China crisis? Looking for black swans in white snow of Davos

A man walks past a display showing symbols for world currencies on the exterior of a bank in Beijing. The rise of debt in China was among the issues raised at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss reosrt of Davos yesterday. (AP)
Updated 23 January 2018
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China crisis? Looking for black swans in white snow of Davos

LONDON: Consumer debt in China, a dirty bomb and an antibiotic-resistant pandemic — all potential candidates for the next “black swan” event.
The annual gathering of global leaders, economists and thinkers in the Swiss alps yesterday looked to predict where the next big global shock would likely emerge.
Speaking at a panel on “The Next Financial Crisis,” Harvard professor Kenneth Rogoff said the Chinese economy was especially vulnerable to shocks caused by a rise in interest rates.
“If interest rates went up, the places that weren’t enjoying as much growth and had a lot of debt — Italy, Japan for example, some emerging markets — they could have a lot of problems. I certainly see China at an earlier stage of this. They didn’t have the financial crisis (in 2008), they did a great job, but they do have a lot of the characteristics of a typical financial crisis building up.”
The sharp rise in household debt in China has been flagged as a potential threat to the global economy, with the IMF recently warning the country’s dependency on credit could be a catalyst for the next financial crisis.
Vice-governor of China’s central bank, Zhu Min, told Reuters on Tuesday that China has little room for raising benchmark interest rates as inflation remains subdued and authorities are trying to reduce the economy’s debt burden.

The world’s second-largest economy expanded 6.9 percent in 2017, accelerating for the first time in seven years due partly to an export-led recovery, defying concerns that intensifying curbs on industry and credit would hurt expansion.
So what should the central bank policy response be if the another financial crisis were to suddenly materialize?

Historically low interest rates worldwide mean there is limited scope for central banks to tackle future financial crises, the session heard.
Still, Professor Rogoff downplayed fears of another big recession, telling the audience that financial crises have a “long afterlife” and that “we’re actually at the tail-end of the last one.”

Speaking on the same panel David M. Rubenstein, co-founder and co-executive chairman at investment firm The Carlyle Group told the audience he was worried about so-called “black swans,” a 9/11 type event that could produce a recession without warning.
He said: “The biggest problem I have is most people think there’s no problem of a recession this year or even next year. Generally when people are very happy and confident, something wrong happens. So I am nervous that the conventional wisdom is that there are no problems.”
Rubenstein also highlighted the high level of US government borrowing as a potential concern for the global economy.

“At some point people will wake up and (see) the US government has 20 trillion dollars of debt,” he said.


Asian stocks hit as Trump drops Kim summit but losses tempered

A man walks past a bank electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index at Hong Kong Stock Exchange Friday. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Updated 25 May 2018
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Asian stocks hit as Trump drops Kim summit but losses tempered

  • Traders had already been nervous in recent days after the US president warned he could pull out of the June 12 meeting with the North Korean leader, while also voicing his displeasure at a deal to avert a trade war with China.
  • In a letter released by the White House, Trump told Kim he was canceling the summit because of North Korea’s “anger” and “hostility.”

HONG KONG: Asian markets mostly fell on Friday as Donald Trump shocked the world by pulling out of next month’s historic summit with Kim Jong Un, though analysts said the losses were tempered by hopes the talks can be rekindled.
Traders had already been nervous in recent days after the US president warned he could pull out of the June 12 meeting with the North Korean leader, while also voicing his displeasure at a deal to avert a trade war with China and threaten tariffs on car imports.
The news Thursday took many by surprise — including North and South Korean officials — and fueled concerns about the future of a rapprochement that has had many hoping for peace on the divided peninsula.
In a letter released by the White House, Trump told Kim he was canceling the summit because of North Korea’s “anger” and “hostility.” The message came after a key aide to Kim hit out at comments from Vice President Mike Pence, saying they were “ignorant and stupid” and warning the talks could be canceled.
However, Trump’s letter added that the talks could still go ahead “at a later date.”
For its part, Pyongyang said the decision “unexpected” and “regrettable” but added: “We again state to the US our willingness to sit face-to-face at any time in any form to resolve the problem.”
“It looks like we are back to fire and fury as the modus operandi for the White House again after President Trump (threatened) a new 25 percent car import tariff and canceled the summit with North Korea,” said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.
“Not only was the summit canceled but it was back to threatening the DPRK with a military response.”Wall Street ended lower, while Asian trading was muted. Tokyo ended the morning slightly higher, while Hong Kong slipped 0.3 percent and Shanghai was barely moved. Sydney and Singapore each fell 0.1 percent while Seoul was 0.2 percent lower.
Manila and Kuala Lumpur also fell but Wellington, Taipei and Jakarta were in positive territory.
While warning the issue remained fragile, analysts said there was still hope the meeting will go ahead.
“As we’ve seen countless times before, the president tends to walk back some of his more boisterous rhetoric time and time again,” said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA.
“While the US and their allies have offered a way to prosperity for North Korea, it was never going to come without some significant concession on the nuclear non-proliferation front.”
And Eli Lee, Bank of Singapore’s head of investment strategy, added: “Given the US’ surprising acceptance of the meeting only in March, the cancelation... may simply be due to the fact that both sides need simply more time for preparation and to find a middle ground in terms of their demands.”
On oil markets, both main contracts extended Thursday’s more than one percent losses after Russia said an agreement with OPEC to cap production — which has provided support to prices in recent years — could be up for revision at a meeting next month .
The comments from Energy Minister Alexander Novak dented a rally in the commodity, which has hit three-and-a-half-year highs on the back of improving demand and supply worries from Venezuela and Iran.

Tokyo — Nikkei 225: UP 0.1 percent at 22,457.20 (break)
Hong Kong — Hang Seng: DOWN 0.3 percent at 30,666.38
Shanghai — Composite: FLAT at 3,154.04
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1705 from $1.1725 at 2100 GMT
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3364 from $1.3385
Dollar/yen: UP at 109.53 from 109.30 yen
Oil — West Texas Intermediate: DOWN nine cents at $70.62
Oil — Brent North Sea: DOWN 12 cents at $78.67
New York — Dow: DOWN 0.3 percent at 24,811.76 (close)
London — FTSE 100: DOWN 0.9 percent at 7,716.74 (close)