusisto and Kim Mackrael 2/7

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WSJ – Daily Shot: Pew Research – US Religiosity Index 02/08

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Economist – Emerging markets’ Trump tantrum abates, except in Turkey 2/4

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Featured

*Note: bold emphasis is mine, italic sections are from the articles.

Chinese companies park record $110bn in wealth products. Don Weinland. Financial Times. 6 Feb. 2017.

“Cash-rich Chinese corporations are running out of places to invest.”

“As economic growth cooled and investment opportunities ebbed in China last year, listed companies moved a record $110bn of idle cash into financial products, mainly at banks, according to data from Wind Financial Information.”

“The flood of company funds into wealth management products – up some 40% on the previous year – was a sign that many groups in the country shunned risky corporate expansion amid the economic slowdown, instead preferring short-duration investments.”

“About $64bn of the cash companies invested in wealth products had been raised from investors through initial public offerings and private placements…” Why raise cash if you’re not going to use it?

“Over the past four years, Chinese regulators have leaned on listed groups to pay out regular dividends in the hope of bringing mainland bourses more in line with international standards.”

“The wealth management investments show that many state-held groups still refuse to return cash to shareholders.”

“‘The state still has strong holdings in many of these companies, often more than 50%. So institutional investors cannot put pressure on companies to pay out dividends,’ said Wong Chi-man, executive director at China Galaxy International Securities.”

Okay, so if all of these companies (which are traditionally where idle capital is sent to generate economic returns) are preferring to sit on cash for a lack of investment opportunities within their own business, how are the wealth management products being sold going to generate returns – especially at scale?

Is Italy’s financial future resting on UniCredit? Rachel Sanderson, Martin Arnold and Jonathan Ford. Financial Times. 6 Feb. 2017.

“Jean-Pierre Mustier, chief executive of UniCredit, has criss-crossed the world in the past two months seeking to cajole investors into buying 13bn in new shares – a major test of confidence not just for Italy’s largest bank but also the country’s teetering banking sector.”

“As UniCredit launched its bumper rights issue on Monday – at a steep 38% discount to its theoretical ex-rights issue price – bankers in the underwriting consortium said they were confident that it would be successful. It needs to be… Besides worries about profitability and governance, investors fear the industry’s 360bn mountain of doubtful loans, of which 200bn are in default.”

ft_italian-banks-bad-debt_2-6-17

“The offering comes at a tumultuous moment. The implementation of a government decree – earmarking 20bn to rescue several midsized banks, including Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the world’s oldest lender – remains up in the air.”

“The broader issue is whether a successful fundraising by UniCredit will help draw a line under concerns about Italy’s largest bank by assets, and in turn Italy’s banking sector.”

“Italian banks have long been burdened by a large stock of non-performing loans, which they have valued at prices higher than investors are willing to pay.”

ft_italian-banks-npls_2-6-17

“Gross non-performing exposures measured 356bn, or 17.7% of total loans, according to the latest financial stability report. That is three times the amount that is normal in most European economies. The stock of gross sofferenze – the worst kind of defaulted loan – remains at about 200bn; net of provisions that the banks themselves have taken these amount to 85bn.”

“Mr. Mustier, speaking to the Financial Times in December, suggested that the problem of its NPLs (Non-Performing Loans) is deeper than many appreciate.”

“He said the issue stems from Italy’s double-dip recession but also from Italian companies’ practice of funding themselves with ‘hot money.’ The companies had ‘the wrong kind of balance sheet,’ he said. ‘They had not enough capital and they were managing their liabilities by having short-term liabilities to cover long-term assets.'”

“It has taken Mr. Mustier, a Frenchman who lived in London for 20 years, to call out the deeper cultural problems facing Italy’s banking sector. The question is whether his remedy will last beyond this month’s share sale.”

Other Interesting Articles

Bloomberg Businessweek

The Economist

Economist – What are China’s 12345 hotlines? 2/7

Economist – Buttonwood: Bubbles are rarer than you think 2/8

Economist – Melania Trump’s “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to profit 2/9

FT – Snap: clickbait 2/2

FT – Shanghai shows changing face of FDI in China 2/3

FT – US protectionism and deglobalization spell inflation 2/5

FT – Foreign investors cut holdings of China bonds for first time since 2015 2/5

FT – IMF board split over bailout terms for Greece 2/6

FT – Facebook and Google team up to fight fake news in France 2/6

FT – Thinking the unthinkable on Germany going nuclear 2/6

FT – China credit flood set to persist despite PBoC rate rises 2/8

FT – Why is the eurozone back in crisis over Greece? 2/8

FT – South Korean court all but sinks Hanjin Shipping 2/9

FT – US inflation expectations slide 2/9

NYT – Steve Bannon Carries Battles to Another Influential Hub: The Vatican 2/7

WSJ – The Next American Farm Bust Is Upon Us 2/9

WSJ – Landlord Concessions Rising in Manhattan and Brooklyn 2/9

 

 

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