HEARD IN BEIJING
"Any attempt to hinder China from achieving modernization will not prevail."
- Wang Yi, State Councilor and Foreign Minister
Some context: Wang said that to Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on Wednesday. China wants to move ahead on free trade talks with Canada, but Wang’s defensive, aggressive tone doesn’t sound too inviting to our ears. More in the Tip Sheet below.
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THE TIP SHEET
DRIVING THE DAY
1. Xi and Trump to meet at end of November
With the trade war spiraling out of control, Xi Jinping will meet with US President Trump next month (WSJ):
“The White House has in recent days informed Beijing that it would proceed with the summit meeting, an encounter China has been hoping could provide an opportunity for both sides to ease the escalating trade tensions.”“The meeting is scheduled to take place at the Group of 20 leaders’ summit in Buenos Aires at the end of November.”The Chinese still want to make a deal:“Beijing is leaving open the possibility of engaging in fresh negotiations with Washington.” “'President Xi believes there are many reasons to have a stable relationship with the U.S.,’ a Chinese official said.”
What to watch: Trump has threatened to put tariffs on a further USD 267 billion of Chinese imports. The upcoming meeting could put a hold on those plans.
BUT…with Trump there is no guarantee. Trade hawks will be pushing hard to impose the sanctions before the meeting for fear that Xi will charm Trump again. And Trump may want to impose the sanctions for maximum leverage.
Get smart: A new Cold War has been looking increasingly likely. This meeting could be one of the last chances for the two sides to pull back.
WSJ: Trump and Xi Plan to Meet Amid Trade Tension
FINANCE & ECONOMICS
2. Data dump – trade
China released monthly trade data for September on Friday morning.
Exports grew by 14.5% y/y – up from 9.8% in August and beating market expectations of 8.9%Imports grew by 14.3% y/y – down from 19.9% in August and missing market expectations of 15%.China's monthly trade surplus with the US hit USD 34.13 billion – that’s a new record and up from last months’ USD 31.69 billion.
Ummm…record trade SURPLUSES for China weren’t supposed to be the outcome of the US-China trade war, but so far the Trump administration's policies are leading to a strong dollar and surging Chinese exports.
Get smart: We all expect that dynamic to eventually reverse, but with the constant threat of ever more tariffs, plenty of US importers have an incentive to increase orders for Chinese goods now to get ahead of the next round of tariff imposition.
But those dynamics don’t seem to be working the same way for Chinese importers. The tariffs on US soybeans, for example, have led to substantially reduced imports.
What to watch: China should finally start to see more negative effects from the US tariffs in Q4.
FINANCE & ECONOMICS
3. A decent end to a terrible week for Chinese equities
Like almost everywhere else, China’s stock market has gotten caught up in the global equity rout over the past week.
On Thursday, the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index closed down over 5% – the largest single-day drop since 2016.
That prompted calls from state media for the “National Team” to step in (Reuters):
"The official Securities Times said in a front-page editorial that…authorities ‘should roll out positive measures so that investors know the government cares about the stock market.’”"In a front-page editorial on Friday, Securities Daily, another state-backed newspaper, urged the government to “inject liquidity” into the stock markets to help stabilize share prices."Listed companies also called for support:"A slew of listed companies… said late on Thursday major shareholders plan to increase their holdings.""Separately, at least six companies unveiled plans on Thursday for share buybacks."
The call was apparently heeded.After dropping by 1.8% in early trading on Friday, the Shanghai Composite closed up 0.91% on the day.
Get smart: The National Team can stem the bleeding in Chinese equities here or there. But we still see no upside for the market through the rest of 2018.
Reuters: China state media calls for policy support after stock market sell-off
FINANCE & ECONOMICS
4. Global turmoil feeds into CNY weakness
Volatility in global equities and continued uncertainty around the US-China trade war continued to have a negative effect on China’s currency Friday:
The PBoC set the morning fixing at 6.9120 – weakening the fixing for the ninth consecutive trading day.
Mood music: Despite the fast-weakening currency in recent days, the US Treasury Department indicated on Thursday that it won’t label China a currency manipulator in its upcoming FX report (see Caixin link).
But those consistently weaker fixings are taking place as the PBoC continues to roll out tools to intervene in offshore currency markets when needed (see yesterday’s Tip Sheet).
Our take: The PBoC is fine with depreciation that is driven by the trade war, economic fundamentals, and broader volatility in global markets. But what the central bank doesn’t want is depreciation driven by speculation and short-selling.
The PBoC’s goal is to manage expectations and combat what it sees as “herd behavior” – not to stop depreciation outright.
What to watch: Expect some stronger fixings next week – authorities will want to keep the market guessing.
Bloomberg: The Yuan Is Asia’s Weakest Currency
Caixin: U.S. Treasury Staff Said to Find China Isn’t Manipulating Yuan
ECONOMICS AND FINANCE
5. China’s one shining asset in a dismal week
While most Chinese assets have taken a drubbing this week, one saw excellent performance on Thursday.
That was a USD 3 billion offshore sovereign bond offering that took place in Hong Kong.
USD 1.5 billion of 5-year bonds fetched a 3.33% yield.USD 1 billion of 10-year bonds fetched a 3.63% yield.USD 500 million of 30-year bonds fetched a 4.055% yield.
The issuance saw very strong demand – with USD 17 billion worth of bids coming in for the USD 3 billion offering.
Some context: This is the second offshore sovereign USD bond offering in as many years, after a long hiatus. Before that, the last issuance was in 2004. That relative scarcity is one element driving the strong demand.
Get smart: The strong demand among investors, despite the uncertainties of the trade war and China’s slowing domestic economy, fundamentally shows that they still have a high level of confidence in China’s willingness and ability to service its debts.
What to watch: We expect these types of issuance to increase in frequency because they help to anchor the offshore yield curve for Chinese companies to borrow abroad – helping to finance the Belt and Road.
Bloomberg: China Shows Its Pull Selling Dollar Bonds in Weak Market
POLITICS & POLICY
6. State Council aims to improve consumption
Chinese policymakers know that sustainable long-term growth will depend on boosting household consumption.
And with the trade outlook ever more uncertain, the need to boost household demand is becoming even more pressing.
That’s why on Thursday, the State Council released a three-year action plan to improve household consumption.
It’s basically a laundry listconsisting of 26 articles for various ministries to address.
Besides continued emphasis on big-ticket consumer areas like e-commerce, the housing rental market, and new energy vehicles, the government also wants to focus on promoting greater market access and competition in some new areas, including:
TourismFilm and cinemaInternational sports broadcastingElderly care centersBut even if those measures are successful, to truly open their wallets, consumers need to feel confident in their economic and financial situations – and in consumer products.
To address the confidence issue,the plan looks to do two things – reform the tax system and promote consumer protection. Specifically, regulators will:Examine global best practices to retool the consumer tax systemAllow more tax deductions for householdsPromote consumer finance servicesIncrease penalties for companies that violate consumer rights
Our take: Consumer protection is becoming an increasingly steady mantra of central regulators. Consumer-facing companies better take note.
POLITICS & POLICY
7. China wants to jumpstart free trade talks with Canada
State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland over the phone on Wednesday.
Wang’s message: Don’t let Trump frighten you out of trading with us.
Some context (SCMP):
“Beijing’s move came days after the conclusion of talks for the new US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) which effectively gives the United States a veto if Canada or Mexico enters into a free trade agreement with a ‘non-market economy’ – language widely seen as referring to China.”“Last week, the Chinese embassy in Ottawa condemned the veto clause…as an ‘excuse made by some countries to shirk their obligations and refuse to meet their international commitments’.”More context: The Chinese and a Canadians have been trying to start formal discussions on a free trade agreement (FTA) for more than two years.
On Wednesday, Wang said that China is ready to get FTA discussions moving (Xinhua):“He called on Canada to join China in safeguarding the global free trade system and promote the creation of a free trade area between China and Canada.”
That marks a concerted shift from last December, when China balked at talks after Canada demanded they include issues like labor rights.
Get smart: China is desperate for Western countries to side with it – and oppose Trump – on trade.
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