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News from China
Energy efficiency improves despite low oil prices
11th October 2016

 ENERGY efficiency accelerated last year despite low oil prices, according to a report from the International Energy Agency published yesterday, driven in large part by gains in China.

The 1.8 percent efficiency gain last year came as crude oil prices had dropped as far as 60 percent from 2014 highs, yet still beat the 1.5 percent increase in 2014, and was triple the average annual gain in the previous decade.

Low oil prices typically reduce investment in energy efficiency as the returns are smaller, but the IEA found government regulations concerning vehicles and buildings were driving gains.

While good news for climate change efforts, the efficiency gains come at a delicate juncture for the oil market, with global demand growth slowing and supply rising.

Efficiency helped keep energy demand flat last year in the 29 industrialized nations that are members of the IEA, while it rose by just 0.9 percent in China — the slowest rate in nearly two decades despite a 6.9 percent growth.

China led the efficiency pack, gaining 5.6 percent. Given that it is the world’s second-largest economy, it contributed 0.4 percent to the 1.8 percent global gain.

“China’s progress on energy efficiency is now at a scale where it is making a significant mark on global energy markets,” said the IEA.

The gains from efficiency are as large as China’s rapidly expanding renewable energy sector, and provided the added benefit of cutting air pollution.

While the acceleration in global energy efficiency gains was positive, the IEA noted they would need to shift up from a trajectory of 1.8 to 2.6 percent annual gains to achieve global climate change goals.

However, there is much room for further improvement. The IEA said that efficiency standards still only cover 30 percent of global energy use.

Source: Shanghai Daily, October, 2016
China’s forex reserves fall to 5-year low
10th October 2016

 CHINA’S foreign exchange reserves dropped around US$19 billion in September to a five-year low, government data showed, with the central bank spending heavily to defend the yuan against capital outflows.

The world’s largest currency hoard fell to under US$3.17 trillion, the People’s Bank of China said on its website on Friday, below median analyst forecasts of US$3.18 trillion in a Bloomberg News survey.

It was the third straight month of decline and brought China’s reserves to their lowest level since April 2011, Bloomberg said.

Analysts said the decline indicated China was selling foreign exchange to buy its yuan amid capital flight spurred by slowing growth in the world’s second largest economy.

The data came days after the yuan’s official entry into the International Monetary Fund’s elite SDR (Special Drawing Rights) basket of currencies.

In the months preceding the currency’s formal inclusion, China’s central bank spent “heavily” to keep the yuan’s value stable, roughly US$27 billion last month, said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics.

But “with the inclusion of the renminbi (yuan) in the SDR basket now complete, the PBOC may no longer feel the need to intervene as heavily to counter capital outflows”, he said, adding that United States Federal Reserve rate hikes could increase depreciation pressure on the yuan in coming months.

Source: Shanghai Daily, October 10, 2016
Samsung's operating profit rises despite Note 7 recall
7th October 2016

 SAMSUNG Electronics saw its operating profit rise in the third quarter despite a global recall of Galaxy Note 7 smartphones, the company said on Friday.

The South Korean tech behemoth posted 7.8 trillion won (US$7 billion) in its preliminary figure for operating profit during the July-September period, up 5.55 percent from the same period last year.

It was down 4.18 percent from 8.14 trillion won tallied in the previous quarter, which was the largest in more than two years.

The third-quarter profit beat market expectations of about 7.4 trillion won thanks to brisk sales of semiconductors and display panels, analysts said.

The better-than-expected earnings result came despite the companys decision in early September to recall all of about 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7 smartphones shipped across the globe.

A number of cases that the Note 7 phones caught fire while charging were reported, leading many airlines to prevent passengers from holding the phones on flight for a fire hazard of batteries.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were 92 reports of battery overheating in the United States, including 26 cases of burns and 55 involving property damage.

It is estimated that Samsung may report about 1 trillion won in losses from the Note 7 recall, and the exact earnings results from businesses would be reported later this month after an external audit.

Source: Shanghai Daily, October 7, 2016
More curbs to cool property frenzy
6th October 2016

 CHINA’S local governments are introducing measures to rein in soaring housing prices, with the southern cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen the latest taking steps to cool overheated real estate markets, including higher mortgage down payments and home purchase restrictions.

A property boom has boosted China’s economy this year, fueling demand for items such as construction materials and furniture, but a growing buying frenzy is adding to worries about ever-rising debt and risks to the banking system.

The new measures are the latest steps to tighten credit flowing into the property sector as the government tries to balance the need to prevent bubbles while stimulating economic growth.

Prices for new homes in the booming tech center of Shenzhen rose 36.8 percent from a year ago in August, while Guangzhou’s home prices rose 21.1 percent over that period, National Bureau of Statistics data showed.

Other cities including Chengdu and Wuhan have already announced new restrictions on property purchases as the government tries to dampen prices stoked by property speculators in second- and third-tier cities.

The average new home price in 70 major cities climbed an annual 9.2 percent in August, up from 7.9 percent in July, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Nomura analysts said the new measures in the big cities should prevent the market frenzy from spilling over into smaller cities.

“We also believe it unlikely that the latest tightening measures will cause the bubble to burst, sparking a collapse of home prices. We envision a more likely scenario to be a mild retreat or prolonged flattening of home prices in first-tier cities,” the Nomura analysts said in a note on Tuesday.

First-time home buyers in Shenzhen will face minimum down payments of 30 percent, but deposits for others will be raised to no less than 50 percent, according to a government document.

Down payments for second-home buyers in China’s southern Guangdong Province near Hong Kong will be increased to no less than 70 percent.

Guangdong’s capital city of Guangzhou has limited local residents to buying a maximum of two properties, according to a statement posted on Tuesday on the Guangzhou government’s website.

Non-local residents will be allowed to buy one property, if they can prove they have paid appropriate levels of tax or social security.

In last week, a total of 12 cities including Beijing, Hangzhou and Tianjin have restricted buyer qualifications, limited purchase amounts or raised down payments.

Last Friday Beijing raised the down payment for first-time buyers from 30 percent to 35 percent. The deposit for second home purchases must now be at least 50 percent.

Hefei, capital of east China’s Anhui Province, on Saturday decreed that the price of any property must remain unchanged for six months after registration.

Separately, Suzhou in China’s eastern Jiangsu Province has unveiled fresh measures, including higher downpayment requirements, to cool the housing market.

Rising property prices have been generating many headlines. Prices in megacities like Beijing and Tianjin have soared in the past two months, fueling talk of a property bubble.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development on Monday said that 45 property developers or agents were being investigated for stoking speculation through false advertisements, rumors and breaches of presale rules.

Prices in 100 major Chinese cities rose 14.9 percent in the first nine months of this year, with August and last month seeing record month-on-month growth of more than 2 percent, according to the China Index Academy, a private property research institute.

Shrinking profits in the real economy and expectations of yuan devaluation have led to capital flooding into the property market, the academy pointed out.

Source: Shanghai Daily, October 6, 2016

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