Is Trump insane? Escalating trade tension woos equity bears to Asia


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Escalation of China-U.S. trade tension

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Stocks fall amid fresh tensions in US-China trade war

KUALA LUMPUR: Asian markets started the week on a weak note amid escalating trade war concerns after the US and China announced plans for additional tariffs against each other.

Locally, the FBM KLCI stayed in negative territory for the whole of yesterday, before paring losses to close 8.8 points or 0.55% lower at 1,600.53 points. Before the closing, the index hovered below 1,595, falling 1.17% to an intraday low of 1,590.51.

Despite the fall, the local index was among the least affected by the regional selldown, compared with other Asian indices. The biggest loser among the regional indices was Japan’s Nikkei 225, falling 2.17% to 20,261.04. This was followed by Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index and the Taiwan Stock Exchange, down 1.91% and 1.74% respectively. India’s Sensex notably closed 2.16% higher.

In Southeast Asia, Singapore’s Straits Times Index was the biggest decliner, down 1.45% at 3,065.33, and the Jakarta Composite index closed 0.66% lower at 6,214.51.

Last Friday, US President Donald Trump announced an additional duty on some US$550 billion worth of targeted Chinese goods, following China’s move to hike trade levies on US$75 billion worth of US goods.

Trump said US tariffs on US$250 billion of Chinese imports will increase from 25% to 30% on Oct 1, while an additional 5% tax on US$300 billion worth of Chinese goods — raising the tariff to 15% from 10% — starts on Sept 1.

The president made it clear that the US was responding to China’s threat of additional tariffs on US$75 billion of goods including soybeans, automobiles and oil.

“This looks like a tit-for-tat [response] and I don’t see an easy resolution to the trade war, as there seems to be no middle ground between the US and China. It is very unsettling for the market because there is no direction from day to day,” said Inter-Pacific Securities Sdn Bhd research head Pong Teng Siew.

However, the tensions eased a bit towards the later part of yesterday, as Chinese Vice Premier Liu He said China was willing to resolve the trade dispute through calm negotiations, stating the nation was against the escalation of the conflict.

Trump responded positively to China’s suggestion and, on the sidelines of a summit in France, had hailed Chinese President Xi Jinping as a great leader and welcomed the latter’s desire for calm negotiations.

It remains to be seen how the trade dispute will be resolved, given the constant retaliatory tariffs between the two economic behemoths since early last year.

Several trade talks between the two nations have not brought any solutions to the trade war, still affecting investor sentiments towards global markets. For the KLCI, the trade war remains a major factor affecting analysts’ forecasts.

Kenanga Research said the index’s underlying trend remains bearish but does not discount the possibility of a technical rebound as the KLCI has been in oversold territory for about a month. “Look out for overhead resistance levels at 1,630 and 1,650. If selling pressure continues, the key support levels to keep an eye on are 1,570 and 1,550,” Kenanga Research wrote in a note yesterday. – Source link
Read more: 

 

Clout eroded as US shirks intl duties

I think it’s necessary to include something Liu once said that also applies here, “The world needs a new America. It needs an America that is free of prejudice and intolerance. It needs an America that understands respect, that matches words with deeds, that understands the principles of benevolence, righteousness, propriety,
wisdom, and faithfulness. The world would be lucky if the new America could become such a country.”

Why are the Chinese brushing aside Trump’s tweets?

Trump has turned Twitter into a stage for his political show, where he says things to gain votes for reelection. He repeats what he has done for the US – to provide Americans welfare, and to “make America great again.” But he is actually damaging the interests of his own country and people.

China unfazed by swaying US policies

In today’s world of production patterns, no country can marginalize China anymore. Whichever country forcibly cuts economic ties with China will only harm itself. After Trump tweeted, he received almost one-sided opposition and doubts, which showed how inappropriate was his unrealistic proposal.

Former U.S. treasury secretary criticizes policies of Trump administration

American expert accuses Western countries of double standard in HK affairs

Poking its nose into other countries’ affairs is an American obsession

The past few months have been sad and depressing for those who live in Hong Kong. The safety guaranteed on the streets of Beijing and Xi’an should be available to the people of Hong Kong. China should not be asked to compromise its sovereignty. If Americans want to boycott anyone, they should do so with their politicians who support the
Hong Kong unrest.

West will shed no tears for Hong Kong

Many Hongkongers are confusing right from wrong while Western public opinion constantly delivers the ideological energy that the radical protesters need. The West has shed no tears for Iraq, Syria and Ukraine, which had gone through similar hardships. Now, it is turning Hong Kong into the forefront of the struggle with China, and, as usual, they will shed no tears for the city’s misery.

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Singapore growth forecast down to 1%


Unknown future: As Singapore further cut its growth forecast, New Zealand, India and Thailand also cut their interest rates signalling concerns on growth outlook. — AFP

SINGAPORE: Singapore slashed its full-year economic growth forecast as global conditions were seen worsening and data confirmed the slowest growth rate in a decade amid mounting fears of recession in the city-state.

The government cut its forecast range for gross domestic product in Singapore – often seen as a bellwether for global growth because international trade dwarfs its domestic economy – to zero to 1% from its previous 1.5%-2.5% projection.

Singapore’s downgrade adds to concerns globally about the effect of increasing protectionism on exports and production.

The deterioration in the global outlook has pushed central banks to cut interest rates and consider unconventional stimulus to shield their economies.

“GDP growth in many of Singapore’s key final demand markets in the second half of 2019 is expected to slow from, or remain similar to, that recorded in the first half, ” the trade ministry said in a statement to the media yesterday.

The ministry flagged a host of growing economic risks including Hong Kong’s political situation, the Japan-Korea trade dispute, the Sino-US tariff war, slowing growth in China and Brexit.

Final second quarter GDP data yesterday showed a 3.3% on-quarter contraction on a seasonally-adjusted annualised basis. That was slightly smaller than the 3.4% decline seen in the government’s advance estimate but deeper than a 2.9% fall predicted in a Reuters poll and a sharp contrast to the robust 3.8% first quarter expansion, which was driven by brisk construction activity.

Yesterday’s data also confirmed annual GDP expanded 0.1% in April-June from a year earlier, its slowest rate in a decade, and lower than poll expectations of 0.2% and the first quarter’s 1.1%.

Singapore’s benchmark stock index fell 1.2% to a two-month low in early trade, underperforming other bourses in the region.

Singapore has been hit hard by the Sino-US trade war, which has disrupted world supply chains in a blow to business investment and corporate profits.

Also yesterday, Singapore cut its full-year forecast for non-oil domestic exports to a 9% contraction from an 8% fall previously.

That comes after a 26.9% drop in electronics exports in the second quarter year-on-year.

“With trade tensions between the US-China unlikely to abate anytime soon, we expect exports and trade-related services to push the economy into technical recession in Q3, ” said Sian Fenner, lead Asia economist at Oxford Economics.

New Zealand, India and Thailand all cut interest rates last week, signalling major concerns about the outlook for economic growth. Last month, the US Federal Reserve cut interest rates for the first time since 2008.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in an annual speech last week that the government stood ready to stimulate the economy.

“It feels like the storm is coming if you look at the whole macro economic fundamentals softening, ” said Selena Ling, head of treasury and strategy at OCBC Bank.

“All the downside risks are piling up on one side, ” Ling added, pointing to the myriad of global risks flagged in the trade ministry statement. — Reuters

Read more:

FBM KLCI dives below 1,600 level to near four-year low
FBM KLCI dives below 1,600 level to near four-year low

by Wong Ee Lin

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Poised for correction: A file picture showing a woman walking by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo. After 10 years of continued rise in asset prices, markets are poised for correction. — AP

Tariffs are here to stay and likely to disrupt the 10-year economic cycle

IF investors ever needed a reminder that not all is right with the equities market, the shock waves the world capital markets, including Bursa Malaysia, had to endure earlier this week are proof enough.

Most stock markets are at the tailend of a 10-year bull run, although the same cannot be said for Bursa Malaysia which has generally has been more bearish than others in the last five years. Going by the current trends, Bursa Malaysia is likely to finish the year lower, which if it happens will be the fourth time in the last five years.

But the leading platform in the world which sets the pace for global flow of capital – the Wall Street – has been hitting new highs although it corrects from time to time largely due to the tweets from President Donald Trump.

Wall Street’s run started in May 2009 and seems to have the strength to carry on for a few more legs, defying conventional logic that economic boom-bust cycles corrects after 10 years. Other stock markets have had good and bad times since 2009 but the US has been consistently on the rise.

The benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Nasdaq and S&P 500, which charts the broader market, have all hit news highs. Bursa Malaysia on the other hand has languished between the 1, 600 and 1, 700 levels, with only one year of positive returns since 2014.

There are several reasons for Bursa Malaysia’s poor performance compared with other markets. For instance, the United States slashed tax rates, which spurred earnings of companies and has the best technology companies listed there. It’s not the same elsewhere in the world.

Nevertheless, after 10 years of continued rise in asset prices due to the combination of a low interest rate environment and advancement in technology, the markets are poised for correction. Until earlier this week, nobody had an inkling of an idea where and how the correction will take place.

However, after President’s Trump latest statement that the US would impose 10% tariff on an additional US$300bil worth of exports from China, it clearly underlines that the trade war is here to stay.

If anybody had a view that the trade war would end if President Trump does not retain his position in the US elections next year, they are wrong. Even some Democrats are leaning towards imposing tariff as measure to help the US keep its competitive edge in the world economy.

Reverse globalisation is no longer a bad word in world trade.

A 25% tariff has already been imposed on US$250bil worth of China’s exports to the United States since March this year.

It is bringing in billions to the US coffers with some going towards helping the farmers overcome the woes of the trade war. The person who takes over from Trump is not likely to dismantle the structure.

Any other president will want to get more from China, which is led by the influential President Xi Jinping, who is seen as the most powerful man that rules the second biggest economy in the world after the late chairman Mao Zedong.

China has retaliated by imposing tariffs on US$110bil worth of imports from the US so far including the produce from farms. It has also allowed the yuan to weaken, sparking concerns that the trade war is evolving into a currency war.Latest data from China shows that the exports are still growing and imports dropping in July even though there is a trade war, suggesting that President Xi will not yield to pressure from the US easily.

A new cold war in the form of the trade war has emerged. As a result, it has caused upheavals in the capital markets that should worry investors.

There have been significant shifts in asset prices from bonds to equities and commodities such as oil. Among all asset classes, dramatic movement in bond prices of government debt papers is the first to feel the impact from the trade war.

This is on the back of increasing certainty that the Federal Reserve and other major central banks will reduce interest rates more aggressively to stimulate the sagging economy. It has caused for money to seek safe haven such as US government debt papers.

For instance the yields on the 10-year US debt paper is 1.69% now. It was 1.9% a week ago and 2.06% a month ago. The yields moves inversely with the price of the bonds.

The yields on the five- and two-year government debt papers have also moved by up 18 points in the last one week. Such movements on billions of dollars will have an impact in the months to come.

The trade war has caused a major disruption in the global supply chain, evidence of the economy slowing globally.

If anybody wants any evidence of the disruption in global supply chain, they only need to go to the KLIA cargo complex and see for themselves the number of idle lorries that do not have enough cargo to move about.

In Malaysia’s case, apart from a slowdown in movement of goods around the world, the uncertainties in Hong Kong have exacerbated the situation.

The combined effects of the trade war, China’s economic uncertainties and Hong Kong’s future as Asia’s financial hub will only be felt in the fourth quarter of this year.

Until then, asset prices will continue to adjust to the new norm.

The views expressed here are solely that of the writer. Source link 

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Malaysia economic outlook looking better on firmer ties with China, says Manulife


KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 1): The economic outlook in Malaysia is looking to be better as the strengthening relationship with China is expected to pave way for rising investment flows from China to Malaysia, according to Manulife Asset Management Services Bhd.

In its mid-year market outlook report today, Manulife Asset Management Services head of total solutions and equities investments Tock Chin Hui said the revival of major infrastructure projects is expected to pump-prime the economy for the second half of the year.

“Malaysia corporates and consumers are expected to spend more due to the progressive disbursements of tax refunds and the resumption of infrastructure projects, which will eventually drive domestic consumption, and investor sentiment is expected to improve as the government continues to embark on structural changes to overhaul the economy and future-proof it.

“Looking ahead, Malaysian equities offer attractive dividend yield and significant defensiveness amid uncertainty caused by trade tension. The Malaysian market is expected to show resilience and could outperform regional peers given its defensive trait and year-to-date laggard performance,” said Tock.

Commenting on the region, Manulife said Asian assets could offer opportunities given their resilience to market volatility in the first half of 2019.

It said Asian equities have held up strongly despite the negative impact of escalating Sino-US trade tensions, and the US Federal Reserve’s increasingly dovish stance has allowed Asian bonds to remain in a good position.

Manulife Investment Management chief economist and head of macroeconomic strategy Frances Donald said central banks have entered a global easing cycle in response to the deteriorating global growth activity and heightened uncertainty surrounding international trade policy.

“This uncertainty has created a confidence shock that is slowing global hiring and business investment along with global trade.

“We expect the Federal Reserve will cut rates at least twice in 2019 as insurance against deteriorating growth in the face of heightened uncertainty but also to stoke inflationary pressures which have been absent.

“Should trade tensions re-escalate in the second half of the year, we would expect the Federal Reserve to respond with more than two rate cuts,” said Donald.

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Invest early for your golden years


Many procrastinate on starting a retirement fund thinking there is still a long way to go to retirement age. However, they fail to realise the effects of inflation on their retirement funds. To ensure you have enough time to build a stress-free retirement, here are some reasons you should start saving while you are young.

Financial independence – As the saying goes, “Sikit-sikit lama-lama jadi bukit.” When it comes to investing your savings, the earlier you start, the greater the accumulated returns on your original investment thanks to compound yield. By investing consistently and regularly, you will be able to secure yourself a comfortable retirement without having to depend on others. Work towards accumulating enough to cover the cost of your basic necessities, lifestyle expenses and occasional splurge on luxuries.

Saving is a good habit to develop – If you start saving for your future from a younger age, you will find that it becomes second nature. It will be easier to put aside some money for retirement. It helps to start with small amounts, especially for young adults who are just entering the workforce, so it is not as overwhelming. How you manage your paycheck will determine how you save for the rest of your earning years. A person who is used to saving on a monthly basis will find it easier to set aside 10% of her salary for retirement as opposed to an individual who is not used to spending her money prudently.

Gain control over your future – When you set aside money for your retirement, remember that you are shaping your future.

This is a task no one else will perform for you or push you to do. By saving consistently, you are ensuring that you are well prepared for any outcome when you leave the workforce. With sufficient savings, you will most likely be able to live your dream lifestyle even during your retirement years – promising you the peace of mind of a secure financial future.

Steps to successful retirement planning

Building a substantial sum for your retirement nest egg can be easy and painless if you start investing early and regularly. Public Mutual’s Direct Debit Authorisation facility allows you to invest regularly while employing the Ringgit Cost Averaging strategy.

Not only that, you can enjoy tax relief of up to RM3,000 per annum if you contribute to the Private Retirement Scheme (PRS) fund. PRS contributions are creditor-protected. Public Mutual’s PRS contributors can also enjoy a free insurance or Takaful coverage of up to RM100,000, subject to terms and conditions.

To cater to diversified investors’ needs and investment objectives, Public Mutual offers six PRS core funds and three non-core funds, which make a great pool of funds for investors to choose from. Young investors who have long-term investment horizons can consider investing in PRS non-core funds, which can yield better potential returns in the long term.

 

For more financial tips and investment guidance, visit instagram.com/invest_with_public_mutual

Disclaimer:

These articles are prepared solely for educational and awareness purposes and should not be construed as an offer or a solicitation of an offer to purchase or subscribe to products offered by Public Mutual. No representation or warranty is made by Public Mutual, nor is there acceptance of any responsibility or liability as to the accuracy, completeness or correctness of the information contained herein.

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Fitch affirms Malaysia’s rating at A- with stable outlook, but heed the economic warning


Image result for Fitch ratings logo/images
 


Fitch Ratings

 

KUALA LUMPUR: Fitch Ratings has affirmed Malaysia’s Long-Term Foreign-Currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at ‘A-‘ with a Stable Outlook.

According to a statement posted on the interantional rating agency’s website on Thursday the key rating drivers were its strong and broad-based medium-term growth with a diversified export base.

However, it also was concerned about its high public debt and some lagging structural factor.

Main points:

* GDP to grow at 4.4% in 2019 and 4.5% in 2020

* Global trade tensions to impact economy

* Private consumption to hold up well, public investment to pick up

* Outlook for private investment is more uncertain

* Weak fiscal position relative to peers weighs on the credit profile

* General government debt to fall from 62.5% of GDP in 2019 to 59.3% in 2021

* Malaysia relatively vulnerable to shifts in external investor sentiment

* Fitch expects another 25bp rate cut in 2020 on the back of continued external and domestic uncertainty.

* Banking sector fundamentals remain broadly stable

Fitch said Malaysia’s ratings balance strong and broad-based medium-term growth with a diversified export base, against high public debt and some lagging structural factors, such as weak governance indicators relative to peers.

The latter may gradually improve with ongoing government efforts to enhance transparency and address high-profile corruption cases.

Fitch expects economic growth to slightly decelerate in the rest of this year as a result of a worsening

external environment, but to hold up well at 4.4% in 2019 and 4.5% in 2020.

Malaysia is a small open economy that is integrated into Asian supply chains, but it also has a well-diversified export base, which helps cushion the impact from a potential fall in demand in specific sectors.

Global trade tensions are likely to have a detrimental effect on Malaysia’s economy, as with many other countries, but this may be partially offset by near-term mitigating factors, such as trade diversion, in particular towards the electronics sector.

Private consumption is likely to hold up well and public investment should pick up again in the next few years after the successful renegotiation of some big infrastructure projects, most prominently the East Coast Rail Link.

However, the outlook for private investment is more uncertain. FDI inflows were strong in the past few quarters, but investors will continue to face both external trade and domestic political uncertainty.

The Pakatan Harapan coalition took office in May 2018 with very high expectations. It has set a number of policy initiatives in motion, but holds only a small majority in parliament and has seen its previously high public approval rates fall significantly.

Uncertainty about the timing and details of the succession of the 94-year old Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad also continues to linger.

A weak fiscal position relative to peers weighs on the credit profile. The government’s repeal of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and replacement with the Sales and Service Tax (SST) soon after it took power has undermined fiscal consolidation.

The government aims to offset the revenue loss through measures to strengthen compliance, the introduction of a sugar tax and an increased stamp duty. Its fiscal deficit target for 2019 of 3.4% of GDP, which we believe will be met, includes a special dividend from Petroliam Nasional Berhad (PETRONAS, A-/Stable).

Political pressures and growth headwinds could motivate the government to increase its current spending, but we believe that if it does so, it would seek additional revenues or asset sales to contain the associated rises in the deficit and public debt.

Fitch estimates general government debt to gradually decrease from 62.5% of GDP in 2019 to 59.3% in 2021.

The debt figures used by Fitch include officially reported “committed government guarantees” on loans, which are serviced by the government budget, and 1MDB’s net debt, equivalent at end-2018 to 9.2% and 2.2% of GDP, respectively.

The government guaranteed another 9.2% of GDP in loans it does not service. The greater clarity provided by the government last year on contingent liabilities negatively influenced the debt ratios, but this is partly offset by the improved fiscal transparency.

Significant asset sales, as intended by the government, could result in a swifter decline in the debt stock than its forecast in its base case.

Progress in implementing reforms that institutionalise improved governance standards through stronger checks and balances, and greater transparency and accountability would strengthen Malaysia’s business environment and credit profile.

The World Bank’s governance indicator is still low at the 61st percentile compared with the ‘A’ category median of 76th.

An important change is that all public projects are now being tendered, which increases transparency, creates a level-playing field and should bring down project costs. Prosecution of high-profile cases may also help reduce corruption levels over time.

Malaysia has been running annual current account surpluses for the past 20 years, and Fitch expects it to continue to do so in the next few years, even though the surplus is likely to narrow to below 2% of GDP.

Foreign-reserve buffers were US$102.7 billion (4.7 months of current account payments) at end-June 2019, while other external assets are also significant, including from sovereign wealth fund Khazanah.

Malaysia is nonetheless relatively vulnerable to shifts in external investor sentiment, partly because of still-high foreign holdings of domestic government debt, although these have fallen to 21% from 33% three years ago.

Moreover, short-term external debt is high relative to reserves, although a significant part of this constitutes intra-group borrowing between parent and subsidiary banks domestically and abroad, reflecting the open and regional nature of Malaysia’s banking sector.

Monetary policy is likely to remain supportive of economic activity, after Bank Negara Malaysia’s (BNM) reduced its policy rate by 25bp to 3.0% last May, which seemed a pre-emptive response to increased external downside risk.

Inflationary pressures are limited with headline inflation at 0.2% in May 2019, still low due to the repeal of the GST and lower domestic fuel prices.

Fitch expects another 25bp rate cut in 2020 on the back of continued external and domestic uncertainty.

Banking sector fundamentals remain broadly stable. Elevated, but slightly declining household debt at 83% of GDP and property-sector

weakness should be manageable for the sector, but present a downside risk in case of a major economic shock.

The sector’s healthy capital and liquidity buffers, as indicated by the common equity Tier 1 ratio of 13.4% and liquidity coverage ratio of 155% at end-May 2019, help to underpin its resilience in times of stress.

SOVEREIGN RATING MODEL (SRM) and QUALITATIVE OVERLAY (QO)

Fitch’s proprietary SRM assigns Malaysia a score equivalent to a rating of ‘BBB+’ on the Long-Term Foreign-Currency (LT FC) IDR scale.

In accordance with its rating criteria, Fitch’s sovereign rating committee decided not to adopt the score indicated by the SRM as the starting point for its analysis because it considers it likely that the one-notch drop in the score to ‘BBB+’ since March 2018 will prove temporary.

Fitch’s SRM is the agency’s proprietary multiple regression rating model that employs 18 variables based on three-year centred averages, including one year of forecasts, to produce a score equivalent to a LT FC IDR.

Fitch’s QO is a forward-looking qualitative framework designed to allow for adjustment to the SRM output to assign the final rating, reflecting factors within our criteria that are not fully quantifiable and/or not fully reflected in the SRM.

RATING SENSITIVITIES

The main factors that, individually or collectively, could trigger positive rating action are:

* Greater confidence in a sustained reduction in general government debt over the medium term.

* An improvement in governance standards relative to peers, for instance through greater transparency and control of corruption.

The main factors that could trigger negative rating action are:

* Limited progress in debt reduction, for instance due to insufficient fiscal consolidation or further crystallisation of contingent liabilities.

* A lack of improvement in governance standards

KEY ASSUMPTIONS

* The global economy and oil price perform broadly in line with Fitch’s Global Economic Outlook (June 2019). Fitch forecasts Brent oil to average USD65 per barrel in 2019, USD62.5 in 2020 and USD60 in 2021.


The full list of rating actions is as follows:

Long-Term Foreign-Currency IDR affirmed at ‘A-‘;

Outlook Stable

Long-Term Local-Currency IDR affirmed at ‘A-‘;

Outlook Stable

Short-Term Foreign-Currency IDR affirmed at ‘F1’

Short-Term Local-Currency IDR affirmed at ‘F1’

Country Ceiling affirmed at ‘A’

Issue ratings on long-term senior unsecured local-currency bonds affirmed at ‘A-‘

Issue ratings on global sukuk trust certificates issued by Malaysia Sukuk Global Berhad affirmed at ‘A-‘


But heed of Fitch’s economic warning

 

Fitch Ratings has affirmed Malaysia's Long-Term Foreign-Currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at 'A-' with a Stable Outlook.
Fitch Ratings has affirmed Malaysia’s Long-Term Foreign-Currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at ‘A-‘ with a Stable Outlook.

The international Fitch Ratings has given us a warning on the outlook for the Malaysian economy, which we should not ignore.

In preparing for the 2020 Budget, the government’s economic and financial planners should take heed of this friendly warning and act sooner rather than later. We should not let this warning pass, without having more consultations with Fitch, on how serious their constructive criticism could turn out to be.

Fitch Ratings has affirmed Malaysia’s long-term foreign currency issuer default rating at A-, with a stable outlook. But we must seriously take note of the several reservations that Fitch has made, and consider and monitor them, to remain on even keel and progress further.

What are these warnings?

High public debt

The national debt is now confirmed by Fitch to be high. By whatever standard of measurement used – by us, the IMF or the World Bank and other agencies – there is now consensus that our debt is indeed high, although still not critical.

However, the debt has to be watched closely. We have to ensure better management of our budget expenditures and strive to strengthen our budget revenues, to reduce the pressure to borrow more in the short to medium term.

Some lagging structural factors

The structural factors would refer to our need to raise productivity, increase our competitiveness and meritocracy and strengthen our successes, in combating corruption and cronyism.

How far have we advanced to deal effectively with these longstanding structural issues? In the minds of our foreign and even domestic investors, how successful have we been compared to the previous regime?

Fitch expects the economy to slow down to 4.4% this year and 4.5% in 2020. With the US -China trade war looming large and the general world economic uncertainty, investors can get even more jittery and hold back their investment plans. Thus, the low economic growth rates for this year and ahead should not be ruled out.

If the economy softens further to around 4% per annum, the implications of unemployment, and especially for our graduates, could be worrisome. The small and medium businesses and farmers and fishermen and smallholders in our plantation industries could suffer much from any slowdown.

But we are still slow and are struggling in trying to restructure the economy. We have not yet adopted major changes of transformation of the economy, which is largely raced-based to the vital requirement, to become more needs-based in our policies and implementation.

We need a New Economic Model but it has been difficult to adopt it as soon as possible.


Weak governance relative to peers

To be fair, many measures have been taken to strengthen the institutions of government. We have seen this in the parliament select committees, the Election Commission, the MACC and the civil service and other institutions.

We cannot do too much too soon, as good governance takes much longer to restore and build, after several decades of neglect in the past. But our people and investors are somewhat impatient for more rapid changes for better governance.

Fitch has, however, subtly warned us to compare our “weak governance relative to our peers”. Thus, we have to take note of the more rapid progress made by our neighbouring countries in Asean, like Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia and, of course, Singapore, to measure our real success in good governance.

Investors have the whole world to choose from, to put their money where their mouth is. They also need not look at the comfortable physical climate and tax incentives alone to be attracted to invest in Malaysia.

Racial harmony, religious understanding and political stability are also major considerations for both domestic and foreign investors and professionals. This is where the reduction of the brain drain is important. But we continue to have strong outflows of brain power, which is debilitating.

Fitch warns that the PH government holds only a small majority in Parliament and has seen its previously high public approval rates fall significantly. Fitch’s assessment is quite correct. This has been due to too much politicking and allegation of sex scandals. All this does not give confidence to investors and even consumers who will be dampened in their enthusiasm to increase consumption and investment.

Fitch Ratings has subtly and politely warned us of the challenges we are facing. It has also emphasised in its usual guarded fashion the essential need for us to take heed of their advice and warnings, to make the necessary socio-economic and political adjustments, changes and even transformation, without undue delays.

We could face a real slowdown all round if we don’t consolidate our strengths to overcome our lingering weaknesses to forge ahead for a better Malaysia in the future – for all Malaysians.

By Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, chairman of the Asli Centre for Public Policy.

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Penang’s LRT project gets conditional approval from Transport Minister


GEORGE TOWN: Waves of excitement swept through Penang when the Transport Minister announced that the Bayan Lepas light rail transit (LRT) has received conditional approval.

It is seen as a move to reduce traffic congestion in the city and create a next wave of growth for the state.

The approved 29.9km Bayan Lepas LRT will bring convenience not only to the local folk but also tourists and investors, said Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers Penang chairman Datuk Dr Ooi Eng Hock.

Ooi, who is positive that the project will spur growth on the island, believes the LRT will bring in another wave of development into the state.

“The LRT will divert traffic congestion. It will attract new investments, make life easier for our workforce.

“I believe it will boost the state’s economy with another wave of growth,” he said yesterday.

Following the Transport Ministry’s conditional approval of the project, Ooi added that it is the first step for a change in landscape and behaviour of transport mode in Penang.

Yesterday, the Transport Ministry gave conditional approval to the Bayan Lepas LRT project.

Transport Minister Anthony Loke in a statement said that after a detailed study of the application by Penang Economic Planning Unit (BPEN) to develop the Bayan Lepas LRT project, approval with 30 conditions for the state to comply was given on Tuesday.

Loke said the conditions included a detailed environmental impact assessment (DEIA) approval including traffic, social and heritage assess­ments.

The state must now exhibit documents on the project for three months, and the final go ahead will only be decided after the public responses are evaluated, said Loke.

“I welcome public participation from the people, NGOs and all stakeholders in this public review.

“The relevant documents are to be exhibited in public places including government offices.

“The state government must also upload a copy of these documents on a website for online viewing.

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow thanked the Federal Govern­ment and said the state is committed to fulfilling all requirements.

“We will wait for the official letter from Transport Ministry to proceed and initiate public viewing of the documents,” he said.

The RM8.4bil Bayan Lepas LRT together with a monorail, cable cars and water taxis, is part of the state government’s RM46bil Penang Trans­port Master Plan (PTMP).

This LRT will begin at Komtar in the northeast corner of the island and head south through Jelutong, Gelugor, Bayan Lepas and Penang Interna­tional Airport, ending at the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) development.

It is expected to provide a fast route to the airport and will traverse densely populated residential, commercial and industrial areas.

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