Thursday, September 26, 2013

2013 QS World University Ranking

Who doesn't wish to graduate from the top ranking worldwide and prestige universities? So far, only 1% of the wealthy students who can afford to pay the luxury tuition fees, unless you manage to secure with scholarships.

There are other options to look into for good universities, like considering for the top universities within the region (i.e. Asia region, for example) which are cheaper and more affordable than pushing over your limits for the top ranking world class universities.    

Click here to see the latest World University Ranking in 2013. You can filter the ranking of university based on the region or faculty from the link above.

NUS is tops in Asia in QS world university rankings, NTU climbs six spots globally

Singapore's two research universities edged up considerably in one of the two leading world university ranking systems this year, with both improving their positions in the global list.

Topping the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) university rankings for Asia this year is the National University of Singapore (NUS). The country's oldest university also shifted up one spot in global rankings to 24th in the world, from 25th last year.

Racing up the rankings is its counterpart Nanyang Technological University (NTU), which now sits at 41st place globally as compared to 47th last year. Factors like faculty citations, reputation among international employers and student-to-faculty ratio contributed to its improved score.

In Asia, NTU moved up to number 7 from 10th last year, and was ranked second among the world's young universities — those aged below 50.

Meanwhile, NUS placed ninth in the world for academic reputation and 16th for employer reputation, with significant improvements in numbers of research papers, and citations, published and generated.

Both universities' presidents responded positively to the news, saying the improved rankings are good developments "for the whole of Singapore".

"This is a reflection of our country's strong support for higher education and the ethos of continually seeking excellence," said NUS president Professor Tan Chorh Chuan.

"It is remarkable that Singapore, a small city-state, has two universities among the world's Top 41," added NTU president Professor Bertil Andersson.

See the full global university rankings here, and the rankings for Asian universities here.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

China crackdown Mooncake "Gift"

The Mid-Autumn Festival or also known as Moon Cake Festival is one of the crucial celebration among Chinese communities. It is celebrated on the 15th day of 8th lunar month which is observed as on September 19, 2013. 

In previous years, the Chinese government and officers were bribed and lavished with branded items, jewelleries, cash liquor etc. which were hidden together with mooncakes give-out.

Since after many incident cases aroused where officers were taking bribes/corruption, severe punishment will be taken if they are caught receiving bribes. Thus, the Chinese government and employees are avoiding to accept any forms of gifts for this year's mid-autumn festival.

Dark side of the mooncakes: China's war of graft hits high-end pastries

BEIJING (Reuters) - Gold-encrusted mooncakes stuffed with shark's fin are out of favour ahead of this week's mid-autumn festival in China after a crackdown on corruption killed off demand for such lavish pastries - long used as a way to bribe officials.

With more calories than a Big Mac, mooncakes are given as gifts to family, friends and employees during China's Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on September 19 this year.

In recent years lavish varieties have popped up with jewellery-box style packaging, allowing cash, liquor or other goodies to be hidden in with the pastries.

But an anti-corruption drive by President Xi Jinping has left the pricier treats languishing on the shelves, shopkeepers and analysts said, even as sales of more traditional lotus seed- and sesame paste-stuffed varieties were unhurt.

"What has taken a deep dive is the high-end mooncakes more typically associated with corruption," said Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group.

The gilded age of mooncakes was last year, when pastries stuffed with gold flakes, shark's fin and abalone made headlines. In rural Shanxi province, gold-filled variations sold for more than $1,000, local newspapers reported.

Mid-sized China Merchants Bank Co Ltd marketed mooncakes made of solid gold and silver, state media said.

A spokesperson at the bank's headquarters in Shenzhen could not be reached for comment but a manager at a branch in Beijing said she was not aware of any gold or silver cakes being sold this year.

"It's normal to exchange gifts but too much reciprocity has become a form of extravagance," the People's Daily, mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, wrote in a commentary last month about the holiday.

Excesses in past years had even prompted the government to ask officials and workers to pay income tax on mooncakes they received.

"(This year) some government officials are less willing to accept a lavish or high-priced box of mooncakes, or in some cases, any mooncakes at all," said Eric Carlson, a Beijing-based partner at law firm Covington & Burling and an anti-corruption expert.

Carlson said he had heard that some government agencies had told mailroom staff to filter out mooncake packages before delivery.

The Communist Party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection on Friday urged people to report cases of party members and government or state-owned enterprise officials spending public funds on gifts, banquets, travel and luxury goods during the Mid-Autumn Festival and the National Day holiday, which falls in early October.

While China regularly announces anti-corruption campaigns, this one appears to have more bite than usual, although experts say only deep and difficult political reforms will make a real difference.

"Political developments this year have had a definite impact on sales of high-end mooncakes," said Qian Qiliang, who has run a state-owned mooncake factory in Shanghai for two decades, adding sales had fallen 20 percent.

Qian said he adjusted his production goals when he heard about the crackdown, predicting demand for pricier pastries would fall. Demand for lower-cost cakes with traditional fillings had risen by 20 percent, he said.

Luxury hotels said the most expensive mooncake sets they sell, often in lacquered or decorated boxes, were not doing well.

A spokeswoman for China World Hotel, owned by Shangri-La Group , declined to discuss sales because "frankly it's not a very positive topic". She declined to give her name.

The Sofitel Wanda Hotel in Beijing, owned by Dalian Wanda Group Co Ltd and operated by Accor , said corporate customers were more likely to go for mid-range packages.

"The atmosphere is more difficult and tough for selling mooncakes this year," said Cedric Besler, the hotel's manager.

Rein said private companies were also cutting back on conspicuous mooncake consumption because they did not want to be seen as being ostentatious.

"Every day there's another executive being hauled off and put in jail," he said. "There's a fear among both officials and businessmen right now. No one wants to be caught giving bribes."

The crackdown on luxury mooncakes has also hurt a blackmarket for mooncake coupons.

For convenience, workplaces often give employees coupons for expensive mooncakes in lieu of the cakes themselves. Those who dislike mooncakes sometimes sell the coupons to traders who hang out outside hotels and shopping malls.

Those who do like mooncakes buy coupons at a discount from traders. Manufacturers sometimes also buy back coupons from traders in large batches.

"Most mooncakes are God awful," Rein said. "People are scared of eating them because everyone knows how bad they are, and they could be years old if people keep re-gifting them."

A Shanghai based-coupon trader surnamed Xiong, who has been working the sidewalk opposite a Shanghai branch of the Hang Fa Lau dessert shop for a decade, said the windfall he counts on had declined from up to 2,000 yuan a day to just a few hundred yuan.

"There's nothing I can do," said Xiong, who spends the rest of the year hawking cigarettes.

Another trader, surnamed Pan, said profits were down 60 percent from a year earlier.

"When Xi says something like this, the people he hurts are the ordinary folk," Xiong said. 

(Additional reporting by the Shanghai newsroom and Reuters Television. Editing by Dean Yates)


China Targets Mooncakes In Anti-Graft Campaign

By KELVIN CHAN 09/13/13 05:39 AM ET EDT AP  
Source: The Huffington Post & AP

HONG KONG -- Mooncakes – the hockey-puck-sized pastries Chinese give each other every year for the mid-autumn festival – were always more about tradition than delicacy: Some people don't even like them. But in recent years, as corruption eroded confidence in government, the unscrupulous made the dense, calorific cakes even sweeter.

Luxurious boxes of mooncakes can contain far more than the traditional filling of lotus seed or red bean paste and a salted egg yolk symbolizing the moon. Some have rare ingredients such as abalone, shark fins or bird's nest. Gift sets can even include items such as gold coins, top-notch wines, mobile phones and diamond rings.

Now, in an effort to combat bribery and extravagant spending, China's Communist Party leadership has singled out the tradition in its austerity drive. It has banned the use of public money to buy the pastries and associated gifts, dampening demand just as the market hits its usual peak ahead of the Sept. 19 festival.

"Decadent styles have polluted our festival culture in recent years with the sending of increasingly extravagant gifts such as mooncakes and hairy crabs, drifting further away from our frugal virtues," Vice Premier Wang Qishan, head of the party's internal watchdog panel, said last week, according to state media.

Mooncakes – or, more often, mooncake coupons redeemable at stores – have been so common as gifts from offices and state-owned companies to employees that a secondhand market has emerged for the vouchers among scalpers in Chinese cities such as Shanghai. But such commerce has dwindled under President Xi Jinping's austerity drive.

"Business is not as good as last year. It's dropped about 60 percent, mainly due to fewer official receptions," said Zhang, a trader who gave only his surname as he hustled for business in a subterranean walkway near a busy Shanghai shopping street.

Xi's effort already has crimped income at posh restaurants after new party rules were brought in at the start of the year curbing spending on food and drink. It's part of his effort to gain support in a country where corruption and a widening wealth gap have become sources of public discontent.

Some 280,000 tons of mooncakes worth 16 billion yuan ($2.6 billion) were sold in China last year, according to the China Association of Bakery and Confectionery Industry. But given the frugality campaign, "we may see a big drop in this year's sales figures," said an official surnamed Yu.

Mooncakes, typically sold in boxes of four, retail at supermarkets for $20 to $50. But offerings have become increasingly lavish to appeal to the growing middle class in China, where there is a strong culture of gift-giving aimed at showing off status and building up goodwill.

Decadent varieties are stoking concern that they're being given in exchange for favors or used for other corrupt purposes, said Hu Xingdou, an economics professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology.

"We can see that gift-giving has been morally degenerated into a dirty means of bribery," Hu said.

Banks and jewelers have even gotten in on the act. In Beijing, the China Gold Coin Co. is offering solid-gold mooncake-shaped ornaments for as much as 19,250 yuan ($3,150).

"Some companies and unsavory businessmen take it up a notch" by giving bribes in the form of mooncakes packaged in gold, diamonds or other jewelry worth tens of thousands of dollars, said Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group in Shanghai.

Variations include stuffing cash in the packages or including coupons to buy other things, Rein said. He added that Xi's crackdown may be forcing people to opt for more low-key gifts like herbal medicine.

Mooncakes are also involved in a peculiar form of tax evasion at Chinese offices, which give them to employees as gifts. Instead of an actual mooncake, it's common for companies to buy coupons at a discount from manufacturers to be redeemed at shops.

That eliminates the cost and effort of transporting large amounts of food that could spoil in the late summer heat in fancy packaging that could be damaged. But many workers don't actually redeem them, and instead sell them for cash to coupon scalpers like Mr. Zhang for extra income.

"The companies are happy because it's a business tax write-off, the employees are happy because they get money and they don't have to pay income tax," said Rein. "If it's a state-owned enterprise, it's the laobaixing – the everyday Chinese – who are bearing the brunt of the costs for these illicit incomes."

Zhang was one of 15 scalpers who set up shop with a stool and sign offering to "recycle" mooncake coupons in the pedestrian passageway near Shanghai's East Nanjing Road. The scalpers were buying coupons for half their face value and selling them for 75 percent.

Zhang, who takes three weeks off his job as a hotel lobby manager every year to trade mooncake coupons, complained that the frugality drive had hurt his business.

He said that when he finds a seller, he usually gets just one or two coupons. "It was often eight or 10 coupons last year."
Researcher Fu Ting in Shanghai and video producer Zhang Weiqun in Beijing contributed to this report.


China's mooncake crackdown

China is cracking down on expensive gifts and mooncakes during this year's mid-Autumn festival. China is cracking down on expensive gifts and mooncakes during this year's mid-Autumn festival. Photo: Sanghee Liu
Beijing: President Xi Jinping's white-knuckled anti-corruption crackdown has engulfed another unsuspecting victim: this time the humble mooncake, a mainstay of China's annual mid-autumn festival.

Elegantly gift-wrapped boxes of the dense, calorific pastries have long been exchanged among families and friends for the traditional festival, which falls on Thursday this year.

The treats have become notorious for over-the-top extravagance and are a sickly-sweet vehicle for casual bribery.

China is cracking down on expensive gifts and mooncakes for this year's mid-autumn festival. China is cracking down on expensive gifts and mooncakes for this year's mid-autumn festival. Photo: Sanghee Liu
But this year, lavish varieties stuffed with abalone and shark's fin and topped with gold flakes - which used to sell for more than $1000 - are now scarcely seen.
Gone too are the gift boxes packaged with expensive liquor, or even gold watches, for those well-wishers particularly keen to make a good impression.
The new leadership has identified reining in overt graft and waste of public funds as a key way to win back the hearts and minds of a general public, who are increasingly disillusioned with endemic corruption and a widening gulf in income equality.

China is cracking down on expensive gifts and mooncakes during this year's mid-Autumn festival. China is cracking down on expensive gifts and mooncakes during this year's mid-Autumn festival. Photo: Sanghee Liu
“Decadent styles have polluted our festival culture in recent years with the sending of increasingly extravagant gifts such as mooncakes … drifting further away from our frugal virtues,” Vice-Premier Wang Qishan, the head of the party's corruption-busting disciplinary committee, said last week.

Having already banned government officials from spending public funds on lavish banquets, expensive wine and luxury cars, the President has labelled the mid-autumn festival, which runs into the China's long national day holiday in October, an “important test” of party officials' behaviour.

A telephone hotline has also been set up for members of the public to report any suspected misuse of public funds during the holiday period.

A saleswoman at one busy supermarket said authorities had issued restrictions on gift-box designs to ensure they were less ostentatious than previous years.
“This year we don't have any luxurious packages,” she said. “Cheaper mooncakes have been selling much better than expensive ones.”

Like most holidays, the mid-autumn festival has become rampantly commercialised, with little emphasis on the festival's origins: a romantic fable of a goddess who attained immortality but lived on the moon to be near her mortal husband.

More than 280,000 tonnes of mooncakes worth 16 billion yuan ($2.8 billion) were sold in China last year. But this year the China Association of Bakery and Confectionery is tipping a sharp drop in sales.

“None of us who sell mooncakes will make any money this year,” Sun Lanyu, a vendor in Beijing's business district, said.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Recession in China, Indonesia & India

Is Asia heading into the recession soon? We begin to see the sign of the downvalue of Indian Rupee while Thailand is trying to prevent the country from slipping into recession. Indonesia is one of the fastest growing countries in Asia, running out of the local financial funds thus, the country increases the petrol (fuel) prices in order to reduce the government subsidy besides, borrowing money to finance growth. Malaysia follows Indonesia's steps by raising the fuel prices recently in order to reduce the government's subsidy. It is also believed that the Fitch Ratings downgraded Malaysia from stable to negative due to overspending in the recent election, has affected the value of Malaysian RM currency. China, on the other hand, faces the economic slowdown of trading and industrial businesses which is not only affecting their local economy but also on the world's market.

Is the emerging market growth story over?

29 August 2013 Last updated at 07:09 GMT  by Linda Yueh Chief Business Correspondent  
Source: BBC News Business

Indian shop 
India's economy is now growing at its slowest pace in a decade

With growth slowing dramatically across emerging economies, is it a sign of things to come?

Thailand has fallen back into recession, Mexico's economy is shrinking again, Russia is growing at just 1.2% - the pace of the slowly recovering West. Brazil's growth was less than 1% last year, while the country that many have their eyes on is India, which is struggling with a pace of growth that is more reminiscent of the pre-1980s era than the rapid expansion of the past decade. 

Of course not all emerging economies are in the same boat. For instance, the Philippines has grown faster than expected in the second quarter, by 7.5% from a year earlier. But, there are a number, especially the large emerging economies, which are slowing. And that raises the question as to whether the emerging market growth story is over, with investors pulling at least some of their money out from these countries.

Economic growth in the past decade was supported by a commodity boom and a lot of US consumption that turned out to be based on cheap but ultimately unsustainable debt. As the so-called commodity super-cycle moderates and the US consumer buys at a more moderate level, growth will slow around the world. 

It's not necessarily the end of the emerging market growth story though. Countries across Asia now have their own middle class consumers after a period of rapid growth in incomes. 

And, put into perspective, emerging economies are still forecast to grow by 5% or more by the International Monetary Fund in the next couple of years, barring a crisis. Growth may have slowed from the heady days of 7%-plus growth, which was more than double America's in the late 1990s and 2000s, but it's still a decent clip.

One of the reasons for the slowdown is that developing countries now have less room to "catch up" than before. For the first time ever, emerging economies now account for more than half of the world's GDP, according to the IMF. So, countries like China, India, Russia and others produce more of the world's output than rich countries like the US, UK, Germany. It implies that these developing nations have caught up to some extent and growth will slow unless they innovate like the richer countries. 

After all, it has been two decades since the early 1990s when China, India and the former Soviet Union opened up and integrated with the world economy. This propelled the world into a phase of greater globalisation where terms like offshoring came into vogue and trade surged - exports of goods almost doubled from 16% of world GDP to nearly 30% by the late 2000s. Foreign investment and money also poured into cheaper and fast-growing emerging economies as they opened up.
Spotlight on India
Developing countries could have done a lot more to strengthen their economies during the good times. But, it's often during the bad times that there is an impetus for reform, including supporting industrialisation and the middle classes. The protests across the world from Brazil to the Middle East have some of their roots in what hadn't been done by their governments during the boom times.

Take India - a country very much in the spotlight as its currency has fallen at the fastest pace since the 1991 balance of payments crisis. 

Two key indicators as to whether India has improved the foundations for its economy are how much it produces and sells overseas. Industry makes up only about a quarter of GDP and hasn't increased since the 1990s. India has also barely increased its exports, accounting for just over 1% of global markets. When compared to China, which accounts for 11% of global exports, or Indonesia where industry accounts for nearly half of GDP, India has lagged in its industrialisation and penetration of global markets. 

During the good times, India's long-standing impediments to growth - a low average level of educational attainment and poor infrastructure that impede manufacturing - weren't addressed. Growth is now at its slowest pace in a decade at about 5%, and that isn't enough to significantly lift average annual incomes of only $1,500, which is a fraction of the average $10,000 for emerging economies.

More worryingly, according to Morgan Stanley, Indian companies have borrowed too much. They estimate that one in four companies can't cover its interest payments. This is all adding to the worries over the large current account deficit and draining confidence from its currency as investors fret about the ability of the Indian government to manage when the era of cheap money ends. I wrote about this when the rupee began its plunge a few weeks ago.

This year could see the world economy expanding at the slowest pace since the 2008 crisis. There's no financial crisis this time, but for countries like India, there could be one brewing if the economy continues on its downward trajectory.

As Warren Buffett remarked about the vulnerable banks during the 2008 financial crisis: "After all, you only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out." 

India will hope that it's not one of them.


Capital Flows Back to US as Markets Slump Across Asia

Tuesday, 20 Aug 2013 06:43 AM
  Source: CNBC

Asia’s role as the world’s growth engine is waning as economies across the region weaken and investors pull out billions of dollars.

The Indian rupee fell to a record low, Thailand is in recession and Indonesia’s widest current-account deficit pushed the rupiah to the lowest level since 2009. Chinese banks’ bad loans are rising and economists forecast Malaysia will post its second straight quarter of sub-5 percent growth this week.

The clouds forming in Asia as liquidity tightens and China’s slowdown curbs demand for commodities and goods are fueling a selloff of emerging-market stocks, reversing a flow of money into the region in favor of nascent recoveries in the U.S. and Europe. Emerging markets from Brazil to Indonesia have raised borrowing costs in 2013 to try to aid their currencies as the prospect of reduced U.S. monetary stimulus curbs demand for assets in developing nations.

“The eye of the storm is directly above emerging markets now, two years after it hovered over Europe and four years after it hit the U.S.,” said Stephen Jen, co-founder of hedge fund SLJ Macro Partners LLP in London and former head of foreign- exchange strategy at Morgan Stanley. “This could be serious for Asia.”

Almost $95 billion was poured into exchange-traded funds of American shares this year, while developing-nation ETFs saw withdrawals of $8.4 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Signs of a stronger U.S. economy may prompt the Federal Reserve to begin paring its $85 billion in monthly bond purchases as soon as next month.

Swinging Back
“The pendulum is swinging back in favor of the advanced countries,” said Shane Oliver, Sydney-based head of investment strategy at AMP Capital Investors Ltd., which oversees about $130 billion. “It’s one of these things that happens once a decade or so when you see a turn in relative performance. We’ve entered a tougher, more difficult period” for Asia.

In the past three months the MSCI Asia Pacific Index has fallen 7.7 percent, compared with a 1.2 percent decline in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and a 1.6 percent drop in the Stoxx Europe 600 Index. Developing Asia will grow 6.9 percent in 2013, the IMF said in July, cutting its forecast by 0.3 percentage point.

Monday, India’s benchmark index dropped 1.6 percent, Indonesia’s lost 5.6 percent while Thailand’s fell 3.3 percent.

Indian policy makers led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are battling to stem the rupee’s plunge, attract capital flows to bridge a record current account deficit and revive growth. The currency has weakened about 28 percent versus the dollar in the past two years, reviving memories of the early 1990s crisis, when the government received an International Monetary Fund loan as foreign reserves waned.

Indian Problems
“It seems now the pain is going to be in the emerging markets,” said Nitin Mathur, an analyst in Mumbai at Espirito Santo Investment Bank who expects sectors with higher valuations such as consumer goods to suffer the biggest declines. “The problems in India are not temporary blips. The problems are much more serious which will take a lot of effort to get resolved.”

In Thailand, the economy entered recession last quarter for the first time since the global financial crisis. Toyota Motor Corp. said last month industrywide car sales in Thailand will fall 9.5 percent this year. The government cut its 2013 growth forecast as exports cooled and local demand weakened, with higher household debt restricting scope for monetary easing.

Thai Credit
Thailand’s private-sector credit as a share of gross domestic product has “increased significantly” in recent years raising concern about financial stability, Krystal Tan, an economist at Capital Economics Ltd. in Singapore, said in a Bloomberg Brief commentary.

Taiwan last week cut its 2013 growth and exports forecasts and said the global outlook for the second half is worse than in May. The island’s export orders probably fell for a sixth month in July, a Bloomberg survey showed before data due Tuesday.

“We are seeing a turning point,” said Freya Beamish, Hong Kong-based economist with Lombard Street Research, who says China’s competitiveness has been hurt by labor costs that are 30 percent too high. “China’s seeing flat to falling growth on our estimates so the region’s clouds are already here.”

Sentiment is also being subdued by the prospect of a decline in U.S. stimulus, money that often finds its way to export-based countries in payment for goods.
Investors will be looking for clues on how quickly the U.S. Federal Reserve will trim its $85 billion in monthly asset purchases when the Federal Open Market Committee’s July meeting minutes are released on Aug. 21.

Flow Reversing
The $3.9 trillion of cash that flowed into emerging markets over the past four years has started to reverse since Chairman Ben S. Bernanke talked about a tapering in quantitative easing this year. The slowdown in Fed bond buying will probably begin next month, according to 65 percent of economists surveyed by Bloomberg from Aug. 9-13.

The JPMorgan Emerging Markets Currency Index has declined 2.4 percent since Bernanke’s June 19 tapering comment. The Bloomberg Dollar Index, which monitors the greenback against 10 major currencies, is almost unchanged over the same period.

“The emerging Asia story is crumbling and dollar is once again the king,” said Indranil Pan, chief economist at Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd. in Mumbai.

India’s moves to tighten cash supply, restrict currency derivatives and curb gold imports since July failed to arrest the rupee’s slump to a record low of 63.23 per dollar. UBS AG says a drop in the currency to 70 is possible.

The deficit widened to an unprecedented 4.8 percent of GDP in the year ended March 31. The government plans to narrow the gap to 3.7 percent, or $70 billion, this year, Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said Aug. 12.

Policy Gap
India’s slump is worse than elsewhere in Asia because the country has failed to carry out long-overdue structural changes to the economy, said Pan at Kotak Mahindra Bank.

“In India, we have great policies on paper but the gap between the what’s on paper and the implementation is unduly large,” R.C. Bhargava, chairman of Maruti Suzuki India Ltd., the nation’s biggest carmaker by volume, said in an interview. “If we just implement what’s already there, we can get back on track in the next two to three years.”

Richard Jerram, chief economist at Bank of Singapore Ltd., says the market declines reflect overly ambitious expectations rather than fundamental weakness in the economies.

“There’s a good structural story based on the underlying domestic demand,” said Jerram, who has analyzed Asian economies for two decades. “What you see at the moment is reaction from expectations being unrealistically positive maybe 12 months ago, to now becoming more realistic.”

Japan Rising
One bright spot is Japan, which has seen its economy bounce back on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s fiscal and monetary stimulus. The Topix stocks index has risen 34 percent this year.

Abe has yet to show that he can sustain the recovery by restructuring company and labor laws and taming the nation’s debt, which topped 1 quadrillion yen ($10 trillion) in June.

“Asia still has potential in the next three years or more, but in the shorter term, momentum for business is slowing down,” said Shuichi Hirukawa, senior fund manager at Mizuho Asset Management Co. in Tokyo. “Investors may become more cautious.”

China’s economy last quarter extended the longest streak of expansion below 8 percent in at least two decades, curbing earnings at companies such as Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. Still, there are signs of improvement. Industrial output rose more than economists estimated in July, after larger-than-forecast rebounds in exports and imports and improvement in gauges of manufacturing and service industries.

China Change
China is making efforts to bolster confidence. Overall liquidity in China is ample as banks channel more funds to agriculture and small businesses in the world’s second-largest economy, People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan said on state broadcaster China Central Television.

“Some Asian countries, especially India, have their own significant domestic challenges,” said Jim O’Neill, the former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. economist who coined the term BRIC in 2001 to describe Brazil, Russia, India and China. “But China is slowing primarily to improve its growth model and at 7-7.5 percent annual growth is still delivering $1 trillion nominal GDP. And Japan, still Asia’s No. 2 economy, is looking better than it has done for a very long time.”

The slowdown in economies such as Indonesia and Thailand is part of a “very, very global” weakness, World Bank Chief Economist Kaushik Basu told reporters in New Delhi.

‘So Slow’
The U.S. recovery “was so slow that even the slightest pick up is looking like a pick up,” Basu said. “I don’t think the Asian situation is any worse. In fact, if anything, Asia is probably better off than the rest of the world.”

That may not help markets in Asia as money continues to flow back to Europe and the U.S., said Oliver at AMP Capital. Norway may say its economy expanded in the second quarter after a contraction in the previous three months, a survey showed. The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago will release a report on U.S. economic activity for July.

“Asia will still be a stronger part of the world than the U.S. or Europe but compared to people’s expectations Asia is likely to come in a little bit lower than expected,” he said.

The IMF in July forecast global growth of 3.1 percent and projected advanced economies would expand 1.2 percent this year.

Stocks Opportunity
“We see this drop as an opportunity to buy selectively those stocks that have been overpriced” such as banks and consumer shares, Kiekie Boenawan, Jakarta-based head of investment at PT Schroder Investment Management Indonesia, wrote in an e-mail.

Investors will be scanning data from Chinese factories to Malaysian growth this week for further signs of weakness.

An Aug. 22 flash reading for China on a manufacturing purchasing managers’ index by HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics is expected to come in at 48.1 for August, from 47.7 in July, according to the median economist estimate compiled by Bloomberg. A reading below 50 indicates contraction.

Malaysia’s central bank on Aug. 21 may post data showing 4.7 percent economic growth in the second quarter from a year earlier, after rising 4.1 percent in the January-March period, its slowest rate since September 2009, according to the median estimate of economists in a Bloomberg survey.

Brazil’s Real
Slumping currencies and inflation risks in emerging markets are adding to pressure on central banks to raise interest rates. Brazil increased its benchmark rate this year more than any major economy to prevent higher prices from slowing consumption and investments. The real weakened beyond 2.4 per dollar for the first time in four years.

Higher rates in turn would hit consumers in countries where cheap mortgages and easy credit have fueled housing booms.

“Southeast Asian consumers have taken on much higher debt in the last few years,” Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc analyst Sanjay Mathur wrote in a July 18 report. He said the largest increase was in Malaysia, where household debt increased by 20 percent of GDP between 2008 and 2012.

There’s a feeling that “the rest of the world’s getting a bit better and Asean’s had its sort of burst of credit-enhanced growth,” said Edward Teather, an economist at UBS AG who covers Southeast Asian markets from Singapore. “It’s raining already.”

© Copyright 2013 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

(Source: )

Why China's Economy May Be Heading for a Crash

Published: Saturday, 29 Jun 2013 | 9:00 AM ET
By: Justin Menza  Source: CNBC

Mark Ralston | AFP | Getty Images
Empty apartment developments stand in the city of Ordos, Inner Mongolia.
China's central bank sent global markets reeling when it attempted tighten credit and rein in the country's shadow banking system. But the consequences of China's credit binge may just be getting started, and experts say there could be more pain to come for the world's second-largest economy. 

"We've been seeing tightening since the end of last year," said Leland Miller, China Beige Book International president. "This is not a spur of the moment decision by the central bank." 

Leland said the higher interbank lending rates are an indicator of a tension in the system. "The credit transition mechanism is broken and until that's fixed, there will be no happy endings in China," he said. 

The People's Bank of China in a statement said the performance of the economy and financial system "are sound" and that there was no shortage of liquidity in the market.

But the economy must still come to grips with the credit binge and the over-investment undertaken in an attempt to avert an economic slowdown at the outset of the global financial crisis.

"They launched $2.5 trillion worth of stimulus in 2008-11," explained Bill Smead, CEO and CIO of Smead Capital Management and a long-term China bear. "Most of that went to special purpose vehicles to build rail, bridges, airports, condo buildings, you name it."

Many of those projects were built with the sole purpose of showing strong economic growth and not to generate economic rent, Smead said.

Gordon Chang, author of "The Coming Collapse of China," said China may only be growing 2 or 3 percent and if you strip out all the construction going into ghost cities and "high-speed rail lines to nowhere," the economy may not be growing at all. 

He looks at electricity usage as a better indicator of growth than the official Chinese statistics. 

"China claimed 7.7 percent growth for the first quarter," he told CNBC this month. "But when you look at electricity, by far the most reliable economic indicator of Chinese economic activity, that grew 2.9 percent in Q1. When you consider that the growth of GDP is historically 85 percent of the growth of electricity, you're talking 2.5 percent (growth)." 

And many of those loans used to finance the construction of those ghost cities and idle train lines may never get repaid. Instead, banks continue to roll over these loans—many made to state-owned companies.

If the banks were to stop rolling over those bad debts, it could create a capital hole in the banking system and force the government into a costly recapitalization of the banks. 

Two things could mitigate the damage, say investing pros—high reserve ratio requirements and China's massive foreign exchange reserves. 

David Riedel of Riedel Research Group, told CNBC that while investors need to "worry about the health of the banking sector," the Chinese government's 20 percent reserve requirement for the banks and $3 trillion of foreign exchange reserves are "two strong pillars of support." 

But using the foreign exchange reserves to recapitalize the banks could have nasty unintended consequences. Smead said they'd have to convert their U.S. Treasury holdings to yuan and "explosively increase the money supply." 

That could torpedo the currency and stoke inflation, Smead said, creating a major crisis. 
China Bears
For some international investors, China uncertainty has been reason to avoid the country's equities altogether. Rajiv Jain, manager of the Virtus Foreign Opportunities Fund, told attendees at the Morningstar investment conference earlier in the month that he was "very concerned about the risk coming from China's shadow banking system." 

In his first-quarter investment commentary, Jain wrote, "In our view this level of (China) credit growth is unsustainable. There is bound to be a significant contraction in credit and, with it, GDP." He added that the risks are systemic. 

That has him thinking defensively about China and investing in companies that do most of their business domestically, Indian banks for instance, and downplaying commodities-related companies that rely on demand from China. 

"If a debt-induced economic downturn takes hold in China, it inevitably will have a negative effect on commodity prices as marginal demand slackens or even falls," Jain wrote. "Lower commodity prices would lead to lower income and reduced investment in exporting countries." 

Those countries include Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, Canada and Australia.

China Opportunities?
Not everyone shares this pessimism. "We're still of the view that China muddles through," said Todd Henry, emerging markets equity portfolio specialist at T.Rowe Price. "They'll post decent growth, but the trajectory of growth will be lower" as credit growth slows.

That's not a ringing endorsement. Henry acknowledged the misallocation of capital and potential problems lurking in the financial system. But he doesn't see systemic risk. 

Richard Gao, a portfolio manager at Matthews Asia, wrote in a note, "We believe that a widespread banking crisis seems unlikely for China, but we have nonetheless taken a cautious approach and typically are underweight in Chinese financials, especially banks, in our portfolios."

Michael Kurtz, global head of equity strategy at Nomura, also told CNBC attempts to rein in credit are "very useful in terms of getting the Chinese economy back on a more sustainable footing as we look out over the medium to long term."

It may even be positive for the country's financial institutions down the line. 

"We do think that medium to long term as China begins to actually crack down on the abuses of easy money and begins to apply harder budget constraints at the margin, it could underpin a longer-term re-rating of the sector," Kurtz said. "We're finally starting to see the banks acknowledge the true status of the underlying balance sheets."

T. Rowe is underweight China financials. The stocks are not yet cheap enough to make them comfortable with the risks that may be lurking on their balance sheets, Henry said. T. Rowe prefers the consumer, Internet and environmental themes in China. 

BIll Stone of PNC Asset Management also told CNBC that things didn't seem to be falling apart in China and that the recent volatility may be creating future opportunities. "There will be an opportunity in mobile," he said, "Mobile e-commerce in China will certainly be worth watching here going forward." 

Is It 2007 or 1979 in China?
Garry Evans, global Head of equity strategy at HSBC, draws the comparison between China in 2013 and the U.S. in 1979 when Fed Chairman Paul Volcker became Fed chairman and took to breaking inflation.

The Chinese government is focused on reform, Evans said. "Markets will want to wait and see whether these reforms happen in China." 

T. Rowe's Henry said that Chinese officials' attempts to shift the economy from one driven by government investment to domestic consumption will be a "delicate balance."

"The risk is they don't get this right and it becomes mismanaged," Henry said. "Our view, they've done a good job in terms of managing the economy. 

Smead takes a dimmer view, saying China in 2013 is more like the U.S. in 2007-08 when the global financial crisis hit. While he runs a long-only U.S. fund, China is his chief worry and that has him avoiding U.S. energy, resource and industrial companies that depend on China growth.

"It's probably late 2007-08 in China," Smead said. "It's a physical impossibility for economy to be growing as it is" unless credit continues to expand sharply. 

He predicts a deep recession or depression that could last four years as it deals with the fallout from the credit binge. 

Either way, HSBC's Evans said, "You have to expect Chinese equities to be quite volatile and quite weak."

By CNBC's Justin Menza. Follow him on Twitter @JustinMenza.


Thailand's hopes to escape recession dimmed by output fall

By Orathai Sriring

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's economy may not easily pull out of recession, data on factory output suggests, even as a retreat by foreign investors puts further pressure on its financial markets.

The fourth straight month of contraction in manufacturing output has raised fresh concerns that a slew of economic data this week will show more economic slippage, including a widening current account deficit as exports and foreign investments slow.

The central bank's data for July on Friday is expected to show consumption and investment remain subdued and the current account is in deficit again after a $3.8 billion gap in January-June.

Thailand's economy slipped into a mild recession in the second quarter and is grappling with faltering exports as investors position for the U.S. Federal Reserve to taper monetary stimulus, which has hit emerging Asia hard.

Pimonwan Mahujchariyawong, an economist at Kasikorn Research Center, said a weak baht should help boost exports and that the current account deficit should be around $3 billion this year.

The baht was slightly weaker at 32.25 per dollar, taking its losses so far this year to 5 percent. Thai stocks have slipped into bear market territory, falling 2.6 percent on Wednesday and tumbling over 20 percent from their May highs.

ING forecast in a report a current account deficit of $5 billion in 2013, which would be the highest since 2005, and "the widening current account deficit makes Thai financial assets vulnerable to taper talk-driven turbulence."

Industrial output in July dropped 4.54 percent from a year earlier, hit by weak electronics and autos. It was worse than the median forecast of a 2.3 percent fall in a Reuters poll, and against a 3.54 percent decline in June.

On a monthly basis, unadjusted output fell 3.32 percent in July after a 0.89 percent rise in June.

"Output data has tracked weak export numbers lower. With no immediate signs of rebound on the external front, net exports are likely to drag on growth for 3Q," said Eugene Leow, an economist with DBS Bank in Singapore.

"Momentum in the domestic economy has waned and elevated household debt could drag on consumption. Sequential GDP growth in 3Q is likely to be anaemic," he added.

Thailand is a regional hub and export base for top global car makers and is the world's number two producer of computer hard disk drives.

However, Sarun Sunansathaporn, an economist at Tisco Securities, said: "We think output data may not tell the whole story as the service sector is still good.

Exports in Q3 are likely to be better, so we expect Q3 GDP growth of 3.9 percent on the quarter and 4.6 percent on the year."

Southeast Asia's second-largest economy shrank on a quarterly basis in each of the first two quarters on weakening domestic demand and sluggish exports.

The weak economic outlook may mean the central bank will keep interest rates low and take supportive policy steps, economists said.

However, Thailand's central bank said on Wednesday it was not worried about capital outflows because of the country's high foreign reserves and that the baht was still moving in line with the currencies of trade partners. It reiterated it would act if the currency moved too fast.

(Additional reporting by Boontiwa Wichakul and Satawasin Staporncharnchai; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)