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News from China
China to free up more funds to better serve small firms
22nd April 2020

 The State Council's executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday decided to give greater weight to inclusive financing in evaluating the performance of financial institutions, and lower the provision coverage ratio of small and medium-sized banks so as to boost financial services for micro and small firms.

The Chinese government puts great emphasis on the economic development amid the global spread of COVID-19. Li has repeatedly urged upgrading financial services in support of the real economy.
Since the start of the COVID-19 situation, the People's Bank of China, China's central bank, has cut the required reserve ratio three times this year, releasing 1.75 trillion yuan (US$246.7 billion) in liquidity to better support smaller businesses.
"We must scale up financial support for the real economy, especially the micro, small and medium-sized companies, to help them overcome the difficulties," Li said.
It was decided on Tuesday that the regulatory requirement for the provision coverage ratio of small and medium-sized banks will be lowered by 20 percentage points, to free up more credit resources and boost the capacity for serving micro and small companies.
To encourage financial institutions to better serve micro and small businesses, the meeting decided to raise the weight of inclusive finance to no less than 10 percent in the integrated performance evaluation of the branches and subsidiaries of financial institutions in the banking sector, to incentivize more lending to micro and small firms.
"Financial departments must adjust and adapt the support polices in light of the changing COVID-19 situation and economic conditions. The policies introduced need to be targeted and robust," Li said.
To ease the rent burden on micro, small and self-employed businesses, the meeting called for a three-month rent exemption in the first half of this year for such firms in the services sector renting state-owned properties.
The meeting urged state-owned enterprises, especially those directly under central management, and public institutions such as colleges, universities and research institutes, to take the lead in offering such rent relief. State-owned banks will be encouraged to extend pledge loan at concessional rates to such lessors according to their needs.
Source: Shanghai Daily, April 22, 2020
US oil prices plunge to negative territory on dual demand-supply shock
21st April 2020

 The soon-to-expire May contract for the US oil benchmark went into a free fall to finish deeply in negative territory on Monday, as the energy market continued to reel from the dual demand-supply shock amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The West Texas Intermediate for May delivery shed US$55.9, or nearly 306 percent, to settle at US$-37.63 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The negative finish means producers would be paying buyers to take oil off their hands.
It marks the first time an oil futures contract has traded negative in history, according to Dow Jones Market Data. The May contract expires on Tuesday.
The June WTI contract fell more than 18 percent to 20.43 per barrel. The global benchmark Brent crude for June delivery decreased 2.51 dollars to close at US$25.57 a barrel on the London ICE Futures Exchange.
Exchange-traded funds with oil-related assets also dipped noticeably on Monday due to the crude price crash. Meanwhile, Wall Street's major averages tumbled with the Dow closing down nearly 600 points. The S&P 500 energy sector slid 3.29 percent, among the worst-performing groups.
Traders tried to unload positions ahead of the contract's expiration, contributing to the historic drop, experts noted. On Monday, traders with long positions scrambled to get out amid fear that it would be difficult to find a place to park physical oil amid a rising glut of crude.
"We attribute the WTI price weakness to the imminent expiry of the May contract tomorrow," Giovanni Staunovo, a commodity analyst at UBS Global Wealth Management, told Xinhua on Monday.
Weaker demand tied to the COVID-19 pandemic and a potential supply glut is a more severe problem.
"The decline in more liquid futures contracts reflects the broader problem we have in the oil market — severe oversupply in 2Q," said Staunovo, adding that with oil inventories trending higher over the coming weeks, the June contracts are likely to stay under pressure.
For the energy world, the knock-on economic effect from the pandemic was an immediate deep impact on global demand, sending fuel prices plummeting, said researchers at Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy.
Major oil producers have announced cutbacks in production in hopes of stabilizing the energy market, but many analysts say it is not enough to offset the pandemic shock.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies led by Russia, a group known as OPEC+, agreed to reduce output by 9.7 million barrels per day for May and June after four days of talks.
Global oil demand is expected to fall by a record 9.3 million bpd year-on-year in 2020, the International Energy Agency warned in its newly released monthly report.
The IEA said demand in April is estimated to be 29 million bpd lower than a year ago, down to a level last seen in 1995, due to COVID-19 as containment measures have brought mobility almost to a halt.
"We are also running out of places to store oil as demand has cratered," Chris Low, chief economist at FHN Financials, said in a note on Monday.
The WTI continued to come under heavy pressure as inventories in Cushing, a key US oil hub, have ballooned, while Midwestern refining margins tanked, noted experts at JBC Energy.
Inventories have ballooned by 48 percent to about 55 million barrels, according to a recent report from the Energy Information Administration. Capacity at the hub is about 76 million barrels, according to the IEA.
Many analysts believe headwinds remain on the energy market in the foreseeable future.
"We think it is too early to become outright bullish on the oil and gas sector given the many uncertainties around the supply and demand factors," market strategists at UBS said in a research note, adding there are still opportunities in risks.
"We are also convinced that the global oil industry will survive this crisis and that the recent sell-off has created opportunities in the sector," they said.
Source: Shanghai Daily, April 21, 2020
China's industrial output falls 8.4% in Q1
17th April 2020

 China's value-added industrial output, an important economic indicator, fell 8.4 percent in the first quarter of this year, as the novel coronavirus outbreak deals a huge blow to industrial production, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed on Friday.

Output by the manufacturing industry went down 10.2 percent, while the production and supply of electricity, thermal power, gas and water reported a year-on-year decrease of 5.2 percent.
The mining sector saw output down by 1.7 percent in the period.
In a breakdown by ownership, the output of state-controlled enterprises went down 6 percent, that of joint-stock companies down 8.4 percent, and that of overseas-funded enterprises dropped by 14.5 percent.
In Q1, output by the private sector went down 11.3 percent year on year.
The industrial output is used to measure the activity of designated large enterprises with annual business turnover of at least 20 million yuan (US$2.82 million).
Source: Shanghai Daily, April 17, 2020
Asia expected to see 0% growth in 2020: IMF
16th April 2020

 Growth in Asia is expected to stall at zero percent in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the lowest growth since the 1960s, the International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday.

"This is a crisis like no other. It is worse than the Global Financial Crisis, and Asia is not immune," Chang Yong Rhee, director of the IMF's Asia and Pacific Department, said at a virtual press conference Wednesday night.
The region's growth prospect for 2020 is the worst in almost 60 years, including during the Global Financial Crisis (4.7 percent) and the Asian Financial Crisis (1.3 percent), Rhee said.
"That said, Asia still looks to fare better than other regions in terms of activity," he noted. According to the IMF's new World Economic Outlook report released on Tuesday, the global economy is on track to contract "sharply" by 3 percent in 2020.
The latest WEO report showed that advanced economies will contract significantly by 6.1 percent in 2020, and emerging market and developing economies, which typically have growth levels well above advanced economies, will shrink by 1 percent.
Despite overall negative growth, the IMF projects 1-percent growth for emerging and developing Asia. China and India will both see moderate growth this year, with a rate of 1.2 percent and 1.9 percent respectively.
"Prospects for 2021, while highly uncertain, are for strong growth," Rhee told reporters. "If containment measures work, and with substantial policy stimulus to reduce 'scarring,' growth in Asia is expected to rebound strongly — more so than during the Global Financial Crisis."
Rhee noted the region is experiencing different stages of the pandemic. "China's economy is beginning to get back to work, other economies are imposing tighter lockdowns, and some are experiencing a second wave of virus infections," Rhee said.
"Much depends on the spread of the virus and on how policies respond," he said, while stressing that "there is no room for complacency."
The IMF official noted that the multilateral lender is in continuous contact with the authorities in the region to offer advice and assistance, saying that more than 15 countries from across the region have expressed interest in its two emergency financing instruments.
At the virtual press conference, Rhee also conveyed IMF's thanks to Japan and China for their "generous contribution" to the Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT), which can currently provide about US$500 million in grant-based debt service relief to the poorest countries.
Source: Shanghai Daily, April 16, 2020

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