Tag: China

March 12, 2018


statista – Proportion Of Female CEOs Is Hugely Overestimated – Niall McCarthy 3/7

Our World in Data – Fertility Rate – Max Roser 12/2/17

WSJ – Daily Shot: OECD – Time spent eating and drinking by Country 3/8

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

A Wealth of Common Sense – The Power of Narrative – Ben Carlson 3/8

Bloomberg Businessweek – Bitcoin Is Ridiculous. Blockchain Is Dangerous. – Paul Ford 3/9

Business Insider – Uber and Lyft drivers are selling candy and snacks in their cars – and it’s indicative of a dark truth – Aine Cain 3/9

Economist – Self-driving cars offer huge benefits-but have a dark side – Leaders 3/1

  • “Policymakers must apply the lessons of the horseless carriage to the driverless car.”

Pragmatic Capitalism – Why is the US Economy Becoming More Stable? – Cullen Roche 3/9

WSJ – Daily Shot: Trump Alienates Allies Needed for a Trade Fight With China – Greg Ip 3/7

Real Estate

WSJ – Mortgage Rates at a Four-Year High Threaten to Roil Housing – Christina Rexrode and Laura Kusisto 3/8

  • “U.S. mortgage rates have hit their highest level since 2014, a new challenge for a housing market that has been central to the economic recovery but remains vulnerable to even modest headwinds.”
  • “The rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.46%, the highest in more than four years and the ninth consecutive week of increases, according to data Thursday from mortgage-finance giant Freddie Mac . At the start of the year, the average rate was 3.95%.”
  • “If the trend persists, it could hamper a sector that represents about 15% of U.S. gross-domestic product. Rising mortgage rates already have crimped refinancing activity and pushed would-be home buyers who are on the margins out of the market as home prices also have risen.”
  • “While the rates remain low by historical standards, millennial buyers, who are often making their first home purchase, could suffer sticker shock. ‘They will be the preponderance of the market purchasing homes over the next 10 years,’ said Ed Robinson, head of the mortgage business at Fifth Third Bancorp. ‘And they’ve never seen 5%’.”
  • “Initially, the housing market often does well when mortgage rates rise. Potential buyers may hurry to complete purchases before rates rise further. Rising rates often signal underlying confidence in the broader economy, which could make some people more apt to buy.”
  • “Historically, there is little correlation between the level of the increases that recently have occurred with mortgage rates and declines in home prices.”
  • “’It takes a pretty big rise in mortgage rates to offset the strength in the economy that causes rates to rise,’ said David Berson, chief economist at Nationwide Insurance and a former chief economist at Fannie Mae.”
  • “Economists expect renters who want to become homeowners will still try to do so, although they may have to look for cheaper homes or make other spending changes. Economists believe mortgage rates would have to rise to roughly 6% before they start to significantly affect borrowers’ decisions about whether to buy a home or what they can afford.”
  • “However, in higher-cost markets, such as New York City and San Francisco, higher rates can have a bigger effect given that loan balances are larger. A 3.5% rate on a $500,000 loan would create a monthly payment of $2,245, according to LendingTree Inc., an online loan information site. At 4.5%, the monthly payment would be $2,533. (That excludes taxes and insurance.)”
  • “Rising rates tend to have a bigger impact on the market for refinancing existing mortgages. The Mortgage Bankers Association expects mortgage-purchase originations to increase about 7% this year. It forecasts the refinancing market, which is smaller, to plunge by nearly 28%, adding to a sharp drop in 2017.”


WSJ – Brokers to Investors: Your Cash Ain’t Nothin’ But Trash – Jason Zweig 3/9

  • “According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, free credit balances — one partial measure of uninvested cash in brokerage accounts — totaled $350.2 billion at the end of January.”
  • “Assuming the average yield of 0.12% that Crane Data estimates for brokerage sweep accounts, investors would earn an aggregate of only $420 million in income on that money over the next year.”
  • “If, instead, investors shopped around to improve their yield and earned an average of 1% on that cash, they would pocket $3.5 billion in income. Overall, then, the cost of that inertia is roughly $3.1 billion.”
  • “If you don’t shop around for better yields on your cash, you’re handing your broker another 1% a year.”

Cryptocurrency / ICOs

WSJ – Daily Shot: Bitcoin 3/8

WSJ – Daily Shot: Ripple 3/8


Bloomberg – Toronto Home Builders Just Had Their Busiest February Since 1948 – Theophilos Argitis 3/8

Bloomberg – Loonie Slide Fails to Unsettle Forecasts for 2018 Outperformance – Anooja Debnath 3/8

WSJ – Daily Shot: Canada Housing Starts 3/8

  • “Canadian housing starts exceeded expectations and continue to trend higher.”


Bloomberg – China’s War on Pollution Will Change the World – Jeff Kearns, Hannah Dormido, and Alyssa McDonald 3/9

  • “China is cracking down on pollution like never before, with new green policies so hard-hitting and extensive they can be felt across the world, transforming everything from electric vehicle demand to commodities markets.”
  • “Four decades of breakneck economic growth turned China into the world’s biggest carbon emitter. But now the government is trying to change that without damaging the economy—and perhaps even use its green policies to become a leader in technological innovation.”
  • “China’s air pollution is so extreme that in 2015, independent research group Berkeley Earth estimated it contributed to 1.6 million deaths per year in the country.”
  • “The smog is heaviest in northern industrial provinces such as Shanxi, the dominant coal mining region, and steel-producing Hebei. Emissions there contribute to the planet’s largest mass of PM 2.5 air pollution—the particles which pose the greatest health risks because they can become lodged in the lungs. It can stretch from Mongolia to the Yellow Sea and often as far as South Korea.”
  • “The country had become the world’s No.1 carbon dioxide emitter as it rose to dominate global exports, a process which began several decades ago but got its biggest lift with World Trade Organization entry in 2001. Emissions have started to fall again.”
  • “The government’s war on air pollution fits neatly with another goal: domination of the global electric-vehicle industry. Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc. might be the best-known name, but China has been the global leader in EV sales since 2015, and is aiming for 7 million annual sales by 2025.”
  • “To get there, it’s subsidizing manufacturers and tightening regulation around traditional fossil-fuel powered cars.”
  • “Worldwide, solar panel prices are plunging—allowing a faster shift away from carbon—thanks to the sheer scale of China’s clean-energy investment. It’s spending more than twice as much as the U.S. Two-thirds of solar panels are produced in China, BNEF (Bloomberg New Energy Finance) estimates, and it’s home to global leaders, including JinkoSolar Holding Co. and Yingli Green Energy Holding Co.”
  • “But China isn’t stopping there. As well as wind and solar, it’s exploring frontier clean energy technologies like hydrogen as an alternative to coal.”
  • “The trend towards clean energy is poised to keep gathering steam worldwide. BNEF projects global investment in new power generation capacity will exceed $10 trillion between 2017 and 2040. Of this, about 72% is projected to go toward renewable energy, roughly evenly split between wind and solar.”
  • “Five years ago, Beijing’s ‘airpocalypse’ unleashed criticism of the government so searing that even Chinese state media joined in. Last year, the capital’s average daily concentration of PM2.5 particles was almost a third lower than in 2015, compared with declines of about a tenth for some other major cities.”
  • “The turnaround isn’t just limited to improving air quality. China has stopped accepting shiploads of other countries’ plastic and paper trash, a response to public concern over pollution and a decreased need for scrap materials.”


Bloomberg Quint – Bond Trading Tumbles in India as Banks Stare at $3 Billion Loss – Subhadip Sircar 3/9

  • “If the RBI’s (Reserve Bank of India) reluctance to play the role of savior is any indication, it looks unlikely that Indian bond traders will see their predicament end soon.”

March 8, 2018

If you were only to read one thing…

FT Alphaville – China’s household debt problem – Matthew C Klein 3/6

  • “The rapidity and size of China’s debt boom in the past decade has been almost entirely without precedent. The few precedents that do exist — Japan in the 1980s, the US in the 1920s — are not encouraging.”
  • “Most coverage has rightly focused on China’s corporate sector, particularly the debts that state-owned enterprises owe to the big four state-owned banks. After all, these liabilities constitute the biggest bulk of the total debt outstanding, and also explain most of the total growth in Chinese debt since the mid-2000s.”
  • “Chinese households, however, are quickly catching up. This is bad news.”
  • “The simple story of China’s debt boom is that government-backed companies borrow from government-controlled banks to pay for wasteful investments to support jobs and other political objectives. This creates lots of problems for China today and in the future, but it does have one virtue: the losses from centralized credit allocation can be distributed over a broad population over a long period of time.”
  • “Household debt is different. Borrowers are widely dispersed and lack political power. The lenders are often newer finance companies or loan sharks. Worst of all, there is essentially zero chance that additional household borrowing pays for productive investment. Some of China’s additional infrastructure and manufacturing capacity may prove valuable one day. Household debt probably won’t. Atif Mian and Amir Sufi have ably shown that increases in household borrowing tend to predict slower income growth and higher joblessness.”
  • “This chart is therefore cause for concern:”
  • “As of mid-2017, Chinese households had debts worth about 106% of their disposable incomes. For perspective, Americans currently have debts worth about 105% of their disposable incomes, on average. The difference is that American indebtedness has been basically flat the past few years after steady declines since 2007.”
  • “Chinese households have been experiencing rapid income growth by rich-country standards for a long time, but their debts have grown far faster:”
  • “Since the start of 2007, Chinese disposable household income has grown about 12% each year on average, while Chinese household debt has grown about 23% each year on average. The cumulative effect is that (nominal) income has slightly more than tripled but debts have grown by nearly a factor of nine. The mismatch has been getting worse recently, as can be seen in the kink in the pink line towards the end.”
  • “All this is finally starting to affect the aggregate debt numbers. Household debt in China is still small relative to the total — about 18% as of mid-2017 — but household borrowers are now responsible for about one third of the growth in total nonfinancial debt:”
  • “The problem is that households cannot service their debts out of GDP. Instead they have to rely on their meagre incomes. Since 2007 the share of Chinese national output going to households has ranged from as high as 46% to as low as 42% of GDP. (The rest of China’s national income is mostly captured by government-controlled enterprises and their elite managers.) The household share of income has dropped by about 1 percentage point just in 2017:”
  • “For comparison, disposable income in the US has tended to hover between 71% and 76% of GDP over the past few decades.”
  • “The trick for Beijing now is to bring non-productive investment down as rapidly as it can without causing unemployment to rise to dangerous levels. Because it has proven difficult to replace non-productive investment with productive investment (and, I have long argued, unrealistic even to expect it could happen), the only way to do so is to replace it with consumption. But levered consumption obviously cannot solve the problem of rapid debt growth, so rising consumption must be driven by rising household income, even as declining investment causes workers on investment projects to be fired. In the end this may be politically a difficult problem, but economically it is just an arithmetic problem about wealth reallocation.” – Michael Pettis


CNBC – 42% of Americans are at risk of retiring broke – Jessica Dickler 3/6

© GOBankingRates

US Census Bureau – Irish-American Heritage Month and St. Patrick’s Day 2/6

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Business Insider – Underpaying drivers is ‘essential’ to Uber’s business model, according to a new study on low wages – Shona Ghosh 3/7

Economist – How the West got China wrong – Leaders 3/1

  • “It bet that China would head towards democracy and the market economy. The gamble has failed.”

FT – Forget flu, it’s time for your fake-news jab – Hannah Kuchler 3/6

  • “News literacy should be taught like sex and drugs education, to protect individuals and society as a whole.”

Medium – A Lack of Clarity is The Biggest Inhibitor of Progress Towards Your Goals – Srinivas Rao 3/5

Real Estate

WSJ – Daily Shot: Cresset Wealth Advisors – US Housing Price Change from Pre-Crisis Peak 3/7

WSJ – New York Housing Is Getting (Gasp!) More Affordable – Josh Barbanel 3/7

  • “Housing costs are taking a smaller bite out of the typical household’s monthly budget, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau survey that is conducted every three years. The survey also shows a record amount of new housing and the third-highest rental-vacancy rate since the bureau’s first survey in 1965.”

WSJ – That Much Prophesied Commercial Property Bust Still Hasn’t Happened – Esther Fung 3/6

  • “The delinquency rate for securitized loans in the commercial real-estate industry has dropped for eight consecutive months, defying expectations in recent years of a wave of defaults.”
  • “According to real-estate data provider Trepp LLC, the delinquency rate for real-estate loans in commercial mortgage-backed securities clocked in at 4.51% in February, down from 5.31% in the same period a year earlier. The rate hit an all-time high of 10.34% in July 2012.”
  • “Investors had been expecting an increase in defaults in 2016 and 2017 as the large volume of CMBS packaged during the 2006 to 2007 period reached maturity. But rising real-estate values, low interest rates and a surge of debt capital from insurers and other sources have allowed property owners to refinance or restructure their debts.”

Yahoo Finance – Foursquare CEO: There are 2 types of malls that are seeing growth – Melody Hahm 3/6

  • “While consumers are getting lured online by cost savings and the convenience factor, there’s still ample data on foot traffic into physical stores, said Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck. In fact, he’s found that the rise in online shopping has largely affected middle-market malls. Malls serving high-end and low-end customers are actually seeing growth.”


WSJ – The New ID Theft: Millions of Credit Applicants Who Don’t Exist – Peter Rudegeair and AnnaMaria Andriotis 3/6

Cryptocurrency / ICOs

Bloomberg – Bitcoin Dives After SEC Says Crypto Platforms Must Be Registered – Camila Russo and Lily Katz 3/7


WSJ – Daily Shot: Change in Construction Producer Price Index 3/7

  • “US construction firms continue to struggle with rising materials costs. Higher steel prices will exacerbate the problem, especially for commercial property developers.”

Asia – excluding China and Japan

WSJ – In China’s Shadow, Communist Vietnam Links Arms With Old Enemy, the U.S. – Jake Maxwell Watts 3/2


WSJ – China’s Financial Reach Leaves Eight Countries Vulnerable, Study Finds – Josh Zumbrum and Jon Emont 3/4


WSJ – Daily Shot: FRED – European Central Bank Balance Sheet 3/7

Puerto Rico

WP – Exodus from Puerto Rico grows as island struggles to rebound from Hurricane Maria – Arelis R. Hernandez 3/6

March 7, 2018


Bloomberg Businessweek – Asian Cities Dominate Expat Salary Rankings – Andy Hoffman and Zoe Schneeweiss 2/26

US Census Bureau – Stats for Stories – Academy Awards 3/4

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Bloomberg Businessweek – Anbang Out With a Whimper – Nisha Gopalan 2/22

FT – How the Middle East is sowing seeds of a second Arab spring – Andrew England and Heba Saleh 3/4

NYT – State Dept. Was Granted $120 Million to Fight Russian Meddling. It Has Spent $0. – Gardiner Harris 3/4

Markets / Economy

Bloomberg Businessweek – KFC’s Big Screw-Up Left Restaurants Without Chicken – Christopher Jasper and Eric Pfanner 2/28

WSJ – Big Banks Enter Branch Warfare – Aaron Back 3/5

  • “Banks are entering a new period of growth, bolstered by healthy capital levels, less burdensome regulation and higher interest rates. Branch openings will remain a key competitive tactic for banks. As for Wells Fargo, with the Federal Reserve capping its growth and new sales controversies still emerging, it looks like a sitting duck to rivals.”

Real Estate

WSJ – Daily Shot: BofAML – Genworth Mortgage Insurance: US First-time homebuyers 3/6

WSJ – Daily Shot: BofAML – NAR: US Home Affordability and Mortgage Payment Components 3/6

WSJ – Daily Shot: John Burns RE Consulting – Home Price Relative Values 3/6


WSJ – Daily Shot: John Burns RE Consulting – Changes in American Debt 3/6

Environment / Science

Economist – The known unknowns of plastic pollution 3/3

Economist – Only 7% of the world’s plastic is recycled – Daily Chart 3/6

WEF – The Arctic is sending us a powerful message about climate change. It’s time for us to listen – Jennifer Francis, Jeremy Wilkinson, and Gail Whiteman 3/5


Bloomberg Businessweek – The Car of the Future Will Sell Your Data – Gabrielle Coppola and David Welch 2/20

  • “As smarter vehicles become troves of personal information, get ready for coupon offers at the next stoplight.”


WSJ – China Spends More on Domestic Security as Xi’s Powers Grow – Josh Chin 3/6

South America

Bloomberg – Venezuelans, Go Home: Xenophobia Haunts Refugees – Ezra Fieser and Matthew Bristow 3/5

March 6, 2018


FT – Shadow banking grows to more than $45tn assets globally – Caroline Binham 3/5

  • “’Shadow banking’ grew by nearly 8% globally to more than $45tn on a conservative measure after international rule makers were able to include detailed data from China and Luxembourg for the first time.”
  • “Shadow banking — the parts of the financial system that perform bank-like functions such as lending but do not have the same safeguards — accounted for 13% of total global financial assets, according to the Financial Stability Board, the international group of policymakers and regulators that makes recommendations to the G20.”
  • “The report covers 2016 figures. But since then China has launched a continuing crackdown on its shadow-banking sector.”
  • “China contributed $7tn, or 15.5%, of the $45tn assets comprising the FSB’s conservative definition of shadow banking, while Luxembourg contributed $3.2tn, or 7.2%.”
  • “But defining shadow banking can be a slippery business. The FSB’s exercise starts with looking at the assets of anything that is not a bank, including pension funds, insurers, and ‘other financial institutions‘, or OFIs. That wider ecosystem accounts for $160tn assets worldwide, compared with $340tn total financial assets globally.”
  • “Meanwhile, OFIs grew by 8% to $99tn; a faster level than banks, insurers and pension funds. OFIs now account for 30% of the entire financial system’s assets; the highest level since 2002.”

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

A Wealth of Common Sense – The Winners Write the History Books – Ben Carlson 3/4

  • “Coming up with explanations for past successes is easy but figuring out who the winners will be going forward never is.”

FT – Venezuela is the one to watch on oil – Nick Butler 3/4

  • “This is Opec’s most unstable country and Maduro could escalate the dispute with Guyana.”

FT – Reports of oil demand’s death have been greatly exaggerated – Chris Midgley 3/2

MIT Technology Review – If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich? Turns out it’s just chance. – Emerging Technology from the arXiv 3/1

  • “The most successful people are not the most talented, just the luckiest, a new computer model of wealth creation confirms. Taking that into account can maximize return on many kinds of investment.”

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Credit-Card Losses Surge at Small Banks – AnnaMaria Andriotis 3/4

  • “Concerns have been mounting in the broader credit-card industry about the recent trend of rising delinquencies. While overall card losses are still relatively low—below the historical average of the last 30 years, for instance—they’ve been slowly climbing in the last two years.”
  • “But they’ve especially surged at smaller banks, those outside the 100 largest by assets that have less than around $10.4 billion in assets. There, the average charge-off rate is near an eight-year high, while the 3.5% loss rate at large banks remains well below the 10.6% seen in 2010.”

Real Estate

MarketWatch – Over a million Americans may have just lost their shot at refinancing – Andrea Riquier 3/5

  • “Approximately 1.4 million Americans lost the interest rate incentive to refinance their mortgages in the first six weeks of 2018, according to an analysis from real estate data provider Black Knight.”
  • “The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.43% during the week ending March 1, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey. That was up three basis points from the prior week and leaves rates nearly half-a-percentage point higher than the level at which they started the year.”


NYT – California Scraps Safety Driver Rules for Self-Driving Cars – Daisuke Wakabayashi 2/26

  • “The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles said Monday that it was eliminating a requirement for autonomous vehicles to have a person in the driver’s seat to take over in the event of an emergency. The new rule goes into effect on April 2.”


FT – China hedge funds suffer in debt crackdown – Gabriel Wildau and Yizhen Jia 3/4


FT – Yen strengthening and trade rhetoric hit Japan exporters – Leo Lewis 3/4

  • “Currency jumps after Kuroda hints BOJ may exit its massive stimulus in 2019.”

WSJ – Daily Shot: USD / JPY Inverted) 3/4

WSJ – Daily Shot: Nikkei 225 3/4


March 5, 2018

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

naked capitalism – MIT Study: Median Uber and Lyft Profits Less Than Half Minimum Wage; 30% of Drivers Lose Money – Yves Smith 3/2

  • “A team from Stanford, Stephen M. Zoepf, Stella Chen, Paa Adu and Gonzalo Pozo, under the auspices of MIT’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research obtained information from 1100 Uber and Lyft drivers using questionnaires and information about vehicle-specific operating costs, such as insurance, maintenance, repairs, fuel and depreciation.”
  • Their main finding:”
    • “Results show that per hour worked, median profit from driving is $3.37/hour before taxes, and 74% of drivers earn less than the minimum wage in their state. 30% of drivers are actually losing money once vehicle expenses are included. On a per-mile basis, median gross driver revenue is $0.59/mile but vehicle operating expenses reduce real driver profit to a median of $0.29/mile.”

Markets / Economy

Bloomberg Businessweek – Harvard Blew $1 Billion in Bet on Tomatoes, Sugar, and Eucalyptus – Michael McDonald and Tatiana Freitas 3/1

NYT – China’s Biggest Deal Maker Spent Billions. Now the Bill Comes Due. – David Barboza and Alexandra Stevenson 3/2

WSJ – Boom in Share Buybacks Renews Question of Who Wins From Tax Cuts – Akane Otani, Richard Rubin, and Theo Francis 3/1

Environment / Science

NYT – Europe Was Colder Than the North Pole This Week. How Could That Be? – Kendra Pierre-Louis 3/1


FT – China’s super-rich lose political clout – Tom Mitchell 3/1

  • “Sharp drop in billionaires at parliamentary sessions as standing falls under Xi Jinping.”

Visual Capitalist – China’s Staggering Demand for Commodities – Jeff Desjardins 3/2

New Zealand

FT – ‘Billionaire bolt-holes’ under threat in New Zealand – Jamie Smyth 3/1

February 28, 2018


WSJ – Chinese Regulator Seizes Anbang Insurance, Owner of Waldorf Astoria – James T. Areddy 2/23

  • “China’s insurance regulatory agency Friday took control of hard-charging, acquisitive Anbang Insurance Group Co., saying the action is needed to avoid a collapse of the firm following suspected illegal activity and the downfall of its once-highflying chairman.”
  • “The China Insurance Regulatory Commission published a letter to Anbang management saying duties of the board and management will now be overseen by a working group of regulators from various agencies for one year. ‘All transactions of your company, asset trading, information dissemination, contract signing other than traditional insurance business are subject to the consent of the working group,’ said the statement dated Feb. 12.”
  • “Separately, ​Wu Xiaohui, who led Anbang until he was detained eight months ago, has been indicted on charges of fraudulent fundraising and abusing his position, according to a one-sentence notice by prosecutors in Shanghai on Friday. The insurance regulator’s statement refers to Mr. Wu as Anbang’s former chairman.”

NYT – Beijing Takes Over Anbang, Insurer That Owns Waldorf Astoria – Keith Bradsher and Alexandra Stevenson 2/22

  • “The Waldorf Astoria purchase ushered in the rise of a new breed of Chinese deal makers. The companies, which also included Dalian Wanda Group, HNA Group and Fosun International, bought up everything from hotels to banks to movie production companies. Though the companies are privately owned, their leaders often benefited from their political connections, and they were often backed by cheap debt provided by China’s state-run banks.”
  • “The deals made the companies truly global players. For example, in a financial disclosure last spring, shortly before the police detention of its chairman, Anbang said that nearly three-fifths of the assets of its main business, life insurance, were overseas.”
  • “Property was a big focus for Anbang. In 2016, it spent more than $6 billion for a group of hotels in the United States, buying it from Blackstone Group, a private equity giant. That gave it marquee properties including the Westin St. Francis hotel in San Francisco, the Loews Santa Monica hotel in California and the Fairmont Chicago hotel.”
  • “Anbang also offered more than $13 billion for Starwood Hotels and Resorts before abandoning its bid in 2016, without explanation. By then, the Chinese deal makers had hit a wall.”
  • “China was shaken three years ago by a surge of money out of the country and concerns that its economy had been layering on too much debt. Anbang and the other Chinese deal makers, which had borrowed heavily to fund their shopping sprees, soon drew attention from officials. State media labeled them ‘gray rhinoceroses‘ — big problems that are ignored until they start moving fast.”

FT – China conglomerates suffer different fates in Beijing crackdown – Tom Hancock and Lucy Hornby 2/23

  • “The Chinese government’s takeover of Anbang Insurance and criminal prosecution of founder Wu Xiaohui marks the biggest step yet in an official crackdown on risky financing by ambitious conglomerates that has prompted a severe decline in China’s overseas dealmaking.”
  • “But on the same day as the Anbang seizure was announced, Chinese company Fosun said it would buy a controlling stake in Lanvin, France’s oldest couturier. The move underlines the diverging fates of the four largest private conglomerates — the others are HNA and Dalian Wanda — that Beijing identified last year as borrowing too aggressively to fund offshore deals.”
  • “All have captured headlines over the past few years with a series of audacious foreign acquisitions. These include Anbang’s $2bn purchase of New York’s Waldorf Astoria, Dalian Wanda’s takeover of Hollywood studio Legendary Entertainment for $3.5bn, and HNA’s $40bn splurge on stakes in companies including Deutsche Bank and Hilton Worldwide.”
  • “Beijing stepped in last year to curb the spree, worried that companies were overpaying for foreign assets and draining China’s foreign currency reserves, while relying on risky financing methods to fund acquisitions.”
  • Analysts say the government’s treatment of the groups differs depending on their sources of financing, and whether they have co-operated in the government’s campaign to slow capital outflows and cut leverage.
  • “Wanda has co-operated with official directives by unloading more than $4bn in overseas assets over the past nine months and promising to “refocus” on the domestic economy. Last week it sold its 17% stake in Spanish football club Atlético Madrid.”
  • “HNA, meanwhile, has appeared to win back support as it regroups amid a liquidity crunch. Last week, the debt-laden company announced the HK$15.8bn ($2bn) sale of two plots of land in Hong Kong to local developer Henderson Land.”
  • “It was Anbang’s financing model that caused the Chinese authorities most concern. Unlike other groups that relied on bank loans or bond issuances to fund acquisitions, Anbang relied on sales of investment-like products it sold to wealthy Chinese retail investors labelled as life insurance, a part of China’s sprawling shadow-banking system.”
  • “Anbang’s finances were also in a more precarious state than other companies due to the mismatch between the short-term nature of its assets and the longer-term nature of its liabilities.”

WSJ – Who Will Be Called On to Clean Up the Anbang Mess? – Jacky Wong 2/26

WSJ – Anbang and the Financialization of China’s Economy – Nathaniel Taplin 2/23

  • “China’s Anbang Insurance went from zero to too-big-to-fail in the blink of an eye. It is a lesson in how quickly China’s financial problems grow—and how much is left to clean up.”
  • “A capital raising, including a possible government capital injection seems likely. The total cost of cleaning up the mess, including whatever losses sit on Anbang’s gargantuan balance sheet—put at close to 2 trillion yuan ($300 billion) in April by financial magazine Caixin—is an unknown.”
  • “This yearlong ‘management’ of Anbang announced by regulators could be misinterpreted as a positive for China: financial shares rose. But investors celebrating China’s apparent success at containing financial risks without damaging the broader economy shouldn’t be so sanguine.”
  • “Anbang fueled its international shopping spree, including a top-dollar price for the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, on the back of high-yielding, often highly leveraged investment products sold to retail investors. Some of these, known as wealth-management products, or WMPs, became the target in 2017 of government efforts to clean up China’s highly leveraged financial system. That essentially cut off one the biggest sources of Anbang’s funding.”
  • “Anbang and WMPs are not, however, the end of China’s debt crackdown story. While WMPs and the bonds they invested in withered, companies have returned to previously popular forms of non-bank finance including trust loans, off-balance sheet company-to-company loans and bankers’ acceptances.”
  • “These grew 15% last year after just 4% growth in both 2015 and 2016. Overall debt and equity issuance stayed robust despite the crackdown.”
  • “Anbang may be wrapped up. But the cost of letting finance take such a big chunk of China’s economy is far from being resolved.”

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

A Teachable Moment – Where Everybody Doesn’t Know Your Name – Anthony Isola 2/26

  • A comparison of financial markets and roads.

Economist – China’s leader, Xi Jinping, will be allowed to reign forever 2/26

Economist – Money stolen by Bernie Madoff is still being found – 2/26

  • “Almost a decade after the Ponzi scheme collapsed, trustees are still returning money to the victims.”

FT – Xi Jinping’s bid to stay in power more of a gamble than it seems – Tom Mitchell 2/27

  • “President’s move risks backlash from China’s urban elites if not the masses.”

FT – Why Donald Trump will never escape Russia – Edward Luce 2/21

FT – Three questions for Federal Reserve chairman Jay Powell – Rana Foroohar 2/25

WSJ – Stocks Are Probably Overpriced, but Don’t Be Too Sure – Jason Zweig 2/23

WSJ – A Reality Check for Wayfair – Elizabeth Winkler 2/26

  • “The game of growing revenue by burning cash can’t go on forever and investors don’t want to be there at the end.”


FT – Rush to buy frontier debt brings higher risks and yields – Kate Allen 2/26

  • “For three decades Tajikistan has wanted to build the world’s tallest hydroelectric dam but struggled to pay for it.”
  • “That changed last September when the mountainous central Asian country tapped international debt markets for the first time, was inundated with $4bn of orders and eventually sold $500m of debt at a yield of 7.125% — a landmark moment for an economy with an annual GDP of just $7bn.”
  • “Investors’ search for yield, brightening global economic conditions and structural reforms in many countries have resulted in benign conditions for what debt bankers refer to as ‘frontier’ economies.”
  • “The world’s riskiest countries are selling debt at a record rate, research published late last year found, with junk-rated borrowers comprising nearly half of all borrowing from emerging markets in 2017; one adviser called it a ‘gold rush’.”
  • “’The markets are so good at the moment that clients can literally ask for whatever they want,’ said an experienced deals banker. ‘People will buy anything so long as it offers them yield and diversification. They get bored of only being able to buy the same names and have also hit their limits for some of the more frequent names’.”
  • “’Ultimately this is people’s pensions we’re talking about,’ said one investor. ‘If you explained to the man on the street that their pension fund is being invested in Nigeria at 7%, they would be incredulous. If you threw that decision out to ordinary people, would they buy it? Probably not’.”

Cryptocurrency / ICOs

WSJ – What Bitcoin Rout? Sales of New Digital Tokens Are Still Soaring – Paul Vigna 2/22

  • “Bitcoin and many of its peers have crashed in recent months from all-time highs reached in December. But that hasn’t dented the popularity of one crypto-fundraising method: so-called initial coin offerings.”
  • “Sales of those digital tokens have already raised about $1.66 billion this year, according to research and data firm Token Report. About 480 have launched in 2018 and only 126 of those have closed to new funds. That puts the market on pace to top last year’s total of $6.5 billion raised in coin offerings, according to the firm.”
  • “Whatever their motive, coin-offering investors have created some of the best-capitalized startups in incredibly short periods. The $1.5 billion raised by block.one in less than a year is equal to the amount raised by Twitter Inc. between 2007 and 2011 across nine separate funding rounds. And only four initial public offerings in 2017 and 2018 raised more than the amount block.one has attracted, according to data from Dealogic.”
  • “The continued success of coin offerings is even more remarkable given heightened regulatory scrutiny globally of cryptocurrencies and on the sales of digital tokens.”
  • “In the U.S., the SEC and Commodity Futures Trading Commission have heightened their oversight of the coin-offering market. The CFTC recently issued a customer advisory in which it advised people to avoid ‘pump-and-dump’ schemes, and offered whistleblowers a monetary reward in the case of successful enforcement actions.”
  • “The SEC has brought enforcement actions against several ICOs, most recently a Texas-based outfit called AriseBank, which had claimed to have raised more than $600 million in an ICO.”
  • “That pressure may have led to something of a bifurcation in the market for coin offerings. While large, widely publicized projects like block.one and Telegram have no problem raising money, others have had trouble meeting their fundraising goals.”
  • Researchers at Ernst & Young found that less than 25% of the ICOs in November 2017 hit their goals, down from 93% in June. Token Report said the median amount raised by ICOs this year is about $12 million.”


FT – Gupta empire crumbles in wake of Zuma’s departure – Joseph Cotterill and Simeon Kerr 2/26

  • “Indian-born brothers flee South Africa as businesses go into administration.”


WSJ – What Will Keep the Chinese Consumer Strong? – Jacky Wong 2/22

  • “Beijing’s nationwide anticorruption drive, which drove luxury spending to a halt just three years ago, has faded. That coincided with a rebound in property prices, Chinese consumers’ main source of wealth. According to Deutsche Bank, the housing boom has added 86 trillion yuan ($13.5 trillion) to the total value of residential properties in the past two years. And unlike previous cycles, the gains aren’t concentrated in the biggest cities such as Shanghai and Beijing but have spread to smaller cities. People in these so-called tier-two and tier-three cities have made more money from their houses on paper last year than from their wages, according to Deutsche.”

February 27, 2018


Visual Capitalist – How Money is Spent by Different Income Groups – Jeff Desjardins 2/25

WSJ – Daily Shot: U.S. Racial / Ethnic Demographics 2/26

WEF – Business Insider: Gun control in four countries around the world – Chris Weller 2/21

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

A Wealth of Common Sense – Now & Then – Ben Carlson 2/25

Bloomberg Businessweek – In Exile, Bannon Sounds the #MeToo Alarm – Joshua Green 2/13

  • “He sees female empowerment as the next great political backlash, which means trouble for Republicans.”

Economist – Why Cape Town is running out of water 2/15

  • “The politics of drought.”

The Registry – Is the 1031 Exchange Panacea or Placebo? – John McNellis 2/26

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Have We Seen Peak Prices for Smartphones – Dan Gallagher 2/25

WSJ – Playing With $100 Billion, Warren Buffett Is Giant Trader of U.S. Treasury Bills – Nicole Friedman and Daniel Kruger 2/23

Real Estate

FT – JPMorgan plans to build massive HQ tower in New York’s Park Ave – Ben McLannahan 2/21

  • “JPMorgan Chase has given a big boost to the old business heart of midtown Manhattan, agreeing a deal to tear down its 60-year-old Park Avenue headquarters and replace it with one of the tallest towers in New York City.”
  • “The biggest US bank by assets had been considering a move from its 270 Park Avenue location to the west side of Manhattan, as an anchor tenant of a new development known as Hudson Yards. But on Wednesday the bank said that it had struck a deal with Mayor Bill de Blasio to stay put, moving staff from several buildings in the Park Avenue area into a new, 2.5m sq ft tower.” 
  • “At 70 to 75 floors, it should be the tallest bank building in the country upon completion in 2024, topping Bank of America’s 55-floor tower a few streets away, on the north-west corner of Bryant Park. It will also surpass BofA’s 60-floor headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, which looms over the 42-floor Wells Fargo Tower.” 
  • “Stuart Saft, head of the New York real estate practice at Holland & Knight, described the deal as a ‘fabulous’ one for midtown Manhattan, likening the threat from Hudson Yards to the development of Canary Wharf in London in the late 1980s. Already, white-shoe law firms such as Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy and Boies Schiller Flexner have agreed to move to the complex emerging by the Hudson River.” 
  • “JPMorgan will expand its floor area by buying unused development credits, known as ‘air rights’, from landmark properties in the area such as St Patrick’s Cathedral, St Bartholomew’s Church and Central Synagogue.”

SF Chronicle – Google’s Bay Area real estate empire equivalent to 14 Salesforce towers – Wendy Lee 2/23

WSJ – Tough Start for Housing – Justin Lahart 2/21

  • “Homes sales slowed in January, even before higher rates and the tax law hit the market.”


FT – Private equity ‘secondaries’ deals hit record $58bn – Chris Flood 2/25

FT – Blockchain ‘could save asset managers $2.7bn a year’ – Attracta Mooney 2/21

  • “Blockchain could save asset managers $2.7bn a year if the investment industry shunned the laborious manual practices involved in buying and selling funds in favor of using online ledger technology, according to research published on Thursday.”
  • “Technology company Calastone said blockchain, which is a giant online ledger, could revolutionize the processes involved in buying and selling funds, generating large savings for investors in the process.”
  • “It estimated that based on daily trade volumes of funds in the UK, Ireland, Luxembourg, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Australia, £1.9bn — or $2.7bn — in savings was possible.”
  • “Earlier this year, BNP Paribas Asset Management said it had successfully completed a full end-to-end fund transaction test using blockchain technology. The project involved a tie-up between BNP Paribas Securities Services’ blockchain program, Fund Link, and FundsDLT, a blockchain-based decentralized platform for fund transaction processing.”

WSJ – Daily Shot: Goldman Sachs – ICOs outpacing Venture Capital 2/26

Asia – excluding China and Japan

FT – Top Indonesian bank eyes $50bn of assets stashed in Singapore – Wataru Suzuki 2/25

  • “Indonesians declared more than 750tn rupiah ($52.5bn) worth of assets in Singapore during Indonesia’s tax amnesty program — which gave immunity from prosecution to those who came clean about untaxed wealth and paid a small penalty — ended last March. That is more than the combined total they declared in the next four top destinations — British Virgin Islands, Hong Kong, Cayman Islands and Australia.”


Economist – China is trying new ways of skimming housing-market froth 2/15

  • “The party wants people to rent.”

FT – Chinese embrace digital red envelopes for lunar new year – Louise Lucas 2/21

  • “Tencent, a Chinese technology group with an equity value greater than Facebook’s, said 768m people sent and received hongbao, the red packets stuffed with cash, over Weixin Pay, its third-party payments business, during the six-day holiday period. Typically people will hand out scores or even hundreds of hongbao: according to Tencent, one person sent 2,723 while another received 3,429.”

South America

Economist – Fending off the flood from Venezuela 2/17

  • “The rise in migration has alarmed Latin American governments.”