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News from China
Cautious Americans trim spending
15th July 2015

 AMERICANS cut back their spending at stores and restaurants last month, a sign that they remain cautious despite robust job growth in the past year.

Retail sales fell 0.3 percent in the United States in June, the Commerce Department said yesterday, the weakest showing since February’s harsh winter weather kept shoppers indoors. That followed a robust 1 percent jump in May, though that was revised down from a previous estimate of 1.2 percent.

Economists had expected that consumers would rein in their spending after May’s large gain. But the reversal was much sharper than projected.

It suggests that consumers, still scarred by the Great Recession, are reluctant to spend freely even as unemployment has fallen and gas prices are about 90 cents a gallon cheaper than a year earlier.

Excluding autos, gas, building materials and restaurants, so-called core retail sales — which factor into the government’s official measure of economic growth — fell 0.1 percent in June, after an increase of 0.7 percent in May.

Spending at restaurants and bars, an area of strength in recent months, slipped 0.2 percent. Sales of building materials fell 1.3 percent. Online and catalog retailers reported a 0.4 percent drop in sales.

Sales at auto dealers fell 1.1 percent, but that drop came after a big gain in the previous month. Auto purchases reached the highest level in a decade in May, so even with the decline, sales remain at a healthy level.

Economists watch the retail sales report closely because it provides the first indication each month of the willingness of Americans to spend. Consumer spending drives 70 percent of the economy. Yet retail sales account for only about a third of spending, with services such as haircuts and Internet access making up the other two-thirds.

Despite June’s weak showing, there is evidence that consumers are growing more confident and may spend at a healthy pace for most of the rest of this year.

The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index jumped in June to its second-highest level since the recession ended in June 2009. It is now 17.4 percent higher than a year ago.

Source: Shanghai Daily, July 15, 2015
BMW China partner issues profit warning
14th July 2015

 BRILLIANCE China Automotive Holdings Ltd, which makes BMW cars in China, issued a profit warning yesterday, citing slowing sales in the world’s biggest car market.

Brilliance, which makes minivans for China’s domestic market and assembles luxury cars for BMW via its joint venture with the German carmaker, said it expected first-half profit to fall 40 percent from a year earlier mainly because of lower results from its BMW Brilliance 50 percent owned joint venture.

“The decrease in BMW Brilliance’s profit was caused by the higher selling costs incurred during the first six months of 2015 as a result of the slowdown in the growth of the Chinese economy and the automotive industry,” Brilliance said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange.

Brilliance’s profits, which are highly dependent on the JV’s earnings, would be roughly 2.2 billion yuan (US$354 million) for the first half of 2015, according to a Reuters calculation.

BMW Brilliance also faces higher costs as it prepares to launch new models and new production facilities, according to the filing.

Source: Shanghai Daily, July 14, 2015
Slow economy tames global inflation
13th July 2015

 GLOBAL inflation appears tamer than many had thought it would be by now, still held back by a modest outlook for economic growth, meaning central banks look likely to leave rates lower for longer — or even ease policy further.

With a few exceptions such as Brazil, many major economies are still generating low or no consumer price inflation but instead higher asset prices, particularly stocks, and in many countries, a renewed pickup in house price inflation.

For those watching the world economy, China, not Greece, has for a while remained the No. 1 concern. The slowing world’s second-largest economy is generating just 1.4 percent inflation.

Jeremy Lawson, chief economist at Standard Life Investments, writes: “The long-term glide path is still down and most of the risks remain to the downside.

“Slow growth and moderating inflation explains why many emerging economies have been loosening monetary policy in recent months ... (but) there is a danger in taking things too far.”

The inflation outlook for the United States also remains remarkably tame, particularly given how quickly the unemployment rate has fallen but still with no convincing evidence that has translated into significantly higher wage deals.

While some large investment banks remain upbeat about prospects for US growth in coming months, forecasting a much stronger second half for the world’s largest economy has become boilerplate since the financial crisis began to ease. Federal Reserve policy-makers were clear in minutes of a June policy meeting that they had a close eye on economic growth abroad, particularly in China and other emerging markets.

Traders and investors in financial markets, who had pushed to September from June expectations for the first US interest rate rise in nearly a decade, now talk about December or even 2016.

Testimony from Fed chief Janet Yellen to Congress on Wednesday and Thursday could provide more clarity on how close the Federal Open Market Committee is to raising rates from a record low of 0-0.25 percent, but few expect strong signals.

“We still believe the FOMC majority is anxious to lift policy off the zero bound when the opportunity arises, preferably before year end,” wrote economists at Credit Suisse.

Source: Shanghai Daily, July, 2015
Russia’s ‘Look East’ policy pays off
10th July 2015

 CHINESE investors have bought between 50 billion roubles (US$880 million) and 60 billion roubles worth of Russian domestic treasury bonds this year, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said yesterday.

Moscow has increasingly looked east for investors, including for its domestic debt, after the West imposed economic sanctions on Russia last year over its role in the Ukraine crisis.

“I think that after purchasing such a volume and realizing that this is a good, profitable, reliable investment, our Chinese partners will expand the volume of their investment into the Russian economy,” Siluanov said in an interview with Rossiya 24 television.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country needs investment to pull out of a recession spurred by sanctions and falling oil prices, has been shifting his economic and political focus toward Asian markets and toward China in particular.

The Russian Finance Ministry plans to borrow around 800 billion roubles on the domestic market in 2015.

The bond purchase by China suggests high-yielding Russian assets remain attractive to certain overseas investors, despite sanctions and volatility in the Russian rouble, in which so-called OFZ bonds are denominated.

Earlier, sources said the purchase took place outside the Finance Ministry’s weekly OFZ auctions and at different times.

Source: Shanghai Daily, July 10,2015

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