FiNETIK – Asia and Latin America – Market News Network

Asia and Latin America News Network focusing on Financial Markets, Energy, Environment, Commodity and Risk, Trading and Data Management

Derivatives: Struggling Into the New Era – Outlook 2013/14

The past few years have been challenging for the global economy but it seems as though the derivatives industry sustained more than its share of insults and injuries over the past year or so. Still reeling from the trauma of MF Global in October of 2011, exchange-traded volume went into its first nosedive in decades.

Urgent regulatory requirements added intense cost and time pressures to company staffs that were already stretched. A non-clearing FCM, Peregrine Financial, collapsed in scandal. OTC derivatives struggled with complex regulatory mandates and weak volume.

Perhaps the only positive for the year was that mergers and acquisitions at both the macro and micro level imply that innovation and creativity are still powerful industry drivers. That in turn suggests that the creative dynamism that has characterized the derivatives industry for so many years still has some innings to go.

Read the detailed report about Derivatives market outlook, challenges and issue of big deals, exchange mergers and new start ups, customer protection, Regulatory,Extraterritorial and Tax problems  and more. 

Source: WEF 25.04.2013 by Nicolas Ronalds

Filed under: Exchanges, Asia, Brazil, Risk Management, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

NYSE Technology and KOSCOM announce MOU in mutual network and technology expansion in Korea

NYSE Technologies, the commercial technology division of NYSE Euronext and Koscom Corporation, the technology firm created by the Korean Ministry of Finance and Korea Exchange, today announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that formalizes a joint commitment to continued technology cooperation and the creation of new international business opportunities. The agreement also supports NYSE Technologies’ core capital markets community strategy of connecting a diverse range of key global vendors, market participants and trading destinations to the Secure Financial Transaction Infrastructure (SFTI) network.

Among a range of cooperative benefits intended to create customer value and market efficiency, this strategic agreement is also designed to facilitate plans to link NYSE Technologies SFTI network that already connects market participants and exchanges around the world with the Koscom STOCK-NET, an established network with strong connections among market participants and the exchange in Korea. This initiative will further develop, strengthen and promote cross-border trading between Korea and international markets. With a diverse portfolio of financial technology solutions that include front and back office operations, both Koscom and NYSE Technologies provide market participants with a complete menu of trading and data infrastructure options, business applications and consultancy expertise.

“We are pleased to expand our already strong relationship with the Korea Exchange through this strategic agreement with Koscom,” said Stanley Young, CEO, NYSE Technologies. “As we continue our mission of global innovation and the creation of a true capital markets community, it’s essential that we collaborate with other world-class technology teams like Koscom to find greater ways to serve our customers by enhancing the accessibility of global markets and the performance of their participants. We are excited to begin exploring new ways to achieve those goals with the help of our colleagues at Koscom.”

“We are delighted to be partnering with NYSE Technologies. Our strategic relationship with NYSE Technologies will allow us to continue introducing a state of the art technology and reinforce our position as an expert in exchange systems and financial solutions,” Joo Ha Woo, CEO, Koscom stated. “As leading financial solution providers, both Koscom and NYSE Technologies represent a valuable path to establish stronger presences in global market. We believe that this opportunity will maintain a positive bond between Koscom and NYSE Technologies and continue to provide great service to our current and potential customers worldwide.”

Building on the 2004 MOU between the New York Stock Exchange and the Korea Exchange, this new agreement between the commercial technology units of each exchange offers each the opportunity to work more closely to identify new business opportunities, explore co-branded initiatives and transmit market information into and out of Korea faster and with greater efficiency.

Source: Mondovisone, 29.03.2012

Filed under: Asia, Exchanges, Korea, , , , , , ,

Metabit Expands Asian Trade Connectivity

Tokyo/Hong Kong, 29 March 2011: In the past year, Tokyo-based Metabit has concentrated on building its connectivity across Asia.  The company aims to be the local face of execution destinations in Asia and over the past eight months, it has added an extra 13 domestic DMA destinations, expanding domestic and cross-border access to Asian markets.

“Metabit is at the heart of  connectivity in Asia” comments Daniel Burgin, CEO of Metabit, “not just for providing access to Asia for global players, but also in particular for the local and domestic  industry in this region.”

“For example, in India we have 20 execution destinations of which 10 are domestic Indian brokers.  We are similarly successful with increased connectivity in other countries such as Korea and Taiwan.”

Overall, Metabit’s trading access has been extended to many markets ranging from Indonesia to Pakistan and Mainland China to Australia.  The company now has access to over 250 execution destinations, across all active DMA markets in Asia, including Japan.

“We want to maximise connectivity to and within Asia for our client base, who can directly access all execution destinations across the major and emerging markets in Asia either through Metabit’s intuitive XiliX trading platform, or through our MLH via a single FIX connection.”

Burgin adds a final comment, “Situated where we are in Tokyo, with offices in Hong Kong, Dalian and Sydney, we understand the needs of Asia market players, whether they want to trade globally or locally. You could say the mindset of Asia is in our blood – we think Asia, so our clients can trade Asia.”

About Metabit

Uniquely placed in Asia, with global experience and a real knowledge of Asian markets, Metabit provides the technology and support to help clients trade and connect effortlessly and efficiently.  The company delivers an intuitive trading platform that encompasses a well-established trading community and unrivalled exchange connectivity solutions.

Metabit provides ultra low latency DMA trading solutions for Asian markets, serving buy side and sell side clients.  It specialises in comprehensive compliance controls, whilst reducing transaction times and facilitating trading opportunities across all major markets across 14 Asian countries, including Japan.

Metabit’s flagship solutions are XiliX intuitive buy side trading platform and MLH a vendor neutral Market Liquidity Hub.  Alpha provides ultra-low latency exchange connectivity and Exsim simulates Asian and Japanese exchanges.  All Metabit’s products are powered by the CameronFIX engine.

Source: Metabit, 29.03.2011

Filed under: Asia, Australia, China, FIX Connectivity, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, News, Singapore, Thailand, Trading Technology, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

CME Group, Bolsa Mexicana de Valores and MexDer Announce Order Routing, Equity Agreement

In connection with yesterday’s announcement made by CME Group concerning the order routing agreement it has entered into with the Mexican Stock Market (BMV) and the 1.9 percent acquisition of BMV’s capital, BM&FBOVESPA and CME Group announce that they will initiate discussions about said transaction and other commercial opportunities with BMV, in consonance with the terms of the global strategic partnership published in the material fact dated February 11, 2010.

Source: MondoVisione, 09.03.2010

CME Group, the world’s leading and most diverse derivatives marketplace, and the Bolsa Mexicana de Valores, S.A.B. de C.V. (BMV), the financial exchange operator in Mexico, today announced that they have entered into a strategic partnership that includes an order routing agreement for derivatives products. CME Group has purchased shares in the Mexican exchange valued at $17 million, or approximately 1.9 percent of outstanding BMV shares, as part of the equity portion of the agreement. Additionally, the Control Trust of BMV has granted CME Group the right to nominate a member to BMV Board of Directors and the two exchange operators have signed a memorandum of understanding covering activities aimed at enhancing the partnership between the two exchanges.

Mexico’s MexDer seeks high class global partners, 08.11.2009

BMV Bolsa Mexicana de Valore: Information on relationships and discussions with CME, 27.09.2009

Through the agreement, CME Group will become the exclusive exchange provider of derivatives order routing services to BMV outside Latin America, and BMV will be the exclusive exchange provider of derivatives order routing services to CME Group in Mexico. BMV’s derivative products are offered through its derivatives subsidiary, MexDer.

CME Group and BMV have also agreed to pursue potential joint initiatives including product development, marketing and customer education as well as clearing opportunities. Additionally, BMV, CME Group and its Global Preferred Strategic Partner BM&FBOVESPA will initiate discussions about the aforementioned transaction and other commercial opportunities.

“Latin America is a key market for CME Group,” said Terry Duffy, CME Group Executive Chairman. “We are pleased to announce this new partnership with BMV which furthers our global strategy to offer customers increased access to our products while, at the same time, allowing BMV to use the CME Globex trading network to increase distribution of their products in North America.”

“With Mexico’s standing as the 13th largest economy and one of our country’s most significant trading partners, we are pleased to work with BMV to facilitate global hedging and risk management activity in our respective markets,” said Craig Donohue, CME Group Chief Executive Officer. “In addition to providing CME Group customers with our own highly liquid products in interest rates, equities, foreign exchange, commodities, energy and metals, the order routing agreement announced today will soon broaden efficient access on or through our CME Globex electronic trading platform to financial markets in Brazil, Mexico, South Korea, Dubai and Malaysia.”

“With this operation BMV increases its presence in the international markets. Greater distribution capabilities are a key part of our strategy to attract more investors to Mexico,” said Luis Tellez BMV Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “Allowing international investors an easier access into MexDer will improve liquidity and develop the local market. At the same time this agreement will provide Mexican investors with more tools to manage their portfolios.”

The order routing arrangement, which is scheduled to begin in 2011, will give BMV customers access to CME Group’s benchmark derivatives contracts including interest rates, foreign currencies, equity indexes, energy, metals and agricultural commodities. It will also give CME Group customers access to BMV’s interest rate and equity index derivatives.

Source: MondoVisione, 08.03.2009

Filed under: BM&FBOVESPA, BMV - Mexico, Exchanges, Latin America, Mexico, News, Risk Management, Trading Technology, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Santander starts marketing Latin American funds in Asia

Banco Santander, a Spanish bank with a large presence in Europe and Latin America, has created a new role in Hong Kong to develop its asset-management business in Asia.

With the necessary licences in place, Alexander de Laiglesia will concentrate on selling funds manufactured by Santander Asset Management in Latin America and Europe to Asian wholesale distributors and asset managers.

De Laiglesia, a managing director, has been with the firm for 20 years, starting in Tokyo as a deputy branch manager. He returned to Japan from Madrid in 2002 with a secondment to Shinsei Bank. He moved to Hong Kong last year, and has been developing the asset-management role for the past several months. De Laiglesia has also worked in Hong Kong and the Middle East in the 1980s with Standard Chartered Bank, and he speaks Japanese.

Santander pursues a universal banking model in its core markets of Spain, Portugal, the UK and the countries of Latin America, including Brazil, as well as the US. The bank has built investment teams in those countries.

The group mainly provides local products to its local investors. It cross-sells some products to provide these local customers with international exposure and may also provide third-party funds. Worldwide, Santander Asset Management manages €120 billion ($168 billion) of assets.

Asian markets are not core to this business. “We are not here to manage assets,” says de Laiglesia. “We are here to channel investments from Asia to our core markets.” That means competing in the niche of selling Latin America funds to Asian wholesalers and domestic fund houses. Santander will also seek to develop sales to institutional investors as well.

“We are the largest regional asset manager in Latin America, with big investment teams in markets such as Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Argentina,” de Laiglesia says.

Santander has already notched up business in Japan as adviser to a couple of Brazil equity funds launched by Daiwa Asset Management, and in Korea, where Industrial Bank of Korea sells a Latin America equities product. Japan, in particular, has wealth, its investors are comfortable with Brazilian securities and that’s an asset class where domestic asset managers do not have a local presence, de Laiglesia says.

Santander is flexible with regard to the type of relationship it will pursue with Asian distributors; it may act as an investment adviser, a provider of white-label products or a provider of mutual funds from its Luxembourg range. The firm will also seek segregated mandates from or sales of its Luxembourg funds to Asian institutions.

In addition to applying for regulatory licences, de Laiglesia is still researching which markets to focus on and which thematic products to highlight. Japan is the priority, but the region’s other large markets — Australia, Greater China, Singapore and South Korea — are also important.

Source: AsianInvestor.net, 02.02.2010

Filed under: Asia, Australia, Banking, Brazil, China, Colombia, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Latin America, Malaysia, Mexico, News, Peru, Services, Singapore, Wealth Management, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

QDII:Chinese index products face obstacles

Meanwhile, Chinese investors should buy foreign assets, and ETF/index products are the most efficient way to do so, say panellists at a recent conference.

The development of index products has made some progress in China, but still faces key issues, according to panellists at an event this month in Shanghai. They also argued that Chinese investor education must be addressed before the qualified domestic institutional investment (QDII) market will really take off.

The SG China Markets Forum, organised by French bank Société Générale, focused primarily on the QDII, with one panel discussing index product development in China.

That panel comprised: Song Hong Yu, head of research at China Securities Index; Zheng Xu, director in the international cooperation and product development department at Yinhua Fund Management; Zeng Fan Qing, head of product development at Fortune SGAM; Joseph Ho, head of ETF sales and marketing at Société Générale; and Frank Benzimra, director of equity derivatives structuring at SGI Index, part of Société Générale.

The index market has continued to grow, they said, thanks to the high liquidity of indexed products, economies of scale, deepening of product knowledge, and increasing demand for both risk management and an improved legal framework.

However, there remain problems affecting the market’s development, including asset managers’ strategies of seeking higher commissions by selling actively managed funds, said the panellists. The situation is exacerbated — as in Japan and South Korea — by regulations allowing the same securities house to sell active funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), the former with a significantly higher profit margin.

Nor do system limitations help matters. The separation of the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges are slowing the pace of ETF development in China, argued the panelists. And ultimately there is a lack of dedicated market educators — again, as in Japan and South Korea — since industry players are unwilling to take up this role due to the aforementioned conflicts of interest over active/passive fund selling.

As for investing in overseas assets, ETFs/indices are the most efficient and cost-effective way to manage a global portfolio, argued panellists. And despite the strong performance of the Chinese market this year, there are still good reasons for investors to buy foreign assets, including: sharing of growth in global economic developments, diversification, limited local investment tools apart from equity investments, and expensive pricing of shares on Chinese stock exchanges.

So how much Chinese money is likely to flow overseas — and where — under the revised QDII scheme? That was the subject of another panel at the event. The participants were: David Chang, assistant president at GuoTai Asset Management; Dong Bin, head of QDII at Citic Securities; Sandru Lu, a lawyer at Llinks; and Du Jun, head of institutional investment at Fortune SGAM.

The consensus was that there will be a huge increase in product applications under the QDII scheme, which now stands at $90 billion. However, the main issues hindering the market’s growth are insufficient investor education and expertise.

Local investors should not only take a close look at the legal framework of all the investable products when considering overseas assets and should not only focus on returns. More, panellists felt that the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and aftermath has affected local investors’ understanding of overseas markets, meaning there will be a discrepancy between local and foreign investors’ understanding and execution, even for very simple products.

For overseas markets, it was pointed out, there are more stringent rules and strategy, whereas for the local market there is more flexibility in execution. The panellists felt that a better way to approach this situation is to combine the two approaches.

As for where domestic investors should put their money, participants felt commodities is a promising asset class, due to dollar weakness and the lack of precious metals/resources. They also suggested making some allocation to overseas structured products/derivatives to help achieve a stable return, and for those with a higher risk tolerance making use of statistical/quantitative strategies.

With reference to managing a full global/China portfolio, Citic said it will put 30% in the local market, 30% in overseas markets, 20% in hedge funds and 20% in strategic products. GuoTai will put a large portion in China and India.

Source: AsianInvestor.net, 30.11.2009

Filed under: Asia, China, Exchanges, News, Risk Management, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Vietnam hikes interest rates and devalues currency

The central bank raises interest rates to 8% and devalues its currency – moves needed to keep inflation in check and growth on target.

Vietnam is first out of the gate in a race no one wants to be in. It is the first nation in Asia to raise interest rates in an effort to put a stop to rising inflation.

The State Bank of Vietnam will increase its benchmark interest rate to 8% from 7% as of December 1. This is the first increase since January, as for most of the year the government has been focused on achieving its 5% economic growth target. And indeed, while analysts said the hike was needed it was also a surprise — the central bank had earlier announced that the basic interest rate would be kept stabilised at least until the end of the year.

“The move came as a surprise, well sort of. We did expect interest rates to increase, but expectations were for early next year. The fact that inflation came in today at 4.4% year-on-year against 3.0% year-on-year last month, and that the currency kept weakening in the black market (not to mention the surging price of gold internationally)… probably prompted earlier action than what we believe authorities would have liked,” noted Ho Chi Minh-based analysts at VinaSecurities in a research report issued last night.

The State Bank of Vietnam also reset the US dollar reference rate to 17,961 dong from its current level of 17,034 dong, in its third devaluation of the currency in two years. The central bank will also narrow the trading band of the dollar against the dong to 3% from 5%.

This is an effort not only to bring confidence to the currency, but also to correct the difference versus where the dong is trading on the black market, which has been at about 19,700 per US dollar in recent weeks. The governor of the State Bank of Vietnam, Nguyen Van Giau, acknowledged to Vietnamese press on Wednesday that foreign currency is now overly hot and so the government had to intervene.

Investors were spooked by the moves, with the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange’s VN Index falling 4.5% to a three-month low of 503.41, the biggest slide since April 20. But most analysts praised the government’s efforts as prudent.

At 4.4%, consumer price inflation is at its highest since May and more than double the multi-year low of 2% in August. The food part of the basket registered 3.5% inflation, up from 2.5% in October. Housing inflation rose to 8.4% from 2.4%, while transport/communication inflation went from -4.6% to 2.2%. Inflation isn’t a worry — it has arrived.

Also consider that total outstanding loans are currently up 34% versus this time last year, which means the nation is grappling with a rising credit problem. Non-performing loans, of course, have long been a concern.

“In summary, inflation is heading higher which, together with the recent and alarming deterioration in the trade deficit and associated downward pressure on the currency, has finally triggered a policy response from the authorities. The response is also most unlikely to be the last,” wrote Robert Prior-Wandesforde, senior Asian economist for HSBC, in a research note yesterday.

Other moves bandied about by specialists include the Ministry of Finance raising import tariffs and the Ministry of Industry and Trade taking measures to limit imports.

While Vietnam’s currency issue is unique, the inflation issue is potentially not. China, South Korea and Taiwan will no doubt have to start raising rates next year as their stimulus efforts to spur growth may also lead to inflation.

Source: FinanceAsia.com, 26.11.2009

Filed under: Asia, Exchanges, News, Vietnam, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

KRX Listing 10 additional Stock Futures on Dec 14, 2009

10 additional single stock futures will be listed on Dec 14, 2009 since the Korea Exchange introduced 15 single stock futures for the first time on May 6, 2008.

Of the stocks that satisfy the selection criteria related to the market share within the industry group and liquidity, the 10 single stock futures to be listed in December have been chosen by taking into consideration the inputs of securities companies, including how frequently the underlying stock has been used in developing equity linked products such as ELWs, ELSs and single stock options.

The issues selected are:

  • Kia Motors(Motor Vehicle),
  • Daewoo Securities(Securities),
  • Korean Air(Transport),
  • Doosan Infracore(Machinery),
  • Samsung C&T(Distribution),
  • Hynix(Semiconductor),
  • Hyundai Steel(Steel),
  • GSE&C(Construction),
  • NHN(Service),
  • SK Energy(Chemical)

As a result, after December 14, 2009, total of 25 single stock futures will be listed on the Korea Exchange.

It is expected that listing of these additional single stock futures will further facilitate new trading strategies to meet the demand of foreign and domestic market participants.

Source:MondoVisione, 17.11.2009

Filed under: Asia, Exchanges, Korea, News, , , , ,

Bursa Malaysia and KRX: Support of the Malaysia International Islamic Financial Centre’s Initiative aims to boost Growth of Islamic Finance Market- Event 19.11.2009

The Korea Exchange (KRX) and Bursa Malaysia will be playing host to the Korean investment bankers, advisers, issuers and institutional investors at its inaugural KRX-Bursa Malaysia Islamic Capital Market Conference, which will be held on 19 November 2009 in Seoul, Korea. This conference which is co-organised in support of the Malaysia International Islamic Financial Centre (MIFC) initiative, aims to share Malaysia’s Islamic finance experience and to promote the opportunities in the Malaysian Islamic capital market landscape. This collaborative effort hopes to strengthen the growth opportunities of Islamic finance amongst the discerning Korean investors and issuers.

This conference is timely as there is a strong interest for Korea to grow the Islamic finance industry, following from the proposed liberalisation measures by the Korean government which are aimed to allow the issuance of Islamic bonds or sukuk as well as allow incomes from sukuk to be tax-exempted. These proposed laws are expected to be passed by the Korean government’s National Assembly later this year.

In conjunction with the KRX-Bursa Malaysia Islamic Capital Market Conference, delegates of the MIFC initiative, which comprises senior management of Bank Negara Malaysia (Central Bank of Malaysia), Securities Commission Malaysia and Bursa Malaysia, will be participating in the conference. Malaysia acknowledges Korea as a potential Islamic financial market and welcomes Korea’s participation in shaping the Islamic finance landscape together, via leveraging on Malaysia’s more than 30 years of experience in developing the world’s most comprehensive Islamic financial system.

Chief Executive Officer of Bursa Malaysia Berhad, Dato’ Yusli Mohamed Yusoff said, “We hope this conference will stimulate interest in the Shari’ah compliant products which are currently in demand from investors who are seeking returns from alternative and ethical investments. In addition, this visit by the delegates from the MIFC will pave the way for more opportunities to exchange ideas in Islamic finance and forge greater working relations between Korea and Malaysia for the interest of growing this important industry. We are confident that the Malaysian and Korean authorities as well as KRX and Bursa Malaysia would be able to leverage on our respective strengths in the establishment of an Islamic capital market in Korea.”

This KRX-Bursa Malaysia Islamic Capital Market Conference is expected to attract 200 participants and will provide a platform for all attendees to gain an insight into the outlook and trends of Islamic capital markets. Key discussion topics will centre around the liberalisation of Islamic financial markets, investment and business opportunities in Islamic capital market, the Islamic finance landscape and framework as well as the growth of Islamic finance products in Asia and globally.

Source: MondoVisione, 16.11.2009

Filed under: Asia, Events, Exchanges, Islamic Finance, Korea, Malaysia, News, Services, , , , , , , , , , ,

Why China and Japan Need an East Asia Bloc

Withering exports and asset bubbles have forced Asians – especially China and Japan — to work harder at free trade pacts.

All kinds of proposals have been floated about creating an Asian bloc a la European Union. Bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements (FTA) have been suggested for various combinations of Asian countries. Lately, there’s been a flurry of new ideas as Japan’s recently installed DPJ government seeks to differentiate from the ousted LDP.

By promoting ideas that lean toward Asia, DPJ’s leadership is signaling that Japan wants less dependence on the United States. This position offers a hope for the future to Japanese people, whose economy has been comatose for two decades. Closer integration with Asian neighbors could restore growth in Japan.

Whenever global trade gets into trouble, Asian countries talk about regional cooperation as an alternative growth driver. But typically these talks die out as soon as global trade recovers. Today’s chatter is following the same old pattern, although this time global trade is not on track to recover to previous levels and sustain East Asia’s export model. Thus, some sort of regional integration is needed to revive regional growth.

Which regional organization is in a position to lead an integration movement? Certainly not ASEAN, which is too small, nor APEC, which is too big. Something more is needed – like a bloc rooted in a trade pact between Japan and China.

ASEAN’s members are 10 countries in Southeast Asia with a population exceeding 600 million and a combined GDP of US$ 1.5 trillion in 2008. The group embraced an FTA process called AFTA in 1992, which accelerated after the 1997-’98 Asian Financial Crisis and competition with China heated up. When AFTA began, few gave it much chance for success, given the region’s huge disparities in per capita income and economic systems. Today AFTA is almost a reality, which is certainly a miracle.

ASEAN has succeeded beyond its wildest dreams. These days China, Japan, and South Korea join annual meetings as dialogue partners, while the European Union and United States participate in regional forums and bilateral discussions.

China and ASEAN completed FTA negotiations last year, demonstrating that they can function as an economic bloc. Now, China is ASEAN’s third largest trading partner. Indeed, there is a great upside for economic cooperation between the two.

Before the Asian Financial Crisis, the ASEAN region was touted as a “miracle” by international financial institutions for maintaining high GDP growth rates for more than two decades. But some of that growth was built on a bubble that diverted business away from production and toward asset speculation. This developed after credit expansion, driven by the pegging of regional currencies to the U.S. dollar, encouraged land speculation. ASEAN’s emerging economies absorbed massive cross-border capital due to a weak dollar, which slumped after the Federal Reserve responded to a U.S. banking crisis in the early 1990s by maintaining low interest rates.

Back then, I visited companies in the region that produced goods for export. I found that, despite all the talk of miracles, many were making money on financial games — not business. At that time, China was building an export sector that had started exerting downward pressure on tradable goods prices. Instead of focusing on competitiveness, the region hid behind a financial bubble and postponed a resolution. Indeed, ASEAN’s GDP was higher than China’s before the Asian financial crunch; now China’s GDP is three times ASEAN’s.

China today faces challenges similar to those confronting ASEAN before the crisis. While visiting manufacturers in China, I’ve often been discovering that their profits come from property development, lending or outright speculation. While asset prices rise, these practices are effectively subsidizing manufacturing operations – an asset game that can work wonderfully in the short term, as the U.S. experience demonstrates. When property and stock markets are worth more than twice GDP, 20 percent appreciation would be equivalent to four years of business profits in a normal economy. You can’t blame businesses for shifting their attention to the asset game in a bubbly environment. Yet as they focus on finance rather than manufacturing, their competitiveness erodes. And you know where that leads.

I digress from the main focus for this article — regional integration, not China’s bubble challenge.

So let’s look again at ASEAN’s success. In part, this reflects its soft image: Other major players do not view ASEAN as a competitive threat. Rather, the FTA with China has put pressure on majors such as India and Japan to pursue their own FTAs with ASEAN. Another dimension is that the region’s annual meetings have become important occasions for representatives from China, Japan and South Korea to sit down together.

In contrast to ASEAN’s success, APEC has been an abject failure.
Today, it’s simply a photo opportunity for leaders of member countries from the Americas, Oceania, Russia and Asia. APEC was set up after the Soviet bloc collapsed, and served a psychological purpose during the post-Cold War transition. It was reassuring for the global community to see leaders of former enemy countries shaking hands.

However, APEC is just too big and diverse to provide a foundation for building a trade structure. So general is the scope that anything APEC members agree upon would probably pass the United Nations. Now, two decades after end of the Cold War, APEC has clearly outlived its usefulness and is withering, although it may never shut down. APEC’s annual summit still offers leaders of member countries a venue for meetings on the sidelines to discuss bilateral issues. Maybe the group is useful in this way, offering an efficient venue for multiple summits concurrently.

Although ASEAN has succeeded with its own agenda, and achieved considerable success in relation to non-member countries, it clearly cannot assume the same role as the European Union. Besides, should Asia have an EU-like organization? Asia, by definition, clearly cannot. It’s a geographic region that includes the sub-continent, Middle East and central Asia. Any organization that encompasses Asia as a whole would be as unwieldy as APEC.

I am always puzzled by the word “Asia,” which the Greeks coined. In his classic work Histories, it seems ancient Greek historian Herodotus primarily referred to Asia Minor — today’s Turkey, and perhaps Syria — as Asia. I haven’t read much Greek, but I don’t recall India being included in ancient Greek references. So as far as I can determine, there is no internal logic to treating Asia as a region. It seems to encompass all places that are neither European nor African. Africa is a coherent continent, and Europe has a shared cultural past. Asia belongs to neither, so it shouldn’t be considered an organic entity.

Malaysia’s former prime minister Tun Mahathir bin Mohamad Mahathir was a strong supporter of an East Asia Economic Caucus (EAEC) which would have been comprised of ASEAN nations plus China, Japan and South Korea. But because Japan refused to participate in an organization that excluded the United States, the idea failed.

Yet there is some logic to Mahathir’s proposal. East Asia has a shared history, and intra-regional trade goes back centuries. Population movements have been significant, and as tourism takes off, regional relations should strengthen. One could envision a future marked by free-flowing capital, goods and labor in the region.

Yet differences among the region’s countries are much greater than in Europe. ASEAN’s overall per capita income is US$ 2,000, while it’s US$ 3,500 in China and US$ 40,000 in Japan. China, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam share Confucianism and Mahayana Buddhism, while most Southeast Asian countries embrace Islam or Hinayana Buddhism, and generally are more religious. I think an EU-like organization in East Asia would be very hard to establish, but something less restrictive would be possible.

Because Japan turned down Mahathir’s EAEC idea, there was a lot of interest when recently elected Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s proposed something similar – an East Asia Community — at a recent ASEAN summit. Hatoyama failed to clarify the role of the United States in any such organization. If the United States is included, it would not fly, as it would be too similar to APEC. Nor could such an organization be like the EU. But if Japan is fully committed, the new group could assume substance over time.

The Japanese probably proposed the community idea for domestic political reasons. Yet the fundamental case for Japan to increase integration with the rest of Asia and away from the United States grows stronger every day. Despite high per capita income, Japan remains an export-oriented economy, having missed an opportunity to develop a consumption-led economy in the 1980s and ’90s. In the foolish belief that rising property prices would spread wealth beyond the industrial heartland in the Tokyo-Osaka corridor, the government of former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka pursued a high-price land policy, discouraging the middle class from pursuing a consumer lifestyle as they saved for property purchases.

Even more seriously, high property prices have been a major reason for Japan’s rapidly declining birth rate, as land prices inflated living costs. Now, facing a declining population and public debt twice GDP, Japan has few options for rejuvenating the economy by promoting domestic demand. It needs trade if it hopes to achieve any growth at all. Without growth, Japan will sooner or later suffer a public debt crisis.

Japan’s property experience offers a major lesson for China. Every Chinese city is copying the Hong Kong model — raising money from an increasingly expensive land market to fund urban development, leading to rapid urbanization. But this is borrowing growth from the future. Rising land prices lead to rising costs and, hence, slower growth and the same rapid decline in the birth rate that Japan experienced. Unless China reverses its high-land price policy, the consequences will be even more disastrous than in Japan or Hong Kong, as China shifted to the asset game much earlier in its development.

Yet I digress again. The point is that Japan has a strong and genuine case that favors more integration with East Asia. The United States is unlikely to recover soon and with enough strength to feed Japan’s export machine again. There is no more room for fiscal stimulus. Devaluing the yen to gain market share is not an option as long as Washington pursues a weak dollar policy. Without a new source of trade, Japan’s economy is doomed. Closer integration with East Asia is the only way out.

In addition to Hatoyama’s EAC proposal, a study jointly sponsored by China, Japan and South Korea is considering the possibility of a FTA. Of course, ASEAN could offer a template for any new East Asian bloc. ASEAN has signed an FTA with China and is talking with Japan and South Korea. If they all sign, regional integration would be halfway completed.

Whatever proposals for East Asian integration, the key issue is a possible FTA between China and Japan. Adding other parties avoids this main issue. China and Japan together are six times ASEAN’s size and 10 times South Korea’s. Without a China-Japan FTA, no combination in East Asia would truly support regional integration.

Five years ago, I wrote an op-ed piece for the Financial Times entitled China and Japan: Natural Partners. At the time, a prevailing sentiment was that China and Japan were antithetical: Both were still manufacturing export-led economies and could only gain at the other’s expense. I saw complementary demographics and capital: Japan had a declining labor force and China needed to employ tens of millions of youths migrating to cities from the countryside. China needed capital and Japan had surplus capital. And their trade relations indeed tightened, as Japan had increased the Chinese share of its overall trade to 17.4 percent in 2008 from 10.4 percent in ’04.

Today, the situation has changed. China has a capital surplus rather than a shortage. Demographic complementarity is still good and could last another decade. As China shifts its development model from resource intensive to environmentally friendly, a new complementarity is emerging. Japan has already made the transition, and its technologies that supported the transition need a new market such as China’s. So even without a new trade agreement, bilateral trade will continue growing.

An FTA between China and Japan would significantly accelerate their trade, resulting in an efficiency gain of more than US$ 1 trillion. Japan’s aging population lends urgency to increasing the investment returns. On the other hand, as China prepares to make a numerical commitment to limiting greenhouse gas emissions at the upcoming Copenhagen summit on global warming, heavy investment and rapid restructuring are needed for its economy. Japanese technology could come in quite handy.

More importantly, a China-Japan FTA would lay a foundation for an East Asian free trade bloc. The region has a population of 2.1 billion and a GDP of US$ 13 trillion, rivaling the European Union and United States. Blessed with a low base, plenty of capital, sound technology and a huge market, the region’s GDP could easily double in a decade.

Trade and technology are twin engines of growth and prosperity. No boom is sustained without one or the other. And when they come together, the boom can be massive. Prosperity seen over the past decade, for example, is due to information technology along with the opening up of China and other former planned economies. But these factors have been absorbed, forcing the world to find another engine. An integration of East Asian economies would be significant enough to play this role.

The best approach would be for China and Japan to negotiate a comprehensive FTA that encompasses free-flowing goods, services and capital. This task may appear too difficult, but recent changes have made it possible. The two countries should give it a try.

It would be wrong to begin by working out an FTA that includes China, Japan and South Korea. That would triple the task’s level of difficulty, especially since South Korea doesn’t have a meaningful FTA with any country. To imagine that the Seoul government would cut a deal with China or Japan is naive. China and Japan should negotiate bilaterally.

A key issue is that China and Japan should put economics before politics. If the DPJ government wants to gain popularity by increasing international influence rather than boosting the economy, then all the current speculation and discussion about an East Asia bloc would be for nothing. But if DPJ wants to sustain power by rejuvenating Japan’s moribund economy, chances for a deal are good.

While Japan is talking, China should be doing. China should aggressively initiate the FTA process with Japan. Regardless of China’s current difficulties, its growth potential and vast market are what Japan will never have at home nor anywhere else. Hence, China would be able to compromise from a position of strength.

Some may say a free trade area for East Asia is beyond reach. However, history belongs to the daring. The world has changed enough to make it possible. China and Japan should seize the opportunity.

Source: Caijing, 10.11.2009 by Andy Xie, guest economist to Caijing and a board member of Rosetta Stone Advisors Ltd.

Full article in Chinese

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Asia’s affluent lose one-fifth of wealth in 2008 – CapGemini-Merryll Lynch Asia Wealth Report 2009

Hong Kong’s high-net-worth crowd were the hardest hit by the financial crisis, according to the annual wealth report from Capgemini and Merrill Lynch.

It was perhaps inevitable that after experiencing such rapid wealth growth in the past few years, Asia’s high-net-worth individuals suffered particularly keenly from the recent crisis. But there is still huge market potential in the region for those wealth advisory firms able to tap it.  Download: Asia-Pacific_Wealth_Report_2009_CapG_ML

The wealth of the region’s high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) — those with $1 million or more in investable assets — fell by 22.3% to $7.4 trillion last year, below the level in 2006. That compares to a fall of 19.5% for global HNWI wealth, according to the 2009 Asia-Pacific Wealth Report, released yesterday by consulting firm Capgemini and Merrill Lynch.

Hong Kong HNWIs saw by far the biggest drop, losing 65.4% of their wealth, followed by those in Australia (29.7%), Singapore (29.4%) and India (29.0%). South Koreans got off lightest with a 13.4% decline in asset value, while Japan saw a fall of 16.7%.

In terms of market capitalisation, the Asia-Pacific region as a whole saw an average fall of 48.6% last year, with China (60.3%) and India (64.1%) suffering the biggest declines of the countries surveyed*.

With regard to asset allocation, the report noted three key trends. First, Asian HNWIs undertook a ‘flight to safety’ to cash-like assets with their allocation to cash-based investments rising to 29% in 2008 from 25% the year before. This reflected an increase in the global allocation to cash in 2008 to 21% from 17% in 2007. Taiwan had the highest allocation to cash/deposits at 41% of its total portfolio, while India had by far the least with 13%.

Another trend was an opportunistic shift back to real estate investment with an allocation of 22% in 2008, up from 20% the year before. Regionally, Australia had the highest allocation to real estate (41%), closely followed by South Korea (38%), while Taiwan had the least (15%).

As for other asset classes, India had the largest allocation to equities (32%), despite the heavy fall in the country’s stock market last year, while South Korea had the smallest (13%). And, perhaps surprisingly, Indonesia had the largest allocation to alternative investments (9%), covering structured products, hedge funds, derivatives, foreign currency, commodities, private equity and venture capital.

The third broad trend noted by the report was a retreat to home-region and domestic investments with HNWIs increasing their domestic investments to 67% in 2008 from 53% the year before. China was the top Asian market for investment by HNWIs in Asia-Pacific ex-Japan, while their peers in Japan preferred to invest domestically.

Allocations to mature markets are likely to increase through 2010 as Asia-Pacific HNWIs seek more stable returns. Allocations to North America, for example, are predicted to rise from 17% last year to 20% in 2010.

In terms of diversity of geographic distribution of investments, Japanese HNWIs were the most diversified beyond Asia in 2008 with 45% of their allocation outside the Asia-Pacific region. The least diversified were the Chinese with a 17% allocation outside Asia-Pacific, and India with a mere 14% invested outside the region.

On a wider level, the crisis resulted in many Asian clients shifting their assets towards regional and local firms, changing the competitive landscape. Such moves exposed “weaknesses in the capabilities of the region’s wealth management firms and especially revealed the disparate strengths and weaknesses of international firms versus regional and local competitors”, says the report.

In terms of the challenges faced by wealth management firms in Asia, they feel maintaining client trust/client retention is by far the biggest concern, according to a Capgemini survey carried out during July and August. Eighty-five percent of wealth management advisers cited this as the biggest challenge they face as a result of the crisis, and 45% cited as the next major issue the need to have the right skill set and talent to cater to HNWI clients.

A closer look at the issue of client attrition shows that 42% of wealth advisers lost clients last year; 63% of those advisers employed an individual-adviser model, while 37% used a team-based model. Meanwhile, younger advisers tended to lose more clients than older ones with 62% of those who lost clients being 40 or under. “Advisers were not mature enough to handle the intense market conditions,” says the report.

Experience is clearly key, and advisers in the Asia-Pacific region were less well able to handle the economic turmoil. The average amount of experience for the region was 9.7 years, versus the global average of 13.3 years. Wealth management firms need to remedy this situation if they are to make the most of the untapped market potential in China, India and elsewhere in the region.

* The report focuses on 11 markets: Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. Together, these account for 95.3% of Asia-Pacific gross domestic product.

Source: Asian Investor, 14.10.2009

Asian Investor

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KRX Wins Stock Market System Development Project In Vietnam Stock Exchanges HOSE – HaSTC

Korea Exchange was finally selected as a priority negotiator in the international bidding for the construction of the Vietnamese stock market next-generation system announced on March 7, 2008 by the Vietnam Ho Chi Minh stock exchange(HOSE). Since KRX started global marketing in 2005 for the stock market IT solution export, this is one of the most successful results covering overseas projects.

KRX will provide total solution for the development of 13 stock market-related systems and the delivery of all related equipment in 2 exchanges, i.e. Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi including the Vietnam Securities depository covering trading, market surveillance, disclosure, sharing of information, clearing and settlement to upgrade the Vietnam’s stock market infrastructure. The construction project covering Vietnam’s stock market infrastructure next-generation system directly managed by the Vietnamese government is the largest scale project for a single order since KRX started overseas projects.

Recently, KRX has successfully completed the development of bond trading system, market maker monitoring system and Islam product trading system at Bursa Malaysia. With the winning of this project aimed at improving the IT infrastructure at the stock market of Vietnam, Korea’ technical capability in the stock market IT solutions has been recognized worldwide.

Development Projects

Completed the 1st(March 2008) and 2nd(January 2009) development of the bond trading system for Bursa Malaysia.

Completed development of the market maker monitoring system (MMM) (April 2009) for Bursa Malaysia.

Completed development of the Islam product trading (BCH) system (August 2009) for Bursa Malaysia.

Source: MondoVisione,08.10.2009

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‘Bubble-Mania’ in Shanghai Spreads to Global Markets

The S&P-500 Index, a global bellwether for the world stock markets, extended its best five-month winning streak since 1938, by advancing through the psychological 1,000-level, and is up nearly 50% from its 12-year low set on March 10th. The S&P-500 gained 7.4% in July, its best monthly performance since 1997, even as average earnings per-share tumbled -32% and sales slid -16% from a year ago.

Industrial commodities, often viewed as barometers for global economic trends, have also moved sharply higher. So far this year, copper has soared by +96%, nickel is up 62%, and zinc is +50% higher. China, which buys two-thirds of the world’s seaborne iron ore shipments, boosted imports 30% in the first seven-months of this year to 353-million tons, lifting its spot price to $91 /ton, up from $60 per ton in February. Crude oil rose above $71 /barrel this week, doubling in value since December.

In hindsight, while the “Group of Seven” (G-7) economies in North America, Europe, and Japan, were experiencing the most severe economic contractions since the Great Depression of the 1930’s, coupled with unemployment rates ratcheting upward to multi-decade highs, the emerging economic giant – China – was demonstrating its prowess, with the most ambitious stimulus plan the world has ever seen, to rescue its juggernaut economy from the brink of social disaster and unrest.

In a little more than nine months, the pendulum of investor sentiment in Asia has swung from the extreme of terrifying panic and fear, to the opposite side of the emotional spectrum – hope and unbridled greed. The Shanghai stock market index has surged +90% this year, owing its good fortune to 1.2-trillion of bank loans clandestinely funneled into the stock market by brokerage firms, leaving it awash with yuan and lifting share prices above what economic reality can support.

China’s ruling Politburo is demonstrating to the world its command and control over its stock market and economy. Over the past few years, Beijing has proven its ability to either massively deflate a stock market bubble, as seen in 2008, and the wizardry to re-inflate a stock market bubble this year. Beijing is following the Greenspan – Bernanke blueprints, – turning to massive money printing to re-inflate bubbles in asset markets, in order to jump start an economy from the doldrums, or in this latest case, from the grip of the Great Recession.

A relatively healthy banking system enabled the Chinese central bank to work its magic. China’s M2 money supply is growing at a record +28.5% annualized rate, and the money supply surge is coinciding with big rallies in stocks and property, spilling over into neighboring Hong Kong. State-controlled Chinese banks extended 7.4-trillion yuan ($1.2-trillion) of new loans in the first half of this year, equal to 25% of China’s entire economy – helping to fuel a powerful Shanghai red-chip rally.

One of the beneficiaries of the explosive growth of the Chinese money supply is the Shanghai gold market, which is trading near 6,600-yuan /ounce, and is also tracking powerful rallies in industrial commodities. China is poised to overtake India as the world’s top gold consumer this year, and there is speculation that Beijing will quietly buy the gold which the IMF wants to sell in the years ahead.

China, the world’s biggest gold mining nation, is seeking to boost gold output by 3% to 290-tons this year, far less than the 400-tons it consumed last year. Thus, China could become an even bigger importer of the yellow metal in the months ahead, helping to cushion inevitable corrections in the gold market. Given the trade-off between expanding growth and fighting asset-price inflation, Shanghai traders are betting that Beijing will opt to blow even bigger bubbles in asset markets.

Industrial Commodities Eyeing Shanghai

China’s super-easy monetary policy is designed to offset the damage to its export-dependent regions, which are suffering from the collapse in global trade. Beijing is also spending 4-trillion yuan on infrastructure projects, equal to roughly 15% of its economic output per year, to create jobs and stoke economic growth. So it was of great interest to global traders, when the Shanghai red-chips suddenly plunged -5% on July 29th, the biggest daily loss in eight-months, on rumors that Beijing would curb bank lending in the second half of this year.

The Shanghai index is prone to sudden shake-outs, with the index trading at 35-times earnings, and Shenzhen’s small-cap shares trading at 45-times earnings. The Shanghai red-chip index has evolved into the locomotive for key industrial commodities, such as crude oil, base metals, and rubber. Industrial commodities rebounded from a nasty one-day shake-out on July 29th, after the People’s Bank of China wasted little time in denying rumors swirling in the media that it was considering the idea of enforcing quotas on bank loans.

The prospects for Chinese corporate earnings growth are of critical importance, with the Shanghai stock index flying higher in bubble territory. Large-scale industrial companies in 22 Chinese provinces saw their profits decline -21.2% in the first half to 894.14 billion yuan, but the decline rate was less from the first quarter’s 32% slide, and nowadays, “less bad,” means signs of recovery.

The most optimistic scenario calls for Chinese industrial profits to rebound to an annualized growth rate of +30% in the fourth quarter, due to the government’s massive stimulus. China’s Bank of Communications predicts the economy’s growth rate will accelerate to a pace of +9% in the third-quarter and +9.8% in the fourth-quarter. China’s crude steel output would surely top 500-million tons this year, equaling 40% of the world’s total production.

Korea Joins Alignment of B-R-I-C-K

Upbeat markets in China are helping underpin the BRIC nations, including Brazil, India, and Russia, which have the four best performing stock markets this year. Brazil’s Bovespa Index is up 79%, India’s Sensex Index is up 63%, and Russia’s RTS Index has gained 62-percent. The S&P-500 Index by comparison, is up 9.4% this year, while Japan’s Nikkei-225 index is up 7.5-percent.

One could add Korea to the alignment of B-R-I-C-K stars, since the Kospi Index has rebounded by 72% above its November low, emerging as the most favored market among global investors. With growing appetites for risky assets, global investors have rushed to snatch up Korean Kospi shares, particularly those in the information technology (IT) and the auto sectors. Foreigners were net buyers of $4.7 of Korean stocks in July, much larger than net-purchases of $2.6-billion of stocks in Taiwan, $1.9-billion shares in India, and $1.29 billion shares in South Africa.

“Money has no motherland, financiers are without patriotism and without decency, – their sole object is gain,” observed Napoleon Bonaparte. Highlighting the fickle nature of speculators, – foreigners bought a record $18-billion of Korean securities in the second-quarter of this year, or 24-times more than $750 million the previous quarter. In the third and fourth quarters of 2008, foreigners sold $17.9-billion and $17.4-billion, respectively, at the height of the global financial turmoil.

Foreign buying of Korean equities knocked the US-dollar 28% lower against the Korean-won, and the Japanese yen has tumbled 20% to 12.8-won, since March 10th, when global stock markets bottomed out. “Carry traders” are active in Seoul, and profiting from a stronger won. In a world where G-7 central banks are pegging rates at record low levels, it does not take much imagination to envision the Federal Reserve, the ECB, and the Bank of Japan underwriting rallies in the emerging currencies of Brazil, Russia, India, and Korea, just as Tokyo pumped massive liquidity straight into New Zealand and Australian dollars during its flirtation with the hallucinogenic drug – “Quantitative Easing” (QE) between 2001 and 2006.

Virtuous Cycle Swings in the Kremlin’s Favor

The resilience of China’s economy has rekindled the de-coupling debate, which hinges on the premise that the emerging economies in Brazil, Russia, India, China, (BRIC) can grow in spite of a declining G-7 economies. The so-called BRIC countries accounted for half of global growth in 2008 – China alone accounted for a quarter, and Brazil, India, and Russia combined equaled another quarter. Furthermore, the IMF notes that BRIC “accounted for more than 90% of the rise in consumption of energy products and metals, and 80% of grains since 2002.”

The virtuous cycle of events are now swinging back in the Kremlin’s favor, as global speculators flock back into hard-hit resource shares trading in Moscow. Russia’s central bank cut its main interest rates for the fourth time in less than three-months, after Moscow said the local economy contracted an annual 10.2% in the January-May period. Bank Rossii lowered the refinancing rate a half-point to 11% following on initial reduction on April 24th and two further cuts on May 13th and June 5th.

The Russian rouble has rebounded 16% against the US-dollar, since the first quarter, as Urals blend crude oil rebounded towards $70 a barrel, and base metals surged higher, boosting demand for Russia’s currency, a world leader in commodity exports. Russia is the world’s second-largest oil exporter behind Saudi Arabia, and supplies a quarter of Europe’s natural gas needs. Russia is also the world’s largest nickel and palladium miner, the second largest platinum miner, and the fourth-largest iron ore miner, behind Brazil, Australia, and India.

After reaching a record high of $597-billion last August, Moscow’s foreign currency reserves were dramatically depleted in the second-half of 2008, as the central bank spent more than $200-billion supporting the Russian rouble and bolstering the capital position of domestic banks. This year’s rebound in Urals blend crude oil has improved the Kremlin’s coffers, to the tune of $404-billion today. China, the world’s second-largest oil guzzler, imported 3.83-million barrels per day in July, or 25% more than a year earlier, the fastest pace in nearly two-years.

The BRIC nations are rethinking how their US-dollar currency reserves are managed, underlining a power shift from the United States, which spawned the global financial crisis. Russian chief Dmitry Medvedev has repeatedly questioned the US-dollar’s future as a global reserve currency. China is allowing companies in its southern provinces of Yunnan and Guangxi to use yuan to settle cross-border trade with Hong Kong and Southeast Asia to reduce exposure to the US-dollar.

India Weathers the “Great Recession”

Reserve Bank of India chief Duvvuri Subbarao says India’s modest dependence on exports will help Asia’s third largest economy, to weather the “Great Recession” and even stage a modest recovery later this year. Even during the depths of the October massacre in the Bombay Sensex Index, India managed to maintain a 5.3% growth rate in the fourth quarter, and India’s banking system had virtually no exposure to any kind of toxic asset, manufactured in the United States.

India’s factory output contracted by a slim 0.25% in January, the first decline this decade, and export earnings had fallen for six straight months. In January exports were 16% lower from a year earlier tumbling to $12.3-billion. So the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) scrambled to rescue the Bombay stock market, by slashing its lending rates six times from September thru April, by a total of 425-basis points.

click to enlarge

The Indian Sensex index began to decouple from Wall Street and Tokyo in early May, after it rallied 14% for its biggest weekly gain since 1992, when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh won a second term. Bombay stocks soared with enthusiasm at the prospect that Singh’s new government, shorn of Communists, would privatize up to $20-billion of state-owned assets, increase foreign investment in highly profitable crown jewel companies, begin deregulation of banking and financial services, and gut restrictions on the closing of factories.

India’s factory sector, measured by the Purchasing Mgr’s Index, held strongly at a reading of 55.3 in July, or 2-points higher than China’s, signaling a strong industrial recovery in the second half of this year. If the decoupling of China, India, Russia, and Brazil becomes a reality, it could be good for the developed G-7 nations, as growing wealth in BRIC nations could, in theory, increase demand for goods made in battered nations like Japan, Germany, and the United States.

A decoupling between the emerging BRICK nations and the more developed G-7 economies would mean a huge shift in the global financial markets, away from the traditional pattern of emerging markets dancing to the tune of G-7 economies, which still account for 60% of global GDP. Instead, increasing independence could lead to a greater sphere of influence of the emerging giants, led by Beijing.

In the United States, Fed chief Bernanke is pumping a “bailout bubble” for Wall Street, similar to the policies of his mentor “Easy” Al Greenspan, who inflated the housing bubble, the sub-prime debt bubble, and the high-tech bubble. It’s a never ending cycle of boom-and-busts of bubbles, engineered by central banks. The revival of the “Commodity Super Cycle,” might already be in motion, and if a global economic recovery gains traction, soaring input costs would begin to crimp the profit margins of the giant Asian industrialists.

All the liquidity that’s been unleashed into the global banking system would play havoc with accelerating inflation. History shows that central banks won’t pre-empt inflation by withdrawing liquidity early. Instead, the money printers tend to inflate bubbles to dangerous proportions. Add to the mix, the vast leverage of the US-dollar and Japanese yen carry trades, it’s going to be a wild ride for the US Treasury bond market, which is increasingly dependent upon the whims of BRICK.

Source: SeekingAlpha, 05.08.2009 by Gary Dorsch

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Beware of rising Asian stock markets

Investors who were bold enough to stay invested in Asian equities from the latter part of last year onwards are reaping the rewards of their bravado. The closely watched MSCI Asia ex-Japan Index was, after all, up 41% in the three-month period ending May 15. The sharp gains in Asian shares have, not surprisingly, triggered a bandwagon effect of investors trying to get in on the action and hoping that they’re not too late to cash in later on.

The notion that Asian companies have strong balance sheets is great, if you’re a bondholder.

For investors who are looking for a quick buck, Asian equities — or equities in any market for that matter — isn’t the place to find it. Short-term, Asian stock markets remain volatile and the fact that they have risen by so much in such a short span of time make it even more dangerous ground. If anything, the markets look poised for a correction. It may come later rather than sooner, because the momentum chasers are keeping markets afloat for now, but it will come.

“The global economy has not yet recovered to a healthy state,” says Nick Scott, Hong Kong-based CIO for Asian equities at BlackRock. “The rally in March and April is based upon investor relief that things may not be as bad as was predicted, rather than concrete evidence that the worst is over and a recovery is imminent.”

FiNETIK recommends

For investors who are in this for the long haul — with one year being the minimum investment horizon — then the scenario is vastly different. Asian stock markets are generally expected to outperform US and European markets over the long run. The reasons for this optimism is plentiful, including the region’s relatively strong domestic consumption, sound fiscal position, ability to counteract external shocks with central bank reserves and fiscal spending, less dependence on exports, stronger financial systems, and so on and so forth.

Halbis Capital Management, for one, has kept its bullish long-term view of Asian equities intact.

“Overall, we believe the market is showing signs of stabilisation that should allow bottom-up investors such as ourselves to focus once again on picking the right stocks,” says Ayaz Ebrahim, Hong Kong-based CEO of Halbis Capital Management. “In the last few months of turbulence, investors have focused more on shifting between defensive and cyclical sectors rather than assessing the fundamentals of the companies themselves.”

Still, even for long-term investors, fund managers and analysts are sounding out the alarm bells and warning against chasing the momentum. Waiting for that correction is seen as the best option.

“It is very hard to predict how equities will perform over the next 12 months, particularly following such a strong rally,” says Peter Elston, Singapore-based Asian strategist at Aberdeen Asset Management. “We are still in a period of economic turbulence, in which conditions in the short- to medium-term may either improve or deteriorate unpredictably.”

Alex Ingham, a London-based emerging markets fund manager at Aviva Investors, believes that a pause in the current rally is “almost certain”.

What investors should be mindful at the present are the changes in fundamentals of listed companies, risk tolerance of investors and company-specific outlook. These are the factors that will shape the investment landscape going forward.

“We are beginning to see some discrimination emerging in the markets, different sectors and businesses are starting to demonstrate their ability to either recover more quickly or improve their cost competitiveness,” says Colin Ng, the Hong Kong-based regional head for Asia-Pacific equities at MFC Global Investment Management, the asset management arm of Manulife Financial.

Structural return on equity and earnings growth potential remains higher in Asia than in the world’s developed markets, says BlackRock’s Scott, who like many fund managers is particularly optimistic on the long-term prospects of China and India.

“China of course is the focal point,” says Victor Lee, Hong Kong-based regional investment manager at JP Morgan Asset Management. “We may indeed see China outperforming global markets as the fiscal packages continue to gain traction. It has strong deposit base and fiscal power to keep its economy on track.”

Scott says the strengthening links between China and Taiwan may also throw up some interesting opportunities as mainland companies acquire stakes across the Strait. He believes that India’s economy has cooled as foreign funding has dried up, but that has created some insulation from the collapse in global demand.

Not everyone’s a fan of China.

Desmond Tjiang, Hong Kong-based CIO for Asia ex-Japan equities at Fortis Investments, is wary of the rally in Chinese shares and doubts it is sustainable.

“The consensus overweight in China is a risk because that market is overcrowded,” says Tjiang, who is bullish instead on Indonesia. He believes that the strong domestic consumption in Indonesia, citing that country’s urbanisation, infrastructure, and domestic consumption trends.

Rajiv Jain, managing director for international equities at Vontobel Asset Management in New York, says the notion that Chinese domestic demand is going to rescue the region in fiction.

“Chinese domestic consumption is less than that of the UK,” Jain notes. “An increase there isn’t going to move the needle.”

Worse, it’s in China where the greatest overcapacity exists in areas such as steel and cement. China’s infrastructure spending program is good at boosting GDP figures by adding capacity, but does nothing to help corporate profitability.

Moreover, Jain is sceptical about the ability of government stimulus programs to ultimately boost corporate earnings.

“We don’t trust any government. Why do investors have such confidence in Beijing? Chinese steel companies are being instructed to produce more and not lay off workers, at a time when capacity utilisation rate are at their lowest in 50 years.”

Too many investors are mesmerised by the Asian growth story, but Jain calculates that over the long term, Chinese corporate earnings growth rates have been about the same as America’s — but Chinese stocks are priced far more ambitious.

Jain says the past five years were a bubble and have clouded investors’ expectations about growth in China and other Asian markets. The argument that Asian corporate balance sheets are strong is fine for bondholders but doesn’t equate to earnings growth.

Source:AsianInvestor, 03.07.2009 by Rita Raagas De Ramos

This is an excerpt from a story that originally appeared in the June edition of AsianInvestor magazine. To learn more about the content in the magazine, please contact Stephen Tang at stephen.tang@asianinvestor.net

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Asia’s first cleantech funds now raising capital

Preqin shows private-equity managers in Asia are beginning to participate in the worldwide boom of cleantech funds.

Perhaps the biggest trend in private equity right now is investing in cleantech, a term that refers to products or services that improve operational performance, productivity or efficiency, while reducing energy consumption, waste and pollution. And PE managers in Asia are introducing the region’s first dedicated cleantech funds, says Preqin, a London-based consultancy specialising in private equity and infrastructure. Click here for original article.

See also: Investment in Clean Energy Exceeded Fossil Fuel Investment in 2008

According to Preqin, there are now four Asia-based PE funds trying to raise capital for dedicated cleantech funds (see table below). The two largest are from Hong Kong-based First Vanguard, which is raising $500 million for the China and Pacific Rim Water Infrastructure Fund; and Singapore-based Middle East & Asia Capital Partners, which is raising $400 million for its MAP Clean Energy Fund.

There are two more players raising $250 million funds: in Singapore, Ant Global Partners is financing its Ant Global Partners Cleantech Fund; and in Malaysia, Abundance Venture Capital seeks capital for its AVC Abundance Energy Fund.

The first private-equity or venture-capital fund to include a cleantech focus, within a diversified portfolio, emerged in 2005 in India, where IDFC closed a $440 million infrastructure fund. Then in 2006, China’s Prax Capital closed a $153 million fund that included cleantech themes, as did China’s Northern Light Venture Capital, which closed a $350 million fund.

Since then activity has picked up: in 2008, funds in India, China and Hong Kong closed over $5 billion worth of diversified funds that included cleantech plays, while earlier this year, Singapore’s SEAVI Advent closed a $178 million diversified buyout fund.

Preqin says there are now at least 10 PE funds trying to raise capital towards themes that include cleantech, of which four are dedicated, as mentioned above. Together these 10 seek to raise up to $3.6 billion, with the four dedicated funds accounting for $1.4 billion of that.

Preqin has released a report on cleantech funds that shows huge interest among institutional investors and funds of funds. Despite the global financial crisis, overall cleantech fundraising remained steady in 2008, with 29 funds raising a total of $6 billion worldwide, roughly the same as was raised in 2007. The majority has gone to VC funds, with infrastructure funds also playing a big role.

In North America, funds this year seek to raise up to $9 billion, making this the biggest market, followed by European funds, which want to raise over $7 billion, Preqin says.

The consultants also find more than half of cleantech-focused VC firms prefer to take minority stakes, while buyout and infrastructure firms mostly prefer controlling stakes. For institutional investors, these funds represent the preferred means of accessing cleantech themes, as opposed to via the public markets, because the sector is too new to be well represented in the listed space.

Preqin’s 10 largest funds with a cleantech focus raised by Asian fund managers

Fund Fund Type Size (Mn) Vintage Fund Cleantech Focus Fund Manager Fund Manager Location
Baring Asia Private Equity Fund IV Balanced 1,515.0 USD 2008 Diversified Baring Private Equity Asia Hong Kong
IDFC Private Equity Fund III Infrastructure 700.0 USD 2008 Diversified IDFCPrivate Equity India
IDFC Private Equity Fund II Infrastructure 440.0 USD 2005 Diversified IDFCPrivate Equity India
LC Fund IV Venture (General) 400.0 USD 2008 Diversified Legend Capital Management China
Northern Light II Venture (General) 350.0 USD 2007 Diversified Northern Light Venture Capital China
Qiming Venture Partners II Venture (General) 320.0 USD 2008 Diversified Qiming Venture Partners China
Softbank China Venture Capital III Venture (General) 2,000.0 CNY 2008 Diversified SB China Venture Capital China
Nexus India Capital II Early Stage 220.0 USD 2008 Diversified Nexus India Capital India
SEAVI Advent Equity V Buyout 178.0 USD 2009 Diversified SEAVI Advent Singapore
Prax Capital II Expansion 153.0 USD 2006 Diversified Prax Capital China

Preqin’s 10 largest funds with a cleantech focus currently raising by Asian fund managers

Fund Fund Type Target Size (Mn) Fund Status Vintage Fund Cleantech Focus Fund Manager Fund Manager Location
ORYX-STIC Fund II Buyout 500.0 USD Raising 2009 Diversified STIC Investments South Korea
China and Pacific Rim Water Infrastructure Fund Infrastructure 500.0 USD Raising 2009 Pure Cleantech First Vanguard Hong Kong
Sandalwood Capital Partners II Early Stage 350.0 EUR Raising 2009 Diversified Sandalwood Capital Partners India
Ascent India Fund III Expansion 450.0 USD Raising 2009 Diversified UTI Venture Funds India
MAP Clean Energy Fund Infrastructure 400.0 USD Raising 2009 Pure Cleantech Middle East & Asia Capital Partners Singapore
AmKonzen Asia Water Fund Infrastructure 320.0 USD Raising 2009 Diversified AmKonzen Water Investments Management Singapore
Asia Strategic Capital Fund Mezzanine 300.0 USD First Close 2008 Diversified Asia Mezzanine Capital Group Hong Kong
Tripod Capital II Buyout 300.0 USD Raising 2009 Diversified Tripod Capital China
Ant Global Partners Cleantech Fund Venture (General) 250.0 USD Raising 2009 Pure Cleantech Ant Global Partners Singapore
AVC Abundance Energy Fund Natural Resources 250.0 USD Raising 2009 Pure Cleantech Abundance Venture Capital Malaysia

Source: AsianInvestor.net, 08.06.2009 by Jame DiBiasio

Filed under: Asia, China, Energy & Environment, Hong Kong, India, Korea, Malaysia, News, Services, Singapore, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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