Chinese Developers "Destocking" Desperation: Bikini-Clad Model Car Washes, iPhones, & Alibaba DiscountsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 08/27/2014 15:33 -0400
We have presented numerous examples of the turmoil under the surface of China's unprecedentedly placid GDP headlines but, as The FT reports, the desperation of property developers should be the biggest canary in the coalmine that all is not well. Developers began cutting prices this year but have so far failed to revive flagging volumes and so are increasingly resorting to creative sales tactics to drum up interest. From discounts on Alibaba purchases up to $325,000 to car-washes by bikini-clad models, as "putting full effort into destocking has become the common choice of most developers. They’re still not optimistic about the market situation." So why are US investors so upbeat about China's 'recovery'?
While today even the pundits are aghast at the latest Snapchat valuation round, which according to the WSJ has Kleiner Perkins inject a laughable $20 million into the private-parts photography service, boosting its valuation to a whopping $10 billion in a clear windowdressing mark-up round, up from $800 million a year ago, even as the actual equity invested into the company is a paltry $160 million or under 2% of said valuation, the true indicator of just how bubbly the second coming of the dot com era has become comes courtesy of none other than Jessica Alba's, yes the actress, own startup: a company launched in 2012 and which makes "non-toxic" diapers (as opposed to toxic diapers?), called the Honest Co., has raised $70 million at a valuation just shy of $1 billion in preparation for an IPO.
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If the big hope propelling both ES and S&P cash over 2,000 was the Ukraine-Russian talks, leading to some de-escalation and a thawing of Russian-German conditions, then it was clearly a dud. As the WSJ reports, "face-to-face talks between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents failed to produce a breakthrough for ending the conflict over eastern Ukraine, as Kiev released videos of captured Russian soldiers and rebels pushed toward a government-held city. The one-on-one session, which Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko described as "tough and complex," ended early Wednesday after a day of talks on the crisis in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Mr. Poroshenko said afterward that he would prepare a "road map" toward a possible cease-fire with the pro-Russia separatists." In other words, absolutely no progress. There was however escalation, when overnight the September Bund future rose as much as 36 ticks to 151.18, after Poland PM Tusk said “regular” Russian troops are operating in eastern Ukraine. And so we are back to square one, with concerns over Russia pushing European bonds to new record highs, in turn leading to more US Treasury buying, while a brand new rumor of more easing from the ECB, this time by Deutsche Bank, has propped up European equities, which like US futures are trading water around the critical 2000 level.
The latest IMF data also shows that in July, the National Bank of Kazakhstan added 45,000 ounces to its official gold reserves, taking its total holding to 5.1 million ounces. As well as Kazakhstan, other countries in the region have also actively been increasing official gold reserves this year including Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Currency wars are set to intensify in the coming months.
"Rather than trying to spur private-sector spending through asset purchases or interest-rate changes, central banks, such as the Fed, should hand consumers cash directly.... Central banks, including the U.S. Federal Reserve, have taken aggressive action, consistently lowering interest rates such that today they hover near zero. They have also pumped trillions of dollars’ worth of new money into the financial system. Yet such policies have only fed a damaging cycle of booms and busts, warping incentives and distorting asset prices, and now economic growth is stagnating while inequality gets worse. It’s well past time, then, for U.S. policymakers -- as well as their counterparts in other developed countries -- to consider a version of Friedman’s helicopter drops. In the short term, such cash transfers could jump-start the economy... The transfers wouldn’t cause damaging inflation, and few doubt that they would work. The only real question is why no government has tried them"...
Unlike the QE-lite-driven exuberance in Chinese stocks of the last few weeks (which faded dramatically overnight), China's industrial commodities (with near-record inventories) and seeing prices collapse. This may shock some who espy PMIs and government-created trade data and proclaim, China is fixed. In fact, as JPMorgan's China Sentiment Index (JSI) shows, things are anything but bright as it fell to the lowest since June last year (at 48.3 in August). Sales and margins are tumbling - despite supposedly lower input costs. Lastly, those focused on spot Yuan movements (strength in recent weeks) have suggested this also confirms China strength - inflows - but looking out 12-months shows the market is expecting a dramatic devaluation from current levels in the Chinese currency is coming.
With Europe and the US on one side, and Russia and China on the other, the saying, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" could best describe the current geopolitical situation
Roughly 60% of California right now is suffering “extreme drought” conditions. 30% of the state is in “severe drought”. And 10% of the state is only under “drought”. In other words, roughly the entire state - the 8th largest economy in the world – is facing a severe shortage of water. But if you think that’s bad, China is about to take over the spotlight yet again. A study by China’s Ministry of Water Resources found that approximately 55% of China’s 50,000 rivers that existed in the 1990s have disappeared.
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It is unclear exactly why stock futures, bonds - with European peripheral yields hitting new record lows for the second day in a row - gold, oil and pretty much everything else is up this morning but it is safe to say the central banks are behind it, as is the "de-escalation" algo as a meeting between Russia and Ukraine begins today in Belarus' capital Minsk. Belarusian and Kazakhstani leaders will also be at the summit. Hopes of a significant progress on the peace talks were dampened following Merkel’s visit to Kiev over the weekend. The German Chancellor said that a big breakthrough is unlikely at today’s meeting. Russian FM Lavrov said that the discussion will focus on economic ties, the humanitarian crisis and prospects for a political resolution. On that note Lavrov also told reporters yesterday that Russia hopes to send a second humanitarian aid convoy to Ukraine this week. What he didn't say is that he would also send a cohort of Russian troops which supposedly were captured by overnight by the Ukraine army (more shortly).
Martin Feldstein, Harvard University professor alludes to what many in the financial community recognize that risk-taking is out of control.
CME halted trading on its electronic platform and said it was due to "planned software reconfigurations." CME, which owns the Chicago Board of Trade, New York Mercantile Exchange and other markets, made the reconfigurations over the weekend as part of ongoing upgrades to technology, a spokeswoman said in a statement. Market participants were left scratching their heads as to why the "planned software reconfigurations" did not take place prior to the commencement of trading.
Over the past week a new geopolitical mystery emerged: an "unknown" party was launching airstrikes against Libya, which is already reeling in its latest political crisis. The strikes puzzled various media outlets, such as Reuters which over the weekend reported that "Unidentified war planes attacked positions of an armed faction in the Libyan capital Tripoli on Saturday." This follows a similar report when on Monday, the government said unknown fighter jets had bombed positions from armed factions in Tripoli, an attack claimed by a renegade general in Benghazi. Turns out the renegade general was lying, and merely trying to take credit for another party's intervention. That party, or rather, parties has been revealed as Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, which "have secretly teamed up to launch airstrikes against Islamist-allied militias battling for control of Tripoli" And sure enough, "US diplomats were fuming about the airstrikes" as the US was never given advance notice of these attacks.
A few days ago when we commented, somewhat in jest, on the seemingly impressive strategic planning behind the Islamic State Jihadists becoming a "commodities trading powerhouse" (when it was revealed that ISIS had sold the grain it had stolen from the Itaqi government back to the government), we described just how well-versed in the ways of the modern world ISIS was. Now, thanks to Bloomberg we can quantify this particular strategy, and put top-line numbers with the ISIS faces, so to speak: "The Islamic State, which now controls an area of Iraq and Syria larger than the U.K., may be raising more than $2 million dollars a day in revenue from oil sales, extortion, taxes and smuggling, according to U.S. intelligence officials and anti-terrorism finance experts."