Resilient China is firewall in emerging currency crisis

China itself still boasts a strong foreign reserve position and has taken steps to cut debt, both useful shields against global turmoil. (File/AFP)
Updated 16 September 2018
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Resilient China is firewall in emerging currency crisis

  • Emerging countries — loosely defined as having fast growing but volatile economies — have seen their currencies battered in recent weeks
  • China, the world’s second-biggest economy and itself categorized as an emerging market, doesn’t share a key downside of the worst-hit countries

PARIS: China is the last bulwark against a deep crisis in emerging economies going fully global, analysts say, although a prolonged trade war could sap Beijing’s defenses.
Emerging countries — loosely defined as having fast growing but volatile economies — have seen their currencies battered in recent weeks, plunging their finances into turmoil, and raising fears of global contagion.
But China, the world’s second-biggest economy and itself categorized as an emerging market, doesn’t share a key downside of the worst-hit countries: their rampant current account deficits.
“The possibility of a currency crisis in China is unlikely,” said Guan Qingyou, chief economist at China’s Rushi Advanced Institute of Finance.
“China’s ability to resist risk is relatively strong.”
Current account deficits must be financed with foreign currencies, and as central banks across the world enter a cycle of tighter monetary conditions, especially the powerful US Federal Reserve, cheap money will become scarce.
Higher US interest rates are “another nail in the coffin” for emerging countries needing external financing, said Lukman Otunuga, a research analyst at FXTM.
A meltdown of the Turkish lira — somewhat stemmed by a recent massive interest rate rise — and the Argentinian peso are cases in point, as both countries have “exceptionally large current account deficits,” said Oliver Jones, markets economist at Capital Economics.
South Africa, Colombia and, to a lesser extent, India and Indonesia are in similar danger of being trapped in Fed rate rise pain, he said.
But the currencies of Korea, Thailand and Malaysia have done much better because of their close trade ties with Beijing and their healthier current account positions.
China itself still boasts a strong foreign reserve position and has taken steps to cut debt, both useful shields against global turmoil.
“Our foreign exchange reserves are still relatively high,” said Guan at the Reality Institute. “In addition, China has already started the process of deleveraging after the end of 2016.”
But even if fundamentals are still holding up, only the very brave dare predict how damaging ongoing trade tensions with the United States will be to China’s position.
Recent tentative signs of improving relations between Washington and Beijing have lifted investor spirits, but the threat of the US imposing fresh tariffs on Chinese imports worth $200 billion still looms large.
Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, warned recently that higher US-China tariffs would have a “measurable impact on growth in China” and “trigger vulnerabilities” among its Asian neighbors.
While her staff did not yet see contagion spreading beyond the countries currently fighting investor flight, the escalating US-China trade spat could deliver a “shock” to emerging markets, she told the Financial Times
But in the meantime, said Joydeep Mukherji, an analyst with S&P Global, said “we are not forecasting a major crisis in emerging markets.”
Perhaps inspired by the 10th anniversary of the global financial crisis, economists have started to wonder whether there could be another worldwide meltdown, this time triggered by highly-indebted emerging countries.
For now, the answer appears to be no.
“China can still cope with its debt due to its high savings rate,” said Holger Schmieding, an analyst with Berenberg.
“Some other emerging markets are in trouble. Fortunately, they are simply not big enough to cause a big new global crisis.”


Boeing made mistake in handling warning-system problem: CEO

Employees work in the cargo hold of a Boeing 727 MAX 9 test plane outside the company's factory, on March 14, 2019 in Renton, Washington. (AFP)
Updated 7 min 35 sec ago
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Boeing made mistake in handling warning-system problem: CEO

  • Airbus executives said the Max crashes aren’t affecting their sales strategy, but are a reminder of the importance to the whole industry of ensuring safety

PARIS: The chief executive of Boeing said the company made a “mistake” in handling a problematic cockpit warning system in its 737 Max jets before two crashes killed 346 people, and he promised transparency as the aircraft maker works to get the grounded plane back in flight.
Speaking before the industry-wide Paris Air Show, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg told reporters Boeing’s communication with regulators, customers and the public “was not consistent. And that’s unacceptable.”
The US Federal Aviation Administration has faulted Boeing for not telling regulators for more than a year that a safety indicator in the cockpit of the top-selling plane didn’t work as intended.
Boeing and the FAA have said the warning light wasn’t critical for flight safety.
It is not clear whether either crash could have been prevented if the cockpit alert had been working properly. Boeing says all its planes, including the Max, give pilots all the flight information — including speed, altitude and engine performance — that they need to fly safely.
But the botched communication has eroded trust in Boeing as the company struggles to rebound from the passenger jet crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
“We clearly had a mistake in the implementation of the alert,” Muilenburg said.
Pilots also have expressed anger that Boeing did not inform them about the new software that’s been implicated in the fatal crashes.
Muilenburg expressed confidence that the Boeing 737 Max would be cleared to fly again later this year by US and all other global regulators.
“We will take the time necessary” to ensure the Max is safe, he said.
The model has been grounded worldwide for three months, and regulators need to approve Boeing’s long-awaited fix to the software before it can return to the skies.
Muilenburg called the crashes of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines jets a “defining moment” for Boeing, but said he thinks the result will be a “better and stronger company.”
In the United States, Boeing has faced scrutiny from members of Congress and the FAA over how it reported the problem involving a cockpit warning light.
The feature, called an angle of attack or AoA alert, warns pilots when sensors measuring the up-or-down pitch of the plane’s nose relative to oncoming air might be wrong. Boeing has admitted engineers realized within months of the plane’s 2017 debut that the sensor warning light only worked when paired with a separate, optional feature but didn’t report the issue for more than a year, after the crash in Indonesia.
The angle-measuring sensors have been implicated in the Lion Air crash in Indonesia last October and the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March. The sensors malfunctioned, alerting anti-stall software to push the noses of the planes down. The pilots were unable to take back control of the planes.
Boeing told the FAA of what it learned in 2017 after the Indonesia crash.
Pilot Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the union that represents American Airlines pilot, the Allied Pilots Association, said it’s good Muilenburg was willing to revisit the cockpit alert problem and to acknowledge Boeing mishandled conveying information.
But Tajer said he thinks Boeing made a series of unprecedented communication missteps that have “created a massive headwind to rebuilding trust.”
Restoring trust in the Max is Boeing’s No. 1 priority, Muilenburg said — ahead of an upgraded 777 and work on its upcoming NMA long-range jet.
The Max, the newest version of Boeing’s best-selling 737, is critical to the company’s future. The Max was a direct response to rival Airbus’ fuel-efficient A320neo, one of the European plane maker’s most popular jets; Airbus has outpaced Boeing in sales in the category.
The Max crashes, a slowing global economy, and damage from tariffs and trade fights threaten to cloud the mood at the Paris Air Show. Along with its alternating-years companion, the Farnborough International Airshow near London, the Paris show is usually a celebration of cutting-edge aviation technology.
Muilenburg forecast a limited number of orders at the Paris event, the first major air show since the crashes, but said it was still important for Boeing to attend to talk to customers and others in the industry.
He also announced that Boeing was raising its long-term forecast for global plane demand, notably amid sustained growth in Asia.
Boeing expects the world’s airlines will need 44,000 planes within 20 years, up from a previous forecast of 43,000 planes.
Muilenburg projected that within 10 years, the overall aviation market — including passenger jets, cargo and warplanes — would be worth $8.7 trillion, compared to earlier forecasts of $8.1 trillion.
Both estimates are higher than the ones from Airbus, which sees slower growth ahead.
However, Airbus is heading into the Paris show with confidence. It is expected to announce several plane sales and unveil its A321 XLR long-range jet. Airbus executives said the Max crashes aren’t affecting their sales strategy, but are a reminder of the importance to the whole industry of ensuring safety.