Allegations of JP Morgan’s use of clever tactics to bribe Chinese officials recently received mainstream attention when Salon journalist Alex Pareene mentioned it in a comical and classic interview on CNBC (you need to watch the video before reading this) with presstitute Maria Bartiromo. When Mr. Pareene mentioned these claims against the TBTF bank, CNBC mocked him. Howeverer, this article from the New York Times details how JP Morgan paid $75,000 a month to an obscure consulting firm called Fullmark Consultants, which had only two employees. The firm was run by a woman named Lily Chang, which in reality was the alias used by Wen Jiabao’s only daughter Wen Ruchun. Wen Jiabao was the Prime Minister of China at the time.
Rising home prices, especially in major cities, are prompting a growing chorus of discontent among ordinary Chinese. Our Japanese friends would no doubt feel more than hint of nostalgia should they visit Beijing. For just like the famous Japanese “bubble economy” of the late 1980s, Beijing has been virtually turned into one big construction site with constantly changing streetscapes. The real estate industry may have played a role in China’s economic development, but it appears to have been for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many. In the long term, the trade-off seems poor. For that, not just the general manager, but the premier too needs to take responsibility.
China! Honestly, it comes to something when China jumps on the accusatory band-wagon asking the US administration to provide some comments about its monitoring programs and answer up to the international community.
China’s Government knows it's on thin ice and so is doing three things to try to mollify the Chinese population:
- Launching a very public campaign to crack down on corruption (to mollify the populace).
- Taking steps to tame inflation (slowing financial speculation and importing massive quantities of commodities to attempt to control prices).
- Curbing its stimulus efforts.
Many commentators have spent a great deal of ink proclaiming China to be the next great economic power. While it is true China has seen dramatic improvements in its economy over the last 30 years, my view has been and remains that most of the “growth” of the China “miracle” is just a debt-fueled bubble built upon a loose foundation of Government corruption and fraud.
Consensus suggests India is a basket case while China is recovering. We think both views are incorrect and therein lies opportunities for contrarian investors.
The most notable overnight event was the release of the Chinese Government Work Report as part of the annual meeting of the National People's Congress which kicked off today and runs until March 17. This is the Chinese equivalent of the US State of the Union address, delivered in this case by the outgoing premier Wen Jiabao. In it, Wen summarized his administration’s achievement in the past ten years in some detail, but still voiced a sense of crisis when talking about existing social and economic problems. The key highlights were the closely watched economic targets for 2013, which while not surprising, were at the lowest levels in the past decade, confirming that the Chinese slowdown in both economic and loan growth is likely here to stay as the economy downshifts from its mercantilist approach, even while pesky inflation pressures persist.
Earlier we reviewed the overnight plunge in China stocks, especially those related to the real-estate market in the aftermath of the latest move by the State Council to be far more hawkish than expected, in its effort to curb property inflation. The economic and market weakness that resulted has followed through to overnight US and European futures, even as peripheral bonds are trading roughly unchanged, surprising many who thought this weekend's Beppe Grillo statement on the future of Italian debt and presence in the Eurozone would be market moving: it wasn't as Grillo said nothing that he had not already made quite clear. In other, more recent economic news, UK construction PMI imploded to recession levels, plunging to 46.8 from 49.0, far below expectations and the lowest print since October 2009, setting the stage for much more Goldman-led reflation by the BOE. Also negative was the drop in the Eurozone Sentix Investor Confidence index which tumbled to -10.6 from -3.9 on expectations of -4.3, sending the EURUSD deep into 1.29 territory. It appears the Sentix excludes the soaring German confidence, which two weeks ago was the sole driver of all upside, not once but twice in one week. Today we get the first day of the sequester being digested by the market - this togetger with an empty macro calendar in the US means rumors and headlines will determine how far GETCO's algo push the stop hunts during the first and last 30 minutes of trading.
This week's events show that the Chinese government realises that its stimulus efforts have got out of hand and its economy is in trouble.
- Bersani's lead over Berlusconi continues to erode, now just 3.6 Pts, or inside error margin, in Tecne Poll
- Spain gears up for U.S. debt investor meetings (Reuters)
- PBOC Set for Record Weekly Liquidity Injection (WSJ)
- RBS Trader Helped UBS’s Hayes With Libor Bribes, Regulators Say (BBG)
- ECB, Ireland reach bank debt deal (Reuters)
- AMR-US Airways Near Merger Agreement (WSJ)
- Monte Paschi says no more derivatives losses (Reuters) ... remember this
- Harvard’s Gopinath Helps France Beat Euro Straitjacket (BBG) - by sliding into recession?
- Obama Relents on Secret Drone Memo (WSJ)
- Brennan to face questions on interrogations, drones and leaks (Reuters)
- Wall Street Success With Germans Boomerangs (BBG)
- Khamenei rebuffs U.S. offer of direct talks (Reuters)
- Boeing Preps Redesign to Get 787 Flying (WSJ)
- 'London Whale' Sounded an Alarm on Risky Bets (WSJ)
- Deadly Blast Strikes U.S. Embassy in Turkey (WSJ)
- Abe Shortens List for BOJ Chief as Japan Faces Monetary Overhaul (BBG)
- Endowment Returns Fail to Keep Pace with College Spending (BBG) - More student loans
- Mexico rescue workers search for survivors after Pemex blast kills 25 (Reuters)
- Lingering Bad Debts Stifle Europe Recovery (WSJ)
- Peregrine Founder Hit With 50 Years (WSJ) - there is hope Corzine will get pardoned yet
- Deutsche Bank to Limit Immediate Bonuses to 300,000 Euros
- France's Hollande to visit Mali Saturday (Reuters)
- France, Africa face tough Sahara phase of Mali war (Reuters)
- Barclays CEO refuses bonus (Barclays)
- Edward Koch, Brash New York Mayor During 1980s Boom, Dies at 88 (BBG)
- Samsung Doubles Tablet PC Market Share Amid Apple’s Lead (BBG)
That China openly manipulates its economic data, especially around key political phase shifts, such as one communist regime taking over for another, is no secret. That China is also the marginal economic power (creating trillions in new loans and deposits each year) in a stagflating world, and as such must be represented by the media as growing at key inflection points (such as Q4 when Europe officially entered a double dip recession, and the US will report its first sub 1% GDP in years) as mysteriously reporting growth even without open monetary stimulus (something we have said the PBOC will not engage in due to fears of importing US, European and now Japanese inflation) is critical for preserving hope and faith in the future of the stock market, is also very well known. Which is why recent market optimism driven by "hope" from Alcoa that China is recovering and will avoid yet another hard landing, and Chinese reports of a surge in Exports last week, are very much suspect. But no longer is it just the blogosphere that is openly taking Chinese data to task - as Bloomberg reports, even the major banks: Goldman, UBS and ANZ - are now openly questioning the validity and credibility of the goalseek function resulting from C:\China\central_planning\economic_model.xls.
- Obama Picking Lew for Treasury Fuels Fight on Budget (BBG)
- Deutsche Bank Bank Made Huge Bet, and Profit, on Libor (WSJ)
- Spain Beats Maximum Target in First 2013 Debt Sale (BBG) - In other news, the social security fund is now running on negative?
- "Icahn is also believed to have taken a long position in Herbalife" (NYPost) - HLF +5% premarket
- Lew-for-Geithner Switch Closes Era of Tight Fed-Treasury Ties (BBG)
- Turkey Beating Norway as Biggest Regional Oil Driller (BBG)
- Greek State Firms are Facing Closure (WSJ)
- Draghi Spared as Confidence Swing Quells Rate-Cut Talk (BBG)
- China’s Yuan Loans Trail Estimates (BBG)
- SEC enforcement chief steps down (WSJ)
- CFPB releases new mortgage rules in bid to reduce risky lending (WaPo)
- Japan Bond Investors Expect Extra Sales From February (BBG)
26-year-old Hu Bin is China's most popular online market commentator - just four years after starting his blog. As Bloomberg BusinessWeek notes, his success started when Premier Wen Jiabao announced a 4 trillion renminbi rescue plan and as 'Commander in Chief of the Stock Market Army' Hu says "I knew I just needed to be clever and use this chance of high liquidity in the market to make myself famous." The brash, eccentric, and outspoken blogger is among the Top 10 most influential people on the Chinese stock market (though under his alias 'Yerongtian' - though preferring the nickname 'Batman') and notes that "any eccentric behavior would attract people's attention. If you understood this vital point, you could control people's minds." Hu says he is not a financial rabble-rouser adding that "the stock market in the US is managed by regulations; the Chinese market is managed by humans. The 72 million 'retail' Chinese investors aren't as mature as American investors, and I write to meet their immediate needs." While recognizing the irresistible pull of stocks, he understands he's giving advice to people he knows probably shouldn’t be in the market but are going to invest anyway. What's Chinese for BooYaa?
- IMF Demands Partial Default for Cyprus (Spiegel)
- Boehner's 'Plan B' Gets Pushback (WSJ)
- Beijing criticises US ‘political checks’ (FT)
- White House Said to Tell Business Groups Talks Stall (BBG)
- NYSE tries to get hitched again: IntercontinentalExchange in talks to buy NYSE (Reuters) -> N-Ice coming?
- Greece faces ‘make or break’ year (FT)
- Fed rejects idea of consensus forecasts, "maybe forever": Fisher (Reuters)
- Rajoy Drives Spanish Revolution With Low-Cost Manufacture (BBG)
- Italian Senate Set for Budget Vote Before Monti Resigns (BBG)
- BOJ Loosens With Pledge to Review Inflation Objectives (BBG)
- Bowing To Abe, BOJ To Review Price Goal (WSJ)