China Manufacturing Index Hits Two-Year High

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Gu'an, China - June 14, 2016: staff receiving incoming goods, sorting products, and preparing shipments at the Northeast China based Gu'an warehouse and distribution facility

Gu’an, China – June 14, 2016: staff receiving incoming goods, sorting products, and preparing shipments at the Northeast China based Gu’an warehouse and distribution facility

Industrial production appears to be gathering momentum in China, going by a closely-watched gauge of factory activity which last month showed its highest reading in two years.

The National Bureau of Statistics said on Tuesday that the official purchasing managers’ index (PMI) in China gave a reading of 51.2 in October, up from 50.4 in the month before. It was the third month in a row the PMI has come in higher than the 50-point mark, indicating expansion in manufacturing.

The reading for last month, the highest since July 2014, surpassed an average estimate of 50.3 provided by economists in a survey by Bloomberg News.

The latest data, perhaps, serves as another confirmation that the Chinese economy is beginning to stabilize.

“Production and market demand is picking up again, accelerating expansion,” Zhao Qinghe, analyst at NBS, said in a statement.

Reading from a separate PMI computed by Chinese financial magazine Caixin exhibited similar trend as the official data. It rose to 51.2 last month, up from 50.1 in September. The reading was also the highest seen in the private PMI since July 2014.

The Caixin PMI, which is computed in collaboration with market data firm IHS Markit, centers on activities of small companies in China.

“The economy seems to be stabilising for the moment, owing primarily to policies implemented to sustain growth,” Zhong Zhengsheng, an analyst at Caixin, said in a statement. “Supportive policies must be continued, or industrial output may be dragged down by a slowdown in investment.”

The economy of China, a major driver of global growth, has lost considerable momentum in recent years. It grew by 6.9 percent last year – that was the weakest pace seen in about 25 years. The economy is believed to have further slowed in 2016.

The country’s manufacturing sector, which is a major growth driver in the economy, has been confronted with waning demand both at home and abroad. There is also the problem of excess industrial capacity from the infrastructure boom seen in the Asian powerhouse.

Zhao noted in the recent statement that there were still downward pressures on exports and imports as a result of slow recovery in growth across the globe.

Frederic Neumann, economic researcher at HSBC Holdings, told Bloomberg that the new data was an indication of the fact that “a generous stimulus injected earlier this year is still winding itself through the economy.” He noted, however, that this effect may soon end as a result of steps currently being taken by the Chinese government.

Beijing has stepped up plans to cut the huge corporate debt in the country. It wants to make the economy consumer-driven, marking a transition from excessive reliance on debt-driven investment.

Investors are worried that the Chinese government could decide on measures that could tighten liquidity in its drive to cut down corporate debt and arrest decline in the value of yuan.

On Tuesday, the 10-year treasury bond of China bounced back on expectations of possible tightening in liquidity, after previously slumping to its lowest level in a month.

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Samsung Profit Continue to Slides on Galaxy Note 7 Recall

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Operating profit of Samsung took a massive tumble in the third quarter, impacted by the recent recall of the company’s latest Galaxy Note 7 due to fire concerns.

The South Korean tech giant said on Thursday that operating profit for the third quarter was 5.2 trillion won (about $4.5 billion), which was the lowest seen in two years.

Pre-tax profit was 5.97 trillion won, down more than 19 percent from the level in the same period a year earlier. Samsung’s net profit declined to 4.54 trillion, a fall of nearly 17 percent.

The slump in profits was attributed to a massive plunge in the company’s mobile device business, which was greatly impacted by the unfortunate recall of the Galaxy Note 7.

The latest high-end smartphone was recalled, with production halted, after reports emerged that the units were catching fire. Samsung has yet to fully explain what was responsible for the fire incidents, saying it was still investigating the cause of the overheating.

The Note 7 fiasco caused a 96 percent on-year decline in the operating profit of the IT and mobile communication business of Samsung, standing at 100 billion won during the quarter. The profits of the world’s largest smartphone maker would have been impacted more had it not been for improvement recorded in its components business.

Samsung said high-end product sales by its components business rose during the third quarter. A regulatory filing showed operating profit from sales of semiconductors boosted to 3.37 trillion won, while that from sales of display panels, including the high-end OLED panels, was 1.02 trillion.

Co-Chief Executive Officer issued an apology for the Galaxy Note 7 misfortune during a shareholders’ meeting in Seoul, according to Reuters.

The Note 7 was expected to go head-to-head with Apple’s latest iPhone 7 before it was recalled and production halted.

Samsung reportedly tried to replace the smartphones with upgraded devices, but that attempt was abandoned after new reports of overheating. The entire experience was considered a big dent to Samsung’s reputation, with analysts saying it had lost consumer confidence.

“It’s painful – the Note 7 should potentially have sold 15 to 17 million units and that’s gone,” ABI Research’s Jake Saunders told the BBC. “That’s now suddenly an opportunity for other smartphone makers to jump in.”

Samsung said its mobile phone business would shift focus to growing sales of flagships, while also working to regain consumer confidence.

The South Korean phone maker has expressed expectation of increased smartphone and tablet sales during the current quarter. It expects the mobile device business to report around 2.23 trillion won in operating profit, similar to the same period a year ago.

It is expected to launch its next flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S8, in the first quarter of 2017. The device may help the company put the Note 7 fiasco behind it.

Meanwhile, the appointment of Lee Jae-yong as the company’s vice chairman has been approved by shareholders. The 48-year-old is the son of Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee and grandson of company founder Lee Byung-chul.

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Cardus says Education Won’t Solve the Payday Loan Epidemic

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Will education solve the indebtedness attributed to payday loans? One group suggests it won’t.

A new Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) study has found that four percent of Canadian households are using payday loans, and 90 percent of those households are doing so to cover crucial expenses or to avoid lay payment fees. In other words, payday loans are vital to consumers.

The FCAC lauded current regulations in place, at the federal and provincial level, but noted that proposed legislation that would apply new rules to the industry would hurt the most vulnerable. Instead, researchers say that more consumer education is needed, not more regulations. It cited, for instance, the fact that nearly half of payday loan users were unaware that these short-term, high-interest products were more expensive than taking out a cash advance on a credit card.

Researchers concluded that payday loans are critical to low- and moderate-income households, and that by instituting even more regulations it would hinder their ability to pay for bills and unforeseen events.

But one organization says that education alone is not enough to protect the impecunious in Canada.

Cardus, a North American think tank dedicated to the renewal of social architecture, released a report entitled “Bank on the Margins.” It explained that it believes FCAC’s intentions to be admirable, but not enough to shield the impoverished and financially destitute from payday loan exploitation.

“The FCAC’s focus on educating Canadian consumers about payday loan costs is laudable,” said Brian Dijkema, Cardus Program Director of Work and Economics, in a statement. “But that will make a limited difference since many payday loan users are in desperate situations and financial alternatives simply aren’t available to them.”

Rather than simply education consumers, Cardus researchers alluded to several solutions:

Pass a similar law that Colorado adopted in 2010 that requires all payday loans to be repayable over a period of six months, come with new fee structures to and offer no penalty for paying back a payday loan early.

Allow cities to offer and promote low-cost payday loan alternatives by community groups.

Encourage governments to provide market-based incentives for new alternatives.

Cardus concluded that there really is “no silver bullet” to address the dire problems associated with payday loans. However, there are numerous ways to protect consumers, whether it’s community action, government initiatives or encouraging banks to extend credit to the unbanked and underbanked.

The federal consumer watchdog agency conceded in the report that payday loans are costly.

“High household indebtedness and low levels of consumer savings, particularly the absence of a household emergency fund, make a payday loan a solution for many consumers despite their very high cost,” said Jane Rooney, financial literacy leader at the consumer agency, in a statement.

Across Canada, and throughout the United States and Europe, there are numerous jurisdictions that are trying to rein in the payday loan industry. Everything from new ordinance laws to fee restructuring, officials are looking at every possible avenue to restrict the growth and use of payday loan stores.

Opponents of payday loans say that these financial products create a debt trap for millions of desperate consumers. Proponents note that payday loans are an essential tool for those who do not have access to traditional forms of credit and banking options.

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Growth of Industrial Profits in China Slows

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Shanghai China

Profits of industrial corporations in China continued to expand in September, but the rate of growth is reducing, according to official data just released.

Industrial profits in the world’s second-largest economy climbed 8.4 percent to 4.64 trillion yuan ($685 billion) in the first nine months of 2016, compared to the level in the same period a year ago, the National Bureau of Statistics reported on Thursday.

The growth in earnings was driven mainly by the steel and oil refining industries. Earnings from steel production in the January-September period surged 272.4 percent, compared to the same period a year earlier. Profits from oil refining soared by 263.8 percent on-year in the first nine months of this year.

However, earnings growth slowed in September. Profits climbed 7.7 percent from a year ago to 577.1 billion yuan, compared to the 19.5 percent rise seen in the previous month. The jump recorded in August was the highest in three years, according to Bloomberg.

The statistics agency explained that significant difference between earnings growth in the past two months was partly because earnings were especially poor in August 2015 before rising strongly in the following month.

“The figures aren’t bad in fact, especially in the state sector, which is doing very well,” Commerzbank AG Singapore economist Zhou Hao said. “The biggest challenge facing companies is to strike a balance between cutting debt and making a profit. Controlling debt risk now becomes a priority for the government as corporate profits have been stabilized.”

The NBS noted that industries such as electricity and electronics suffered considerable slump in profit growth.

Recent indicators of the Chinese economy showed it was becoming more stable, having recorded growth of 6.7 percent three quarters in a row. Persistent factory deflation is improving as a result of increased government spending, among other factors. Last month, producer prices climbed for the first time in about four years.

China’s government is stepping up efforts to curb overcapacity in the economy’s traditional sectors due to the effect this can have on profits. A campaign is on to cut back on capacity in the steel and coal sectors.

“We should take heed of corporate debt risks as we cut overcapacity,” warned the NBS, which noted that coal and steel companies are deeper in debt.

Some analysts have said outlook for industrial profits in China could depend greatly on the extent of success made by policy makers in cutting capacity in certain sectors.

Chinese government is working to control risks from the huge corporate debt it currently faces as well as rising property prices in the country.

Liabilities of industrial corporations in China climbed 4.7 percent in September, compared to the level in the same period last year.

The NBS data focused on large businesses with more than 20 million yuan in annual revenues from their major operations.

The 6.7 percent expansion seen in the July-September quarter put the economy on track towards achievement of the target set by China’s policy makers. A property boom and higher government spending have combined to lessen the impact of weak foreign and domestic demand.

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