Tag Archives: China

More trouble ahead for John Paulson

I am assuming that John Paulson, one of the most well-known and successful hedge fund managers around, is not a reader of this blog. In a previous post, I questioned his strategy of buying land and expecting the real estate market to recover. If you’ve been following the data lately, you know that the real estate market continues to decline.

But John Paulson may have more pressing losses to deal with:

John Paulson, who holds a significant long position in gold and gold mining stocks, suffered a heavy hit to his portfolio when Sino-Forest (TRE.TSX) plummeted following accusations from Muddy Waters Research that the company overstated its timberland holdings in China’s Yunnan province.

Paulson’s Funds own 34,714,300 shares, or 14% of the outstanding of Sino-Forest. The stock remains halted after sinking 25% yesterday to C$14.46. Shares of Sino-Forest are indicated at C$6.75, off over 50% versus its previous close. The hit to Paulson would be in excess of $500 million.

Oops.

Another sign of the Chinese bubble bursting

Marketwatch reports:

Falling land prices may prompt Chinese property developers to write down the value of their assets, forcing a sober reassessment for those with vast land holdings, according to a survey released Monday by Credit Suisse.

Most at risk are those mainland Chinese and Hong Kong developers who added aggressively to their land banks in 2009 and 2010, the prices of which could come under pressure amid Beijing’s ongoing credit tightening, the investment bank said.

The findings were part of a poll of both listed and unlisted companies conducted by an independent research company and commissioned by Credit Suisse.

[…]

Prices for land sold at auction were down 20% so far this year, the report cited one industry expert as saying. Other data indicated price declines of up to 50% for the year to date, although the figures were affected by slumping transaction volumes in cities such as Beijing, possibly overstating the true rate of declines, the report said.

Story continues here…

I’ve written before about the Chinese bubble. Nobody knows when this bubble will burst or deflate, but it will. And now that China is such a major player, it will drag down economies around the world.

The popping of the Chinese bubble?

With all the talk of inflation, China is experiencing a deflation problem. Marketwatch reports:

China is urging major supermarkets to boost vegetable sales and encouraging farmers to bypass middlemen and market produce directly, in a bid to curb a steep slide in prices that is hurting farmers’ incomes, the Ministry of Commerce said in a statement.

Twelve major supermarkets, including Wumart Stores Inc., have agreed to boost sales, the ministry said. The China Daily newspaper said Thursday Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Carrefour SA are also involved in the effort.

The ministry has also set up a “work group” to maintain prices at a “reasonable” level.

Its statement Wednesday underscores the difficulties the government faces in controlling volatile prices. The impact of an official push last year to raise vegetable output appears to be unraveling now, amid overproduction and clogged distribution lines.

Vegetable prices have fallen 21% in a month and 5.9% from a week ago, the ministry said.

The sharpest declines were seen in green pepper, which fell 20.9% from a week ago, and cabbage, chili pepper and lettuce, which fell 12%, 8.9% and 8.1% respectively.

In contrast, grain, pork, beef, metals and rubber all continued to post small increases of between 0.2% and 1.7% from a week ago.

Last year, the Ministry of Agriculture pushed farmers to raise vegetable acreage by 7% and production by 7.5%, following almost three years of little to no growth in the sector.

The directive was part of wider efforts, including price caps on cooking oil and flour, to curb a surge in food prices.

Worldwide commodity inflation has been driven, in part, by demand from China. Are these price corrections the first sign that the Chinese bubble has popped and that inflation will turn to deflation as Chinese demand evaporates?

American vs. Chinese poor

China is boosting their determination of poverty to an annual income of $229.30. In the United States, the poverty level is $10,890.

So a poor person in the U.S. makes nearly 50 times as much money as a poor person in China. Additionally, American poor get all sorts of free services (subsidized public transportation, welfare, libraries, food stamps, etc.) from the government that the Chinese poor do not receive.

In fact, China’s per capita GDP is just $4,382. An American living in poverty has higher income than the average person in China.

Energy Usage Per GDP Unit Declines Everywhere (via No Money No Worries)

Great chart showing improving energy efficiency around the world.

Energy Usage Per GDP Unit Declines Everywhere Recent data from BP (reprinted in the Economist) highlights the fact that energy usage required to produce one unit of GDP has declined for nearly a century in the US and has gone down almost everywhere else for the last twenty years. Note:  1 tonne = 7.33 barrels (click to enlarge) Even China has made great strides in reducing energy consumption per unit in recent years.  The spikes there correspond to the two periods of the greatest Maoist luna … Read More

via No Money No Worries

NASA’s James Hansen attacks democracy, supports totalitarianism

The Washington times reports that NASA’s laboratory head James Hansen is:

Citing the Chinese government as the “best hope” to save the world from global warming. He also wants an economic boycott of the U.S. sufficient to bend us to China’s will.

“I have the impression that Chinese leadership takes a long view, perhaps because of the long history of their culture, in contrast to the West with its short election cycles. At the same time, China has the capacity to implement policy decisions rapidly. The leaders seem to seek the best technical information and do not brand as a hoax that which is inconvenient.”

“After agreement with other nations, e.g., the European Union, China and these nations could impose rising internal carbon fees. Existing rules of the World Trade Organization would allow collection of a rising border duty on products from all nations that do not have an equivalent internal carbon fee or tax.”

“The United States then would be forced to make a choice. It could either address its fossil-fuel addiction … or … accept continual descent into second-rate and third-rate economic well-being.”

Does Mr. Hansen really believe Chinese totalitarianism is better than American democracy? Does he really support an economic boycott of his own country? And what is the source of his ideology? Does he really favor these positions because it would help the environment? Or is he just interested in political power?

I’m not sure which is worse: 1) a demagogue using the environment to control the country or 2) an ideologue who is willing to adopt a political system responsible for death and destruction to save the environment.

I must thank James Hansen for his comments. He is showing the world what the “experts” in global warming really want: to control us.

China to bail out Spain. Good or bad?

I previously wrote that “China has surpassed the United States as the lender of last resort.” Now, there is more evidence for this:

China is confident Spain will recover from its economic crisis and Beijing will buy Spanish public debt despite market fears of an Irish-style bailout, a top Chinese official said Monday.

The comments by Vice Premier Li Keqiang were made in an op-ed piece in Spain’s leading daily El Pais one day ahead of his arrival in Madrid for a three-day official visit, the start of a European tour that will also include Britain and Germany.

“Since China is a responsible investor country in the long-term on the European financial markets, and in particular in Spain, we have confidence in the Spanish financial market, which has been translated into the acquisition of its public debt, something we will continue to do in the future,” he said.

“China supports the measures adopted by Spain for its economic and financial readjustment, with the firm conviction that it will achieve a general economic recovery”, said Li, who is widely tipped to become China’s next premier.

It remains to be seen if this is good or bad. If China acts responsibly and withdraws their support if Spain fails to hold to their austerity measures, China is simply helping Spain avoid steps necessary to fix its mess and encouraging other countries to act irresponsibly too. But if China really forces Spain to cut back on its deficit spending, this could provide Spain the temporary support it needs to get its fiscal situation back on track.

My major concern is that China is still controlled by a ruling class that has its own interests in mind more than the economic well-being of the Spanish. China would hate to see the world economy decline and has every reason to prop it up. China figures that every year it can grow faster than the rest of the world, it becomes all that much more important and powerful. A collapse in the worldwide economy now would take China down with it before the country has a chance to flex its muscles. China would rather prop up the world for another ten years, by which time its power will have grown immensely.

Or I could be over-analyzing things. China could be making an investment and, if correct, a very profitable one. But with China’s secretive government, one never knows what they are really thinking.

China has surpassed the United States as the lender of last resort

It is already well known that the United States is poised to lose its status as the world’s largest industrial producer for the first time 110 years. In 2011, China will become #1.

But China is also poised to claim another, possibly more important crown. China will become the world’s lender and investor of last resort, a title the United States has held since the end of World War II. Mail Online reports:

China has said it is willing to bail out debt-ridden countries in the euro zone using its $2.7trillion overseas investment fund.

In a fresh humiliation for Europe, Foreign Ministry spokesman Jiang Yu said it was one of the most important areas for China’s foreign exchange investments.

The country has already approached struggling European countries with financial aid, including offering to buy Greece’s debt in October and promising to buy $4billion of Portuguese government debt.

Read more…

As China passes the United States in another key measure, let’s look at the bright side: We can let China lose money bailing out insolvent countries and not waste our own.

Government obsession with trains doesn’t work in China or the United States

Previously, I wrote about Chinese bubble about to burst? in which I focus on the over-building of housing to the tune of 64 million empty apartments.

I suggest you check out Megan McArdle’s post on Should China Rethink High Speed Rail? Similar to the housing situation, China is building trains that few Chinese can afford and will be under-utilized. In other words, while these high-speed trains will be the marvel of the world by traveling up to 300 miles per hour, most Chinese will decide to ride the slower trains at a lower cost. These trains will only be “successful” if China lowers the cost of ridership, but that will only make the unprofitable train even more unprofitable.

Unfortunately, this economic non-sense infects the United States as well. Countless cities in this country have built or are building fixed mass transportation systems. For example, Phoenix has built the first stage of its light rail system and is expanding it further. Phoenix will lose money on the train project because it cannot charge a rate high enough to cover the costs of operation and amortization of the construction expense. Adding to the silliness, this train runs at street level, competing with traffic. How exactly is this light rail better than running buses. Buses have the advantage of being movable. If one line needs more buses and another fewer, buses can be moved from one to the other. However, once a train is built at a huge expense, it cannot be moved and you are stuck with it.

Phoenix also has the disadvantage of having a very low population density. But even a city like New York with an extremely high population density and millions of tourists riding its public transportation system still loses money on its mass transit. How a relatively poor country like China or a city with a low population density like Phoenix can expect to break even on a train system is beyond me. In reality, neither expect to break even: China’s centralized control of the economy and the United States’ new obsession with social engineering and stealing from the rich to give to the poor makes profitability irrelevant.

When it comes to mass transit, it appears that the United States government is just as dictatorial and wasteful as the Chinese.

Chinese bubble about to burst?

The Chinese market fell sharply today, the second time in three sessions, as China tries to slow down its economy:

Chinese stocks suffered sharp declines Tuesday, with property developers tumbling on further tightening measures that target the sector, while coal and metal shares fell on concerns about price curbs.

Chinese property stocks fell sharply after Beijing on Monday announced new limits on the ability of foreigners to buy residential or commercial property.

Chinese refining, coal and metal stocks stumbled after the China Securities Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported that the country might unveil a set of measures in the near term to control rising prices.

China is in the midst of a huge bubble, quite possibly the largest bubble ever anywhere. There have been numerous reports of entire cities built in China that now sit empty. See here, here, and here for example. There are reportedly 64 million empty apartments in China.

China is now in the process of deflating its bubble. It hopes to prick the bubble without suffering an economic collapse. But this is unlikely to occur. Despite all the building and growth, China is still a poor country. The vast majority live in poverty and the middle class is much poorer than the American middle class. Despite its relatively lack of wealth and, correspondingly, capital, China has spent hundreds of billions on wasteful projects that now sit idle. [How much money was spent building 64 million apartments that now sit idle?] The US housing bubble pales in comparison, yet the US economy is three times the size and is better able to survive such waste.

When the Chinese bubble bursts, it will take down much of the world with it. With Ireland, Greece, Portugal, and Spain already on edge and the US suffering from a weak economy, huge deficits, and growing debt, the world economy can hardly afford another burst bubble at this point. But what are the options? Prolonging the bubble only makes the pain worse when it does burst. Better to take our medicine now and return to reality as soon as possible.