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News from China
Shares fall despite stabilization pledges
4th September 2015

 SHANGHAI stocks fell for the third day in a row yesterday despite pledges by China’s top brokerages to pump money into a government-backed market stabilization fund operated by the China Securities Finance Corp.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index shed 0.2 percent to settle at 3160.17 points.

It has slumped 39 percent since a mid-June high despite government measures to try to halt the rout.

A report in yesterday’s Securities Times said 50 brokerages, including CITIC Securities, Haitong Securities and Guotai Junan Securities Co, will provide 100 billion yuan (US$15.7 billion) to the stabilization fund, which will be invested in blue-chip shares.

However, the news didn’t prevent more than 300 stocks hitting the daily-limit decline of 10 percent on the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges.

Banks did well in the afternoon with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world’s biggest lender by assets, rising by the daily limit of 10 percent and the Agricultural Bank of China up 6.7 percent.

“The market hasn’t bottomed out yet as pessimism prevails,” said Wang Fen, an analyst with Shanghai Securities. “Without the support of state funds, it will continue to fall.”

China’s stock markets will be closed today and tomorrow as the country commemorates the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and victory in the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression.

Source: Shanghai Daily, September 4, 2015
Indonesia rail line decision delayed
3rd September 2015

 INDONESIA has delayed naming the winner of a hotly contested race between China and Japan to build the first high-speed railway in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, a senior government official said yesterday.

The two Asian giants have repeatedly sent high-level envoys to lobby the Indonesian government in what has been an unprecedented battle to build the 150-kilometer link between the capital, Jakarta, and the textiles hub of Bandung.
President Joko Widodo had been expected to announce a winner as early as this week. But Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said Widodo now planned to make a decision based on a review of the two proposals by an independent consultancy and a team of Cabinet ministers.
“The president has extended the time for the review until September 7, so that the process is fairer,” Anung told reporters, adding that the announcement of the winner could come any time after that.
Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Darmin Nasution said he and other senior officials assessing the bids would be making a recommendation to Widodo today.
“We want to meet the president together, and explain how we reached our decision, while giving our recommendation letter,” he told reporters.
Nasution said he did not know when Widodo would announce the winner.
Two government sources have said that Indonesia is leaning toward awarding the multi-billion dollar contract to China because its proposal is seen as “less financially burdensome.”
Indonesia’s state enterprises minister said that if China were to win the contract, state-owned companies PT Wijaya Karya, PT Jasa Marga, PT Kereta Api, and PT Perkebunan Nusantara VIII would be involved in the consortium with China.
“There is truly no burden on the government,” the minister, Rini Soemarno, told reporters yesterday.
Japan competes with Singapore as Indonesia’s top investor, while China is its biggest trading partner.
Source: Shanghai Daily, September 3, 2015
US factory activity slips to over 2-year low
2nd September 2015

 US factory activity hit a more than two-year low in August as manufacturers struggled with a strong dollar, weak global demand and the lingering effects of deep spending cuts in the energy sector.

Other data yesterday, however, suggested the economy appeared to be on solid footing, with construction spending rising in July to its highest level since 2008.

The Institute for Supply Management said its national factory activity index fell to 51.1 last month, the lowest reading since May 2013, from 52.7 in July. A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the manufacturing sector.

The index’s decline also likely reflected the recent global equities sell-off, which was triggered by concerns over China’s slowing economy. The ISM’s new orders subindex fell to 51.7, also the lowest level since May 2013, from 56.5 in July.

The employment index slipped to 51.2 last month from 52.7 in July.

Manufacturing, which accounts for 12 percent of the US economy, has been under pressure from the strength of the dollar, which has gained 16.8 percent against the currencies of the US’ main trading partners since June 2014.

A more than 60 percent plunge in crude oil prices since June last year has led to deep spending cuts in the energy sector.

The US dollar fell against a basket of currencies after the data, while US stocks traded sharply lower. Prices for shorter-maturity US government debt rose.

But apart from manufacturing, the economy is thriving. In a separate report, the Commerce Department said construction spending added 0.7 percent to US$1.08 trillion, the highest since May 2008, after a similar gain in June.

Construction spending has risen for eight straight months and was up 13.7 percent compared to July of last year.

The construction spending report rounded off a month of solid data that suggested the economy had retained much of its strength from the second quarter, when it grew 3.7 percent annually. July data for consumer spending, industrial production, business spending, housing and employment painted a fairly upbeat picture of the economy.

Construction spending in July was buoyed by a 1.3 percent jump in private construction spending to the highest level since April 2008. Spending on private non-residential construction projects surged 1.5 percent to the highest level since October 2008.

Spending on private residential construction rose 1.1 percent in July to a near 7-1/2-year high, reflecting gains in home building.

Public construction outlays fell 1 percent. Spending on state and local government projects, which is the largest portion of the public sector segment, fell 1.1 percent.

Source: Shanghai Daily, September 2, 2015
Goldman Sachs cuts China’s 2016 forecast
1st September 2015

 GOLDMAN Sachs slashed its 2016 forecast for China down to 6.4 percent from 6.7 percent while sticking to its 6.8 percent prediction for this year.

The reduction follows “a very weak” growth in the world’s second-largest economy in early 2015, wrote Andrew Tilton, an economist for Asia for the investment bank.

“It reflected a combination of slowing credit growth, reform-driven fiscal tightening, and an appreciating yuan, among other factors,” Tilton said in a report. “Meanwhile, policy uncertainty has increased.”

China’s gross domestic product expanded 7 percent from a year earlier in the first half, in line with the official full-year target of around 7 percent.

The results surprised the market because the 7-percent increase in the second quarter turned out to be higher than the previous market expectation of a 6.8-percent rise. But the data in June and July, including trade, industrial production, retail sales and fixed-asset investment, all showed moderated growth, indicating the long-awaited recovery may be very short-lived.

There are also fears that China’s manufacturing sector may deliver its worst performance in more than six years. The Caixin Flash China General Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index, the earliest available indicator of China’s industrial sector, fell to a 77-month low of 47.1 in August from the final reading of 47.8 in July.

“The growth has slowed in recent months,” Tilton said. “It prompted market and policy concerns of a further spate of easing measures.”

Last week, China’s central bank announced cuts in both interest rates and reserve requirements for lenders in a bid to stabilize the stock market and shore up the economic performance. It was China’s fifth interest rate cut since last November, along with other measures like quicker implementation of investment projects such as railway and subway in many areas.

But the outlook remained uncertain.

Tilton said China may see weakening performance in the second half because the financial services industry had lost the growth impetus due to sharp corrections in the stock market, which helped the financial industry contribute 0.5 percentage points to the 7-percent GDP growth in the first six months.

“The wobbly stock market and the sudden move in the yuan fixing have also amplified uncertainties in the policy-making, suggesting downside risks to the August and probably September activity data,” Tilton said. The Tianjin port blast also had negative effects on the economy, especially on foreign trade.

Source: Shanghai Daily, September 1, 2015

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