The IMF revised lower its global GDP forecast to 3.3 percent this year, from a 3.5 percent prediction made in April. The biggest downward revision by country was in Canada, which it now sees expanding by 1.5 percent this year, from a 2.2 percent prior forecast. The other major changes to GDP growth calls for 2015 were in the U.S. (down 0.6 percentage point to 2.5 percent), Mexico (down 0.6 percentage point to 2.4 percent) and Brazil (down 0.5 percentage point to 1.5 percent contraction). The IMF, which has been the most accurate GDP forecaster over the last 10 years, left its euro-area outlook unchanged at 1.5 percent.
Ford to Move Current Small Car Production Outside U.S. Ford will move production of small cars from a plant in Michigan to a factory outside the U.S. in 2018 in a new setback to efforts to create a market for small cars made in the U.S.
The move could put pressure on the United Auto Workers union to temper demands for wage increases in upcoming contract negotiations. Ford, General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, although profitable, are struggling to keep pace with lower-cost Asian auto makers that now have the added advantage of weaker currencies compared with the U.S. dollar.
Small cars like the Focus deliver far lower profit margins than the pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles the Motor City is best known for, but they are essential to helping car makers meet stringent fuel economy mandates. (…)
The UAW enters negotiations with the Detroit Three aiming to win higher pay packages amid what has been a trend of annual profit-sharing checks that auto makers prefer over fixed increases. As Detroit car makers’ profits increase, union members have grown increasingly discontent with a wage scheme that pays entry-level workers about $19 an hour, or $9 less than workers hired before the financial crisis.
While the roughly $57-an-hour wage and benefit costs Ford spends per UAW worker is less than the $75 an hour it was spending a decade ago, it is still between $8 and $20 an hour higher than Honda or Volkswagen AG, according to Ann Arbor-based researcher Center for Auto Research.
China New Car Sales Drop in June New car sales fall by most in more than two years
China’s new car sales recorded the first year-over-year decline in more than two years in June, as slowing economic growth and falling stock markets hit the world’s largest auto market.
China sold 1.51 million passenger vehicles last month, down 3.4% from a year earlier, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said Friday. That compares with a 1.2% year-over-year rise recorded in May and a 3.7% increase in April.
The performance was the worst since February 2013 when car sales fell 8.3% on-year during the weeklong Lunar New Year Holiday when car showrooms are closed. Stripping out the holiday factor, the last time China’s car market posted a decline was in September 2012, when a territorial dispute between Beijing and Tokyo over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea hit demand for Japanese cars.
In the first half of this year, sales of passenger vehicles rose 4.8% to 10 million units from the year-earlier period, said the auto manufacturer group. Year-to-date, sales of total automobiles including both passenger and commercial vehicles in China rose 1.4% to 11.85 million units. The body also cut its growth forecast for China’s automobile market in 2015 to 3% from the previous 7%. (…)
Demand for cars remains tepid despite auto makers offering price cuts and other incentives. The latest survey by the association shows that total inventories of passenger cars are equal to more than 50 days of sales in May, above the warning level of 45 days.
IEA Says Oil Prices May Fall More The International Energy Agency said global demand for oil would slow down next year, as it warned that crude prices could resume a recent downward spiral.
In its first oil-consumption assessment for next year, the IEA—which advises industrialized nations on their energy policies—said global oil demand growth is forecast to slow to 1.2 million barrels a day in 2016. That compares with an average 1.4 million barrels a day this year.
It said a return of Iranian oil and if Greece were to exit from the euro could put further pressure on oil prices—which have lost about 10% in the past month.
Tehran this week failed to meet a deadline to clinch a nuclear deal with world powers. But if sanctions were lifted, it could raise exports immediately out of 40 million barrels currently stored on its vessels, the IEA said.
It estimates OPEC crude oil output climbed by 340,000 barrels a day in June to 31.7 million barrels a day-–the highest since April 2012 and 1.7 million barrels a day higher than a production target it agreed to maintain last month. The rise was due to record production in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, it said.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index’s dip below a level tracked by chart watchers might be less of a reason for concern than usual, according to Ryan Detrick, a former money manager at Haberer Registered Investment Advisor Inc.
As the attached chart shows, the S&P 500 fell this week below its 200-day moving average, a gauge of its performance over time. The index breached the average in the last three trading days, and closed lower in the last two.
Stocks fall more often when the S&P 500 is lower than the 200-day average than when it’s higher, Detrick wrote yesterday in a posting on Yahoo! Finance. He based this conclusion on an analysis of the index since 1928, when calculations begin. Yet the Cincinnati-based analyst wrote that the pattern may not hold with this week’s slump for two reasons:
— The S&P 500 stayed within 5 percent of its record, set May 21. Stocks did relatively well in the past when the gap was that small, according to data compiled by Detrick. For example, the index rose 79 percent of the time in the next three months and added 4.6 percent on average. For gaps exceeding 5 percent, the figures were 53 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively.
— The timing of the move. July was the only month in which the S&P 500 had a day-to-day gain on average when it was below the 200-day reading. The 0.05 percent advance contrasted with losses that reached 0.30 percent in other months.
“Breaking the 200-day so close to new highs might not be such a bearish event,” he wrote. “The fact that it happened in July might also be a plus.”
Never mind the timing. For me, the fact that the m.a. is still rising is the only source of comfort. That said, the 200d m.a. has been flattening lately and the 100d m.a. is now declining. That bears watching! So is this channel…
This is from Andy Rothman, investment strategist at Matthews Asia which manages nearly $1 billion in Chinese equities:
(…) With a little more certainty, we can say that from a valuation perspective, many Chinese stocks have been in ridiculous territory. Commentators often focus on the ChiNext market, where 79 companies have a forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio* of more than 100, and the median forward P/E is about 63. This is clearly very high. Commentators, however, often neglect to mention that everyone in China understands this is a very small, very speculative, tech-heavy market, with only 460 companies overall. Chinese who own those stocks know they are gambling, and very few foreigners play that game.
The A-share market is much bigger (about 2,800 companies) and is much more broadly held. But it is also driven by retail investors, who account for 80% of turnover. Institutional investors play a minor role, and foreign investors account for only about 3% of holdings. This, too, is an expensive market, with a median forward P/E of companies that are covered by at least one brokerage analyst (to remove the most speculative stocks) of about 54.
If we cross the border into Hong Kong, where there is more institutional and foreign investment, the median forward P/E falls to only 14. This is the market (with about 1,800 Chinese companies) in which most foreign exposure to China takes place.
More importantly for us—and we are the largest Asia-only investment manager in the U.S., with about US$31 billion* under management, and about 30% of that in Chinese equities—the median forward P/E of our China holdings is 17. Coincidentally, the median forward P/E of the S&P 500 Index is also about 17. (These P/E ratios are as of late May/early June, before the market correction began.)
The issue of margin trading is one that has been highlighted by many commentators as a key issue and driver of recent stock market activity. But how much of a concern is it? It’s certainly important, because a falling market leads an increasing number of investors to have to sell to repay their margin loans.
The scale of margin trading, however, should be manageable. The margin balance outstanding is now about 1.8 trillion renminbi/RMB (US$285 billion). This accounts for about 3.5% of total market cap, or about 4.3% of the free-float market cap (according to the Chinese securities regulator) or about 9% of the free-float excluding Chinese government holdings (according to Bloomberg).
Regulations limit margin trading to those with at least RMB 500,000 in their accounts (US$80,000), although some brokers may have lent to smaller investors. While a continuing decline in the market will lead to painful losses for some investors, the total number of retail punters using borrowed money should not be very large. And to put this into context, total margin positions are equal to about 3% of total household bank deposits.
Perhaps more importantly, it is worth noting that the majority of Chinese are not in the market. There are about 50 million active individual investors, which is equal to about 4% of the total population or 7% of the urban population. And most investors are punting a fairly small amount of money. As of last November, 66% of active accounts had less than the RMB equivalent of US$15,000 in them, and less than 1% of accounts had more than US$1 million. Very few Chinese are likely to be betting anything close to their life’s savings, and I imagine all of them are aware of recent history: in 2007 the A-share market rose even more sharply than it did this year, and then in early 2008, it crashed hard.
The impact of all of this on China’s economy is a key question. A continued equity market decline will have a small but material negative impact on GDP growth.
The financial sector accounted for 7.4% of China’s GDP in 2014 with that share rising to 9.7% in 1Q15, and it is likely that the securities industry drove most of that increase. A very rough estimate is that in the last quarter of 2014, the booming A-share market accounted for about 5% of GDPgrowth (0.4 ppts of 7.3% GDP growth). If the market remains weak, leading to low trading turnover, this could slow 2H15 GDP growth by about the same amount.
Given the relatively small number of retail investors, and given that two-thirds of active accounts had less than US$15,000, I expect only a modest impact on retail sales growth if the market continues to fall. Even including margin trading, consumer debt is very low and savings very high. Household bank deposits are the RMB equivalent of US$8.5 trillion, which is greater than the combined GDPs of Brazil, Russia, India and Italy.
Looking ahead, the government’s efforts to put a floor under the market do not signal that it is abandoning its economic reform agenda. In my view, the Party’s attempt to intervene in China’s equity markets is futile. But it isn’t surprising, as the Party has long used its power, as well as its control of major brokers, to try to move markets. The futile aspect is the Party thinking it can micromanage a stock market in which 80% of turnover is by retail investors in the same way it micromanages the RMB’s exchange rate.
We can imagine Party leaders responding to this criticism by noting that the U.S. government intervened to support American markets during the Global Financial Crisis. But that analogy is weak, as China’s economy is healthy today, with double-digit retail sales growth, 8% real income growth, and GDP up by more than 6%. The rise in China’s markets did not generate a significant wealth effect, so the market’s fall shouldn’t have serious negative economic consequences. There is no valid macro reason for the Party’s intervention in the market.
There is, however, a good reason to believe that the Party will not halt its push toward creating a more market-oriented financial system: the Party’s continued rule depends on continued reform. With the private sector accounting for 80% of employment and all new job creation, as well as most investment, more financial sector reforms are required to support entrepreneurial firms. The Party understands those reforms are key to continued economic growth, which is key to the Party remaining in power.