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NYSE Euronext Accelerates Growth in Asia with Strategic Acquisition of Metabit, a Leading Provider of Market Access Products

– Strategically complements NYSE Technologies’ product portfolio and Asian offerings

– Addresses growing customer interest and expanding Asian financial marketplace

– In-line with NYSE Technologies’ strategy of building a global liquidity network

 New York and Tokyo – August 1, 2011 – NYSE Euronext (NYX) announced today it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Metabit, a leading Tokyo-based provider of high performance market access products throughout Japan and Asia. Metabit will operate as a product line within the NYSE Technologies portfolio. The transaction is expected to close in third quarter of 2011. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Skilled with in-depth experience and understanding of financial markets in Asia, Metabit specializes in streamlined, low-latency technology solutions that enable industry-leading access to financial markets across Asia. Metabit’s products connect buy-side order flow with sell-side exchange participants and are designed exclusively for low latency direct market access (DMA) and exchange connectivity to markets through-out Asia. The company is headquartered in Tokyo, with offices in Australia and Hong Kong. Metabit has built a trading community of more than 140 trading firms in Asia.

“Metabit’s products are built in Asia for Asia, and this combination fits our strategy, our connectivity business and our customer interests,” said Stanley Young, CEO of NYSE Technologies. “Metabit has a highly experienced and respected management team, and we recognize and value the success Metabit has had in Asia, especially in Japan. We will continue the further development of this local focus while also maximizing the value of the NYSE Euronext brand and relationships.”

Mr. Young continued: “Furthermore, Japan and Asia are priorities for NYSE Euronext and we believe this is absolutely the right time to further invest in the region. We fully expect this transaction to accelerate our efforts as a leading technology provider across the Asia-Pacific region. We look forward to welcoming Metabit and its customers to NYSE Euronext, and to delivering the benefits of Metabit to our customer community.”

Daniel Burgin, CEO of Metabit, said: “Our combination with NYSE Technologies will be highly beneficial to delivering innovative solutions to our customers and to accelerate achieving our long-term business goals. We remain committed to our local business focus and service quality in Japan and throughout Asia, whilst being strengthened by NYSE Technologies’ product suite that is highly synergetic to our local solutions. The people and products of our combined companies will provide significant expertise and scale to NYSE Technologies’ business in the region. Joining forces represents a truly exceptional opportunity to build on our local success in order to increase our value proposition to our Japan and Asia customer base. We now have the opportunity to leverage our assets with NYSE Technologies and move to the next level. For the benefit of Asia-based customers, we will now expand our reach and capabilities globally.”

 Metabit’s Asia franchise has seen excellent growth as a result of a persistent product and client strategy and investments into Asia. Today, Metabit covers all DMA sectors outside Japan, ranging from China (“B” shares), India, Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand. Metabit’s products, being built in Asia for Asia, focus to connect the local broker community in each country, in combination with the traditional group of global trading firms. Metabit will continue to resell and provide support to users of CameronFIX as they have since 2002.

 Upon closing, Mr. Burgin will head the NYSE Technologies Asia business and report to Mr. Young. Peter Tierney, Managing Director of NYSE Technologies will become the Chief Operating Officer of the combined business in Asia, and together they will lead the business operations.

Source; NYSE Tech, 01.08.2011

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

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

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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, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

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Singapore Exchange And GreTai Securities Market Sign Co-operation MOU

Singapore Exchange Limited (SGX) and Taiwan’s GreTai Securities Market (GTSM) today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to co-operate towards the development of their respective capital markets.

The MOU aims to foster greater communication between both exchanges through areas such as staff exchange, training and the sharing of information related to market development.

SGX CEO Mr Hsieh Fu Hua said, “In our development as an Asian Gateway, Taiwan has been an important market for SGX. We share similar goals in further developing our respective SME markets and this MOU forms the basis for fruitful discussions going forward.”

GreTai Chairman Mr Gordon Shuh Chen noted, “This collaboration will benefit both GreTai and SGX and help us build a complementary relationship. With this MOU, GreTai and SGX can work hand-in-hand to create opportunities for synergy and co-operation.”

Source: MondoVision, 25.11.2009

Filed under: Asia, Exchanges, News, Singapore, , , , , ,

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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Taiwan Investors Gain Access To HKEx Derivatives Market’s H-Shares Index Products

Investors in Taiwan can now buy and sell the H-shares index (HHI) products traded in Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited’s (HKEx) derivatives market, which comprise HHI futures, HHI options and Mini HHI futures, following the Taiwan financial regulator’s decision to add the products to its list of overseas futures and options contracts with trading authorisation.  Before the admission of the HHI products, Hang Seng Index (HSI) futures, HSI options and Mini HSI futures were the only Hong Kong Futures Exchange products on the list.

HKEx recommends Futures Exchange Participants interested in possible business opportunities stemming from the regulatory change refer to the details posted on the Taiwan financial regulator’s website to ensure they comply with all the applicable rules and regulations.

“We welcome Taiwan investors’ participation in our markets,” said HKEx Chief Operating Officer Gerald Greiner. “We understand from market participants that there have been signs of increased Taiwan investor interest in our HHI products.

“We continue to see healthy demand for our HHI products and other products that form the China dimension of our market,” Mr Greiner said.

“Investors in many markets have access to our products so we will continue to promote them here in Hong Kong and overseas,” Mr Greiner added.

Source: Mondovisione, 06.10.2009

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ConvergEx Rolls Out Five Additional DMA Connections to Emerging Markets

ConvergEx, a provider of investment technology solutions and global agency brokerage services, has added five new direct market access (DMA) connections: NASDAQ Dubai, the Indonesia Stock Exchange, the Taiwan Stock Exchange, the Shanghai Stock Exchange and the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.

With these additional markets, ConvergEx now offers DMA connections in 65 destinations around the world, as well as over 110 global markets through its portfolio and sales trading businesses. Clients can access these electronic connections through any ConvergEx supported front-end trading system, including all major order management (OMS) and execution management (EMS) platforms, the company explained. “These new connections keep our clients at the forefront of rapidly growing and increasingly important emerging marketplaces,” said William Capuzzi, president of ConvergEx’s G-Trade Services.

“Our clients appreciate the unique investment opportunities these markets offer as well as the ease of access our connections provide. ConvergEx understands the importance of building and maintaining state-of-the-art technology and lightning fast connections so we always keep one step ahead of client demand.”

Source: Securities Industry News, 11.08.2009

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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.”

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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

Filed under: Asia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Korea, News, Risk Management, , , , , , , , , , ,

China and Taiwan clamp down on risky wealth management products

China is nipping equity exposure in bank wealth management products, while structured product distribution will be treated with a heavier hand in Taiwan.

Following an announcement last week that the Taiwan Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) is tightening structured product sales, the mainland market is abuzz with talk that the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) intends to clamp down on wealth management products linked to domestic equities and sold through banking channels.

The CBRC is said to be looking to put a stop to banks issuing wealth management products with A-share equities, unlisted shares or underlying funds, with the reason being that banks have exhibited that they are inadequately set up to manage investment risk. Wealth management products with QDII funds as the underlying assets are not expected to be affected at this point.

The banking regulator’s latest measure will follow its high-profile criticism of the banking industry’s wealth management practices issued in April last year, shortly after a delta-one product linked to a Barings Hong Kong fund and structured by UBS tumbled by half in value and liquidated. The incident caused public embarrassment and mass threats of class action lawsuits against its issuer Minsheng Bank.

The banking wealth management business first went live in China in 2005. Only banks have authority to issue wealth management products — a regulatory quip of terms which differ from fund or insurance policies sold through banks. These are targeted towards China’s newly rich, but largely unsophisticated high-net-worth clients, with minimum sales starting at Rmb50,000 ($7,352).

According to the CBRC’s published statistics, in 2008 alone, domestic and foreign banks sold a total of Rmb3.87 trillion ($567.1 billion) worth of renminbi and foreign currency-denominated wealth management products in China. However, at the end of 2008, all outstanding wealth management products were worth a total of Rmb823.3 billion ($120.6 billion).

How-How Zhang, an analyst at Shanghai research house Z-Ben Advisors, notes the CBRC move will be a reconfirmation of its previous stated policies against high-risk products; and should not bode any near-term danger for bank QDII developments.

At the height of the QDII craze in 2007, international fund execs fought to be taken onto banks’ wealth management platforms. A single deal with a bank at the time often translated into a multi-million boon for the fund managers. The trend failed to die off after the Minsheng scandal. Zhang says wealth management products with underlying structured products have since overtaken fund-linked products as the bankers’ preferred choice.

Since April 2008, banks have been forbidden to pass through QDII products as a mere distributor. Instead, they are required to assume the role as principal and be involved in product design and risk assessment — making banks the final party responsible for the products — although offshore fund houses or banks could be taken on as advisors.

In Taiwan, meanwhile, the familiar scene of the one-man day-trip sales exec will thankfully be put to an end with the implementation of a new law that tightens offshore structured product distribution.

Back in 2005 to 2006, when Taiwan was Asia’s hottest market for structured product sales, day-trip sales execs were often seen clearing billion dollars worth of deals by rolling their suitcases in and out of the airport on the same day. It was a sellers’ market. Product selection committees were largely under-formed. Such a person would only need two friends in any organisation: a senior official who sat on the management committee and a general counsel to make a deal happen.

Commercial banks and insurance companies at the time were often comfortable selling products already existing in the markets, and generally chose issuing investment banks based on factors beyond product risks, namely: quality and speed of execution, precision in settlements, quality in legal documentation, speed in secondary market making and customer communication.

Now the FSC will regulate structured products originating outside of Taiwan in two categories — wholesale and retail. Now wholesale investors must demonstrate sufficient risk management abilities, product knowledge and a minimum asset size of NT$30 million ($913,169).

The regulator will now apply multiple checkpoints for structured products intended for retail channels, to bring it on a level playing field with fund products.

On top of distributor’s internal product selection and compliance mechanisms, structured products must now be vetted by respective industry associations in banking, insurance and fund management before they are distributed to retail customers.

A legally responsible party must be installed onshore to distribute structured products from now on, either in the form of a local subsidiary or a master agent, who would have to put up guarantee deposits with the regulator before initiating sales in Taiwan. As creditors, investors hurt by actions of the issuer will be entitled to compensation from the deposit funds.

Also mindful of the final days of the Lehman Brothers’ mini-bond debacle, the FSC is stepping up the availability of liquidity for such products, as subscriptions and redemptions are now required to be published daily, with bidding and asking prices, available units made public to investors. Issuers need to get the central banks’ approval before they remit funds into and out of Taiwan.

The FSC will advise little beyond prudence and self-discipline for wholesale investors, hoping industry players will have the ability to self-assess and regulate.

Source:AsianInvestor.net, 30.06.2009 read article here

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SZSE Chinese bourse set to lure domestic flotations

With the market for initial public offerings opening up again, the scramble among bourses has started for the hundreds of Chinese companies planning to list to raise capital.

Small and medium-sized companies in China have in recent years opted to list on global exchanges. But now the fightback has started among Asian countries to grab a slice of the action – not least from China itself.

China appears ready to establish an equity market on its Shenzhen stock exchange for small and medium-sized companies, along the lines of London’s Alternative Investment Market (Aim).

Listing rules for the new market, called the Growth Enterprise Board, will take effect on July 1 but people close to the situation do not expect trading on the new board to begin for many weeks and possibly not before the national holiday on October 1.

Many Asian companies have opted to list in Europe or the US because of a perception there was greater liquidity in those markets.

However, many of the companies that listed on London’s Aim or Singapore’s junior bourse experienced poor analyst coverage and low trading volumes, which depressed the stocks.

The trend has now reversed amid a growing belief among Asian executives that they no longer need to list so far away from home to access capital.

Peter Alexander, of Z-Ben Advisors, an investment consultancy in Shanghai, says it is “just a matter of when the trigger is pulled” for the new Chinese market to be established.

Others caution that the plans are still dependent on investor reception of the resumption of IPOs on China’s main exchanges.

There are no official data detailing how many companies have plans to list in the new market but CY Huang, president of greater China investment banking for Taiwan’s Polaris Securities, estimates that there are at least 300 companies queuing up to be among the first to list on the new market.

Analysts say the new board should help plug a gap that exists in China’s capital market.

“For small and medium-cap companies, the only option now [for venture capital companies to exit an investment] is a trade sale . . . but it’s a long process,” says Cathy Yen, general manager of AsiaVest Partners, referring to the practice of selling shares/assets of a company privately to a strategic investor.

The new board will provide an IPO platform for technology and other small and medium-sized enterprises – Beijing policymakers put high priority on encouraging innovative companies.

China’s new market comes as the financial crisis is presenting a unique opportunity for other exchanges to challenge Nasdaq in the US as the destination of choice for start-ups, particularly among technology companies.

“Nasdaq has always been the first choice but that is starting not to be the case . . . now people are naturally forced to think about other boards,” says Tina Ju, managing partner of the Chinese arm of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the US venture capital fund.

That is largely because of the difficulties of pulling off a successful public offering in current market conditions. There have only been two listings in Nasdaq so far this year compared with 11 over the same period last year, according to data from Thomson Reuters.

China’s new market comes as other exchanges in the region eye up similar opportunities.

Japan now has its own Aim market. A joint venture by the Tokyo and London stock exchanges, it received its licence this month and is targeting about five listings in its first year although the initial focus appears to be on Japanese companies.

The Taiwan stock exchange, recently revitalised by the island’s warming of relations with China, is also aggressively pursuing listings by Taiwanese companies that had moved to mainland China.

Chi Schive, Taiwan stock exchange chairman, says that, while “Shanghai and Shenzhen are respectable rivals . . . for the time being I don’t think that threat is very strong [in attracting Taiwanese companies]”.

While Japan and Taiwan are only now gearing up their efforts, other markets in Asia have made similar attempts before – with little success.

Singapore’s Aim-style exchange, known as Catalist, has failed to gain much traction since it was set up in December 2007 to replace Sesdaq, the city state’s secondary board.

Catalist has attracted few new listings since its launch, which Singapore Exchange officials blame on the global financial turmoil.

Similarly, Hong Kong’s Growth Enterprise Market (GEM) attracted some initial attention but trading volume has since fallen drastically.

For China’s new board, there is concern over how many of the companies lined up for funds “are genuine, viable long-term businesses” says Fraser Howie, China stock market expert and author of Privatising China: Inside China’s Stock Markets. “Is the competition driving standards lower?”

For many, China remains “a gamble market”. While some companies can fetch very high valuations, “the question would be how sustainable this would be and right now we just don’t know”, says Ms Yen.

Mr Huang says the biggest concern for prospective listings is that “China is the one stock market where you cannot control your [listing] time-frame” because of the government influence over market operations. “In China, the biggest risk is policy,” he adds.

Source: Financial Times, 23.06.2009 by Robin Kwong Additional Reporting by Patti Waldmeir in Shanghai, Lindsay Whipp in Tokyo, John Burton in Singapore and Sundeep Tucker and Xi Chen in Hong Kong

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Shenzhen Stock Exchange General Manager Song Liping : to develop a Multi-Level Capital Market

SZSE:Shenzhen Stock Exchange president Song Liping’s Interview with Xinhuanet on the New Market venture board

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Taiwan, China May Allow Cross-Trading of Stocks

May 7 (Bloomberg) — Taiwan and China are planning to permit trading of each others’ shares for the first time as ties improve 60 years after their civil war ended.

A so-called trading platform may list as many as 30 stocks from each market, said Schive Chi, chairman of the Taiwan Stock Exchange. Now, investors are restricted from directly investing in each others’ equities. An agreement on the dual-listing of exchange-traded funds is also expected this year, he said.

“It will be a step further,” Chi said in a May 4 interview in Taipei. “Instead of trading exchange-traded funds, it will be trading individual stocks.”

The two economies agreed to double weekly flights and lift restrictions on investments in banks as relations that broke when the Communist Party took power in 1949 thaw. China Mobile Ltd. became the first state-owned company to invest directly in Taiwan on April 29, sending the Taiex index up 17 percent.

The measure rose 0.1 percent to 6,572.87 at the close, gaining for a sixth day.

The Taiwan exchange said in an e-mail today official talks on the trading platform haven’t started and it hasn’t submitted a proposal to the island’s financial regulator.

Chen Ji, the spokesman at the Shanghai Stock Exchange, said he has no knowledge of the matter. Xia Lihua, Beijing-based spokeswoman for the China Securities Regulatory Commission, declined to comment.

Diversify Investments

“Investors will definitely be interested” in the cross- trading of China and Taiwan stocks, said Monika Yang, who helps oversee $10 billion at Hamon Asset Management Ltd. in Hong Kong. “Investors have a wider variety of shares to trade in. Chinese investors will want to diversify their investment and this is a good way for Taiwan investors to buy Chinese shares.”

Taiwan is also trying to draw as many as 37 Taiwanese-owned companies listed in Hong Kong back to its exchange, Chi said. A separate agreement on so-called ETFs with Hong Kong may be completed by June, he said.

Taiwan and China plan to sign an accord on financial services and a cross-currency settlement system, officials said on April 26. China’s currency, the yuan, isn’t fully convertible, and the country limits foreign ownership of shares traded on mainland exchanges.

China Mobile

China Mobile Ltd. said last week it agreed to buy 12 percent of Taiwan’s Far Eastone Telecommunications Co. Far Eastone shares added 5.8 percent since the announcement, while China Mobile gained 8.4 percent.

Allowing cross-trading of Chinese and Taiwanese shares may draw investors away from the island, said Jason Huang, a fund manager at Paradigm Asset Management in Taipei, who helps oversee more than $200 million.

China’s shares are valued at $2.6 trillion, the world’s third-largest stock market, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Taiwan’s market is worth 20 percent of that, the data show. Daily trading of Chinese stocks averaged at $22.5 billion in the past six months, compared with Taiwan’s $2.7 billion.

“If Chinese stocks are traded in Taiwan, there could be a chance investors will choose to buy only Chinese stocks, marginalizing Taiwan shares,” Huang said.

The rally of Taiwanese shares may have outpaced their value because companies haven’t seen the benefits of potential links with China, Mark Mobius, who helps oversee $20 billion in emerging-market assets at Templeton Asset Management Ltd., said in a May 3 interview in Bali, Indonesia.

Want Want

Want Want China Holdings Ltd. became the first Taiwanese- controlled company not listed on the island’s exchange to return following the increased links, raising $100 million in a share sale last month. Want Want, which is based in Shanghai and trades in Hong Kong, is 49.5 percent controlled by Taiwanese billionaire Eng-meng Tsai.

Shares of Want Want, the largest maker of rice crackers in China, have surged 55 percent since they started trading on the Taiwan exchange on April 27, compared with the 15 percent rise in the Taiex.

Taiwan said in July it will scrap a rule that bans companies held by Chinese investors from selling shares on the island’s stock exchange as it eases investment restrictions with the mainland.

Taiwan may also allow residency for investors from mainland China and elsewhere to attract more funds to the island and support the economy, the financial regulator said today.

Relations have improved since Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou took office on May 20, abandoning his predecessor’s pro- independence stance. The two sides ended a 60-year ban on direct shipping, air and postal links on Dec. 15.

“I see many changes, at least for the past half year since the opening of direct flights,” the Taiwan Stock Exchange’s Chi said. “Since then, there have been some positive developments.”

Source:Bloomberg: 07.05.2009 by  Weiyi Lim in Taipei at Wlim26@bloomberg.net

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Asian electronic trading revenues to decline – TABB

Electronic trading revenues are anticipated to fall in the Asia-Pacific region, while the development of dark pools is expected to stall, according to new research from consultancy TABB Group.

In ‘Asian Equity Trading 2009’, TABB predicts that income from electronic trading will slip 16.9% to $815 million this year, from $981 million in 2008. This follows a similar decrease of 17.7% in institutional value traded in the previous 12 months, a drop that affected overall trading strategies in Asia, according to TABB.

“In the second half of 2008, there was a significant pullback leading into the first quarter of 2009,” said Matt Simon, TABB Group analyst and author of the report. “Traders saw liquidity sink.”

The study, which examines institutional trading across Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, Australia, Singapore and Taiwan, estimated that dark pool uptake in Asia-Pacific would take longer to develop than in the US and Europe. TABB predicted that by 2010 3.5% of value traded would be matched off-exchange in Japan and 1.5% in the five other market centres examined. Volatile market conditions have also marked a return to VWAP/TWAP algorithmic trading strategies from buy-side traders in the region, the report added.

Despite the decline in electronic trading revenues, global expansion in the region is expected to continue, driving connectivity to new markets such as Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.

Source: The New Trader, 23.04.2009

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Asian equity electronic trading revenues to sink in 2009 – Tabb

Equity electronic trading revenues in Asia Pacific are set to see a 17% fall this year, with liquidity sinking during the downturn, according to research from Tabb Group.

Tabb predicts revenues will drop to $815 million, down 16.9% from $981 million in 2008. This follows a 17.7% decrease in institutional value traded from 2007 to 2008, a year-over-year drop that has affected overall trading strategies across Asia.

Tabb says the global downturn hit just as electronic trading was taking hold in the region, forcing many hedge funds to curtail electronic strategies or simply shutter operations.

Matt Simon, Tabb analyst and report author, says: “In the second half of 2008 there was a significant pullback leading into the first quarter of 2009. Traders saw liquidity sink.”

The research also highlights the slow rate of dark pool trading adoption in the region. Dark pools are estimated to account for at least 10% of all equity trading in the US whilst the introduction of MiFID has spurred their growth in Europe.

They are far less popular in Asia although last month Goldman Sachs launched its Sigma-X dark pool equity trading system in Hong Kong, while CLSA, Instinet and Investment Technology Group also run platforms in the region.

Yet Tabb estimates that only 3.5% of value traded will be matched off-exchange in Japan by 2010, up from 1.2% in 2008. In Hong Kong, Korea, Australia, Singapore and Taiwan, there will be just 1.5% traded off-exchange, although this compares to a paltry 0.3% in 2008.

Other trends indentified by the report include continued global expansion, which is driving connectivity to new markets such as Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia

In addition, buy-side firms have returned to volume-weighted average price (Vwap) and trade weighted average price (Twap) strategies amidst current volatile market conditions. Meanwhile demand for transaction cost analysis is increasing with 35% of buy-side firms using some type of independent TCA.

Source: Finextra, 23.04.2009

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

The Economic Outlook: 2012 and beyond

To see into the future of our economies, with some small degree of certainty, we have to pay attention to what is happening around us and what we do.  American Cronical 22.02.2009 full article

But to get an idea of how the future will be, one has to have a real picture of the present. This is important since a false picture will present us with false alternatives, on which we act which in turn will result in unexpected outcomes (i.e., future that we are not prepared for).

It is not always easy to see through all the false pictures and data that we are constantly presented with. For example, in Norway on February 18th, the real-estate association came out with the statement that the housing crisis was almost over and the bottom was reached. This was plastered all over the place. Next day on February 19 th, the Norwegian Centre for Statistics came out with its own forecast; stating that house prices will continue to fall for the next year and that situation will deteriorate further.

It was clear to some of us that the real-estate association was putting out false information to drum-up business for its members. But if banks, industrialists, and even politicians also send out false and misleading information, then the average person will make decisions that may be contrary to his or her best interests.

Most of us do not have the time, energy, or even the necessary knowledge to gather and sift through large amount of data. We rely on news media, and the experts to make most of our decisions. Until last year, very few people were talking about the tremendous crisis that was well under way; even though as early as 2006, there were clear signs that the economy was under tremendous pressure.

In this article I will try to provide you with a picture of the present situation and then try to extrapolate based on the current policies adopted by various governments, what the near future will look like.

The current economic situation

Let me tell you in no uncertain terms that we are facing a synchronised global economic depression and I am not the only one that is saying this. In early February, the International Monetary Fund’s chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn said the world’s advanced economies — the U.S., Western Europe and Japan — are “already in depression”. Gordon Brown, the UK’s Prime Minister also used the word “depression” to describe the global economy, although his aides quickly said it was a slip of the tongue.

The politicians and others of course avoid using the term “depression” for fear of creating a panic; instead they use terms such as “severe recession” or “one of the most serious financial crises since the great depression”, etc. But they all are saying the same thing, we are in a depression and all the available data support this. An important fact to remember is that this depression is synchronised and this synchronicity has been made possible by the globalization and accompanying deregulation; the very things that were making workers poorer and the rich, richer.

Now the chickens have come home to roost. All economies are now suffering. Such promising economies as Iceland’s saw its GDP shrink by 10%, while the success show case of Europe, Ireland, had its GDP shrink by 6%. Germany, the euro zone’s biggest economy shrank by 2.1% in the three months to December, seconded by Italy, which suffered a 1.8% drop in GDP. The French economy also contracted by 1.2% while IMF put Spain on its vulnerable list. UK ‘s GDP has also suffered and is forecasted to contract by 3.5% in 2009.

The misery list includes most of the Eastern European countries as well with some such as Ukraine set to experience severe contraction. According to IMF Ukraine’s GDP will shrink by 8 to 10% in 2009. The Russian economic growth is also set to fall. According to the Russian Deputy Economic Development Minister Andrei Klepach the forecast for the Russian economy has worsened to a 2.2-percent contraction in GDP.

Japan’s economy, the second largest in the world, contracted by 12.7 per cent on a seasonally adjusted annualised basis in the fourth quarter and is set to contract by. According to the Taiwanese government, Taiwan’s GDP will shrink by 3% in 2009. Another big economy in Asia is Korea. According to S&P sovereign ratings, Asia’s fourth-largest economy will contract by about 3.5 percent this year. All other South East Asian economies are reporting severe slow down or outright contraction except China.

According to National Bureau of Statistics of China, by comparing the fourth quarter 2007 to that of the fourth quarter 2008, China had achieved a 6.8 percent growth in 2008. However, many believe that this figure is misleading and that the Chinese are hiding the extent of the economic contraction of its economy. They point out that energy consumption in China has substantially been reduced. This could not have happened without a marked slowing down of the economy.

According to the article published in The Epoch Times (17 Feb 09) “Economists at the Standard Chartered Bank estimate China’s growth rate to be around 1 percent. Morgan Stanley analysts estimate it to be at 1.5 percent. This is much lower than the CCP reported 15 percent for the first quarter of 2007. According to economists at Merrill Lynch, the sequential growth rate of fourth quarter of 2008 was zero percent.”

Middle Eastern countries have also been severely affected by the financial crisis. The revenue from their major source of income, oil, has fallen at an incredible rate. Oil prices that were around 120 to 140 dollars last year have come down to around 30 to 40 dollars this year. Every country has slashed its expenditure with the accompanying slowing growth. For example recently UAE was forced to halt construction projects worth $582 billion or fully 45% of all projects. A recent report in New York Times (11th Feb. 09) paints a grim picture of the situation in Dubai. The report states that ” with Dubai’s economy in free fall, newspapers have reported that more than 3,000 cars sit abandoned in the parking lot at the Dubai Airport, left by fleeing, debt-ridden foreigners (who could in fact be imprisoned if they failed to pay their bills)”. Iranians, Saudis, Iraqis, Kuwaitis and others have also been forced to slow down or freeze many projects. One must not forget that many of these countries’ petro-dollars are re-circulated back into the US and European economies. Those funds are drying-up fast.

Turkey sitting between the Europe and Middle East is also suffering. Turkey has the largest GDP in the Islamic world. Turkey’s GDP was 750 billion in 2008, the GDP of Saudi Arabia was 600 billion dollar for the same period. A once dynamic economy is now negotiating with IMF for help.

Having surveyed most of the economic landscape of Europe and Asia, we can now look at the world largest economy, the US. The US economy is in a terrible shape, with all sectors going through severe depression. Housing market has completely collapsed. The auto industry is going bankrupt. The banking sector is alive only by the grace of the government handouts. The entertainment industry (TV and film industry excluded) is facing severe problems and unemployment is increasing rapidly. The Federal Reserves’ forecast for 2009 shows a contraction of 0.5 to 1.3 percent of the GDP with official unemployment rising to 8.5 or 8.8 percent. Here one should note that this official unemployment rate does not present a true picture, since all those who give-up registering with the unemployment office or are barely working (part-time workers, etc) are not counted as unemployed.

The missing engine of growth

Before we look at the future development we have to remember that there are four factors that power an economy: consumers, investors, government, and a favourable trade balance. Some economies such as China rely on favourable trade balance and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) for their growth. For example according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, from 1990 to 2007, China received $748.4 billion in FDI. At the same time, since its economic liberalization, China has recorded consistent trade surpluses with the world. For example China has registered trade surpluses of $102 billion for 2005, $177.47 billion for 2006, $262.2 billion for 2007, and $295.47 billion for 2008. China currently has accumulated nearly two trillion dollars in foreign exchange reserves.

In contrast to the China, the United States has relied on consumers and the government for its growth. According to Peter G. Gosselin citing Roach of Morgan Stanley Asia, U.S. consumers constitute only about 4.5% of the global population, yet they bought more than $10 trillion worth of goods and services last year. In contrast the Chinese and Indian consumers combined which account for 40% of the global population bought only $3 trillion worth. He goes on to point out that according to government statistics, from 2001 to 2007, U.S. consumer spending shot up from a little over 73% of the economy to nearly 77%.

If we just look at the differences in consumption levels between US and China-India, we’ll see that these countries are not in a position or have the financial resources to pick-up the slack left by the US consumers. Anyway, China’s growth is based on its exports and the FDI and not its consumers. When the international market shrinks, the Chinese will see (as they do now) a sharp drop in their actual growth. If they try hard they may be able to keep their people’s standard of living at its current level (highly unlikely); but they will be unable to increase consumption. Anyway, according to the Bloomberg (19 January 09), the Chinese unemployment rate has jumped to its 30 year high and will most likely increase further.

How about Japan? Japan also started its economic miracle by export-led growth. Japan saved hard, and worked hard to become one of the largest economies in the world. However, the bursting of the housing bubble of 1990-91 started a deflationary period that Japan never really recovered from.

If we look at the Consumer Price Indexes (CPI) for Japan, the U.S., and the Euro Area from 1999 to 2006, with 1999 being the base (100), we’ll see that by 2006, the CPI index for US was 122.8, 118.5 for EU and 97.7 for Japan. This shows that until 2006 Japan was still in the grip of deflation.

Add to this the recent financial crisis and you’ll see that Japan is once again entering another deflationary period. In deflationary periods, consumers spend less and try to save more. The fear of losing one’s job, the psychology of ever decreasing prices, and general feeling of doom act against free spending by the consumers. One should also understand that Japanese consumers are reluctant to spend like their American counterparts. According to the available figures (2005), the Japanese consumption was only 55% of the GDP. Compare this to the American consumption of 77%. So the Japanese consumers cannot help either.

What about the EU? Euro zone consumers have a slightly better consumption rate than the Japanese. The consumption rate for Euro zone (2005) was 57% of the GDP. In addition the Euro zone is facing severe financial problems with many countries such as Spain, Ireland, Italy and others facing mounting debt and shrinking export market. Consumers already hit by the housing crisis, financial crisis and now the imminent unemployment crisis cannot be expected to start spending wildly.

So who is going to take the position left vacant by the US and act as the world’s economic locomotive and pull the world out of the depression? The answer is no-one and everyone. US is clearly not able to do that much. As a matter of fact the US consumers have to get used to lower spending levels for at least a decade, if not for good.

According to Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates, as quoted by Aaron Task in Yahoo Finance, American’s standard of living is undergoing a “permanent change” – and not for the better as a result of:

  • An $8 trillion negative wealth effect from declining home values
  • A $10 trillion negative wealth effect from weakened capital markets.
  • A $14 trillion consumer debt load amid “exploding unemployment”, leading to “exploding bankruptcies.”

“The average American used to be able to borrow to buy a home, send their kids to a good school [and] buy a car,” Davidowitz says. “A lot of that is gone.

The diminishing wealth
Last year when the depth of financial crisis became apparent the US Feds started to aggressively cut interest rates, in the hope of reducing the severity of the crisis. Other countries specially the Europeans soon followed the Americans in cutting their interest rates. As the crisis spread to Asia and the Middle East, they also began to cut their interest rates. But soon it became apparent that this crisis was not like any they had seen since the great depression and simply cutting interest rates was not going to solve the problem.

To start with the housing market had collapsed completely leaving many banks holding worthless pieces of paper. In addition, these papers were (partly) insured by many insurance and financial institutions that weren’t banks, but because of financial deregulations, had acted as banks. They were also hit by the bad mortgage problems. In short, all the financial institutions, banks, insurance companies and others were suddenly in trouble.

This hit the stock markets, with the shares of these institutions taking a nose dive. These institutions are extremely important for the economy. They provide the logistics for financial transactions. Any problem here affects all parts of the economy. So it was not a surprise to see that all normal financial transactions suddenly came to a halt, hitting other sectors of the economy. Share prices of all the affected sectors began to go down and with it the fortune of the share holders. To see the extent of the damage done one just has to look at how much various stock markets have fallen.

The following stock markets data was published by The Economist (21 Feb. 2009) which shows the extent of the fall since Dec 31st 2007:

US (NAScomp) – 44.7%, US (DJIA) -43%, US (S&P 500), Japan (Nikkei 225) -41.3%, China (SSEA) -55.1%, Hong Kong (Hang Seng) -52.9%, Canada (S&P TSX) -53%, Australia (All Ord.) -61%, Britain (FTSE 100) -55.8%, Euro area (FTSE 100) – 59.5%, Euro area (DJ STQxx 50) – 58.7%, France (CAC 40) -56.1%, Germany (DAX) -55.3%, Greece (Athex comp) -73.7%, Italy (S&P/MIB) -63.1%, Netherlands (AEX) -60.4%, Norway (OSEAX) -64%, Denmark (OMXCB) -55.2%, Sweden (Aff.Gen) -57.7%, Russia (RTS, $ terms) -77.1%, Turkey (ISE) -70.3%, India (BSE) -64.9%, South Korea (KOSPI) -62.6%, Taiwan (TWI) -50.5%, Brazil (BVSP) -53%, Argentina (MERV) -56%, Mexico (IPC) -52.9%, Venezuela (IBC) – 55.6%, Saudi Arabia (Tadawul) -56.8%, South Africa (JSE AS) – 54.1%…. WORLD all (MSCI) -51.2%.

For people in general, shares act both as saving and investment. The average person buys share in hope of getting better return than the banks. It is also easy to get in and out of the market. The advancements in information and communication technologies, the costs of buying and selling have fallen steadily in the last decade. So now anyone with a computer can buy and sell shares. This ease of entry enticed an ever increasing number of ordinary people to enter the stock markets.

Now the people have been hit by three disasters. First they lost a lot of money in the housing market. This was both real and illusory. First they were hit with the housing crisis. Many have lost their homes or have seen the value of their homes depreciate heavily. Then they were hit with the collapse of the stock markets. Trillions of Dollars, Yens, Euros and Yuans have been wiped-out in a relatively a short time. Then many have lost their jobs and many are uncertain about the future job security. All these have had a tremendous impact on the consumers, forcing many to heavily reduce their consumption, which in turn have begun to affect businesses which in-turn are shedding workers to compensate for the loss of sales and revenues. This is a classical deflationary circle that feed on itself.

The governments’ response to this threat has been to stimulate the economy by pumping large sums of money into the economy. A decade ago, a hundred billion dollar was an astronomical sum. Today we don’t even bother to look at it twice. Today we talk of Trillions. A few hundred billions here and a few hundred billions there soon add up to a few nice trillions; especially the trillions that we don’t have.

Now we face a classical problem: the increasing budget deficits. Exactly when the economy is contracting and tax receipts are falling, the government expenditure is rising rapidly. In addition, the governments are buying bad debts (US, UK, etc) and trying to spend more on whatever they can in order to arrest the increasing unemployment and stimulate the economy. These large sums have to come from somewhere. They can be borrowed or money can simply be printed. The problem is that some governments are opting for both.

The most important economy is of course the US economy. The US government under Bush spent close to one trillion dollars, and now the Obama administration is promising to spend trillions in the years to come to stimulate the economy. With official US debt now close to 11 trillion dollars and climbing fast, the situation is becoming untenable. According to treasurydirect.gov, last year (2008) US government paid $451 billion dollars interest on its debt. Add to this the Medicare and social security obligations and suddenly things look a lot worse than they appear.

So how can the US continue its deficit spending? By issuing treasury bonds and other security certificates of course. Both public and foreign governments buy these securities which are guaranteed by the US government. According to Reuters (February 18th 2009), foreign central banks alone held $1.76 trillion dollars in US treasuries. According to the same report “The combined holdings of Treasuries and agency securities by foreign central banks at the Fed totalled $2.573 trillion, up $11.223 billion”.

The coming inflation

So far the foreign governments and businesses have been willing to buy US debt, but with the current economic downturn things are beginning to change. According to New York Times, in the last 5 years China has spent as much as one-seventh of its entire economic output buying mostly American debt. However, with the sharp slowdown in its economy, China is finding it difficult to keep buying. China has also come-up with its own $600 billion stimulus plan. This along with the falling trade surplus and the falling tax receipt will make it exceedingly unlikely that China can keep financing part of the US government’s deficit spending. The same applies to other countries as well.

So as the economic downturn continues we can see two things: the interest on US treasuries increase substantially to make it attractive and or printing money. Printing money is not so farfetched as many would like to believe. Already countries that cannot find willing lenders are resorting to this. A good example of this is UK. With the current plans to nationalise a few more banks (Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland), the UK national debt is set to surpass the £2.2 trillion pound mark. This is 150% of UK’s GDP. It is not then surprising to see that the Bank of England voted unanimously earlier this month to seek consent from the government to start the process of quantitative easing by buying gilts and other securities. Quantitative easing means printing money. With interest rates at 1%, printing money is likely to increase inflation.

Already many governments find it difficult to cover their deficits. It is only a matter of time before they also begin to print money. It is especially appealing for the US government to do this since inflation means a real value reduction in debts. With mounting trade and budget deficit and decreasing tax receipts and the shrinking of the number of willing lenders, US government may not have any choice but to print money.

So far, all governments are reducing their interest rates to historic lows and at the same time spending a lot of money that they don’t have. It will take at least two more years for the economy to stabilise. Here we should note that by stabilise I mean an arrest in decline rather than outright growth. Once that point is reached we will begin to see the effects of the loose monetary policy: a tremendous rise in inflation which can be accompanied by low economic growth or in other words stagflation.

The fear of stagflation arises from the fact that from all indication, growth will not strengthen anytime soon. It is quite clear now that the US and to a large extent the European consumers have been hit hard by the current crisis. There is also the possibility that another banking crisis may still ensue such as the commercial real-estate mortgage defaults and above all the repetition of currency crisis (1997 Asian Financial Crisis). Already we see that China Japan, Korea and others are setting-up $120 billion currency defence fund to protect Asian currencies against speculative attacks.

The current economic crises have left many countries’ local banks with foreign currency loans that they find difficult to repay in that currency. This and the possibility of defaults have made these countries a good target for speculators. If such an attack starts, many countries will automatically have to devalue their currencies (even more than they already have) or try to defend their currencies. In either case this may trigger yet another crisis that may actually destroy a good portion of many economies around the world.

Even if we assume that no more nasty surprises will appear in the next two years and the economies stabilise, we are left with the reduced levels of consumption around the world, especially in major economies. As I have mentioned above, it is very clear that at least in US, the consumers are not going to recover anytime soon. I have also shown that the Chinese and Indian consumers cannot replace the US and European consumers. So there will be a dearth of market for the goods and services produced by others. In absence of US, the question will be: which country or countries are able to increase demand to such a degree as to trigger a recovery; a recovery that most likely will be accompanied with high inflation.

In 2006 in the article “the coming financial crisis”, I stated the following:

“At the end of the WWII, 45 nations gathered at a United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, to address the problems of reconstruction, monetary stability and exchange rates.

The delegates agreed to establish an international monetary system of convertible currencies, fixed exchange rates and free trade. To facilitate these objectives the delegates agreed to create two international institutes: the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (the World Bank). An initial loan of $250 million to France in 1947 was the World Bank’s first act.

Since then there has already been considerable criticism of the roles of IMF and the World Bank. The above mentioned problems and the ongoing trade imbalance in the world have to be addressed by a similar gathering. Sooner or later, both the United States and the rest of the world have to address the existing problems. These problems are not the United States’ alone. We cannot ignore the largest economy on earth. It is said that if United States sneezes, the world catches cold. We have to either make sure that the United States doesn’t catch cold or vaccinate ourselves against it.”

Once again I restate my earlier arguments: we need a new “Bretten Woods” agreement where we can address the existing problems and restructure the world’s economic system. If we don’t do this, and soon, we will face protectionism, low economic growth, and even trade wars. We have ignored this problem for a long time and are now paying the price. What would the price be if we continue to ignore the existing systemic problems?

Dr. Abbas Bakhtiar lives in Norway. He is a management consultant and a contributing writer for many online journals. He’s a former associate professor of Nordland University, Norway. He can be contacted at : Bakhtiarspace-articles@yahoo.no

Source: American Cronicle, 22.02.2009

Filed under: Asia, Australia, Banking, Brazil, China, Energy & Environment, Japan, Korea, Latin America, Malaysia, Mexico, News, Singapore, Venezuela, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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