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News from China
China targets ‘gray rhinos’ in financial sector
18th December 2017

 GRAY rhinos” have become the most hunted species in China — not on the prairies but in the financial sphere.

Slow, heavy and easy to neglect, rhinos can suddenly charge flat out, delivering a fatal attack — as can financial risk across the country.
The term became popular after a 2016 book by US policy analyst Michele Wucker who used it to depict a highly probable, high impact financial threat that was often widely ignored.
The People’s Daily, the Communist Party of China flagship newspaper, picked up the metaphor in July to warn of financial risks, triggering widespread discussion.
In the past year, authorities have made notable progress in its bid to bring to heel some of the major “gray rhinos,” generally shadow banks that pose significant threat to the economy.
Global ratings agency Moody’s this month predicted a stable outlook for Chinese financial institutions through 2018, citing strengthening regulations and steady economic growth.
“China’s leaders have made financial stability one of their top priorities. Given the size and importance of the Chinese market, with the world’s largest banks and second-largest stock market, that is welcome news for China and the world,” said Ratna Sahay and James P. Walsh, two senior officials at the International Monetary Fund, in a blog post last week.
For years, banks seeking higher profits, depositors lacking decent investment returns and companies having difficulties in securing bank loans have combined to drive the fast growth of shadow banking, which takes place outside regulatory scope, causing risks to financial stability.
To curb shadow banking growth, authorities have tightened their grip on interbank activities and off-balance-sheet wealth management products. China’s 100 trillion-yuan (US$15.1 trillion) asset management business will also be put under stricter scrutiny.
Amid the clampdown, China’s total shadow banking assets barely grew during the first six months of 2017 and fell as a percentage of gross domestic product for the first time since 2012, Moody’s said in a report last month.
Both interbank assets and liabilities, major indicators for shadow-banking activities, dropped in the first 10 months, while wealth management product growth slowed sharply from a year earlier, the China Banking Regulatory Commission said.
“The government will remain keen on adopting coordinated policy measures to curb shadow banking and interbank activities and to address key imbalances in the financial system,” said Sherry Zhang, a Moody’s analyst.
After soaring property prices made housing affordability and risks of real estate bubbles a growing concern, authorities have reiterated that “housing is for living in, not for speculation.”
Since last year, dozens of local governments have passed or expanded restrictions on house purchases and increased minimum downpayments. Property developers, real estate agencies as well as Internet finance and micro-loan companies were prohibited from offering illicit downpayment financing for buyers.
The effort has paid off. Home-buying fever has cooled in hotspot cities, with both new and second-hand home prices in first-tier cities posting slower year-on-year growth for the 13th consecutive month in October.
Source: Shanghai Daily, December 18, 2017
Auto sales rise to slow next year
15th December 2017

 CHINA’S auto sales growth is set to slow to 3 percent next year, according to data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

“Total sales are set to rise 3 percent to 29.8 million units in 2018. China’s passenger car sales are expected to add 3 percent to 25.5 million units and commercial vehicles will climb 2 percent to 4.3 million units next year, “ said Xu Haidong, a spokesman of CAAM during a conference.
Data from CAAM showed that in the first 11 months, China’s auto sales rose 3.6 percent annually to 25.8 million units.
But that growth rate is below CAAM’s estimate of 5 percent growth for 2017. Last year’s auto sales surged 13.7 percent.
Xu Qian, China head of automotive practice at AlixPartners, attributed the slower growth to the “increase in purchase tax in 2018” and said “we don’t expect the sales growth next year to outperform this year.”
The purchase tax for vehicles with engines below 1.6 liters will be raised from 7.5 percent this year to 10 percent at the start of next year, the Ministry of Finance said.
David Zhang, an independent automotive consultant, said the growth of the automobile industry “will be affected by GDP and overall economic growth. Vehicle demand will be depressed by the slower economy.”
An auto industry report published by WAYS Consulting Co said that ride-hailing and car-sharing is rising in China.
“These mobility services also inhibit consumers’ willingness to buy cars,” the report said.
Source: Shanghai Daily, December 15, 2017
Toyota eyes EVs for half of global sales
14th December 2017

 TOYOTA said yesterday it wanted half of its global sales to come from electric-powered vehicles by 2030, as the industry strives to meet toughening environmental regulations.

Electric-powered vehicles now represent around 15 percent of the roughly 10 million units Toyota sells annually — mostly hybrids such as its best-selling Prius.
“By 2030, we aim to have 50 percent or more of our total vehicle sales coming from electric-powered vehicles, such as hybrid, plug-in hybrid, EV and FCV (fuel-cell vehicle),” said President Akio Toyoda in a rare public appearance.
Toyoda said the target would mean selling a total of 5.5 million electric-powered vehicles by 2030.
Of these, 4.5 million units would be gasoline-electric hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles and one million units would be all electric vehicles and hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicles, he said.
The target came as Toyota began talks with electronics giant Panasonic over a possible tie-up to develop, produce and recycle automotive batteries.
“The global automobile industry is going through a sweeping change seen only once in a century,” Toyoda said. “The key to electrifying vehicles in the future will be batteries.”
Source: Shanghai Daily, December 14, 2017
Pre-owned home sales rise moderately
13th December 2017

 SALES of pre-occupied homes rose moderately in Shanghai last month but were still below the 20,000-unit level, while prices remained generally stable.

Around 11,600 pre-owned homes changed hands in November, a month-on-month gain of 7.7 percent, according to data released yesterday by Shanghai Centaline Property Consultants Co. But the gain represented a plunge of 42.4 percent year on year.
“The figure was still far below the 20,000-unit threshold that is often viewed as a normal monthly volume for the city,” said Lu Wenxi, senior manager of research at Shanghai Centaline. “As sentiment among home seekers continued to be sluggish, we are beginning to see larger price discounts, like a 10 percent cut offered by some owners of properties that cost more than 10 million yuan (US$1.5 million) which was quite rare a few months ago.”
Meanwhile, the city’s existing housing index, which tracks month-over-month price changes in 130 areas, added 0.11 percent from October to 3,996 in November, Shanghai Existing House Index Office said in a separate report released yesterday.
Prices of pre-owned homes rose in 55 areas, fell in 43 areas and were flat in 32 areas.
Most notable price gains were recorded in centrally-located districts near to city center, with smaller rises in emerging areas, the report said. But it added that prices of pre-owned homes in remote areas fell on average.
“Monthly transactions of existing homes have been staying above 10,000 units since March, probably an indication that the market has hit its bottom already,” the office said. “We expect ... transactions shall remain weak as there are no signs tightening policies will be eased.”
Source: Shanghai Daily, December 13,2017

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