Tag: China

Number of Listed Companies (US & China)

FT – US has fewer listed public companies than China – Robin Wigglesworth 10/6/19

So that happened.

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Household Debt in China has become a Thing

WSJ – The Trouble With Rate Cuts in China – Mike Bird 8/21/19

This week, the People’s Bank of China revealed a long-anticipated change to how commercial bank interest rates will be calculated. Revealingly, PBOC officials were at pains to stress that while the move might lower interest rates for corporate lending, mortgage interest rates wouldn’t fall.

Eighteen banks now have to show the PBOC the best interest rates they offer to their clients, based on rates set by the central bank’s medium-term lending facility, a source of credit for the banks themselves.

The change has two objectives. One is to lower rates, at least for some loans.

The other is to improve the transmission mechanism for monetary policy: The PBOC wants banks to do a better job of passing changes in policy on to their customers.

The most interesting aspect of the new approach is the deliberate exclusion of real estate. This is likely because Chinese households went on a borrowing spree after the PBOC’s 2015 round of benchmark rate cuts. In 2016, household debt rose by 6.2 trillion yuan ($878.11 billion)—compared with an increase of around 3 trillion yuan a year on average for the previous five years—and only accelerated subsequently.

Which segues nicely to another Mike Bird article.

WSJ – China’s Floundering Crackdown On Household Debt – Mike Bird 8/16/19

Beijing is wisely wary of the decade-long boom in China’s housing market, the consequent build-up in borrowing and what it means for the country’s development model. But in the data there is no sign of a crackdown.

Last week, in its annual Article IV assessment of the Chinese economy, the International Monetary Fund raised its forecasts for Chinese household debt by several percentage points. The IMF expects household debt to rise to 56.2% of GDP this year, and as high as 67.9% of GDP in 2024. The latter figure would be well above current levels in Japan and the eurozone.

In the past 12 months, developers have booked a record 11.7 trillion yuan ($1.66 trillion) in pre-sales—sales of homes due to be completed in the years ahead. Assuming that buyers put down a deposit of around 30%, that is north of 8 trillion yuan in mortgage debt not yet fully on the shoulders of the household sector.

In comparison, Chinese household debt rose by 7.3 trillion yuan between the end of 2017 and the end of 2018, according to data from the Bank for International Settlements. 

The government has good reasons to want to stop the buildup. Many emerging markets have struggled to regain high levels of growth after generating considerable property-related debt, particularly in Asia.

But there is no sign that household debt is even plateauing, let alone declining. Beijing’s stated preference is for an end to speculative household borrowing, but it is proving to be a difficult habit to kick.

I.O.U.s – As Good As Real Money

NYT – Circulating in China’s Financial System: More Than $200 Billion in I.O.U.s – Alexandra Stevenson and Cao Li 8/6/19

China’s trade war with the United States has escalated in recent days, posing a growing threat to an already slowing economy. 

China is not running out of money. But Chinese banks are reluctant to lend to private businesses because they consider big, state-owned enterprises more reliable in paying off their debts. Alternative sources of money have dried up as regulators have cracked down in recent years on China’s shadowy world of unofficial lending.

So a growing number of companies are issuing i.o.u.s to their suppliers. Some suppliers turn around and use the notes to pay another supplier. And then — in a sign of how desperate some Chinese companies have become for money — they sell the notes for less cash than they are worth.

Commercial acceptance bills are not legal tender. Rather, they are pieces of paper promising payment in the future. Companies owed some $211 billion in these informal notes as of February, the most recent government data available, an increase of more than one-third from the previous year.

More debt may be floating around China’s corporate world and goes untracked if the notes are being traded for less than their face value. A market has formed around commercial acceptance bills, in which companies buy and sell them based on the prospects for being paid back. The bigger and better known the company, the more secure the bill is considered.

A pillar of China’s economy, the property sector, is feeling the squeeze particularly hard. Sales have been slowing since late 2017, making it hard to pay for new projects. At the same time, the government is clamping down on other ways that property companies raise money, like through the shadow banking system.

Property companies have adapted by effectively turning the commercial acceptance bills into a currency, according to interviews and filings from dozens of property developers and suppliers like steel companies, design and construction firms.

Xu Jiang of Zhubo Design, an architecture and urban planning company in the southern city of Shenzhen, said customers had started to pay with commercial acceptance bills two years ago. The customers, which include some of the country’s biggest developers, local governments and state-owned firms, now use these notes more frequently than paying cash, he said.

Today, one of the biggest issuers of i.o.u.s is China’s largest and best known property company, Evergrande ($36bn market cap)By the end of last year it had issued nearly $20 billion worth of i.o.u.s to its suppliers. With a towering $100 billion debt pile and a penchant for raising bonds to pay off the interest, it appears to have turned to commercial acceptance bills to help cover costs.

Bauing Construction Holding Group, a big supplier of design and materials to China’s biggest property developers, has disclosed that it is owed $96.4 million in these i.o.u.s from Evergrande.

Another company that owes Bauing money is the state-owned firm China State Construction Engineering. China State said it had owed $490 million in i.o.u.s to all of its suppliers at the end of last year.

Another major property developer, Greenland Holding, which was founded by the Shanghai government and has property developments in dozens of cities across China, had $550 million worth of unpaid notes out to suppliers by the end of last year, according to its annual report. The company said that was 10 times the amount it had outstanding in 2017.

African Swine Fever is likely to make your Bacon more Scarce

Economist – African swine fever threatens 200m pigs in China – Daily Chart 8/6/19

African swine fever, a highly contagious virus, has spread to every province in China. The country is the world’s biggest pork producer, and home to half the pigs on the planet. In the last year it has reported 149 outbreaks. Some 1.2m pigs have been culled, according to official statistics. Unofficial reports suggest far bigger losses. Rabobank, a Dutch bank, reckons that by year-end, as many as 200m pigs could be lost to disease or slaughter, leading to a 30% drop in pork production.

Although African swine fever is not harmful to humans, it kills up to 90% of pigs. Infected animals stop eating, hemorrhage and die, often within a week. There is no vaccine or cure. Before 2007 the disease had been eliminated from most of the world, with the exception of Africa. It reemerged in Georgia in early 2007 and spread to Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania.

The disease was probably introduced to China via its northern neighbor, with which it shares a 4,300km (2,670-mile) border, or through infected pork products imported from Europe. 

China’s first outbreak was reported on August 3rd 2018 in Liaoning, a coastal province in the north-east of the country. Chinese authorities scrambled to contain the disease, culling tens of thousands of pigs and banning transport of the animals into and out of affected areas. It did not work. The virus spread to every part of the country. It eventually crossed into neighboring Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

With pork prices in the country expected to jump by 70% year-on-year in the second half of 2019, China’s favorite meat may soon be off many dinner tables.

July 19, 2018

If you were only to read one thing…

Bloomberg – Panic Roils China’s Peer-to-Peer Lenders – Jun Luo, Alfred Liu, and Crystal Tse 7/16

  • “China’s savers are rushing to pull money from peer-to-peer lending platforms, accelerating a contraction of the $195 billion industry and testing the government’s ability to maintain calm as it cracks down on risky shadow-banking activities.”
  • “In some cases, savers are turning up at the offices of P2P operators to demand repayment, spooked by reports of defaults, sudden closures and frozen funds. At least 57 platforms have failed in the past two weeks, adding to 80 cases in June, the biggest monthly tally in two years, according to Shanghai-based Yingcan Group. The researcher defines failed platforms as those that have halted operations, come under police investigation, missed investor payments, moved into other businesses, or had operators flee with client money.”
  • “’Investors have lost confidence in the smaller platforms, because they have no idea if those companies will survive,’ said Dexter Hsu, a Taipei-based analyst at Macquarie Capital. Only a handful of the 2,000 or so remaining firms are likely to endure, he said.”
  • “China’s P2P industry, the world’s largest, is one of the riskiest and least-regulated slices of the nation’s sprawling shadow-banking system. A government clampdown has weighed on P2P platforms for two years, but the pressure intensified in recent months after China’s credit markets tightened and the banking regulator issued an unusual warning to savers that they should be prepared to lose all their money in high-yield products.
  • “The shakeout has cast doubt on the listing plans of several P2P lenders and underscores the delicate balancing act faced by China’s government as it tries to reduce moral hazard in the financial system without triggering a crisis. While there’s little sign that the P2P turmoil has spread to systemically important wealth-management products issued by banks, much of China’s $10 trillion shadow-lending system faces the same headwinds of rising defaults, slowing economic growth and official calls to end to implicit guarantees on risky investments.”
  • “China’s P2P platforms have about 50 million registered users and 1.3 trillion yuan ($195 billion) of outstanding loans, most of which have short maturities. Normally, savers have to wait for loans facilitated by the platforms to mature before getting their money back. But some are now trying to exit early by selling their rights to others at a discount, or by going to the platform’s offices to demand repayment.”
  • “The turmoil is also hurting companies and individuals who have relied on P2P platforms for financing. They include cash-strapped small businesses seeking working capital, individuals without a credit history, and, more recently, leveraged stock market investors and home buyers in need of down-payments.”
  • “Some P2P platforms were also raising funds illegally for their own use, while others were running Ponzi schemes that collapsed when the flow of new money halted, regulators have said. That helps explain why authorities have so far been steadfast in cracking down.”
  • “Last month, China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission Chairman Guo Shuqing warned that any savings or investment product with promised returns of more than 8% is likely to be ‘very dangerous’ and that investors should be prepared to lose all their money if advertised returns exceed 10%. The average yield on P2P loans was 10.2% in the first half, official figures show. Reported default rates vary from zero on the best platforms to 35% on the worst, according to National Internet Finance Association of China.”

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Daily Shot: Gold 7/17

 

WSJ – Daily Shot: Silver 7/17

WSJ – Daily Shot: NASDAQ Composite Index 7/17

 

Real Estate

Bloomberg Businessweek – Britain’s Online Shopping Boom Is a Bust for the High Street – Sam Chambers 7/10

  • “Online retailers typically benefit from lower overhead than their store-based counterparts, but in the U.K. that advantage is bigger than just about anywhere. The country has the developed world’s highest commercial property taxes, and in many areas those levies have jumped even as store sales decline, because land values have risen since the financial crisis. Last year, Tesco paid £700 million in property taxes, and J Sainsbury Plc, the No. 2 chain, paid £550 million. Amazon’s bill: £14 million.”

Economist – Big corporates’ quest to be hip is helping WeWork 7/12

  • “Research suggests that employees are happier in co-working environments like those run by WeWork. But the firm’s real genius is that it is also far cheaper for their employers. Property experts estimate that firms typically spend anywhere between $16,000 and $25,000 per employee on rent, security, technology and related office expenses. Mr Neumann insists they can get all of that from WeWork starting at $8,000 per worker. Efficient use of space is one reason. Ron Zappile of Colliers, a property-services firm, reckons that typical corporate offices use some 185 square feet (17 square meters) per employee. WeWork members get by on 50 square feet per head.”
  • “WeWork has more than 250,000 members from a range of industries (see chart) and expects to double revenues this year for the ninth straight year. Last year it made $886m in revenue, 93% of which came from memberships.”
  • But…”WeWork’s net losses also roughly doubled, however, from $430m in 2016 to $884m last year. As with many fast-moving startups, it explains its lack of profitability by pointing to big investments. It will open 15 new offices a month worldwide for the foreseeable future. Its bonds issued in April were rated as junk.”
  • “…the most important source of stability may well be a shift in its customers, from startups to big firms. A few years ago, WeWork’s business was comprised almost entirely of small fry. In the year to September the enterprise segment (firms with over 1,000 staff) grew by around 370%. As of June, big firms accounted for about a quarter of its membership and revenues. More than 1,000 companies now take anything from one to 12,000 desks. In June, Facebook asked WeWork for an entire building for several thousand workers.”
  • “The average enterprise lease is close to two years and many new ones are three to five years long. Whereas big firms, used to conventional office leases of 10-20 years, see WeWork’s contracts as flexible, the firm itself sees them as commitments that will help it weather a downturn.”

Cryptocurrency / ICOs

WSJ – Daily Shot: Barchart – Bitcoin 7/17

WSJ – Cryptocurrency Exchanges Are Getting Hacked Because It’s Easy – Steven Russolillo and Eun-Young Jeong 7/16

Tech

Bloomberg Businessweek – China’s Technology Sector Takes On Silicon Valley – Peter Elstrom, Yuan Gao, and Xiaoqing Pi 7/10

China

FT – China money market funds’ rush into bank credit worries investors – Don Weinland 7/16

  • “Investors have warned of growing systemic risks in China’s $1.09tn money market fund industry, as funds buy up bank credit despite a surge in bad debt this year.”
  • “Comparably high yields and low risk at Chinese money market funds in recent years have made the industry a favorite among retail investors in the country. Assets under management have grown from Rmb600bn at the end of 2012 to an estimated Rmb7.3tn ($1.09bn) in March, making it the second-largest market in the world after the US.”
  • “But in recent months China’s central bank has tightened monetary policy and access to credit, forcing down the funds’ once-attractive yields. At the biggest funds, average returns have dropped to an annualized to 3.7% from about 4.5% at the start of the year.”
  • “In response, funds have rushed into bank credit, such as negotiable certificates of deposit, as a means to boost returns and continue attracting retail investments.”
  • “Investors are now warning that the push into bank credit comes just as regulators are forcing banks to recognize vast amounts of bad debts that were once hidden off their balance sheets, leading to greatly increased risk for the investments. Falling credit ratings at banks could force money market funds to exit their investments, something that could lead to a shock through the massive fund industry.”
  • “Ant Financial’s Yu’e Bao, with about $200bn under management, is the world’s largest money market fund. Last month it reduced the amount of money investors could withdraw within one day to Rmb10,000 ($1,498) per investor from Rmb50,000. About Rmb200bn flowed out of the fund between April and June. The company declined to comment.”
  • “The risks at the funds are centered around their source of high-yielding investments: credit from hundreds of small banks with weakening balance sheets.”

FT – China closes a fifth of foreign university partnerships – Emily Feng 7/17

FT – Hong Kong tightens screws on pro-independence party – Ben Bland 7/17

  • “The Hong Kong government is considering banning a pro-independence political party on unprecedented ‘national security’ grounds, a move decried by activists as the latest violation of the city’s promised freedoms and rights.”

India

NYT – In India, Summer Heat May Soon Be Literally Unbearable – Somini Sengupta 7/17

Other Interesting Links

Maps on the Web: Reddit – White Americans by State 2017 7/4

July 10, 2018

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Bloomberg – Amazon as a Value Stock? Believe It – Matthew A. Winkler 7/9

FT – Japan is nervous about its energy security – Nick Butler 7/8

  • “The country’s new national plan puts nuclear power back in the picture.”

NYT – Inside China’s Dystopian Dreams: A.I., Shame and Lots of Cameras – Paul Mozur 7/8

  • Spooky. By the way, one of the data aggregator/policing systems is aptly named: Skynet.

WSJ – A Stock Market Crash With Chinese Characteristics – Nathaniel Taplin 7/9

Markets / Economy

FT – The retreat from easy money that markets cannot escape – Michael Mackenzie 7/4

Environment / Science

NYT – Record Heat in Southern California, and an Ominous Start to Wildfire Season – Tim Arango 7/7

  • “After a temperate early summer and a balmy Fourth of July, Southern California residents abruptly found themselves in a caldron of triple-digit temperatures and wildfires this weekend.”
  • “The temperature spike broke with historical weather patterns. While much of the Northern Hemisphere suffers through its hottest days in the summer months — June, July, August — Southern California’s hottest days are often in September or October.”
  • “Records were shattered in some places on Friday. The temperature at the University of California, Los Angeles, reached 111 on Friday, the hottest it has ever been there. Other record highs, according to the National Weather Service, were 114 at the Hollywood Burbank Airport, 117 at the Van Nuys Airport, 117 in Ramona and 114 in Santa Ana. In Riverside, a high temperature of 118 matched a record set in 1925.”

China

FT – China scales back property subsidies, adding to growth concerns – Gabriel Wildau and Yizhen Jia 7/8

  • “China is retreating from a policy that has channeled about $1tn in subsidies to homebuyers since 2016, a reversal that has sent tremors through the country’s residential property market amid broader concerns about a housing bubble.”
  • “Property investment and home sales have remained strong in recent months despite a broader growth slowdown, but analysts say the withdrawal of subsidies will damp property demand, leading to reduced construction activity.” 
  • “Premier Li Keqiang pioneered the slum redevelopment policy as top party official in north-east China’s Liaoning province in 2005. The policy, which was later rolled out nationwide, financed demolition and reconstruction of dilapidated residential neighborhoods.” 
  • “The program received a boost in 2014, when the People’s Bank of China created a new monetary policy instrument known as Pledged Supplementary Lending, which consisted of loans directly from the central bank to CDB earmarked for slum redevelopment.” 
  • “The turning point came in 2015. Amid a sharp downturn in the housing market that led to a glut of unsold housing, China’s cabinet allowed local governments to provide cash subsidies to residents of slum districts, rather than physical resettlement in newly built flats in the former slum.” 
  • “’Physical resettlement didn’t affect the supply-demand balance. It was self-regulating,’ said Zhao Quanhou, director of the financial research center at the Chinese Academy of Fiscal Sciences, a think-tank under China’s finance ministry.”
  • “’But monetary resettlement meant you were demolishing old buildings and not replacing them, so there was a net demand increase, and the market impact was large,’ he said.”
  • “’The policy was basically giving money directly from the central bank to CDB. It spurred a lot of real estate demand, and it also expanded the base money supply,’ said Xu Gao, chief economist at Everbright Securities. ‘Going forward it needs to be adjusted.’”

Turkey

FT – Erdogan fires thousands more state employees in Turkey – Ayla Jean Yackley 7/8

  • “Thousands of Turkish teachers, police officers and members of the armed forces have been fired one day before President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is due to be sworn in for a second term after being re-elected with vastly enhanced powers last month.”
  • “Mr. Erdogan issued a decree dismissing the employees on Sunday. During his election campaign he promised to end a state of emergency imposed in the wake of an abortive military coup two years ago, under which 160,000 public servants have been dismissed and more than 50,000 people have been jailed.”
  • “The order, published in the Official Gazette on Sunday, fired 18,632 people — nearly half of them from the police force — for allegedly threatening national security. More than 6,000 military personnel and about 200 teachers were also named. Their passports have all been cancelled, the announcement said.”
  • “The decree also banned 12 civil-society groups, three newspapers and a television broadcaster.”

 

July 5, 2018

Hope that you all had a nice 4th of July.

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Economist – At any given time in their lives, people have two dozen regular haunts 6/28

Economist – America Inc and the rage against Beijing – Schumpeter 6/28

FT – Lex in depth: Why WeWork does not deserve a $20bn price tag – Elaine Moore and Eric Platt 7/2

  • “WeWork’s steep valuation depends on a blinkered faith in its originality despite a crowded market of competitors. If the company’s equity value was based on the same multiple of sales as flexible workspace peer IWG (formerly Regus) it would be worth less than $3bn.”
  • “The company’s pitch is scale. WeWork envisions a world in which offices are so attractive that workers will choose to spend more time in them. Eventually, it pictures global cities of We-flats and We-offices, where members work out at We-gyms, learn at We-schools and network at We-events — all the while tracked by the We-operating system.”
  • “WeWork’s valuation comes courtesy of the deep pockets of Japan’s SoftBank and the Saudi-backed $100bn Vision Fund , which led a $3bn investment last year. That came with an additional $1.4bn raised for WeWork’s Asian subsidiaries. The fundraising round transformed WeWork into one of the world’s top 10 most valuable start-ups. Further financing from the Vision Fund, valuing WeWork at $35bn, has been mooted. This would exceed the value of SpaceX, Elon Musk’s space technology company.”
  • “In the meantime, WeWork needs financing. It is likely to require at least $2bn from investors in the next two years. To plug future outflows, it may seek far more. A successful initial public offering will require WeWork to convince investors that its value is based on more than giddy markets and a millennial-friendly aesthetic.”
  • “Unfortunately for WeWork, costs are growing just as steeply. Some look extravagant. Last year the group spent an additional $6.5m on events that included a weekend summer camp. The company justifies this as the price of growth.”
  • “However, WeWork’s valuation is based on its growth potential. Airbnb might therefore be a better comparison. It is valued at a higher $31bn. Yet even this is a more sober reflection of business than WeWork’s. The value is equal to 12 times trailing sales versus 20 for WeWork.”
  • “For now, WeWork is far from self-sustaining. The company lost nearly $1bn last year. Office occupancy at 82% is higher than IWG’s 75%. However, average membership fees are falling. There is little reason to think the decline will reverse while expansion is driven by Asia, where rates are lower.”
  • “Funding rounds were the only reason the company ended 2017 with cash of $2bn on the balance sheet. On FT estimates it is likely to need about $2bn more by the end of 2019.”

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Daily Shot: Deutsche Bank – US-Europe monetary policy divergence 7/3

WSJ – Where is Joblessness the Lowest? Hint: Cities With College Students and Tourists – Sharon Nunn 6/28

Real Estate

Bloomberg Businessweek – Startups Front Cash to Homebuyers in Bidding Wars – Noah Buhayar and Patrick Clark 6/28

  • “FlyHomes’ ability to turn clients into cash buyers exploits a quirk in the capital markets that’s arisen since the housing meltdown: Consumers are being put through more rigorous standards when they apply for a mortgage. Meanwhile, it’s comparatively easy for companies—even those with new, barely tested ideas—to get buckets of money from banks, venture capitalists, and other institutional investors.”
  • “Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman says these new ventures are part of a shift in how homes will be bought and sold. ‘There is just money coming out of every possible part of the world, and it isn’t going toward the consumer,’ he says. ‘It’s going toward real estate businesses who charge the consumer for access to that money.’”

Bloomberg – U.S. Retail Vacancy Rate Jumps on Toys ‘R’ Us Store Closings – Jordan Yadoo 7/2

  • Considering the headwinds of retail over the last few years, I’d say things are doing not too shabby considering it took the closure of Toys ‘R’ Us to push the absorption rate negative (granted local situations vary).

Bloomberg – Manhattan Homebuyers Demand Bargains, Walk Away-Anything But Overpay – Oshrat Carmiel 7/2

Environment / Science

Bloomberg – Stemming the Tide of Plastic Pollution – The Editors 7/2

Asia – excluding China and Japan

FT – Samsung finds unlikely ally in stance on worker safety – Song Jung-a 7/2

  • “S Korea commerce ministry backs view that transparency may compromise tech secrets.”

FT – South Korea to cap working week at 52 hours – Song Jung-a 7/2

  • “Cut from 68-hour maximum aims to improve life balance for country of workaholics.”
  • “The country is home to the longest working hours and highest suicide rate in the developed world. South Koreans put in an average of 2,024 hours in 2017, the second-most after Mexico among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). But the long hours have not translated into better productivity, with the country’s per-hour productivity ranking near the bottom.”

WSJ – Go Home Already! South Korea Pulls the Plug on Overworked Desk Warriors – Timothy W. Martin and Yun-Hwan Chae 7/1

China

WSJ – Daily Shot: Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 Index 7/3

India

Bloomberg Businessweek – India’s Push to Fast-Track Bankruptcies – Iain Marlow 6/26

WSJ – Bankrupt Indian Companies Are Clogging the Economy-but Now the Clock Is Ticking – Corinne Abrams and Debiprasad Nayak 7/1

 

July 3, 2018

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

A Wealth of Common Sense – Sustaining Wealth is Harder Than Getting Rich – Ben Carlson 7/1

FT – US and China must find ways to control their elites – Rana Foroohar 7/1

  • “Success rests on heading off popular unrest, rather than winning trade fights.”

Market Watch – Yes, corporations have brought home cash after the tax cut, but they haven’t put it to work – Rex Nutting 6/29

NYT – What’s the Yield Curve? ‘A Powerful Signal of Recessions’ Has Wall Street’s Attention – Matt Phillips 6/25

WSJ – Tariffs Aren’t China’s Strongest Weapon Against the U.S. – Nathaniel Taplin 7/2

  • “Mr. Trump’s trade agenda may have certain U.S. industries-like steel-flashing smiles. American companies operating in China, though, can expect to lost a few teeth.”

Markets / Economy

Bloomberg – Where Have America’s Truck Drivers Gone? – Virginia Postrel 6/24

  • “The U.S. trucking industry is short about 50,000 drivers, estimates Bob Costello, chief economist for the American Trucking Associations. The driver shortage ranked first among industry concerns in the American Transportation Research Institute’s annual survey, released last October.”
  • “The strong economy means more stuff to haul, even as increasing numbers of truckers retire. The average age of over-the-road truckers…is 49, compared with 42 for the U.S. workforce as a whole. Forecasts of massive job losses from autonomous trucks don’t help. Few people want to join a dying profession. With unemployment low, there are other options.”
  • “In response, pay is up. The median salary for drivers who haul a variety of goods nationally is about $53,000, according to an ATA survey published in March. That’s a $7,000 increase since the previous survey five years ago, or about $4,000 when corrected for inflation. For drivers who work for private fleets serving individual companies, such as PepsiCo Inc. or Walmart Inc., median pay is $86,000, up from $73,000.”
  • “But a shortfall remains. Recent regulatory changes exacerbate the problem. So does an increasing shortage of places to park.”

Tech

FT – China backs $15bn tech fund to compete with Japan’s SoftBank – Arash Massoudi and Don Weinland 7/1

  • “China Merchants Group has teamed up with a London-based firm to launch a new Rmb100bn ($15bn) technology investment fund with aim of becoming China’s answer to the near-$100bn Vision Fund created by Japan’s SoftBank.”
  • “The state-owned conglomerate, along with other unnamed Chinese groups, has pledged to invest up to Rmb40bn of the fund, in what would be a huge pool of capital primarily designed to target investments in Chinese technology companies.” 
  • “CMG is set to announce the plans with the UK’s Centricus, the investment firm that helped structure SoftBank’s record-setting technology fund, and SPF Group, a small Beijing-based fund manager that counts Joshua Fink, the son of BlackRock founder Larry Fink, as one of its partners.”

Health / Medicine

Bloomberg – Sky-High Deductibles Broke the U.S. Health Insurance System – John Tozzi and Zachary Tracer 6/26

  • “Employers are questioning a system they say costs patients too much.”

FT – US drug maker Pfizer lifts price of Viagra and 100 other products – David Crow 7/2

China

FT – China tightens party control of foreign university ventures – Emily Feng 7/1

  • “British academic ejected from board after writing essay critical of Communist party.”

Russia

FT – Older Russians fear pension reform will hit income – Kathrin Hille 7/1

June 29, 2018

Perspective

WSJ – Where Residents Pay Buckets of Money – for Water – Adam Bonislawski 6/27

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Bloomberg – Give China a Taste of Its Own Bad Trade Medicine – Michael Schuman 6/27

Economist – Most stockmarket returns come from a tiny fraction of shares – Buttonwood 6/23

Economist – How to stop the decline of public transport in rich countries – Leaders 6/23

WSJ – Facebook Investors May Be Too Quick to Forgive – Dan Gallagher 6/28

  • “Social network’s stock price has risen sharply since Cambridge Analytica scandal even though more questions have surfaced.”

WSJ – The Good Times Are Over for China’s Property Stocks – Jacky Wong 6/28

  • “A weaker Chinese yuan and a funding squeeze are taking their toll on developers.”

Markets / Economy

FT – Global dealmaking reaches $2.5tn as US megadeals lift volumes – James Fontanella-Khan and Arash Massoudi 6/27

WSJ – Daily Shot: PitchBook – Startup nation: The most valuable VC-backed company in each US state – Dana Olsen 2/27

Energy

WSJ – Daily Shot: Gross US Crude Oil Exports 6/27

WSJ – Daily Shot: Princeton Energy Advisors – Net Crude Oil Imports 6/28

China

Bloomberg – Xi Warns Mattis China Won’t Surrender ‘One Inch’ of Territory – Peter Martin 6/27

Economist – China has militarized the South China Sea and got away with it 6/21

Economist – China is trying to turn itself into a country of 19 super-regions 6/23

FT – China’s polluted skies – Steven Bernard and Lucy Hornby 6/28

Europe

Economist – Giddy property prices are a test for Swedish policymakers 6/21

 

June 28, 2018

Perspective

FT – Migrant millennials are redrawing the map of America – Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson 6/26

  • “As a recent analysis by Brookings Institution demographer William Frey found, the strongest growth in America’s millennial population between 2010 and 2015 was not in coastal cities such as New York and LA, but in smaller ones in the south and west. The double-digit increase in 10 large metro areas, from Colorado Springs and Denver to San Antonio and Austin, contrasts with Midwestern cities such as Chicago and St Louis, whose millennial populations rose less than 1%.”
  • “This millennial migration is largely being driven by affordability, says Karen Harris of the macro trends group at Bain & Company, the consultancy. ‘Tier one cities have become incredibly expensive; as a result they have become the province of rich people, single people and empty nesters.’” 
  • “Few places tell this story better than Denver, Colorado. Its middle-of-the-country location, affordable universities, plentiful jobs and easy access to a snowboarder’s paradise in the Rocky Mountains have drawn tens of thousands of millennials in recent years, transforming its population and economy.” 
  • But…
  • “Denver’s residential property prices are 50% above their pre-crisis peak, dividing the city into those who bought and have watched their assets appreciate and those wondering if they will ever get on the housing ladder. Since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, Denver has been rife with stories of dispensary owners driving the market up by putting their unbankable cash into property.” 
  • “For now, disillusioned leavers are outnumbered by new arrivals to Denver, but there are signs that its millennial-fueled population boom is slowing. Its growth rate peaked in 2015 and it has dropped down the Census Bureau’s list of fastest-growing cities, which is now topped by San Antonio and Phoenix.” 
  • “Mike Newlands moved to Denver after college in 2006 to work in the sporting goods industry, and is living with a friend while saving for a down payment on a property. He worries that anyone who did not buy by 2010 is effectively priced out of Denver. ‘People are asking now where the next Colorado is,’ he says, listing more affordable alternatives like Jackson, Wyoming, and Boise, Idaho. ‘People like me who make $75,000 a year are going to be gone.’”

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

A Wealth of Common Sense – Playing in Traffic – Ben Carlson 5/27

  • “Our brains find it easier to process situations where there’s a clear explanation. Not knowing what’s happening or, more importantly, why it’s happening, makes people extremely uncomfortable.”
  • “Being uncomfortable with uncertainty is one of the reasons a long commute can make people unhappy:”
    • “As Harvard University psychologist Daniel Gilbert argues, ‘You can’t adapt to commuting, because it’s entirely unpredictable. Driving in traffic is a different kind of hell every day.’”

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Harley-Davidson Is Fighting the Trade Wars on Two Fronts – John D. Stoll 6/25

Real Estate

Bloomberg – Investors Are Piling In to NYC Condos at a Record Pace – Oshrat Carmiel 6/27

WSJ – Looking for an Apartment? It Is a Great Time to Rent – Laura Kusisto 6/27

  • “It is a great time for anyone looking to rent an apartment: vacancy rates are rising and there are little or no rent increases in many major cities.”
  • “For landlords, though, the U.S. apartment market suffered its worst spring since 2010, near the depths of the housing crisis. Driving this dynamic is a flood of new apartments and weakening demand.”
  • “Rents rose 2.3% in the second quarter compared with a year earlier, the smallest annual increase since the third quarter of 2010, according to data from RealPage Inc. scheduled to be released on Wednesday. Rental growth was flat in major cities with otherwise strong economies—such as Austin, Portland, Seattle, Dallas and Washington, D.C.—due to large amounts of new supply.”
  • “Landlords have enjoyed a record 32 straight quarters of annual rent growth on average, as the U.S. economy strengthened and millennials delayed homeownership. But the reports of slowing, which began in a few markets in late 2016, have intensified to the point that the balance is shifting towards renters and away from landlords.”
  • “The cause of the slowdown is primarily new supply. Developers responded to escalating rents by building the most new apartments in 30 years, sending a flood of new high-end units to downtown areas across the country. Developers are expected to add 300,000 new units over the next year across the U.S., Mr. Willett (Greg Willett, chief economist at RealPage) said.”
  • “At the same time as there are signs renter demand is starting to wane because millennials are marrying, having children and buying homes or moving into single-family rentals. The U.S. added 1.3 million owner households in the first quarter over the same period last year and lost 286,000 renter households, according to U.S. Census data released in April.”
  • “Despite the recent slowdown, apartment owners note that the market is far from crashing and rent growth remains just below historic norms.”
  • “Little concern has arisen that the softening could have broader economic repercussions for the U.S. financial system. Compared with the last real-estate crash, owners say there are unlikely to be many foreclosures because they are carrying much less debt.”
  • “Jay Hiemenz, president and chief operating officer of Phoenix-based Alliance Residential, an apartment company, said banks are only giving loans to developers for about 65% of the cost to build a project, compared to 80% or more previously.”

Cryptocurrency / ICOs

WSJ – Daily Shot: Ripple 6/27

  • “Ripple is down 87% since early January.”

Entertainment

WSJ – The Pop Diva Identity Crisis – Neil Shah 10/18/17

Asia – excluding China and Japan

Bloomberg – Hermes Bags, Diamonds Worth $273 Million Taken in 1MDB Raids – Anisah Shukry 6/26

  • “Malaysia’s police seized about 1.1 billion ringgit ($273 million) of items that included Hermes International handbags, Rolex watches and cash in raids linked to former Prime Minister Najib Razak amid investigations into troubled state fund 1MDB.”
  • “Luxury goods such as a 6.4 million ringgit diamond necklace, 51.3 million ringgit worth of Hermes bags and more than 200 sunglasses valued at 374,000 ringgit were taken from five residences and an office linked to Najib, Amar Singh, commercial crime investigation department director at the police, told reporters on Wednesday.”
  • “The police had to form eight teams consisting of more than 150 officers to analyze the items for weeks, even working through the Eid al-Fitr Muslim holiday, Singh said. Valuations may increase as not all items seized have been analyzed.”

FT – Malaysia police value assets seized in 1MDB-linked raids at $275m – Stefania Palma 6/27

China

Bloomberg – Chinese Stocks Enter Bear Market as Trade, Growth Risks Increase – Richard Frost and Jeanny Yu 6/25