Back in October 2015, roughly around the bottom of the recent commodity cycle, we reported a stunning statistic: more than half of Chinese companies did not generate enough cash flow to even cover the interest on their cash flow, and as we concluded “it is safe to assume that up to two-third of Chinese commodity companies are now at imminent danger of default, as they can’t even generate the cash to pay down the interest on their debt, let alone fund repayments.“
While commodity prices have staged a powerful bounce over the past 18 months, and despite the government’s powerful drive to avoid major defaults over concerns about resulting mass unemployment, the inevitable default wave has finally arrived, and as Bloomberg reports overnight, “China’s deleveraging push has racked up the most defaults on corporate bonds ever for a first quarter, and the identity of the debtors is pretty revealing.”
Seven companies have defaulted on a total of nine bonds onshore so far in 2017, versus 29 for all of last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. In a sign of the struggles facing China’s old economic model, most of them depend on heavy industry and construction. While it’s still far from a crisis point, the defaults shows how policy makers’ efforts to reduce the liquidity that had propelled the bond market until late last year is exacting casualties.
Cited by Bloomberg, Liu Dongliang, a senior analyst at China Merchants Bank Co. in Shenzhen said that “weak companies can’t sell bonds, which adds to the pressure on their cash flow.” As a result, “the pace of defaults will continue. It will be even more difficult for weak companies to sell bonds because corporate bond yields may rise further — the current yield premium doesn’t provide enough protection against credit risks.”
As discussed in recent months, the Chinese central bank has been curbing leverage in money markets leading to a spike in borrowing costs…
China’s reflation story (on the back of a record amount of debt created last year) was put on display on Friday morning when both the Chinese manufacturing and non-manufacturing PMI rose more than expected, with the Manufacturing PMI rising to a level not seen since April 2012. According to the NBS, China’s Mfg PMI rose from 51.6 to 51.8 in March, the highest in almost five years, and above the 51.7 consensus estimate, while the non-manufacturing PMI also jumped, rising from 54.2 to 55.1, the highest in two years.
The National Bureau of Statistics reported that New Orders rose from 53.0 to 53.3 while new export orders rose to 51, the highest since early 2012. Broken by firm size, the state-measured PMI showed largest enterprises were the strongest at 53.3, followed by medium-sized companies, while small firms remained in contraction at 48.6. Perhaps the most notable internal metric was the employment index, which hit the 50 level for the first time since May 2012, marking the first time the manufacturing sector has not lost jobs in nearly 5 years.
As the chart below shows, the catalyst for the move higher has been the recent surge in producer prices, which have soared as much as 7% Y/Y on the back of soaring commodity prices; both have since peaked and it is expected that in the coming months, China’s inflationary pressures will subside especially given the recent efforst by Beijing to reign in out of control credit, especially shadow, issuance.
In the third and final estimate of Q4 GDP, the BEA revised the previous estimate of 1.8% notably higher to 2.1%, driven by a sharp upward revision to consumer spending, which rose 3.5% in Q4, after rising 3.0% in Q2, and contributed 2.4% to the bottom GDP line – in other words consumption alone was more than the entire GDP increase- up from 2.05% in the second revision.
The increase in real GDP reflected an increase in consumer spending, private inventory investment, residential investment, business investment, and state and local government spending. These contributions were partly offset by declines in exports and federal government spending. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased. Trade subtracted 1.82 percentage points from growth, the most since 2004, compared with the prior estimate of a 1.7-point drag, on weaker exports and higher imports
The biggest contributor to the upward revision to consumption reflected spending on net foreign travel and recreation services, as well as gasoline and other energy goods
Prices of goods and services purchased by U.S. residents increased 2.0 percent in the fourth quarter after increasing 1.5 percent in the third quarter. Excluding energy and food, prices rose 1.6 percent after increasing 1.7 percent.
According to the NHK broadcaster, the budget would allow the country’s authorities to spend some 97 trillion yen ($880.7 billion at the current exchange rates) during the fiscal year that would begin in April.
The news outlet added citing Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso that the country’s government would exert efforts to balance the country’s budget and achieve a primary balance surplus by 2020.
According to Japan’s Statistics Bureau, in fiscal 2016, the country’s budget was 96.72 trillion yen and 96.34 trillion yen in fiscal 2015.
Moody’s late on Friday cut its outlook on Turkey’s rating to “negative” as risks to the country’s credit profile have “risen materially” in recent months.
The ratings group noted that the “tense political environment” following the coup attempt last July has “persisted for longer than expected” and that actions taken against various forms of opposition to the government have “undermined the country’s administrative capacity and damaged private sector confidence.”
“Partly as a consequence, Turkey has experienced a further slowdown in growth,” Moody’s added.
Indeed, the economy contracted at a year-on year rate of 1.8 per cent in the third quarter of last year, Bloomberg data show. It is forecast to have picked up to 2.6 per cent in the final three months of last year, but remain below the 4.7 per cent and 3.1 per cent notched in the first and second quarter of 2016, respectively.
Moody’s rates Turkey at Baa1. It previously had a “stable” outlook on the sovereign.
With the Fed expected to further tighten financial conditions following its now guaranteed March 15 rate hike, and the ECB recently announcing the tapering of its QE program from €80 to €60 billion monthly having run into a substantial scarcity of eligible collateral, the third big central bank – the BOJ – appears to have also quietly commenced its own monteary tightening because, as Bloomberg calculates looking at the BOJ’s latest bond-purchase plan, the central bank is on track to miss an annual target, by a substantial margin, prompting investor concerns that the BOJ has commenced its own “stealth tapering.”
While in recent weeks cross-asset traders had been focusing on the details and breakdown of the BOJ’s “rinban” operation, or outright buying of Japan’s debt equivalent to the NY Fed’s POMO, for hints about tighter monetary conditions and how the BOJ plans to maintain “yield curve control”, a far less subtle tightening hint from the BOJ emerged in the central bank’s plan released Feb. 28, which suggests a net 66 trillion yen ($572 billion) of purchases if the March pace were to be sustained over the following 11 months. As Bloomberg notes, that’s 18 percent less than the official target of expanding holdings by 80 trillion yen a year.
Some more details: the central bank forecast purchases of 8.9 trillion yen in bonds in March, based on the midpoint of ranges supplied in the operation plan. Maintaining that pace for 12 months will see it accumulate about 107 trillion yen of debt. At the same time, 41 trillion yen of existing holdings will mature, leaving it with a net increase of 66 trillion yen, well below the stated goal of 80 trillion yen.