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Fri, 24th February 2017

Anirudh Sethi Report

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Archives of “Economy of the People’s Republic of China” Tag

Japan resurfaces as No. 2 contributor to US trade deficit

Japan accounted for $68.9 billion of the U.S. trade deficit on goods in 2016, re-emerging as the second-largest contributor for the first time in three years for a potential flashpoint when the leaders of the two nations meet Friday.

The overall U.S. trade deficit on goods shrank by 1.5% to $734.3 billion last year on a Census basis, according to Department of Commerce data released Tuesday. Exports fell 3.2% to $1.45 trillion on a strong dollar, but imports decreased 2.6% to $2.18 trillion.

 The country logged a $247.8 billion surplus on services, bringing the overall U.S. trade deficit to $502.3 billion on a balance of payments basis.

The goods deficit with Japan remained roughly flat and accounted for 9% of the U.S. total. The deficit on motor vehicles and parts — an area in which President Donald Trump claims Japan engages in unfair practices — jumped to $52.6 billion from $48.9 billion in 2015, making up nearly 80% of the total American deficit with Japan.

Japanese automakers are increasing production in North America. But cars sold from Japan to the U.S. tend to be higher-end models, and the average price per unit is rising.

China was the top contributor to the U.S. trade deficit on goods, accounting for $347 billion, or 47%. Germany ranked third and Mexico fourth. Trump, seeking to curb the deficit, has accused Japan, China and Germany of manipulating their currencies. The president also demands a renegotiation of NAFTA with Mexico.

China press (Xinhua): “China collapse” would be good for no one

A commentary piece in Xinhua that outloines current challenges facing the Chinese economy:

  • Such as a weak global recovery, rising trade protectionism, domestic debt overhang & excess capacity
But still, it says:
  • China’s contribution to world growth in 2016 is again poised to top that of all other countries, exceeding the figure for all developed economies combined
  • The IMF has projected China’s growth to be 6.6 percent with global growth at 3.1 percent in 2016
  • However, China’s growth last year appears set to hit 6.7 percent
It concludes with a projection on growth at 6.5%
( Xinhua News Agency is the official press agency of China, it is a ministry-level institution subordinate to the central government and its head is a member of the Central Committee of China’s Communist Party.)

China’s FX reserves end-Dec USD 3.011trln vs USD 3.052trln prev

Chinese FX reserves data published a short while ago 7 Jan

  • total reserves now near 6-year lows
  • gold reserves USD 67.878bln vs 69.785bln prev
  • gold reserves 59.24mln troy oz vs 59.240mln prev

A drop in reserves of $41bln, albeit less than the $51bln expected versus a $69bln drop in November and the 6th straight month of declines.

The PBOC has now been forced to reduce its reserves by half a trillion USD since Aug 2015 after it devalued the yuan in a surprise move.

Plenty of fun and games this past week for the offshore and onshore yuan with o/n depo rates surging above 95% at one point.

Yesterday the PBOC hiked CNY by the biggest amount in 11 years vs USD and the onshore pair closed at 6.9230. The Chinese MOFCOM also had this to say on outflow curbs.

These Are Barclays’ 13 Commodity “Black Swan Threats” For 2017

In a special report by Barclays’ Michael Cohen, the analyst lays out what he believes are the 13 commodity “black swan threats” for the current year, divided into two “shock” categories: supply and demand, split evenly between bearish and bullish.

Investors, Barclays warns, will have to balance the risks of unforeseen macroeconomic shocks and their effect on demand (bearish price) with potential geopolitical shocks disrupting the supply side of the market (bullish price). A tightening commodity inventory picture, especially in oil, will likely exacerbate how the market prices supply risks even if no physical supply disruption occurs.

The potential threats, which range from a trade war with China, to a default in Venezuela, to riots in Chile, all have a common denominator: politics: “we assess several black swan threats to the supply, demand, and transit of commodities that could potentially move markets in 2017. Our analysis illustrates an important point: politics are likely to matter just as much as economics” and not just any politics: “in particular, the new politics of populism and protectionist trade policies have the potential to disrupt global supply and demand assumptions for various commodities.”

Those who have been following Trump’s twitter feed are all too aware of this.

While we realize the futility of “identifying” black swans in advance, something which is by definition impossible, nonetheless here is what Cohen warns:

In 2016, few people predicted a Trump election or Brexit, not to mention that the Chicago Cubs would win the World Series or that Leicester City would take the Premier League title. And commodities markets were not without their own set of surprises as well. OPEC cut production with non-OPEC countries for the first time in 10 years. Weather whipsawed natural gas, and Trump’s election inspired a late metals complex rally on the basis of hopes for new infrastructure spending. In fact, when all was said and done, 2016 was a pretty good year for commodities, with the asset class posting its first annual advance since 2010.

Commodity market black swan events come in many forms, and the market may take years or an instant to price them in. Technological innovation caused the US shale gas revolution, the Great Recession caused structural demand destruction, while geopolitical strife has disrupted commodity supplies overnight. We all know that markets will surprise in some fashion in 2017, so we attempt this review to shine  a spotlight on the specific commodity market risks that clients should watch.

Where could the surprises come from: “Watch these spaces: China, Russia, the Middle East and Turkey are likely to surprise the commodity complex in 2017.”

Below is the summary list of the proposed “black swans”

Breaking down the list, Barclays says that generally “it sees risks skewed to the upside in 2017, based on several supply-side risks.”

Given the scenarios laid out below we view supply driven disruptions in 2017 as being more likely than demand side Black Swan events. Although commodity price disruptions may mean higher prices in the short-term there is a risk they result in lower medium-long-term prices. A supply disruption that results in a higher futures curve could result in the sanctioning of new projects or increased producer hedging activity, eventually putting downward pressure on prices in the long-dated contracts. There are, of course, supply-side risks that would be bearish for the market as well, such as higher production from Libya or the Neutral Zone.”

Demand events less likely but more structurally impactful. Given the relative liquidity in global commodity markets we see supply related outages being shorter in duration compared to potential demand side risks. We see demand side events, such as those driven by economic weakness, as less likely but events that would have a longer term structural impact on commodity prices to the downside.

As noted above, the two big categories laid out by Barclays are as follows:

People’s Bank of China sets yuan reference rate at 6.9526 (vs. yesterday at 6.9498)

CNY mid rate for the day, little bit weaker for the yuan

Open  market operations (OMOs):
  • inject  10bn yuan via 7-day reverse repos
  • inject  10bn yuan via 14-day reverse repos
Small injections (which mean today is a net drain); watch for more stress in HK yuan borrowing markets today. Yesterday saw surging rates for overnight (and longer) yuan borrowing. Likely we’ll see the same again today.
By limiting injections into money markets the People’s Bank of China makes borrowing yuan more expensive and therefore shorting yuan more expensive. The PBOC is trying to discourage yuan shorts. 

Bitcoin Surges Above $1,000 As China Unveils New Capital Controls

As noted yesterday, for the first time in three years, and only the second time in history, bitcoin rose above $1,000 in Yuan-denominated Chinese trading, however it was limited to the lower side of this “round number” psychological barrier in US trading, as BTC flirted with $999.99 for most of the day on the popular Coinbase exchange, without crossing it.

Overnight, however, Chinese demand proved too great and US markets had no choice but to arb the difference. So with Bitcoin trading in China at an implied price of over $1,050 at this moment, bitcoin finally soared above $1,000 in the US as well, trading just around $1,024 on Coinbase as of this moment.

 

PBOC sets USD/CNY central rate at 6.9435 (vs. yesterday at 6.9489)

Little change for the People’s Bank of China yuan reference rate today

In open market operations:
  • to inject 100 bn yuan via 7-day reverse repos
  • to inject 70 bn yuan via 14-day reverse repos
  • to inject 50 bn yuan via 28-day reverse repos

Copper sinks to 4-week low as inventories swell

The price of copper has sunk to its lowest level in almost a month after the London Metals Exchange reported the biggest one-day rise in 15-year in inventories of the red metal.

Copper for delivery in three months dropped $116, or 2 per cent, to $5,525 a tonne after the LME said stocks has increased by 38,400 to more than 345,000 tonnes, 

Since hitting 213,000 tonnes on December 8th, inventories have surged by 60 per cent as refined copper has moved out of China and into LME licensed warehouses in Asia. 

The copper market has been roiled several times this year by large movements of stock.

Some analysts believe the latest movements are driven by cheap freight and storage incentives, which have encouraged Chinese traders to deposit stock in LME warehouses. Others say the stock has been placed there by a large commodity trader as part of a complex trading strategy.

But there are other explanations. In a recent report Standard Chartered flagged a significant build-up in unreported copper stocks outside, which it puts at almost 500,000 tonnes since the end of July.

China’s True FX Outflows Since August 2015 Are $1.1 Trillion, Double The Official Number

Two months ago, when looking at an alternative measure of Chinese capital outflows using SAFE data, Goldman found that contrary to official PBOC reserve data, “China’s Capital Outflows Are Soaring Again”, having hit $78 billion in September.

Over the weekend, and following the latest PBOC data which revealed an outflow of $56 billion in November (which was only $34 billion when FX adjusted), Goldman repeated its FX flow calculation using SAFE data, and found the China continues to mask the full extent of its outflows, which in November spiked to $69 billion, and that “since June, this data has continued to suggest significantly larger FX sales by the PBOC than is implied by FX reserve data”, once again suggesting that China is eager to mask the true extent of reserve outflows, perhaps in an attempt to not precipitate the feedback loop of even further panicked selling of Yuan and even more outflows, and thus, even more reserve depletion.

According to Goldman’s MK Tang, money has been leaving in yuan payments for 14 consecutive months, while the central bank’s yuan positions have slumped the most since January. The situation could get worse, said Banny Lam, head of research at CEB International Investment Ltd, cited by Bloomberg.

Bitcoin trade volume hits record in November

A record 174.7 million bitcoins changed hands, so to speak, in November, a 50% or so increase from the previous month’s trade volume, according to Bitcoinity.org.

The spike came as Chinese jumped into the digital currency as a way to shift their assets into dollars.

 The previous monthly record, which came in March, was 148.6 million bitcoins.

The November trading volume was worth $137 billion.

The yuan has been weakening against the U.S. currency since Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election on Nov. 8.

Many Chinese evade restrictions on directly buying dollars by taking a detour into bitcoins. This is what they were doing last month.