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News from China
Surprise rise in new US jobless filings
21st August 2015

 THE number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week, but the trend remained consistent with solid labor market momentum that could keep the Federal Reserve on track to raise interest rates this year.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 277,000 for the week ended on Saturday, the Labor Department said yesterday.

Claims for the prior week were revised to show 1,000 fewer applications received than previously reported.

Economists had forecast claims slipping to 272,000 last week. A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors influencing the data and no states had been estimated.

Minutes from the Fed’s July 28-29 policy meeting published on Wednesday showed the US central bank upbeat on improving labor market conditions, but worried about persistently tame inflation and a weak global economy.

Economists believe that policy-makers’ concerns about low price pressures have raised the bar for a September interest rate hike. Futures markets on Wednesday trimmed bets for monetary policy tightening next month.

The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose 5,500 to 271,500 last week.

It was the 21st straight week that the four-week average remained below the 300,000 threshold, which is usually associated with a strengthening labor market.

The claims data covered the week that the government surveyed employers for the non-farm payrolls portion of August’s employment report. The four-week average of claims fell 7,000 between the July and August survey periods, suggesting another month of healthy job gains.

Payrolls increased by 215,000 jobs in July. So far this year, job gains have exceeded 200,000 in five out of seven months. At a seven-year low of 5.3 percent, the unemployment rate is near the 5-5.2 percent range that most Fed officials think is consistent with full employment.

Source: Shanghai Daily, August 21, 2015
Yum Brands names new CEO of China division
20th August 2015

 YUM Brands, the parent of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, is naming a new CEO of its China division as it works to reverse a sales skid in a key market.

The company said Micky Pant, 60, is now the CEO of its China division. He replaces longtime leader Sam Su who is retiring. Pant has been the CEO of KFC since the beginning of 2014 and now takes over the business that Yum Brands describes as the single biggest contributor to its profits.

Yum Brands also named new CEOs of its KFC and Pizza Hut businesses in China.

Yum Brands has more than 6,800 locations in China, but the business has been damaged by bad publicity connected to poor food handling by a former supplier a year ago. In the second quarter, its revenue from China fell 4 percent to US$1.64 billion. Sales in China division restaurants open at least a year, a key metric of a retailer’s health, slid 10 percent in the quarter. That was the fourth straight quarter of double-digit declines.

But the company says it expects those sales to improve in the second half of the year and it also forecast bigger profits.

The company says KFC is the biggest quick service restaurant chain on China’s mainland and Pizza Hut is the biggest casual dining chain. The firm is also building restaurants in China rapidly, as it opened 700 new sites in China in 2014 and expects to do the same in 2015.

Su, 63, became president of the China unit in 1997 and has been chairman and CEO for five years.

Source: Shanghai Daily, August 20. 2015
New paper production line
19th August 2015

 FINNISH paper producer UPM has completed 60 percent of a 277-million-euro (US$307 million) investment in a new production line in China.

The new line, located in Changshu, Jiangsu Province, will produce 170,000 tons of release liners per year and help strengthen the company’s market share and production capacity in Asia.
Executive Vice President Kim Poulsen said yesterday that the company will hire about 150 employees to operate the new line.
A release liner is a paper or plastic-based film sheet, usually applied during the manufacturing process to prevent a sticky surface from prematurely adhering.
UPM now operates two major production lines at its Changshu plant and produces around 500,000 tons of stationery paper each year.
Source: Shangha Daily, August 19. 2015
Shanghai’s economy faces tests to recover as indicators worsen
18th August 2015

 SHANGHAI’S plan for an economic recovery is facing renewed challenges as all its economic activity indicators worsened in July, the Shanghai Statistics Bureau said yesterday.

Industrial production declined 4.3 percent from a year earlier to 246.6 billion yuan (US$38.6 billion) last month, down further from the 1.9 percent fall in June.

Retail sales, the broad measure of consumer demand, rose 7.7 percent to 83.6 billion yuan, slowing from the pace of 9.6 percent a month earlier.

Trade shed 1.4 percent to 243.8 billion yuan from a year earlier, deteriorating from the zero change in June. Exports lost 8.7 percent in July although imports still managed to increase 4.9 percent.

Fixed-asset investment grew 8.7 percent to 316.1 billion yuan in the first seven months, also down from the 9.6 percent gain in the first six months.

“The overall performance was worse than expected,” said Li Maoyu, an analyst at Changjiang Securities Co.

“The data showed a weak foundation for the economic recovery that emerged in the second quarter, and the pace of deterioration is quick.”

Li cautioned that the corrections in the stock market may affect the city’s growth in the second half with less output in the services sector.

Finance, part of the services sector, powered Shanghai’s growth in the first half. Output from various financial services and products jumped 30.1 percent in the first six months, partly due to an active stock market.

Shanghai’s gross domestic product grew 7 percent in the first half of the year, up from the increase of 6.6 percent in the first three months and catching up with the national pace for the first time in seven years.

The city’s economic output totaled 1.18 trillion yuan in the first six months, with the service sector gaining 10.2 percent and producing 67.1 percent of the total output, compared with 67 percent in the first quarter and last year’s 64.8 percent.

The city’s manufacturing sector is also under pressure, Li said.

The six key industries — information technology, automaking, oil, refined steel, machinery equipment and biochemical — posted a combined loss of 2.9 percent last month.

Source: Shanghai Daily, August 18, 2015

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