Archive for the ‘China’ Category

It’s Only Money

Friday, September 26th, 2014

“Money often costs too much.”                                                                               Ralph Waldo Emerson

It really does all come down to money.

Money decides the outcome of wars and elections.  It ensures that we are properly fed and clothed.  It buys us an education and pays for all of our material needs.  And it may not be able to buy happiness, but it does have a dramatic impact on that vague thing that’s often referred to as “quality of life.”

All of us, if we’re being honest, would rather have more of it than less of it.

But the value of money is variable.  The currency of one country continuously fluctuates in value relative to the currency of every other country – and those fluctuations can have a dramatic economic impact.

A Stronger Dollar

You’d think countries would be striving to make their currencies stronger, but in recent years, we’ve had “currency wars” as competing countries have tried to weaken their currencies to increase demand for their imported goods.

DollarThe United States has criticized China for its currency manipulation, but in the meantime, the Federal Reserve Board’s easy money policies have deliberately weakened the dollar.

Now, though, as other countries’ currencies have become weaker, the dollar has strengthened.  In fact, the dollar reached a four-year high this week against a basket of major currencies, as The Wall Street Journal reported, “amid mounting expectations the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates next year while its counterparts in Europe and Japan consider further measures to raise inflation and spur growth.”


Fundamentally Flawed

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Imagine if the outcome of a football game depended more on the weather than on the talent of the players.

Weather, indeed, can have an impact and should, but its role is usually to test the talents of the players, not to be the primary factor in the outcome.  When it is the primary factor, anything can happen.  In such cases, would you put money on the game?

The weather is not the number one factor affecting the performance of the stock market these days, but neither is the talent of the players – that is, the fundamental performance of publicly held companies.

In recent years, The Federal Reserve Board has held sway over the market’s performance via quantitative easing, although under former Chair Ben Bernanke, it was somewhat more predictable than the weather.AUDJPY

Now, with tapering under way, that may change (we’ll see, as many expect plenty of bond buying ahead).  Yet other world events may replace QE in determining the performance of the market.  That means potentially greater volatility than we’ve experienced in the easy money era.

It doesn’t take much to affect today’s global economy, especially when the impact of events is amplified by high-frequency trading.  Consider, for example, the impact of the falling yen and Australian dollar on the S&P 500.


Economic Stagnation of Olympic Proportions

Friday, February 21st, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin is a busy man.  He’s found time to prop up Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, negotiate a face-saving chemical weapons deal with President Obama and support violence against Ukrainians, all while overseeing the construction of the most expensive Olympic Village in the history of the games.

The Olympic Village at Sochi had a projected cost of $12 billion.  The actual cost was $50 billion.  So no more complaining about The Big Dig.  It could have been worst.

PutinAnd, like The Big Dig, all that money failed to buy quality construction.  Stories abound of shoddy construction and faulty work.  The Olympic Village is more like a Potemkin Village.

At the Olympics, color, pageantry and the world’s best athletes draw the television cameras, while a few hundred kilometers away, the Ukrainian government, with help from the Russian government, is killing its people.  This week, violence in Ukraine was the worst it’s been since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

As with Syria, the U.S. is leading from behind.  While the European Union has at least announced sanctions, the U.S. is only considering sanctions.  President Obama denounced Ukraine violence “in the strongest terms,” but talking is the weakest action.


Breaking China

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

If the United States relies on China as its main lender, what happens when China is having difficulties with its debt?

We may soon find out.  As the Financial Times reported, “several banks have had to delay or dramatically reduce Chinese bond issues as the impact of a tight onshore credit market begins to be felt.”China

Zerohedge noted that Chinese bond issuers are dealing with the drying up of interbank market liquidity, increased competition from wealth management and trust products, and other problems.  At the same time, one analyst said, “China is much more funding dependent than in the past.”

Chinese issuers are steering around their problems by increasing offshore issuance, raising a record $51.6 billion outside of China so far this year, which is more than double the $24.5 billion raised in the same period last year, according to Dealogic.

Unless the People’s Bank of China changes its attitude on liquidity, the analyst said, “it’s going to end pretty ugly.”

U.S. vs. China

Friday, October 19th, 2012

As China has emerged as a world power, it has increasingly been a case of Us (as in U.S.) vs. Them.  Not in military combat, fortunately, but in day-to-day trade battle and all-out currency competition.

So which country currently holds the edge?

Master of compared the two on many different levels – with some interesting results.  Overall, the U.S. retains its top position as THE world superpower.  But China is closing in.

Some of the figures used are outdated, but consider just a few of the comparisons given:

GDP.  The U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) is nearly twice as large as China’s — $15.29 trillion vs. $7.298 trillion, but U.S. GDP is growing at 1.7% annually vs. 9.28%.

Government spending.  U.S.  government expenditures are a whopping $3.599 trillion for a population of 313 million, while China’s government expenditures are $1.729 trillion for a population of 1.343 billion.  The deficit in the U.S. is 8.6% of GDP compared with 1.1% in China.

Poverty and employment.  The U.S., with a labor force of 153 million, has an unemployment rate of 9% and a poverty level of 15.1%.  China, with a labor force of 795 million, has an unemployment rate of 6.5% and a poverty level of 13.4% (of course, it’s all relative).

Freedom.  For economic freedom, the U.S. ranks 4th, while China ranges 118th.  However, the U.S. ranks first for incarceration, with 730 of every 100,000 people in jail, while Chine ranks 124th with 121 of every 100,000 people in jail.

The results, which we found on, are interesting, but we are very happy to be living in the United States instead of China.

The S&P 500 Comes Up Short

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

The S&P 500 fell more than 2% yesterday, recording its worst one-day drop since December.  Was it disappointment with The Fed?  A sudden realization that the market shouldn’t rise when the economy is sinking?  A “fat finger” computer glitch?

There were plenty of reasons for the fall – and collectively they do not bode well for the U.S. economy:

  •  The Philadelphia Fed Survey fell unexpectedly to -16.6 for June, registering its worst reading since August 2011.  New orders, shipments and average work hours were negative this month, suggesting an overall decline in manufacturing business.  The decline was the second in a row, as the reading was -5.8 in May.

  • The HSBC China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index fell to 48.1 in June, down from 48.4 in May.  It was the eighth consecutive reading below 50.  A reading below 50 indicates contraction.  A continuing economic slowdown in China would slow orders from china’s trading partners.

  • Moody’s Investors Services downgraded 15 global investment banks after the market’s close.  Dick Bove, Vice President of Equity Research at Rochdale Securities called the downgrade “absurd,” arguing that the American banking industry’s balance sheets have improved “dramatically” over the past four years.  He noted that liquidity as a percentage of assets is at a 30-year high, bad loans are down and reserves against them are up.
  • Goldman Sachs recommended shorting the S&P 500, with a price target of 1285, which is about 5% below where it was when Goldman Sachs made the recommendation.
  • The S&P GSCI, a commodities index dropped to its lowest level since 2010.  It’s down 22 percent from a February peak.
  • The U.S. Labor Department reported that the four-week average of applications for unemployment benefits was at its highest level since September.

That’s a lot of bad news for one day.  No wonder traders followed Goldman Sachs’ advice.