Tag Archives: China

Falling Diesel Demand In China Paints Bleak Picture

  • Diesel demand in China fell 14% and 19% in March and April respectively, reaching levels not seen in a decade, according to data compiled by Wells Fargo.
  • “We believe the accelerating decline is most likely tied to economic factors and the effects of the tariff ‘war’ with the U.S.,” Wells Fargo energy analyst Roger Read said in a note Monday. “If one wants to worry, that is where to focus most closely in our view.”
  • China said in April its economy grew by 6.4% in the first quarter of 2019. However, global investors and economists have been skeptical of China’s official economic figures for years as they believe they overstate how much China’s economy is growing.

China’s true pace of economic growth is always hard to decipher, but the country’s lagging diesel demand could be a sign that the world’s second-largest economy is in a much more dire state than official numbers indicate.

Diesel demand in China fell 14% and 19% in March and April, respectively, reaching levels not seen in a decade, according to data compiled by Wells Fargo. Monthly demand has also been falling every month since December 2017, the data shows.

Source: Wells Fargo Securities, Bloomberg

“We believe the accelerating decline is most likely tied to economic factors and the effects of the tariff ‘war’ with the U.S. (lifted demand earlier in 2019 to ‘beat’ the tariffs, but now falling),” Wells Fargo energy analyst Roger Read said in a note Monday. “If one wants to worry, that is where to focus most closely in our view.”

China said in April its economy grew by 6.4% in the first quarter of 2019. However, global investors and economists have been skeptical of China’s official economic figures for years as they believe they are overstated.

This skepticism has led analysts to use other ways to measure economic growth in China, including demand for diesel fuel and electricity. Diesel is largely used to fuel trucks that transport goods. Declining diesel demand is seen as signal of slowing economic growth as it could indicate fewer trucks are being used, hence fewer goods are being bought and sold.

China’s massive drop in diesel demand comes as it wages a trade war against the U.S.

Both countries have slapped tariffs on billions of dollars worth of their goods. Earlier this month, both countries hiked tariffs across their goods, leading to a ripple effect throughout financial markets.

Crude prices, for example, posted their worst weekly performance of 2019 last week and are down more than 7% this month. The S&P 500 is down more than 4% in May while the Shanghai Composite has lost 5.5%.

Neither side is showing signs of backing down, either. President Donald Trump said Monday the U.S. was not ready to make a deal with China. Meanwhile, a commentary in Chinese state-run newspaper Xinhua indicated China would not give into U.S. demands to change its state-run economy.

These tensions could shave off between 0.3% and 0.4% from China’s economic growth, according to UBS analyst Anna Ho. The analyst also said in a note: “Open economies, like Singapore, Korea and Malaysia are more sensitive to global trade and higher export exposure, and could see a reduced chance of growth recovery in 2H19.”

In another sign of tension between the two countries and perhaps declining economic activity, Chinese tourism to the U.S. fell for the first time in 15 years last year, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office.

Source: by Fred Imbert | CNBC

Farm Crisis: Suicides Spike In Rural America As Trade War Deepens

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The deepening trade war between the US and China has roiled complex global supply chains and America’s Heartland. The latest breakdown in negotiations comes at a time when soybean exports to China have crashed, and huge stockpiles are building, have resulted in many farmers teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. Mounting financial stress in the Midwest has allowed a public health crisis, where suicide rates among farmers have hit record highs, according to one trade organization’s interview with the South China Morning Post.

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China Car Sales Tank 16.6% In April, Falling For Record 11 Months In A Row

No country has better exemplified the global automobile recession than China. Sales for the world’s largest auto market continue to deteriorate, with the latest report confirming that passenger vehicle sales in China tanked yet again – this time dropping 16.6% year-over-year to 1.54 million units, following a 12% decline in March and an 18.5% slide in February. In addition, April SUV sales fell 14.7% to 642,220 units.

https://www.zerohedge.com/s3/files/inline-images/China%20auto%20april.jpg?itok=_gmc0bJ4

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Why America Has All The Leverage In China Trade Negotiations, In 3 Charts

Those curious who is more impacted by the sudden re-escalation in trade hostilities between the US and China can get a quick answer by looking at the market reaction to Sunday’s unexpected news: while the S&P is down barely 1%, overnight Chinese stocks plunged nearly 6%, their biggest drop in over three years, indicating just how much more sensitive to every twist and turn in trade relations Chinese stocks are.

Of course, one can counter just how smaller – and far less relevant – the Chinese stock market is in comparison to the S&P500, which is also the basis for the vast majority of household net worth for Americans, and global investors (whereas in China, it is the local housing that is far more critical and accounts for roughly 70% of household net worth).

But it’s not just the stock market that shows why China should tread very lightly in its ongoing negotiations with Trump, or why the US president has decided suddenly to re-escalate. Below we lay out [ ] charts showing just why the US indeed continues to have the upper hand in negotiations with China, starting with the relative importance of the US and European economies to China rather than vice versa.

As the first chart below from Deutsche Bank shows, the US and Europe are “much more important for China than China is for US and Europe” as China remains the nation with the highest beta, or the highest relative impact, from a 1% move in either direction for either the US or the Euro area.

https://www.zerohedge.com/s3/files/inline-images/US%20China%20relative%20importance.jpg?itok=iXqy1JCi

Second, whereas the US is now actively contemplating the launch of MMT, and exploding the US twin deficit by issuing virtually unlimited amounts of debt – which it ostensibly can do as long as the US Dollar is the world’s reserve currency – China is already near its leverage peak. In fact, as shown in the chart below, both China’s willingness and ability to lever up is now quite limited according to Deutsche Bank’s Torsten Slok.

https://www.zerohedge.com/s3/files/inline-images/China%20willingness%20and%20ability.jpg?itok=rL6mXCii

Last, and certainly not least, is what we said back in January represented a “tectonic shift” in China’s economy, when we observed that this year, for the first time in history, China’s current account deficit will turn negative meaning that China will henceforth need financing from the rest of the world, and specifically the US. Which is why, as we said five months ago, it is not Beijing that has leverage over the US, but rather the US whose ability – and desire – to allocate capital to China could mean all the difference for China’s economic growth, or lack thereof.

https://www.zerohedge.com/s3/files/inline-images/China%20current%20account%20deficit.jpg?itok=E8NcTR6h

Finally, and tangentially, assuming trade talks collapse and Trump follows through on his threat of hiking taxes on Chinese imports, it would, as Torsten Slok shows in his latest chart, push US tariffs – which are already higher than most advanced economies – higher than many emerging market countries making the US one of the leading protectionist countries in the work.

https://www.zerohedge.com/s3/files/inline-images/US%20tariff%20levels.jpg?itok=0aUb3gwr

That alone would cripple China’s economy, and is perhaps the main reason why Trump decided to once again flex his muscles, if so far only on twitter.

Source: ZeroHedge

It Begins: China’s Largest Property Developer Will Sell All Homes At A 10% Discount

Back in 2017, ZeroHedge explained why the “fate of the world economy is in the hands of China’s housing bubble.” The answer was simple: for the Chinese population, and growing middle class to keep spending vibrant and borrowing elevated, it had to feel comfortable and confident that its wealth would keep rising. However, unlike the US where the stock market is the ultimate barometer of the confidence boosting “wealth effect”, in China it has always been about housing as three quarters of Chinese household assets are parked in real estate, compared to only 28% in the US, with the remainder invested in financial assets.

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Beijing knows this, of course, which is why China periodically and consistently reflates its housing bubble any time it feels the broader economy is slowing, hoping that any subsequent popping of the bubble, which happened in late 2011 and again in 2014, will be a controlled, “smooth landing” process. For now, Beijing has been successful in maintaining price stability at least according to official data, allowing the air out of the “Tier 1” home price bubble which peaked in early 2016, while preserving modest home price appreciation in secondary markets.

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How long China will be able to avoid a sharp price decline remains to be seen, but in the meantime another problem faces China’s housing market: in addition to being the primary source of household net worth – and therefore stable and growing consumption – it has also been a key driver behind China’s economic growth, with infrastructure spending and capital investment long among the biggest components of the country’s goalseeked GDP. One result has been China’s infamous ghost cities, built only for the sake of Keynesian spending to hit a predetermined GDP number that would make Beijing happy.

Meanwhile, in the process of reflating the latest housing bubble, another dangerous byproduct of this artificial housing “market” has emerged: tens of millions of apartments and houses standing empty across the country. As we reported recently, according to recent research, roughly 22% of China’s urban housing stock is unoccupied, according to Professor Gan Li, who runs the main nationwide study. That amounts to more than 50 million empty homes.

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The reason for the massive empty inventory glut: to keep supply low and prices artificially elevated by taking out as much inventory off the market as possible. This, however, works both ways, and while it helps boost prices on the way up as the economy grow and speculators flood the housing market with easy money, the moment the trend flips the spike in supply as empty units are offloaded will lead to a panic liquidation of homes, resulting in what may be the biggest housing market crash ever observed, and putting the US home bubble of 2006 to shame.

Indeed, as Bloomberg noted, the “nightmare scenario” for Chinese authorities is that owners of unoccupied dwellings rush to sell when cracks start appearing in the property market, causing a self-reinforcing downward price spiral.

Which is why preserving the narrative (or rather myth) of constantly rising prices is so critical for China: any cracks in the facade of the price appreciation story could have a dire consequence first for the housing market, and then, the broader economy whose growth is already the slowest in modern Chinese history, as any scramble to liquidate inventory could promptly result in a bidless market as the tens of millions of empty units are suddenly exposed for both buyers and sellers to see.

* * *

While the key role of China’s housing market in the country’s economy, and thus the world’s, has long been known, a recent troubling development is that despite what Beijing deems stable home prices, the foundations behind the housing market are starting to crack. As the WSJ recently reported, in early December, a group of homeowners stormed the sales office of their Shanghai complex, “Central Washington”, whose developer, Shanghai Zhaoping Real Estate Development, was advertising new apartments at a fraction of the prices of the ones sold earlier in the year. One apartment owner said the new prices suggested the value of the apartment she bought from the developer in March had dropped by about 17.5%.

“There are people who bought multiple homes who are now trying to sell one to pay off the mortgage on another,” said Ran Yunjie, a property agent. One of his clients bought an apartment last year for about $230,000. To find a buyer now, the client would have to drop the price by 60%, according to Ran.

Meanwhile, in a truly concerning demonstration of what will happen when the bubble finally bursts, in October we reported that angry homeowners who paid full price for units at the Xinzhou Mansion residential project in Shangrao attacked the Country Garden sales office in eastern Jiangxi province last week, after finding out it had offered discounts to new buyers of up to 30%.

“Property accounts for roughly 70 per cent of urban Chinese families’ total assets – a home is both wealth and status. People don’t want prices to increase too fast, but they don’t want them to fall too quickly either,” said Shao Yu, chief economist at Oriental Securities. “People are so used to rising prices that it never occurred to them that they can fall too. We shouldn’t add to this illusion,” Shao added, echoing Ben Bernanke circa 2005.

The bottom line is that just like true price discovery for US capital markets is prohibited (and sees Fed intervention any time there is an even modest, 10-20% drop in asset prices) or else the risk of an all out panic is all too real, in China true price discovery is also not permitted, however when it comes to the country’s all important, and wealth effect boosting, real estate.

Which is a problem, because whereas China suddenly appears to be suffering from all the conventional signs of deflation in the auto retail sector, where as we noted previously, neither lower prices nor easier loans have managed to put a dent the ongoing demand plunge…

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… the same ominous price cuts – which are clearly meant to boost flagging demand – are starting to emerge in China’s housing sector.

Case in point, according to China’s Paper, Hui Ka Yan, the Chairman of Evergrande, China’s biggest property developer, and China’s second richest person announced it must ramp up home sales and to do that it would sell all its properties at a 10% discount after its home sales tumbled in January amid a cooling market.

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Evergrande Chairman Hui Ka Yam

The fact that Evergrande has had financial difficulties for the past year is not new. In November, Evergrande, which carries the industry’s largest debt pile of any Chinese housing developer, was caught in a vicious funding squeeze and raised eyebrows with a $1.8BN, 5-year bond deal, which it had to pay a whopping 13.75% coupon, prompting analysts to say the move “carried a whiff of desperation.” The fact that chairman Hui Ka Yan, China’s second-richest person, bought $1bn of it himself, added to a sense that outside investors were shunning the company.

In many ways, Evergrande had no choice: after the property market boomed for the past three years, helping to power the economy through Xi Jinping’s crucial political transition year of 2017, in 2018 the market slowed sharply, after local governments shifted focus to controlling frothy prices and China Development Bank, the policy lender, phased out a $1 trillion subsidy program for homebuyers in smaller cities, where Evergrande’s projects are concentrated, the FT reported.

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Even the official China News Service, usually a cheerleader for the economy, acknowledged recently that the property market “was a bit chilly”. Nomura chief China economist Ting Lu put it more starkly, forecasting a “frigid winter”.

The bigger problem for Evergrande, which had $208 billion in total liabilities at the end of June 2018 — the most of any Chinese developer — including $43bn maturing in 2019, is that should China’s housing market suffer a steep downturn, it will likely be the company to suffer the most, if for no other reason than its massive leverage which stood at a net debt to equity ratio of 400%.

Commenting on the bond sale, a high-yield debt underwriter at a western bank in Hong Kong told the FT that “Evergrande is very levered, so, yes, they do need cash,” said “That said, they are not a name we see as having a near-term liquidity crisis. That cannot be said about other smaller players.”

That was in November; and while there are no signs that the funding situation at Evergrande has deteriorated sharply since then – especially since the company is widely seen as systematically important and Beijing would never let it fail (although the same was said about Kaisa, another Chinese property developer that did default not too long ago), it now appears that the company has decided to start liquidating properties in an unexpected scramble to either gain market share, or to obtain much needed funding.

In any case, the fact that China’ largest property developer is now slashing prices across the board by as much as 10%, means that a deflationary hurricane is about to blow across what most see as the most important sector in China’s economy, and worse, should other property developers follow in slashing prices launching a race to the bottom, nobody knows how far prices could truly fall should a liquidation domino effect ensue.

What is most troubling however, is that as recently as November, the property slowdown was seen to be in large part due to efforts by city governments to restrain runaway price increases, which has included draconian interventions such as price controls and sales bans.

However, now that Evergrande is rushing to slash prices, it appears that runaway home prices are no longer a concern for Beijing, and in fact, a far greater concern is how Beijing may intervene to prevent what could soon be a price plunge spiral; many have already speculated that Beijing will have no choice but to bar Evergrande’s sales. If it doesn’t, or if homeowners have already figured out that their home prices are floating in the sky on a bubbly foundation that has now burst, the knock on effect could be devastating as instead of an asset, China’s most popular and aspirational “wealth effect” product could turn into a liability overnight.

If that happens, no amount of intervention by Beijing could stop the avalanche of selling that would ensue, not to mention the deflationary shockwave that a hard landing – i.e. crash – in China’s housing market would launch across the entire world…

Source: ZeroHedge

Chinese Workers Forced to Crawl in Street After Missing Sales Targets

Shock video shows staffers suffering cruel punishment

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Workers from a Chinese beauty products company have been forced to crawl on the street after failing to reach their annual targets.

The staff were on all fours as they made their way through busy traffic in the Chinese city of Tengzhou, according to local reports.

Pedestrians of the city in eastern China were shocked by the scene as they stopped to watch as the employees moving forward on their hands and knees, videos show.

Source: by Tracy You | Daily Mail

Revealing The Naked Truth Of China’s Real Estate Slowdown

Warren Buffett has famously told Berkshire Hathaway investors: “You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out.”

Buffett’s market wisdom can be applied to the Chinese property market.

Now, the tide is going out and the boom days are over, the industry is rapidly slowing as credit growth is the slowest on record – pointing to a weakening in the economy in coming months.

As for “swimming naked when the tide goes out,” well, it seems like one real estate firm, in southwest China used topless models covered in body paint as a last-ditch effort to unload a new property development before the market implodes.

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Nanning Weirun Investment Company, a real estate developer in Nanning, capital of the southwestern Guangxi Zhuang, hired a bunch of models to advertise its condominiums by using their bare skin as a canvas, said Asia Times.

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Floor plans of the condos were painted on the back of each model, and their breasts were painted with logos and other advertising slogans.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/buy%20a%20home%3F.png?itok=xNc7GmRG

While it is unclear if the topless models helped to spur sales, Asia Times indicated that the stunt attracted many people to the showroom last Friday.

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Hundreds of Sina Weibo users, China’s Twitter, criticized the promotion and called it disgusting, as others thought it was an interesting method, in the attempt to generate sales in a slowing market.

An employee at Nanning Weirun told the website Btime.com that the bodypainting promotion was a one-off event to drive sales.

The strategy is one of the more unconventional approaches being taken by desperate developers to attract new buyers as GDP growth, and the housing market are expected to fall in the first half of 2019.

Was the marketing stunt worth it for the developer?

Probably not, as the city planning authority suspended the firm’s marketing permit on Monday.

Video: Revealing the naked truth of China’s real estate slowdown

Source: ZeroHedge