Posco on Thursday reported an 88 per cent jump in second-quarter net profit as steel prices continued to rise on reduced Chinese output.
The world’s fifth-largest steelmaker by production posted a net profit of Won220.5bn for the April-June period, compared with Won117.4bn a year earlier. Its operating profit fell slightly to Won678.5bn while sales decreased 15.4 per cent to Won12.86tn
The strong performance underlines an upturn in the Asian steel sector as China, the world’s biggest steel consumer and producer, plans to cut steelmaking capacity by 100m-150m tonnes in the next five years.
The South Korean steelmaker returned to profit in the first quarter after reporting its first ever loss amid a flood of cheap Chinese exports, which drove steel prices to their lowest level in more than a decade.
Steel prices in China have increased about a third this year, helping many Chinese steel mills to return to profits from heavy losses last year. Posco’s executives forecast that steel prices in China would remain strong in the second half as Beijing tries to restructure the country’s steel sector to cut overcapacity.
From the stock and property markets to other segments of the economy, bubbles are continually cropping up in China. Lately, the country’s investors have been turning to bitcoin in droves.
Chinese investors are constantly shifting from one promising asset to another, seeking to maximize their returns amid excess liquidity. The slowdown in growth means the authorities have little choice but to maintain a fairly accommodative monetary policy, contributing to the abundance of cash.
Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed during a roundtable discussion last Friday that his administration will “continue its aggressive fiscal policy and moderate monetary policy to expand demand adequately.”
It is under these circumstances that China has emerged as a global center of bitcoin trading, with the country purportedly accounting for 40% of investors and 80% of transactions in the market for the digital currency.
International investors’ concerns about the quality of mainland China’s markets have once more put paid to hopes that MSCI would finally include the world’s second largest markets in its globally-followed indices.
The index provider had raised expectations that it would accept mainland A-shares when it laid out a “roadmap” for inclusion in March. But on Tuesday it said “international institutional investors clearly indicated that they would like to see further improvements in the accessibility of the China A shares market before its inclusion in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index”
Including mainland shares would have been seen as a vote of confidence in China’s market development after Beijing introduced several market reforms following last summer’s rout, when its heavy-handed approach and companies’ ability to suspend their shares at will unnerved international onlookers.
MSCI is the world’s largest index provider and its benchmark emerging markets index — in which A-shares would have made the most impact — are followed by an estimated $1.5tn of funds. Including A-shares would have added another link between China and the global financial system by forcing international fund managers to invest onshore.
Inclusion of Chinese stocks at some point is still considered by analysts to be inevitable. Shanghai and Shenzhen markets are both more than 40 per cent below their June 2015 peaks but combined, still represent the world’s second largest market by capitalisation — behind New York but ahead of Tokyo.
No one knows if it’s a hand grenade or a nuclear warhead…
The ramp up in Chinese debt accumulation has been a leading concern of investors for years. The average total debt of emerging market economies is 175% of GDP, and skyrocketing corporate non-financial debt has launched China far beyond that number.
The real question is: by how far?
The answer is disconcerting, as VisualCapitalist’s Jeff Desjardins warns, because nobody really knows.
If the Chinese debt bomb is detonated, the impact on markets is anybody’s guess. Kyle Bass says the losses would be 5x that of the subprime mortgage crisis, while Moody’s says the bomb will be safely disarmed by authorities far before it goes off.
In today’s chart, we look at various estimates to the size of China’s debt bomb, its payload, and what might spark the fuse…
China has increased defence capabilities and deployed more troops along the Indian border, the Pentagon has said, as it warned of increasing Chinese military presence including bases in various parts of the world, particularly Pakistan.
“We have noticed an increase in capability and force posture by the Chinese military in areas close to the border with India,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for East Asia Abraham M Denmark told reporters during a news conference here after Pentagon submitted its annual 2016 report to the US Congress on ‘Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China’.
However, Denmark said it is difficult to conclude on the real intention behind this.
“It is difficult to say how much of this is driven by internal considerations to maintain internal stability, and how much of it is an external consideration,” he said in response to a question on China upgrading its military command in Tibet. Referring to US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter’s recent trip to India, Denmark said he had a very positive and productive visit. “We’re going to continue to enhance our bilateral engagement with India, not in the China context, but because India is an increasingly important player by themselves and we are going to engage India because of its value,” he said.
Profit growth at Bank of China — one of the country’s big four state-owned banks — remained lacklustre in the first quarter, continuing a trend from last year when lenders had to weather a year of central bank rate cuts, jitters over the strength of the Chinese economy and rising bad loans.
Net income at the bank, which earlier this year warned the Chinese economy is at a“critical juncture”, edged up by 1.7 per cent in the first quarter to RMB46.6bn ($7.2bn).
Analysts have been warning that an era of easy profits for Chinese banks is drawing to a close, with Chen Long of research group Gavekal Dragonomics saying last month:
The headwinds that Chinese banks face will last for a long time.
In addition to lower sources for profit, they will also have to prepare themselves for losses on bad loans.
China moved to clamp down on excessive speculation in commodities on Monday after weeks of frenzied trading boosted prices and ignited fears of another bubble in its domestic markets.
Activity on China’s largest commodity exchanges has surged in recent days with turnover in key steel contracts exceeding the combined volume of the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges on one day last week.
Investors around the world have zeroed in on the latest trading binge as the prices of many commodities have risen sharply, with iron ore gaining almost a third in just two weeks. Cash has started to flow into raw materials in part because Chinese officials imposed curbs on equities trading last year.
“China’s latest speculative spike has stunned global markets,” said Tom Price, a Morgan Stanley analyst.
Shanghai steel futures have risen more than 50 per cent this year and more than a fifth this month. Iron ore traded on the Dalian Commodity Exchange hit its highest level since September 2014 last week.
The surge led the country’s largest commodity trading venues — the Shanghai Futures Exchange, Dalian Commodity Exchange and Zhengzhou Commodities Exchange — to curb activity by lifting transaction costs, margins and daily trading limits on some contracts.