Corporate Japan is on track to log a second year in a row of record net profit, driven by electronics makers, trading houses and other sectors making up for the weakness of automakers.
Aggregate fiscal 2017 net profit at listed companies is expected to grow 4% from the previous year to 21.81 trillion yen ($192 billion), with results improving at more than 60% of companies. Profit rose 21% to 20.9 trillion yen in fiscal 2016.
Friday marked the peak of earnings season, with a record 767 companies with March book-closings releasing results. The Nikkei compiled results put out by 1,332 nonfinancial firms up to that day, representing 85% of listed companies and 92% of total market capitalization.
Electronics manufacturers, trading companies and shippers will enjoy strong profit growth this fiscal year. Sony’s sales of smartphone camera image sensors have improved, and the company projects a profit of more than 100 billion yen in its formerly money-losing semiconductor segment. It sees net profit growing 3.5 times to 255 billion yen in fiscal 2017. “We will deliver results,” Chief Financial Officer Kenichiro Yoshida said.
Fujitsu forecasts its first record profit in three years. “We are heading toward growth as the electronic devices market recovers,” said Hidehiro Tsukano, a senior executive vice president.
In all the drama surrounding the French elections, few noticed the PBOC’s announcement that China’s FX reserves rose for the third straight month in April, increasing by $20.45 billion to $3.03 trillion, more than the $11 billion expected and the single biggest monthly increase in three years going back to April 2014, on the back of a weaker dollar and increasingly more draconian capital controls on outflows.
Cited by the WSJ, some economists attributed April’s increase to a dollar that continued to decline in the past month especially after Trump said the U.S. currency “is getting too strong.” The value of other currencies in China’s reserve basket, including the euro, the British pound and Japan’s yen, similarly played a significant role in the rise, said Yan Ling, an economist with China Merchants Securities.
Besides USD softness (USD has weakened against the CFETS basket by over 2% year-to-date through April) and perhaps stronger RMB sentiment, the capital flow management measures introduced over the last several months have also contributed to the slowdown in outflows, Goldman speculated in a Sunday note. That could reverse, as there may be incremental relaxation of the capital account as the flow situation has improved and an overly tight capital account could hinder legitimate international trade and the authorities’ long-term RMB internationalization goals.
Overseas use of the yuan for trade and other payments has fallen dramatically as government efforts to stem capital outflows sideline Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambition to take the currency global.
Yuan trade settlement had surged after Beijing first allowed it in 2009, with the proportion of Chinese cross-border trade settled in the currency peaking at 27% in 2015. But its share fell to 19% in 2016, marking the first year-on-year decline, and slumped further to 14% in January through March of this year. Excluding trade with Hong Kong, where the yuan is often used, would likely push the figure even lower.
The decline is not limited to trade. Cross-border yuan settlements in Shanghai totaled 441.3 billion yuan ($63.9 billion) in the January-March quarter, down 23% from a year earlier, data from the People’s Bank of China shows. This figure encompasses trade as well as other payments ranging from capital transactions to costs for studying abroad. Settlements have fallen by more than half on a quarterly basis since July-September 2015, when they reached 1 trillion yuan.
The yuan was used for just 1.8% of international payments in March, ranking sixth behind the U.S. dollar, euro, pound, yen and Canadian dollar, according to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Transactions, or SWIFT. The Chinese currency had placed fourth in August 2015 with a 2.8% share, overtaking the yen.
Overseas yuan holdings are shrinking as well. In Hong Kong, the largest yuan hub outside mainland China, yuan deposits hit a six-year low of 507.2 billion yuan at the end of March. This represents a drop of nearly half from 1 trillion yuan in December 2014.
This trend stems mainly from stepped-up capital controls. The Chinese government has gradually imposed stricter curbs since 2015, aiming to rein in outflows and the ensuing softening of the yuan. A measure implemented last November made advance approval necessary for currency conversions or overseas transfers — including in yuan — exceeding $5 million.
After yesterday’s violent gap up in stocks across the globe in response to the “expected” outcome from the French election, today the risk on sentiment has continued if to a lesser extent, with stocks in Europe, Asia all rising while S&P futures point to a higher open. Yen, gold decline, while the euro traded as high as 1.09 this morning before fading some gains; oil is up modestly.
While today’s surge may have been more muted, world stocks hit a new record high on Tuesday, with investors still cheering Macron’s victory in the first round of the French presidential election, supported by speculation about U.S. tax reform and the overnight report that Trump has conceded on the border wall, eliminating a government shutdown as a potential risk. As shown below, the MSCI All World Index has jumped to a new all time high, boosted by strong Asian markets.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.6%, hovering near its highest level since June 2015 hit earlier in the session, on its fourth straight day of gains. Japan’s Nikkei rose more than 1 percent to a three-week high aided by a weaker yen. South Korea’s also advanced 0.7 percent to its highest level since April 2015. China equities climbed from a three-month low on speculation that a selloff over concerns of a regulatory crackdown were overdone. Australia and New Zealand were closed for Anzac Day.
European stocks hovered near a 20-month high, with the Dax flirting with all time highs. The Stoxx Europe 600 index edged 0.2% higher after jumpin 2.1% on Monday to the highest since August 2015, with property and technology shares helping to underpin a global rally. French shares pulled back 0.1 percent, having risen 4.1 percent on Monday in their biggest daily gain since August 2012. Futures on the S&P 500 added 0.1 percent. The index climbed 1.1% Monday to within 1% of its all-time closing high.
These gains helped push MSCI’s world stocks index to a fresh all-time high after chalking up its biggest rise since shortly after Britain’s vote last June to leave the European Union.
The U.S. Treasury Department has decided not to label China a currency manipulator in a report published Friday on the foreign exchange policies of America’s key trading partners, backing away from President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to do so.
The move was apparently taken out of consideration for China, which the U.S. hopes will help rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
This was the Trump administration’s first release of the twice-yearly report, which evaluates the foreign exchange policies of major U.S. trading partners.
Although the report did not signal a major shift in Washington’s own currency policy, it is likely Trump will try to use the issue as a bargaining chip in negotiations with other countries. The U.S. may try to limit the dollar’s rise against the yen in its first economic dialogue with Japan, scheduled for Tuesday. Japan’s large trade surplus will probably be high on the agenda.
Trump’s Treasury Department used the same standards for determining currency manipulation as those of the previous administration under President Barack Obama. The report kept China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Germany and Switzerland on a watch list as they met some of the criteria.
When it comes to Nigeria’s currency, mind the gap, again: the spread between the official and parallel market rates for the naira is widening once more.
During a more than two-week run, the naira strengthened to a six-month high of 390 per dollar on the black market – close to one of the multiple official exchange rates, but still far off the interbank rate of around 305 to the dollar.
However, the naira is weakening once more on the black market, slipping below 400 to the dollar, to 405 to the dollar on Monday, according to traders.
Chronic dollar shortages in Nigeria began after oil prices crashed in 2014, worsened as the central bank restricted supplies of hard currency, and are unlikely to end any time soon.
In the absence of adequate supplies of dollars in the official market, businesses and individuals have been forced to buy hard currency on the black market, stoking demand there and eventually weakening the naira to a record low of 520 in February. Analysts said the gap between the official rate of just over 300 to the dollar and the black market one indicated the scale of unmet demand for hard currency in Africa’s most populous nation.
With the reliability of a finely-tuned watch, the latest release of foreign-currency reserves held at the Swiss National Bank has shown yet another record, in a sign the central bank continues to swim against the tide.
Reserves swelled to SFr683.2bn ($SFr679.3bn) in March, up by nearly SFr15bn on the previous month.
Though the SNB famously dropped its hard upper limit on the franc two years ago, it continues to try and manage the currency’s ascent, buying foreign currencies, chiefly euros, whenever it sees fit. It often stresses its view that the franc is overvalued.
The euro now trades at SFr1.07. Deutsche Bank thinks the Swiss currency will climb much further from here, taking that rate to parity.
Among the reasons, it says the Swiss authorities may feel some pressure from the US:
The US Treasury looms large, as it is due to release its latest report on the FX policies of US trading partners sometime this month. As argued elsewhere, Switzerland is already closest to meeting all three criteria of currency manipulation. Its current account surplus runs well above 3% of GDP, and the SNB has intervened well in excess of 2% over the past year. In the past, the Treasury acknowledged the constraints on domestic asset purchases given the limits of the Swiss bond market; but such subtleties could fall by the wayside under the Trump administration. Free trade with the US is too important for Switzerland to be risked by continued FX intervention.
In addition, inflation is picking up, and the German bank disputes the idea that the franc is overvalued.
Two Japanese retailing groups soon will accept bitcoin payments, a move that is likely to promote wider use of the virtual currency among domestic consumers.
Electronics chain Bic Camera is teaming up with Tokyo-based bitFlyer, which runs the largest Japanese bitcoin exchange. This Friday, they will begin a trial run of bitFlyer’s bitcoin payment system at Bic Camera’s flagship shop in Tokyo’s Yurakucho district and at Bicqlo Bic Camera, the hybrid outlet with Uniqlo located in Shinjuku.
Customers are allowed to pay up to 100,000 yen ($904) using the cryptocurrency, and they will also get reward points at the same rate as for cash payments. Bic Camera may introduce the payment system at other locations based on usage trends at the two Tokyo stores.
Recruit Lifestyle, the retail support arm of human resources conglomerate Recruit Holdings, is partnering with another Tokyo bitcoin exchange operator, Coincheck. The virtual currency will become a payment option at shops that have adopted AirRegi, the point-of-sale app developed by Recruit Lifestyle, by this summer.
By using tablets or other devices provided by the store and one’s own smartphone, the customer can deduct the amount on the bill from the designated bitcoin account. Coincheck will convert the bitcoins into yen and transfer the funds to the store.