Archive forMay, 2013

Japan’s factory output picks up; consumer inflation drops

Japan’s industrial output climbed 1.7% m-o-m in April, the fifth consecutive increase, faster than a 0.9% rise in March, the Ministry of Economy and Trade said yesterday. The Markit/JMMA manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index rose to a seasonally adjusted 51.5, the highest since August, from 51.1 in April. Meanwhile, core consumer prices, which include oil, but exclude food, dropped 0.4% y-o-y in April, matching market forecasts, compared to a 0.5% y-o-y decline in March.

OECD cuts global economic growth forecast

The OECD projected the global economy to grow 3.1% in 2013 and 4% in 2014, down from the previous forecast of 3.4% and 4.2%, respectively. The US is forecasted to expand 1.9% in 2013 and 2.8% in 2014. The Eurozone is estimated to remain in recession, with the economy shrinking 0.6% in 2013, followed by 1.1% growth next year. Germany is expected to grow 0.4% and 1.9% in 2013 and 2014, respectively. OECD urged the ECB to enforce negative deposit rates and purchase assets, such as securitized loans, from credit-depleted small and medium-sized firms. OECD took a more negative view on China, projecting its GDP to expand 7.8% this year, down from the previous estimate of 8.5%.

IMF lowers China’s growth outlook

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) cut its 2013 economic growth forecast for China to 7.75% from the previous 8%, citing a weak global economy and sluggish export market. The IMF said the country’s priority should be on reining in social financing growth, and recommended it to carry out fiscal stimulus measures if growth falls below the IMF’s estimate.

ECB to retain expansive monetary policy

The ECB would retain its expansive monetary policy for as long as necessary, Joerg Asmussen, Executive board member, said yesterday. Mr. Asmussen added ECB should be cautious in terms of making its deposit rate negative as it could have wider implications on banks’ own operations and bond markets.

German trade chamber lowers growth forecast

Germany’s DIHK Chambers of Commerce cut its economic growth estimate to 0.3% for 2013 from 0.7% earlier, citing concerns that growth in exports would be less than expected. DIHK added GDP would expand by more than 1% in 2014. Separately, the Conference Board Leading Economic Index for Germany rose 1.3% in the six months to March compared to the previous six months, where it fell 2.9%.

Background to today’s sell-off in equity markets

Global Equity markets have been spooked this morning after a few weeks of growing concern that they might be running too far ahead of events. The more overbought they become, the more susceptible to bad news they become. The sequence of events is broadly as follows…

China’s HSBC manufacturing PMI contracts in May

China’s flash HSBC Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 49.6 in May, contracting for the first time in seven months, after a final reading of 50.4 in April. A sub-index measuring total new orders declined to 49.5, its lowest reading since September.

Japan exports disappoint in April

Japan’s exports rose 3.8% y-o-y in April, below the market estimate of 5.9% and after gaining 1.1% y-o-y in March, the Ministry of Finance reported. Imports jumped 9.4% y-o-y in April due to a rise in liquefied natural gas purchases following a revised 5.6% increase in March. The trade deficit widened to ¥879.9bn after a revised deficit of ¥364.0bn in March.

How much further for the FTSE?

The attached charts show:- a) The FTSE 100 Index with rises since 1994 (for context). The bottom-to-top rises have been 140%, 104% and (so far) 91%; b) Inflation (Retail Price Index); c) FTSE 100 since September 2000 (all-time index closing high at 6,798.10 on 4th September 2000). This demonstrates how much inflation is in the current index valuation. In itself, it does not mean that the index is necessarily undervalued.

Italy’s current account moves into surplus in March

Italy’s current account balance swung to a surplus of €1.9bn in March vis-à-vis a deficit of €1.6bn during the same period last year, as per the Bank of Italy. The surplus in goods account almost doubled to €4.7bn, while the deficit in services narrowed to €429m from €836m in the previous year.

China’s house prices continue to rise in April

China’s new home prices jumped 4.9% y-o-y in April, the fastest gain since April 2011, after a 3.6% y-o-y increase in March, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on Saturday. New home prices in Beijing and Shanghai advanced 10.3% and 8.5%, respectively, in April. However, on m-o-m basis, new home prices were up 1% in April, easing from the 1.2% gain in March.

Buffett buffetted, would you credit it?

Yesterday’s news of the credit rating cut by the S&P rating agency of Berkshire Hathaway, the consistently successful investment business run by Warren Buffett, looked incongruous. To long-time fans of the ‘Sage’, the announcement may go on to prompt the expression ‘I remember where I was when Berkshire was downgraded’. Reasons given for the one-level cut to AA boiled down to concerns about the level of reliance on the group’s insurance interests for its dividend income and whether there could be life after Mr Buffett’s demise. Just for good measure, the outlook was reduced to ‘negative’.

Japan’s core machinery orders surge in March

Japan’s core machinery orders rose 14.2% to ¥793.1bn in March, its quickest monthly rate in eight years, and ahead of the market forecast of a 2.8% gain, the Cabinet Office said today. Orders increased a revised 4.2% in February. On y-o-y basis, core orders rose 2.4% after contracting 11.3% in February. However, manufacturers expect core orders to decline 1.5% in the next quarter and 7.7% on y-o-y basis.

Japan’s Q1 2013 GDP growth beats estimates

Japan’s economy grew 0.9% q-o-q in Q1 2013, ahead of forecasts for 0.7% growth, after a flat reading the previous quarter, the Cabinet Office revealed today. On y-o-y basis, GDP climbed 3.5% following a revised 0.2% gain in Q4 2012. However, capital spending fell 0.7% in Q1, missing forecasts of a 0.7% rise.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Well, today’s title line may not look SC (Seasonally Correct) although the present weather in the United Kingdom could make you think otherwise. Indeed, this morning’s First Quarter GDP numbers out of the Eurozone do not look too summery either, particularly as the meagre 0.1% growth for Germany reflected the impact of an abnormally long winter while the French economy slipped into a technical ‘baisse triple’ recession after declining by 0.2%.

US deficit to shrink rapidly through 2015

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) forecasts 2013 budget deficit to be US$642bn, nearly US$200bn below its February estimate, and much lower than last year’s US$1.1-trln deficit. This year’s deficit would be 4% of GDP. Higher tax revenues and bailout mortgage repayments were cited as the main reasons for the improved outlook.

UK’s housing demand improves in April – RICS

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said its seasonally adjusted house price balance was up at +1 in April from -2 in March, coming in positive for the first time since June 2010. Also, demand for housing rose to its highest level in nearly three-and-a-half years, aided by new government schemes to boost the sector.

Banks under pressure

Mid-April 2013 was notable for turnarounds in the prices for Gold and Oil and resumption of uptrend in the FTSE and S&P 500 indices. What is also notable is that, with the benefit of hindsight in a week or two, mid-May may be seen to have been a consolidation point for all of these. This appears to be particularly likely for the S&P 500 at the 1,633 level even though there is no obvious place for funds to go unless we see a shift back to bonds after the pronounced sell-off since the beginning of May.

China’s industrial production increases in April

China’s industrial production rose 9.3% y-o-y in April, from 8.9% in March, below market expectations of a 9.5% rise, the National Bureau of Statistics said today. Separately, property investment jumped 21.2% y-o-y in the January-April period.

Desperately seeking yield

After a month of hesitation below the Y100 level which had not been breached since April 2009, the Japanese spot rate has roared to the Y101 level overnight, prompting a 2.9% rise in the Nikkei 225 Index to 14,607 – the second emphatic index move within the week. So much for the suggestion that, being strongly overbought, the market might need to consolidate its recent gains. Investors cannot get enough of this resurgent Japanese equity market – back at levels not achieved since January 2008.

ECB survey points towards Eurozone contraction in 2013

According to the ECB’s Survey of Professional Forecasters (SPF), the Eurozone’s GDP is likely to shrink 0.4% in 2013 versus zero growth projected three months ago. In 2014, GDP is estimated to expand 1%, below the previous forecast of 1.1%. The survey forecasts inflation to be 1.7% this year and 1.6% in 2014 compared to the previous forecast of 1.8% for both years. The unemployment rate is estimated at 12.3% in 2013, up from the previous projection of 12.1%.

Degrees of risk

As government low interest rate policies globally push investors towards what are traditionally perceived to be areas of greater risk such as equities, it is interesting to gain the occasional insight into how some of the major players are judging the position. Tucked away on the front page of this morning’s Financial Times is a report that several U.S. university endowment groups have been reducing their exposure to U.S. Government Treasury bonds. Although the timeline is not clear, the level of holdings is reported to have come down from as much as 30% in 2008/9 to less than 5% now on concerns that any reversal of interest rate policy would be likely to prompt a sharp sell-off in fixed interest rate securities.

Consumer inflation in China increases in April

Annual consumer inflation in China jumped to 2.4% in April from 2.1% in March, the National Bureau of Statistics said today. Food price inflation accelerated to 4% from 2.7% in March. On m-o-m basis, consumer prices rose 0.2% versus the forecast of 0.1%. Meanwhile, producer prices dipped 2.6% y-o-y in April, after declining 1.9% in March.

Chinese data query

Sometimes, it seems you just can’t please some people. Equity markets had a boost from a release of unexpectedly strong trade figures out of China this morning on hopes that this represented a recovery in the economy. Initially, markets in Europe also reflected the enthusiasm only to give back their gains by mid-morning as speculation emerged that, perhaps, the numbers may have been overstated.

China’s reports upbeat trade data in April

China’s exports grew 14.7% y-o-y in April, versus market expectations of a 10.3% rise, while imports rose 16.8% y-o-y, compared to an anticipated 13.9% increase, the Customs Administration announced today. Trade surplus was US$18.2bn in April. On m-o-m basis, exports rose 2.7%, while imports dipped 7.7%. HSBC’s composite Emerging Market Index (EMI) declined to 51.3 in April, its lowest in more than one and a half years and down from 52.5 in March.

Soaring gently

As major market indices continue to hit new highs, there can be little doubt that sentiment has been buoyed by the signs in recent weeks of commitment by Central Banks to continue to provide economic support whether in the form of Quantitative Easing (the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England) or lower interest rates (the European Central Bank last week and the Reserve Bank of Australia today). For added effect, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has indicated that a higher rate of injection can be applied if required while ECB President Mario Draghi has signalled that further cuts could follow last week’s interest rate reduction.

Australia cuts benchmark rate to record low

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) cut its benchmark interest rate to a record low of 2.75% today in an attempt to counter slowing growth in its mining sector. Softer-than-expected inflation data and signs of weakness in China are also believed to have prompted the rate cut.

ECB leaves the door open for more monetary policy easing

After announcing the 25 basis point rate cut, the ECB said that it would provide banks with as much liquidity as necessary until at least July 2014. The central bank added that it was also ‘technically ready’ to cut its deposit rate from the current zero percent into negative territory to boost lending. Inflation would remain volatile throughout the year, but overall economic activity in the Eurozone would stabilize and recover gradually in H2 2013.

China’s HSBC manufacturing PMI declines in April

The final HSBC Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 50.4 in April from 51.6 in March, slightly below the flash reading of 50.5 last week. Growth in new orders eased to a five-month low, while new export orders fell to 48.4, the lowest level since last October 2012. The sub-index for employment dropped below 50 for the first time in five months.

An Apple issue today keeps the taxman away

Whatever happened to ‘KISS’ (Keep it Simple Stupid) ? There seems to be something slightly convoluted in Apple’s decision to issue bonds, even if it is during an historically low interest rate environment, to return $100 billion to shareholders over the next three years when it has an estimated $100 billion in cash sitting offshore. Of course, in the bizarre world of tax avoidance, the end of a reduced tax bill probably justifies virtually any means but it does look a bit strange.