Stock Ticker

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

‘Act big’ now to save economy, worry about debt later, Yellen says in Treasury testimony

WASHINGTON: Janet Yellen, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for Treasury Secretary, urged lawmakers on Tuesday to "act big" on coronavirus relief spending, arguing that the economic benefits far outweigh the risks of a higher debt burden.

In more than three hours of confirmation hearing testimony, the former Federal Reserve chair laid out a vision of a more muscular Treasury that would act aggressively to reduce economic inequality, fight climate change and counter China's unfair trade and subsidy practices.

Taxes on corporations and the wealthy will eventually need to rise to help finance Biden's ambitious plans for investing in infrastructure, research and development, and for worker training to improve the U.S. economy's competitiveness, she told members of the Senate Finance Committee.

But that would only come after reining in the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed over 400,000 in the United States, and the economic devastation it brought.

Yellen, who spoke by video link, said her task as Treasury chief will be to help Americans endure the final months of the pandemic as the population is vaccinated, and rebuild the economy to make it more competitive and create more prosperity and more jobs.

"Without further action we risk a longer, more painful recession now and longer-term scarring of the economy later," she said.

Yellen said pandemic relief would take priority over tax increases, but corporations and the wealthy, which both benefited from 2017 Republican tax cuts "need to pay their fair share."

She raised eyebrows of some senators and Wall Street when she said that Treasury would consider the possibility of taxing unrealized capital gains - through a "mark-to-market" mechanism - as well as other approaches to boost revenues.

DEBT BURDEN

She also that the value of the dollar should be determined by markets, a break from departing President Donald Trump's desire for a weaker U.S. currency.

"The United States does not seek a weaker currency to gain competitive advantage and we should oppose attempts by other countries to do so," she said.

Wall Street stocks rose on Tuesday in reaction to Yellen's call for a hefty stimulus package, as well as to positive bank earnings updates. Oil prices also rose, while Treasury yields fell slightly on her comments that parts of the 2017 tax reform should be repealed.

Biden, who will be sworn into office on Wednesday, outlined a $1.9 trillion stimulus package proposal last week, saying bold investment was needed to jump-start the economy and accelerate the distribution of vaccines to bring the virus under control.

Asked what outlays would provide the biggest "bang for the buck," Yellen said spending on public health and widespread vaccinations was the first step. Extended unemployment and nutrition aid, better known as food stamps, should be next, she said.

"Neither the president-elect, nor I, propose this relief package without an appreciation for the country's debt burden. But right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is act big," Yellen said.

She said even though the amount of debt relative to the economy has risen, the interest burden - the amount the Treasury pays to service its debt - has not, due to lower interest rates. She said she will watch that metric closely as the economy recovers.

NEW CLIMATE POST AT TREASURY

Yellen also called climate change an "existential threat" to the U.S. economy and said she would appoint a senior official at Treasury to oversee the issue and assess systemic risks it poses to the financial system.

She added investment in clean technologies and electric vehicles was needed to cut carbon emissions, keep the U.S. economy competitive and provide good jobs for American workers.

Yellen said China was the most important strategic competitor of the United States and underscored the determination of the Biden administration to crack down on what she called China's "abusive, unfair and illegal practices."

Asked whether China had committed "genocide" in its treatment of Muslim Uighurs as the Trump administration declared in a last-minute proclamation, Yellen said China is "guilty of horrendous human rights abuses, yes."

Biden's transition team urged the Senate to move swiftly to confirm Yellen. Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, who will lead the Finance Committee after Biden's inauguration on Wednesday, said he would push for a confirmation vote on Thursday. Republican Senator Mike Crapo said he would work towards an "expeditious" confirmation for Yellen.

She also received the endorsement of all former Treasury secretaries, from George Schultz to Jack Lew, who urged senators in a letter to swiftly confirm Yellen's nomination to avoid "setting back recovery efforts." A spokeswoman for Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who steps down on Wednesday, did not respond to a request for comment. - Reuters



Source: The Sun Daily

Bursa Malaysia opens higher, mirroring Wall Street

On the broader market, gainers outpaced losers 275 to 233, while 332 counters were unchanged, 1,265 untraded and 12 others suspended. — Picture by Azneal Ishak
On the broader market, gainers outpaced losers 275 to 233, while 332 counters were unchanged, 1,265 untraded and 12 others suspended. — Picture by Azneal Ishak

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 20 — Bursa Malaysia opened higher in early trading today, mirroring Wall Street’s overnight positive performance.

At 9.15am, the benchmark FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI (FBM KLCI) rose 2.76 points to 1,604.64 compared with 1,601.88 at yesterday’s close.

The index opened 4.67 points higher at 1,606.55.

On the broader market, gainers outpaced losers 275 to 233, while 332 counters were unchanged, 1,265 untraded and 12 others suspended.

Total volume stood at 564.22 million units worth RM333.19 million.

Public Investment Bank, in a note, said US stocks closed higher on Tuesday after Treasury secretary nominee Janet Yellen made the case for a large-scale fiscal stimulus to cushion the economic blow from Covid-19 during her confirmation hearing in Washington.

The S&P 500 index gained 0.8 per cent, the Dow Jones rose 0.38 per cent, and Nasdaq improved 1.5 per cent.

However, Malacca Securities said it expects negative sentiment could persist over the near term as investors await the Bank Negara Malaysia’s (BNM) decision on the overnight policy rate (OPR) later in the afternoon; as any further cut in the OPR may cause downward pressure on banking stocks.

Among the heavyweights, Maybank rose one sen to RM8.11, Public Bank added 12 sen to RM21.02, while PetChem was flat at RM7.51.

Tenaga increased four sen to RM10.04 and Top Glove improved eight sen to RM6.21.

Of the actives, HPP rose 18 sen to 54 sen, Yong Tai inched up half-a-sen to 30 sen, while KTG and Sapura Energy were flat at 26.5 and 12.5 sen, respectively.

On the index board, the FBM Emas Index gained 21.25 points to 11,601.77, the FBMT 100 Index expanded 19.0 points to 11,329.26, and the FBM Emas Shariah Index was 27.47 points higher at 13,130.82.

The FBM 70 rose 23.24 points to 14,864.09 and the FBM ACE eased 16.18 points to 10,778.19.

Sector-wise, the Financial Services Index increased 46.18 points to 14,808.39, the Industrial Products and Services Index up 0.1 of-a-point to 179.11, while the Plantation Index eased 17.65 points to 7,271.78. — Bernama




Source: Malay Mail

Biden’s stimulus rally, higher crude oil push ringgit higher

At 9.03am, the ringgit inched up to 4.0460/0510 versus the greenback from 4.0480/0520 at Tuesday’s close. — Reuters pic
At 9.03am, the ringgit inched up to 4.0460/0510 versus the greenback from 4.0480/0520 at Tuesday’s close. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 20 — The ringgit was higher versus the US dollar at opening today, pushed by the US President-elect Joe Biden’s stimulus rally, coupled with the comfortably trading Brent crude oil above US$55 (RM222.61) per barrel.

At 9.03am, the ringgit inched up to 4.0460/0510 versus the greenback from 4.0480/0520 at yesterday's close.

Axi chief global market strategist Stephen Innes said this positive sentiment should provide a more inviting backdrop to the local note.

“However, while the incoming Biden administration’s focus will be domestic-orientated, another all-time high for China’s trade surplus in December (US$78.17 billion) ostensibly supports US foreign policy hawkishness.

“This is not great for Asia’s foreign exchange risk and worth keeping ears and eyes trained on the early tonality of the new administration’s views on China’s trade,” he said.

Meanwhile, today marked the end of the Bank Negara Malaysia’s two-day Monetary Policy Committee meeting, which started yesterday, and the central bank is expected either to make another interest rate cut or maintain it.

Against a basket of major currencies, the ringgit was traded lower.

It fell versus the Singapore dollar to 3.0476/0525 from 3.0443/0482 and down against the yen to 3.8956/9008 from 3.8912/8962.

The local currency also depreciated to 5.5204/5288 from 5.5081/5140 compared with the British pound and slipped to 4.9131/9195 from 4.9058/9114 vis-a-vis the euro. — Bernama




Source: Malay Mail

Tokyo stocks open higher ahead of Biden’s inauguration

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index advanced 0.50 per cent or 142.64 points to 28,776.10 in early trade, while the broader Topix index was up 0.09 per cent or 1.66 points at 1,857.50. — Reuters pic
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index advanced 0.50 per cent or 142.64 points to 28,776.10 in early trade, while the broader Topix index was up 0.09 per cent or 1.66 points at 1,857.50. — Reuters pic

TOKYO, Jan 20 — Tokyo stocks opened higher today supported by solid gains on Wall Street ahead of the US presidential inauguration of Joe Biden, and expected aggressive stimulus spending by his government.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index advanced 0.50 per cent or 142.64 points to 28,776.10 in early trade, while the broader Topix index was up 0.09 per cent or 1.66 points at 1,857.50.

“Japanese shares are seen gaining with support from rallies in the US market, but a wait-and-see attitude will increase ahead of the (US) presidential inauguration ceremony,” Okasan Online Securities said in a commentary.

The dollar fetched ¥103.89 (RM4.05) in early Asian trade, against ¥103.90 in New York late yesterday.

Among major shares in Tokyo, Sony was up 0.61 per cent at ¥10,670, Panasonic was up 1.26 per cent at ¥1,326, and industrial robot maker Fanuc was up 1.33 per cent at 27,490.

ANA Holdings was down 2.18 per cent at ¥2,259.5 after a report said the airline is planning to book a current loss of more than ¥300 billion for the nine months that ended in December.

On Wall Street, the Dow ended up 0.4 per cent at 30,930.52. — AFP




Source: Malay Mail

Tug-of-war between debt and stimulus awaits Yellen at Treasury

Janet Yellen, who also was the first woman to lead the Federal Reserve, would take office as the world’s largest economy struggles to get back on its feet after Covid-19 caused tens of millions of layoffs and a sharp contraction in economic growth.— Reuters pic
Janet Yellen, who also was the first woman to lead the Federal Reserve, would take office as the world’s largest economy struggles to get back on its feet after Covid-19 caused tens of millions of layoffs and a sharp contraction in economic growth.— Reuters pic

WASHINGTON, Jan 20 — Spend big to help the economy while dealing with a massive national debt: as US Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen will face a delicate dance between undoing the damage done by the coronavirus while figuring out ways to pay the bill.

With employment faltering and virus infections soaring, President-elect Joe Biden, who takes office today, has proposed a US$1.9 trillion (RM7.68 trillion) rescue package to revitalise the economy and kickstart the underperforming vaccination programmes that will be critical to bringing the pandemic to an end.

If confirmed by the Senate, Yellen, who would be the first woman to serve as Treasury secretary, would be tasked with getting the massive bill through Congress.

That will entail convincing skeptical lawmakers that the benefit of more spending outweighs concerns about the country’s soaring debt level.

“Neither the President-elect, nor I, propose this relief package without an appreciation for the country’s debt burden. But right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is act big,” Yellen told the Senate Finance Committee at her confirmation hearing yesterday

Soaring spending

Yellen, who also was the first woman to lead the Federal Reserve, would take office as the world’s largest economy struggles to get back on its feet after Covid-19 caused tens of millions of layoffs and a sharp contraction in economic growth.

She also would be one of the few Treasury secretaries with a background in economics and policy, rather than a career at a Wall Street investment bank.

Two previous pandemic relief bills passed by Congress have helped keep the country from a worse downturn by giving loans and grants to small businesses and expanding unemployment benefits, among other provisions.

But that spending also caused an explosion of the deficit for the 2020 fiscal year, which jumped more than 200 per cent to an all-time high of US$3.1 trillion, more than twice the prior record.

The spending continued in the first quarter of the 2021 fiscal year, breaking a quarterly record.

While some sectors have seen a steady rebound, there is evidence that the tentative recovery is flagging, with weekly Labour Department data showing the pace of layoffs increasing and the economy losing jobs in December.

But Oxford Economics said a “fiscal paradigm shift” is underway in how economists think about debt.

“The growing consensus amongst academics and policy analysts is that what matters more than the levels of budget deficits and debt, is the currently low real cost of the debt — the difference between the boost to growth and the debt servicing cost,” the firm said in an analysis.

The Fed’s commitment to keep the benchmark lending interest rate at zero for an extended period to promote full employment, is helping Yellen’s case to focus on spending to boost the recovery rather than worry about debt for now.

“It’s something we will eventually need to attend to, but it’s also important for America to invest,” she said, adding the administration could consider issuing long-term debt to fund their plans.

Those investments will help prevent long-term scarring of the economy, she said.

Watching Wall Street

Prior to her nomination, Yellen gave indications that she would keep a close eye on Wall Street, though she also has taken money from some of its biggest firms after she left her role in government.

She spoke out against moves pursued by outgoing President Donald Trump’s administration to loosen regulations on banks, but acknowledged at her hearing that they seemed to have weathered the shocks caused by the pandemic thus far.

Her image was however complicated by revelations that she earned more than US$7 million in speaking fees since leaving her position as Fed chair in early 2018, including from financial giants Goldman Sachs and Citigroup — a common if sometimes criticised practice.

Nonetheless, Yellen’s nomination was met hopefully by groups like Americans for Financial Reform, which advocates for tighter controls on the nation’s largest banks.

At her hearing, Yellen was not asked about regulation, but agreed that her focus would not be on providing aid to the financial industry.

“Our focus should be on Main Street not Wall Street,” she said. — AFP




Source: Malay Mail

Eurostar urges state support as virus wipes out train traffic

A high-speed Eurostar train exits the Channel tunnel in Coquelles, near Calais, northern France, June 24, 2015. — Reuters pic
A high-speed Eurostar train exits the Channel tunnel in Coquelles, near Calais, northern France, June 24, 2015. — Reuters pic

LONDON, Jan 20 — Eurostar, whose train services through the Channel Tunnel have been decimated by the coronavirus pandemic, has called on the UK government to provide it with the same financial support handed to grounded airlines over concerns about a possible collapse.

Christophe Fanichet, a senior executive from SNCF, the French state railway and part-owner of Eurostar, said on Friday that the London-based company was in “a very critical” state after a collapse in travel between Britain and the European continent.

And following a call by British businesses for a UK government rescue of London-based Eurostar, the company on Monday reiterated the need for support.

“We are encouraged by the (British) government backed loans that have been awarded to airlines and would once again ask that this kind of support be extended to international high-speed rail which has been severely impacted by the pandemic,” Eurostar said in a statement.

“Without additional funding from government there is a real risk to the survival of Eurostar, the green gateway to Europe, as the current situation is very serious,” it added in reference to trains’ lower emissions compared with planes.

Separately, the Department for Transport said it recognised “the significant financial challenges facing Eurostar as a result of Covid-19 and the unprecedented circumstances currently faced by the international travel industry”.

While it did not refer to the loans request, the department said it would continue to work closely with Eurostar over “the safe recovery of international travel”.

Eurostar is 55 per cent owned by the SNCF, 30 per cent by Canadian fund manager CDPQ, 10 per cent by Britain-based fund Hermes Infrastructure, and five per cent by the Belgian railway SNCB.

Business plea

British business leaders have joined the call for the UK government to financially rescue Eurostar.

In a letter dated Friday and sent to British finance minister Rishi Sunak, London First lobby group said Eurostar needed “swift action to safeguard its future”, or further harm Britain’s economy and environmental targets.

Signed by 25 executives and academics, the letter urged Britain’s Treasury and Department for Transport not to allow Eurostar to collapse.

“If this viable business is allowed to fall between the cracks of support — neither an airline, nor a domestic railway — our (economic) recovery could be damaged.”

Fanichet last week said Eurostar passenger numbers were down 85 per cent in 2020 from the year earlier and that the group was now “on a drip” in need of extra cash to prevent it from collapsing.

He added that the problem for Eurostar was that it was seen as French by the British government and as British by the French, meaning it had been difficult to secure bail-out cash.

Prior to the pandemic, Eurostar had gradually been expanding its services, with new lines opened up from London to Amsterdam, the Alps, the south of France — in addition to the regular lines between Paris and Brussels. — AFP




Source: Malay Mail

UK’s BBC must make tough decisions on spending, says watchdog

National Audit Office said the BBC received £3.52 billion (RM19.4 billion) from the fee in 2019/20, a fall of 8 per cent since 2017-18 as the government withdrew funding for free licences for the over-75s. — Reuters pic
National Audit Office said the BBC received £3.52 billion (RM19.4 billion) from the fee in 2019/20, a fall of 8 per cent since 2017-18 as the government withdrew funding for free licences for the over-75s. — Reuters pic

LONDON, Jan 20 — Britain’s BBC needs to make tough decisions to ensure its future as viewers spend less time with the broadcaster and the number of households paying the licence fee declines, the National Audit Office (NAO) said today.

Since it was founded nearly a century ago, the BBC has dominated Britain’s media landscape, with its television, radio and online services used by 90 per cent of the population weekly, according to its annual report.

But it is losing audiences, and in particular younger viewers, to rivals such as Netflix, and politicians have questioned whether the universal TV licence — a tax on all television-watching households which was 157.50 pounds in 2020 — can be justified in the future.

The BBC received £3.52 billion (RM19.4 billion) from the fee in 2019/20, a fall of 8 per cent since 2017-18 as the government withdrew funding for free licences for the over-75s, the NAO spending watchdog said.

The government is also considering decriminalising licence fee evasion, a move that the BBC estimated could reduce its income by more than 1 billion pounds by 2027.

The BBC had made substantial savings, the NAO said, but its costs outstripped income for three of the past five years and some project had exceeded budgets.

“As decisions about the licence fee are made, the BBC needs to develop a clear financial plan for the future setting out where it will invest and how it will continue to make savings,” NAO head Gareth Davies said.

“Without such a plan, it will be difficult for the BBC to effectively implement its new strategic priorities.”

BBC director general Tim Davie, who started in the role in September, and new chairman Richard Sharp, who joins next month, will lead negotiations with the government on future funding and the licence fee.

“We have set out plans for urgent reforms focused on providing great value for all audiences and we will set out further detail on this in the coming months,” a BBC spokeswoman said. — Reuters




Source: Malay Mail

Irresistible? Pension funds plot move on China’s US$16t sovereign bond market

China’s sovereign debt market is the world’s second-largest after the United States. Yet while foreigners own a third of the US Treasury market, they hold just 9.7 per cent of China’s sovereign debt, according to government data. — Reuters pic
China’s sovereign debt market is the world’s second-largest after the United States. Yet while foreigners own a third of the US Treasury market, they hold just 9.7 per cent of China’s sovereign debt, according to government data. — Reuters pic

LONDON, Jan 20 — China’s US$16 trillion (RM64.7 trillion) sovereign debt market is the proverbial elephant in the investment room. But it’s becoming too big to ignore, even for the most risk-averse Western investors.

A large, A+ rated market that pays 3 per cent yields, with minimal volatility? It’s looking increasingly alluring for European pension funds swimming in sub-zero bond yields as aging populations stretch their finances.

For some, the benefits are beginning to outweigh the political risks, and they are upping allocations to China, or considering doing so, according to Reuters’ interviews with half a dozen firms that advise and manage money for pension funds.

“Not all our clients invest in China’s bond market, but they are all looking into it,” said Sandor Steverink, head of Treasuries at APG, which manages a third of the assets of the €1.5 trillion (RM7.3 trillion) Dutch pension industry.

Dutch 10-year bond yields are languishing at around -0.4 per cent , spelling losses for any investor who holds them to maturity, a picture reflected across Europe.

Such fund interest is a boon for Beijing, which is seeking to internationalise its financial markets and lure big-ticket overseas investors as its once-mighty trade surpluses dwindle. Europe’s pension industry alone is worth US$4 trillion.

China’s sovereign debt market is the world’s second-largest after the United States. Yet while foreigners own a third of the US Treasury market, they hold just 9.7 per cent of China’s sovereign debt, according to government data.

Western pension funds make up a tiny cohort of the foreign investors in yuan bond markets, but their presence is growing.

Of the US$9.5 trillion of assets under management from corporate and public pension funds globally, 0.26 per cent was held in Chinese bonds as of the third quarter of 2020, up from 0.04 per cent in 2015, according to data from institutional asset managers shared with financial data provider eVestment.

Beijing’s drive to draw foreign money has taken a whack of late as tensions with the United States have resulted in the ejection of several Chinese companies from US equity indexes and curbs on US government pension funds investing in China. There have also been defaults by state-owned firms.

Investors also cite potential pitfalls such as less market transparency and liquidity, with some Japanese investors protesting China’s inclusion into FTSE Russell’s World Government Bond Index.

In addition, some say the country still has further to go in opening up its markets and worry that while capital controls, which made repatriation of profits difficult, have been eased, they could also be tightened.

China’s relatively successful handling of the Covid-19 crisis and brighter economic prospects has buoyed confidence, though.

APG runs around 100 million euros in a local Chinese bonds strategy it started just over a year ago. Steverink acknowledged that political risks gave clients “cold feet”, but predicted that would change as more cash swept into the debt.

“You have to explain if you invest in China. You don’t need to explain if you don’t invest. That’s how it is for the time being,” he said.

“In the decades to come, it will be the other way around.”

2020: Watershed year

Pension funds themselves are famously secretive about their investment allocation trends, and more than two dozen contacted by Reuters, mostly European, declined to comment on this.

However their money managers, and certain central banks that track investment flows, can provide a window.

China has only stepped up efforts to open up bond markets in the past decade, so foreign investment is starting from a low base. While an increase in broader investment interest is not a new phenomenon, pension funds — the biggest and most cautious players — are now beginning to go with the flow.

The investors interviewed by Reuters said 2020 had been a watershed year, with more developed world bond yields collapsing into negative territory on the back of massive monetary stimulus, combined with China relaxing restrictions on foreign investment.

Insight Investments is looking into setting up a Chinese bond fund on behalf of UK pension funds, Sabrina Jacobs, a fixed-income investment specialist at the US$1 trillion asset manager told Reuters.

She declined to give details to protect the anonymity of her clients but said her company, part of the BNY Mellon Group, had also been asked by other UK and European-based pension funds to explore Chinese debt investment.

Jacobs said China met many of the criteria pension investors had when investing overseas — besides size and credit ratings, the yuan is less volatile than other emerging currencies.

Essentially, that means daily swings with the potential to wreck returns are less common; in fact yuan volatility is lower than some G10 currencies such as the Australian dollar.

Jacobs also said Chinese markets moved less in tandem with global peers.

“While you have a very high correlation between, say (German) Bunds and Treasuries, Chinese government bonds are only 15 to 20 per cent correlated to other bond markets, the big ones globally. So, it is an attractive diversifier as well.”

Insight currently holds around US$400 million of Chinese debt within its emerging market and global government bond funds.

Some other investors who allocate funds on behalf of European pension fund clients, including Pictet Asset Management and Willis Towers Watson, also said they were seeing more interest in Chinese bonds from the pension industry.

‘A lot further to go’

Pictet, with assets of US$600 billion, does not break down flows by investor type but said inflows to its Chinese bond fund had risen from US$144 million to US$770 million in 2020.

Shaniel Ramjee, part of Pictet’s multi-asset team, is confident that Chinese debt has moved past being a niche asset for large institutions like pension funds, but said the trend was in its early stages.

“We haven’t seen those dedicated allocations come through in large amounts yet, so there’s a lot further to go on this,” he added.

Dutch pension funds held 22.4 billion euros in overall investments in China as of the third quarter of 2019, mainly in stocks, with just 300 million euros in bonds, the Netherlands central bank said. That’s up from 200 million euros in bonds in 2017.

Latest available data from Germany’s central bank shows that German funds, including pension funds, invested a total of 2.5 billion euros in Chinese bonds in November 2020 alone, a 62 per cent rise from the same month a year earlier.

Sweden’s AP2, a national pension fund and a rare example of one that publishes its allocation to China, has had a stable 1 per cent allocation to Chinese government bonds since 2017. It manages roughly US$43 billion of assets.

‘Looking hard at China’

China, for its part, needs overseas pension money as its shift towards a consumption-driven economy has diminished its trade surpluses.

Pension money also has a particular cachet, because of size — retirement savings in the top 22 economies currently top US$45 trillion — and its “sticky”, long-term nature.

All this has motivated China to smooth access to its markets, enabling its bonds to join high-profile debt benchmarks compiled by FTSE Russell and Bloomberg/Barclays.

China’s central bank declined to comment on foreign pension fund holdings in Chinese bonds.

Data from the Central China Depository & Clearing Co (CCDC), shared with Reuters, shows almost 200 foreign funds had invested in Chinese bonds as of end-September via the China Interbank Bond Market (CIBM), 42 per cent above year-ago levels. The CCDC does not compile specific data on pension fund flows.

“Pensions funds say they are now looking hard at China as an alternative,” said Robin Marshall, FTSE Russell’s director of bond market research. “They would not have looked at it a few years ago.” — Reuters




Source: Malay Mail

Dollar slips as US stimulus hopes lift mood

Yellen’s comments, urging lawmakers to 'act big' on coronavirus relief and not worry too much about debt, helped assuage this week’s risk averse tone and knocked the dollar index from a one-month high. — Reuters pic
Yellen’s comments, urging lawmakers to 'act big' on coronavirus relief and not worry too much about debt, helped assuage this week’s risk averse tone and knocked the dollar index from a one-month high. — Reuters pic

SINGAPORE, Jan 20 — The US dollar nursed losses today and the euro hung on to gains as investors’ mood brightened in the wake of a better-than-expected sentiment survey in Germany and big spending talk from US Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen.

Yellen’s comments, urging lawmakers to “act big” on coronavirus relief and not worry too much about debt, helped assuage this week’s risk averse tone and knocked the dollar index from a one-month high.

The euro bounced off support around US$1.2050 (RM4.88), lifting about 0.4 per cent on the dollar overnight to hit US$1.2145, following a ZEW investor sentiment survey that beat forecasts and the Italian government surviving a confidence vote.

It held near that level in Asia, and the risk-sensitive Australian and New Zealand dollars edged up in morning trade to also hold modest overnight rises. The Aussie was last up 0.2 per cent at US$0.7707 and the kiwi up 0.1 per cent to US$0.7122.

“The stimulatory bias of the incoming Biden administration’s economic policy is again at the centre of market attention,” ANZ analysts said in a note to clients.

“However, seesawing between expectations of reflation and current soft economic data will probably continue for a while longer,” they added, limiting upside for currencies such as the kiwi.

Joe Biden is inaugurated as US President at noon in Washington today (1700 GMT, 1am Thursday Malaysian Time), though traders are more focused on his policies than the ceremony. The safe-haven yen was sold with the improvement in sentiment and briefly eased past 104 per dollar, as well as falling against other major currencies.

It last traded at 103.84 per dollar. Sterling found support from the Bank of England’s chief economist’s prediction that Britain’s economy begins to “recover at a rate of knots” in the second half of the year, and extended overnight gains slightly to US$1.3649.

The Chinese yuan clung to modest gains in offshore trade at 6.4757 to the dollar ahead of a monthly interest rate fixing where traders expect no change in either one-year or five-year loan prime rates.

Later today Malaysia’s central bank meets, with a decision due at 0700 GMT.

Nine of 15 economists polled by Reuters expect it will cut benchmark interest rates to historic lows.

The Bank of Canada is expected to hold rates steady when it announces policy at 1500 GMT. — Reuters




Source: Malay Mail

US orders Ford to recall three million vehicles with Takata airbags

NHTSA rejected a petition from Ford to make a finding of 'inconsequentiality' regarding Takata airbags in the automaker’s fleet, and in its decision said Ford presented 'inadequate' evidence for the 'extraordinary' relief sought. — Reuters pic
NHTSA rejected a petition from Ford to make a finding of 'inconsequentiality' regarding Takata airbags in the automaker’s fleet, and in its decision said Ford presented 'inadequate' evidence for the 'extraordinary' relief sought. — Reuters pic

NEW YORK, Jan 20 — US regulators yesterday ordered Ford to recall three million vehicles containing Takata airbags that show signs of “potential future rupture risk.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rejected an appeal from the US auto giant and mandated recall for six vehicles in model years 2007 to 2012, including the Ford Ranger and the Ford Fusion.

NHTSA has confirmed 18 fatalities in the United States due to Takata airbag explosions and hundreds of additional injuries.

The agency rejected a petition from Ford to make a finding of “inconsequentiality” regarding Takata airbags in the automaker’s fleet, and in its decision said Ford presented “inadequate” evidence for the “extraordinary” relief sought.

“Given the severity of the consequence of propellant degradation in these air bag inflators — the rupture of the inflator and metal shrapnel sprayed at vehicle occupants — a finding on inconsequentiality to safety demands extraordinarily robust and persuasive evidence,” NHTSA said.

Ford’s submission “suffers from far too many shortcomings, both when the evidence is assessed individually and in its totality, to demonstrate that the defect in covered Ford inflators is not important or can otherwise be ignored as a matter of safety.”

The agency gave Ford 30 days to establish a schedule for notifying vehicle owners and repairing the vehicles.

NHTSA also announced it was rejecting a similar petition from Mazda and compelling the recall of about 5,800 vehicles.

Yesterday’s decision follows a November finding against General Motors that required the recall of 5.9 million autos with Takata airbags following a similar analysis. ­— AFP




Source: Malay Mail

Netflix keeps growing in Covid-19 pandemic, tops 200 million subscribers

Netflix shares jumped more than 12 per cent in after-market trades following the release. — Reuters pic
Netflix shares jumped more than 12 per cent in after-market trades following the release. — Reuters pic

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan 20 — Netflix yesterday delivered stronger-than-expected subscriber growth in the past quarter, keeping ahead of new streaming rivals competing for viewers stuck in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic.

The streaming television leader added some 8.5 million paid subscribers in the quarter to reach 203 million, topping 200 million despite recent price hikes, its quarterly earning update showed.

Netflix shares jumped more than 12 per cent in after-market trades following the release.

Profits dipped to US$542 million (RM2.19 million) in the fourth quarter, compared with US$587 million in the same period in 2019. But overall revenue in the quarter surged 21.5 per cent to US$6.6 billion.

For the full year, Netflix added a record 37 million paid memberships, according to the earnings report.

“We’re enormously grateful that in these uniquely challenging times we’ve been able to provide our members around the world with a source of escape, connection and joy while continuing to build our business,” Netflix said in a letter to investors.

Paid membership increased 23 per cent in the final quarter of 2020 when compared with the same period a year earlier, but average revenue per membership was flat, according to the Silicon Valley based company.

While Netflix raised rates slightly in the US late last year, the majority — some 83 per cent — of its new subscribers were from outside North America, the earnings report indicated.

Films to launch

Netflix has invested heavily in original shows and films to make itself a must-have service in the increasingly competitive streaming television market.

Apple, Comcast, Disney and others have taken on Netflix with streaming television services of their own

“The big growth in streaming entertainment has led legacy competitors like Disney, WarnerMedia and Discovery to compete with us in new ways, which we’ve been expecting for many years,” Netflix said in the letter.

“This is, in part, why we have been moving so quickly to grow and further strengthen our original content library across a wide range of genres and nations.”

Netflix executives said its productions are back up and running in most regions after being derailed by the pandemic.

Netflix boasted having more than 500 titles in post-production or being readied for release on the service, with the plan being to launch at least one new original film weekly.

Already the master of the pandemic-era movie landscape, Netflix last week offered a preview of upcoming 2021 releases, a list with no fewer than 70 star-studded feature films.

From drama, comedy and science fiction to horror and even Westerns, the slate will take in every major film genre before the year is out, with some releases poised as potential competition for major awards.

Among the most-anticipated titles is Don’t Look Up, from filmmaker Adam McKay of The Big Short and Vice fame and starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

The Harder They Fall, a Western co-produced by Jay-Z and with a primarily Black cast including Regina King and Idris Elba, also promises to be one to look out for.

The announcement — via a brochure on the streamer’s website — was accompanied by a short video presented by Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot, Jumanji lead Dwayne Johnson and Deadpool actor Ryan Reynolds.

Johnson, Gadot and Reynolds will appear in Red Notice, an action film with a US$160 million budget, according to US media. — AFP




Source: Malay Mail

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

WEF: Covid-19, economic impact are top global threats

A logo of the World Economic Forum (WEF) is pictured during a session in Davos, Switzerland, January 22, 2020. The World Economic Forum itself has been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, shifting its usual January summit in Davos to May in Singapore. — Reuters pic
A logo of the World Economic Forum (WEF) is pictured during a session in Davos, Switzerland, January 22, 2020. The World Economic Forum itself has been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, shifting its usual January summit in Davos to May in Singapore. — Reuters pic

PARIS, Jan 19 — Business and government leaders currently see the loss of life from Covid-19 and related economic effects as the world’s greatest short-term threats, the World Economic Forum said today.

The group which organises an annual get together of leading industrial and political voices at the Swiss Alpine resort of Davos carries out a survey of its members beforehand to determine what they consider as the greatest global threats.

Unsurprisingly, this year the Covid-19 pandemic is at the top of the list for short-term threats, though climate change remains among the top long-term concerns.

“The immediate human and economic cost of Covid-19 is severe,” said the WEF’s Global Risks Report (GRPS) 2021.

“It threatens to scale back years of progress on reducing poverty and inequality and to further weaken social cohesion and global cooperation,” it added.

Most of those who replied to the GRPS identified “infectious diseases” and “livelihood crises” as the top short-term threats worldwide.

The risk of “social cohesion erosion” due to the pandemic and joblessness was deemed another critical short-term threat.

The report noted that young adults are experiencing their second major global crisis in a decade, having lived through the disruption of the financial crisis and the economic inequality it aggravated.

“This generation faces serious challenges to their education, economic prospects and mental health,” the report said, warning of “an age of lost opportunity” as well as social unrest and political fragmentation.

WEF’s leaders also noted that its Global Risks Report has been warning of the threat of a pandemic since 2006, which it said highlighted the need find more effective ways to identify and communicate risk to decision-makers.

The World Economic Forum itself has been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, shifting its usual January summit in Davos to May in Singapore.

Nevertheless, next week the WEF will be holding a virtual Davos: a week of events dedicated to helping leaders choose innovative and bold solutions to stem the pandemic and drive a robust recovery over the next year.

The report is based on a survey of 841 people who are part of WEF’s stakeholder communities including business, academia, government and NGOs.

They were questioned in September and October. — AFP




Source: Malay Mail

IEA trims 2021 oil demand forecast

The IEA said it now expected demand in the first quarter of this year to be 0.6 mbd less than previously forecast, with the full-year outcome revised down by 0.3 mbd. — Reuters pic
The IEA said it now expected demand in the first quarter of this year to be 0.6 mbd less than previously forecast, with the full-year outcome revised down by 0.3 mbd. — Reuters pic

PARIS, Jan 19 — The International Energy Agency (IEA) trimmed its 2021 global oil demand forecast today as fresh coronavirus lockdowns cloud the outlook but said mass vaccination programmes should help bolster a second half rebound.

“Global oil demand is expected to recover by 5.5 million barrels per day (mbd) to 96.6 mbd in 2021, following an unprecedented collapse of 8.8 mbd in 2020,” the IEA said in its latest monthly report.

“For now, a resurgence in Covid-19 cases is slowing the rebound but a widespread vaccination effort and an acceleration in economic activity is expected to spur stronger growth in the second half of the year,” it said.

“This recovery mainly reflects the impact of fiscal and monetary support packages as well as the effectiveness of steps to resolve the pandemic,” it added.

The IEA said it now expected demand in the first quarter of this year to be 0.6 mbd less than previously forecast, with the full-year outcome revised down by 0.3 mbd.

On the supply side, the IEA said that after “falling by a record 6.6 mbd in 2020, world oil supply is set to rise by over 1.0 mbd this year.”

“There may be scope for higher growth given our expectations for further improvement in demand,” the IEA added.

It said that its forecasts assume that in the second half this year, Opec+ — that is Opec members plus non-cartel producers, principally Russia — will continue to rein in output, withholding 5.8 mbd of oil from the market in line with their April 2020 agreement.

The IEA noted that Opec+ has recently adopted a more flexible stance and will be meeting regularly to assess output levels.

Oil prices have risen in recent weeks on hopes the global economy will get back on track later this year.

The IEA said these higher prices could “provide an incentive to increase production by the US shale industry, which saw the biggest fall in output last year.”

However, shale producers appear set to stick with promises to keep output largely flat so as not to jeopardise prices.

“If they stick to those plans, Opec+ may start to reclaim the market share it has steadily lost to the US and others since 2016,” the IEA concluded. — AFP




Source: Malay Mail

Europe 2020 auto sales post record fall as virus hits

The ACEA said that among the biggest auto markets, Spain recorded the sharpest fall at 32.3 per cent for the year, with Italy down 27.9 per cent and France 25.5 per cent. — AFP pic
The ACEA said that among the biggest auto markets, Spain recorded the sharpest fall at 32.3 per cent for the year, with Italy down 27.9 per cent and France 25.5 per cent. — AFP pic

PARIS, Jan 19 — New car sales in Europe last year suffered a record fall of nearly 24 per cent due to the coronavirus pandemic, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) said today.

“The EU passenger car market contracted by 23.7 per cent to 9.9 million vehicles as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic,” the ACEA said in a statement.

“Containment measures — including full scale lockdowns and other restrictions throughout the year — had an unprecedented impact on car sales across the European Union,” it said.

“2020 saw the biggest yearly drop in car demand since records began (in 1990)... all 27 EU markets recorded double-digit declines,” it added.

The ACEA said that among the biggest auto markets, Spain recorded the sharpest fall at 32.3 per cent for the year, with Italy down 27.9 per cent and France 25.5 per cent.

Germany, the bloc’s strongest economy, dropped 19.1 per cent.

For the month of December alone, EU car sales were down 3.3 per cent at just over one million vehicles. — AFP




Source: Malay Mail

FTSE 100 rises as HSBC, Rio Tinto jump

London Stock Exchange Group in London, UK, March 9, 2020. The blue-chip FTSE 100 index was up 0.7 per cent after two consecutive sessions of declines, while the mid-cap index gained 0.2 per cent. — IPA/ABACA pic via Reuters
London Stock Exchange Group in London, UK, March 9, 2020. The blue-chip FTSE 100 index was up 0.7 per cent after two consecutive sessions of declines, while the mid-cap index gained 0.2 per cent. — IPA/ABACA pic via Reuters

LONDON, Jan 19 — British shares rose today, as a jump in HSBC’s shares and encouraging production report from miner Rio Tinto lifted sentiment at a time when tighter coronavirus-led restrictions have raised concerns about the pace of an economic recovery.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index was up 0.7 per cent after two consecutive sessions of declines, while the mid-cap index gained 0.2 per cent.

HSBC Holdings rose three per cent, giving the biggest boost to the blue-chip index.

Miner Rio Tinto rose 1.4 after reporting a 2.4 per cent rise in fourth-quarter iron ore shipments, helped by increased demand from China.

British firms called for another £7.6 billion (RM42 billion) of emergency government help, saying they cannot wait until finance minister Rishi Sunak’s March budget to learn if they will get more pandemic support.

Shares of Experian Plc, the world’s largest credit data firm, gained 1.2 per cent after its third-quarter revenue growth exceeded targets, helped by strong US mortgage volumes. — Reuters




Source: Malay Mail

European shares rise on upbeat earnings reports

A man wearing a face mask passes next to the sign of the Deutsche Boerse AG at the stock exchange in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, December 28, 2020. — AFP pic
A man wearing a face mask passes next to the sign of the Deutsche Boerse AG at the stock exchange in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, December 28, 2020. — AFP pic

LONDON, Jan 19 — European shares rose today after Asian markets rallied on optimism about China’s economy, while upbeat earnings reports from miner Rio Tinto and computer peripherals maker Logitech boosted sentiment.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index gained 0.4 per cent by 0809 GMT, while Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC 40 gained 0.4 per cent and London’s blue-chip index rose 0.7 per cent.

UK-listed shares of Rio Tinto gained 1.4 per cent after it reported a 2.4 per cent rise in fourth-quarter iron ore shipments, helped by industrial activity in top consumer China. Miners were the top gainers among sectors, up almost one per cent.

Logitech jumped 6.9 per cent as it raised its 2021 sales growth and profit outlook for the third time, benefiting from a pandemic-driven boost in demand for work-from-home products and gaming accessories.

Asian stocks closed in on all-time highs as investors wagered China’s economic strength would help underpin growth in the region after data confirmed the world’s second-largest economy was one of the few to grow over 2020. — Reuters




Source: Malay Mail

Hong Kong stocks finish with big gains

The Hang Seng Index rose 2.70 per cent, or 779.51 points, to 29,642.28. — Reuters pic
The Hang Seng Index rose 2.70 per cent, or 779.51 points, to 29,642.28. — Reuters pic

HONG KONG, Jan 19 — Hong Kong stocks finished sharply higher today, in line with a broad advance across Asian markets, boosted by a surge in interest from mainland Chinese investors.

The Hang Seng Index rose 2.70 per cent, or 779.51 points, to 29,642.28.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.83 per cent, or 29.84 points, to 3,566.38, while the Shenzhen Composite Index on China’s second exchange sank 0.96 per cent, or 23.13 points, to 2,378.65. — AFP




Source: Malay Mail

Tokyo’s Nikkei closes up on bargain-hunting

The Nikkei 225 index rose 1.39 per cent, or 391.25 points, to 28,633.46, while the broader Topix index gained 0.56 per cent, or 10.35 points to 1,855.84. — AFP pic
The Nikkei 225 index rose 1.39 per cent, or 391.25 points, to 28,633.46, while the broader Topix index gained 0.56 per cent, or 10.35 points to 1,855.84. — AFP pic

TOKYO, Jan 19 ­— Tokyo’s benchmark Nikkei index closed up nearly 1.4 per cent today as investors bought on dips following two days of profit-taking.

The Nikkei 225 index rose 1.39 per cent, or 391.25 points, to 28,633.46, while the broader Topix index gained 0.56 per cent, or 10.35 points to 1,855.84.

“Shares rebounded easily today following two days of declines, which showed the current strength of the market,” said Toshikazu Horiuchi, a broker at IwaiCosmo Securities.

“Sentiment is likely to remain strong for the time being as hopes for stimulus policies are still high,” he told AFP.

Investors were watching headlines linked to Japan’s vaccination schedule, analysts said, after Taro Kono, a high-profile minister for administrative and regulatory reforms, was tasked with coordinating the vaccine rollout.

“The market is focusing on how smoothly vaccines can be distributed in Japan,” Horiuchi said.

So far, no vaccines have been approved in Japan, which expects to begin its innoculation programme around late February.

The dollar fetched ¥103.99 (RM4.05) in Asian afternoon trade, against ¥103.65 in London yesterday.

In Tokyo, chip-linked shares were higher on strong demand for semiconductors. Chip-making equipment maker Tokyo Electron rallied 2.10 per cent to ¥44,130, and testing equipment maker Advantest was up 4.21 per cent at ¥9,140.

Automakers were higher on hopes for US measures to support the industry. Nissan jumped 3.91 per cent to ¥544.3 and Honda rose 1.68 per cent to 2,833.5 with Toyota up 0.94 per cent at ¥7,708.

Tyre makers were also among gainers. Bridgestone jumped 3.34 per cent to ¥4,053 with Yokohama Rubber up 2.15 per cent at ¥1,612 on bargain-hunting. — AFP




Source: Malay Mail

Bursa Malaysia continues to trend higher at mid-afternoon

On the broader market, losers outpaced gainers 564 to 506, while 427 counters were unchanged, 599 untraded and 13 others suspended. — Picture by Hari Anggara
On the broader market, losers outpaced gainers 564 to 506, while 427 counters were unchanged, 599 untraded and 13 others suspended. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 19 — Investors’ interest continued to lift Bursa Malaysia at mid-afternoon with the benchmark FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI (FBM KLCI) rising 1.99 points to 1,611.51 at 3.05pm.

The index opened 1.54 points higher at 1,611.06 compared with 1,609.52 at yesterday’s close.

On the broader market, losers outpaced gainers 564 to 506, while 427 counters were unchanged, 599 untraded and 13 others suspended.

Total volume stood at 4.89 billion units worth RM3.03 billion.

Market sentiment was boosted by the prime minister’s announcement on the RM15 billion Malaysian Economic and Rakyat’s Protection Assistance Package (PERMAI) yesterday, as well as optimism surrounding the United States President-elect Joseph Biden’s inauguration tomorrow.

Of the heavyweights, Maybank added nine sen to RM8.17, Public Bank rose two sen to RM21.00 and PetChem gained 15 sen to RM7.43.

However, Tenaga eased four sen to RM10.04 and Top Glove retreated 10 sen to RM6.24.

Of the actives, Vsolar and KTG were flat at four sen and 27 sen, respectively, while PA Resources improved half-a-sen to 18 sen.

On the index board, the FBM Emas Index increased 13.34 points to 11,642.3, the FBMT 100 Index expanded 13.96 points to 11,369.77, and the FBM Emas Shariah Index improved 2.31 points to 13,174.11.

The FBM 70 rose 17.87 points to 14,885.93 but the FBM ACE was 20.54 points easier at 10,867.82.

Sector-wise, the Financial Services Index climbed 51.14 points to 14,853.38, the Industrial Products and Services Index inched up 1.02 points to 179.26 and the Plantation Index improved 25.38 points to 7,324.69. — Bernama




Source: Malay Mail

China to support economic recovery, avoid ‘policy cliff’ - state planner official

BEIJING/SHANGHAI: China will provide necessary policy support for the economic recovery this year, to avoid a "policy cliff", as small firms remain hard-pressed amid the pandemic, a senior official at the state planner said on Tuesday.

China's economy picked up speed in the fourth quarter, with growth beating expectations as it ended a rough coronavirus-striken 2020 in remarkably good shape and remained poised to expand further this year even as the global pandemic rages unabated.

"We will have a good grip over the pace, intensity and effectiveness of macro policies to make sure the economic recovery remains stable and avoid a policy cliff," Yan Pengcheng, director of General Office at the National Development and Reform Commission, told reporters in an online briefing.

"Considering some micro market entities will still need to undergo a period of recovery - some small firms just started to 'get well from a serious illness', while others have yet to regain their stamina - macro policies will continue to maintain necessary support (for them)."

Data out on Tuesday showed the services sector, which has been lagging the industrial sector, picked up momentum in the fourth quarter, with output growth in the accommodation and catering industry turning positive for the first time year-on-year since the pandemic struck.

"The GDP breakdown confirms that China's rebound has become less dependent on investment-led stimulus in recent months, thanks to a broad-based recovery in the services sector," said Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics.

Chinese leaders at a key agenda-setting meeting last month pledged to maintain "necessary" policy support for the economy this year, avoiding a sudden policy shift, pointing to smaller economic stimulus in 2021.

China is likely to cool credit growth and scale back fiscal stimulus this year to help stabilise debt levels, but policymakers are likely to tread cautiously to avoid derailing the recovery, policy insiders said.

Yan said some temporary and emergency measures rolled out during the pandemic, which helped stabilise the economy, cannot last in the long term, and China still need to achieve growth through reforms and innovation.

In addition to policy steps such as interest rate cuts and increased fiscal spending, the government has unveiled some targeted measures, including cheap loans for some sectors and deferred loan repayments for small firms. - Reuters



Source: The Sun Daily

Global shares climb on China’s economic recovery, with earnings in focus

Data out yesterday had confirmed the world’s second-largest economy was one of the few to grow over 2020 and actually picked up speed as the year closed. — Reuters pic
Data out yesterday had confirmed the world’s second-largest economy was one of the few to grow over 2020 and actually picked up speed as the year closed. — Reuters pic

SYDNEY, Jan 19 — Asian shares climbed today as investors wagered China’s economic strength would help underpin growth in the region, even as pandemic lockdowns threatened to lengthen the road to recovery in the West.

Data out yesterday had confirmed the world’s second-largest economy was one of the few to grow over 2020 and actually picked up speed as the year closed.

European markets appeared set for a higher open with Euro Stoxx 50 futures up 0.5 per cent and London’s FTSE gaining 0.4 per cent. Those of Germany’s DAX rose 0.64 per cent.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan firmed 1.61 per cent, to be a whisker from record highs.

Japan’s Nikkei bounced 1.53 per cent, recovering all the losses suffered yesterday when caution had dominated markets.

Australian shares climbed 1.19 per cent as investors bet on news that Queensland state was set to lift virus-led restrictions and on prospects of better production numbers from local miners.

Chinese blue-chips dipped 1.47 per cent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng advanced 2.1 per cent, helped by steady and robust demand from investors in mainland China for shares in the Asian financial hub.

Mainland investors purchased 18.9 billion yuan (US$2.91 billion) worth of Hong Kong stocks today via the Stock Connect linking mainland and Hong Kong, after spending a record HK$23 billion yesterday, according to HKEX and Refinitiv data.

On Wall Street, US stocks also looked a little steadier as futures for the S&P 500 added 0.67 per cent and NASDAQ futures 0.97 per cent.

Analysts at JPMorgan felt the coming earnings season could brighten the mood given the consensus in Europe was for a fall of 25 per cent year-on-year, setting a very low bar.

“The projected EPS growth in Europe now stands at the lows of the crisis which seems too conservative, and could likely lead to positive surprises over the reporting season,” they wrote in a note.

The same could be true for the United States where results from BofA, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Netflix are due this week.

For now, dealers were cautious ahead of US President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration given the risk of more mob violence, along with doubts about how much of his fiscal stimulus package will pass Republican opposition in Congress.

Janet Yellen, Biden’s nominee to run the Treasury Department, will tell the Senate Finance Committee today that the government must “act big” with the coronavirus relief plan.

“Biden will not want the risk of a double-dip recession to escalate,” said analysts at ANZ in a note.

The full US$1.9 trillion (RM7.7 trillion) proposal combined with stimulus already agreed would amount to 10 per cent of GDP.

“That would be sufficient to close any output gap and underpin a gradual recovery in inflation as demand firms,” they wrote. “But it will be a difficult winter, and investors will need renewed confidence in the inflation trade before established earlier trends reassert themselves.”

Wall Street is also bracing for tougher regulations now that the Democrats control the Senate, with Biden set to nominate two consumer champions to top financial agencies.

In bond markets, 10-year Treasury yields were steady at 1.11 per cent and off their recent 10-month high of 1.187 per cent as investors waited to see how much fiscal stimulus might actually get passed.

Currencies were also quiet with the dollar index last at 90.764, comfortably above its recent trough of 89.206.

The euro idled at US$1.2093, after touching a six-week low of US$1.2052 overnight, while the dollar was sidelined on the safe-haven yen at 104.02.

The Canadian dollar eased to US$1.2729 on reports Biden would cancel a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline as one of his first acts in office.

Gold steadied at US$1,838 an ounce after briefly reaching a six-week low of US$1,809.90 overnight.

Global demand concerns kept oil prices in check. US crude fell 0.19 per cent to US$52.26 a barrel, while Brent crude futures rose 0.44 per cent to US$54.99 a barrel. — Reuters




Source: Malay Mail

Improved sentiment lifts Bursa Malaysia at midday

On the broader market, losers surpassed gainers 544 to 491, while 428 counters were unchanged, 633 untraded and 13 others suspended. — Reuters pic
On the broader market, losers surpassed gainers 544 to 491, while 428 counters were unchanged, 633 untraded and 13 others suspended. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 19 — Broad-based gains in selected heavyweights continued to lift Bursa Malaysia at the end of the morning trading session, underpinned by improved sentiment among traders.

Market sentiment was boosted by the prime minister’s announcement on the RM15 billion Malaysian Economic and Rakyat’s Protection Assistance Package (PERMAI) yesterday, as well as optimism surrounding the United States’ president-elect Joseph Biden’s inauguration tomorrow.

At 12.30pm, the benchmark FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI (FBM KLCI) rose 2.78 points to 1,612.3 compared with 1,609.52 at yesterday’s close.

The index opened 1.54 points higher at 1,611.06 and moved between 1,610.09 and 1,618.41 throughout the session.

However, on the broader market, losers surpassed gainers 544 to 491, while 428 counters were unchanged, 633 untraded and 13 others suspended.

Total volume stood at 4.23 billion units worth RM2.52 billion.

Axi chief global markets strategist Stephen Innes said global investors’ optimism on Biden’s inauguration is a clear signal that the market is leaning towards an early stamp of approval on the Biden administration’s policy agenda.

“And rightly so, as Biden has put together one of the strongest teams in recent memory, and economic and foreign policy experts could not be keener to work with this administration,” he said.

Regionally, Japan’s Nikkei increased 1.47 per cent to 28,656.17, Singapore’s Straits Times Index improved 0.49 per cent to 3,005.08, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was up 3.06 per cent to 29,746.17.

Meanwhile, in the local bourse, heavyweights Maybank added nine sen to RM8.17, PetChem added 13 sen to RM7.41, and Public Bank was flat at RM20.98.

Conversely, Tenaga eased four sen to RM10.04 and Top Glove receded seven sen to RM6.27.

Of the actives, Vsolar and QES Group were flat at four sen and 35.5 sen, respectively, while PA Resources improved half-a-sen to 18 sen.

On the index board, the FBM Emas Index gained 13.32 points to 11,642.28, the FBMT 100 Index expanded 13.93 points to 11,369.74, and the FBM Emas Shariah Index improved 0.59 of-a-point to 13,172.39.

The FBM 70 eased 3.77 points to 14,864.29 and the FBM ACE was 20.89 points better at 10,909.26.

Sector-wise, the Financial Services Index climbed 55.06 points to 14,857.3, the Industrial Products and Services Index inched up 0.81 of-a-point to 179.05 and the Plantation Index improved 40.06 points to 7,339.37. — Bernama




Source: Malay Mail

Top Glove slams Canadian TV show on factory conditions

A general view of a Top Glove factory in Klang November 26, 2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
A general view of a Top Glove factory in Klang November 26, 2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 19 — Top Glove Corp Bhd has refuted the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) recent report on its workers' welfare, saying it is misleading and has damaged the company’s good reputation.

The company said the report had intentionally downplayed or excluded altogether the most current remedial actions that the rubber glove maker has taken.

“We are extremely disappointed that our remedial actions were not comprehensively published and fairly represented in the main reporting video, as they should rightfully be," Top Glove said in a statement today.

The allegations raised by CBC in its broadcasts and reports, as well as the way in which they were portrayed, suggested a breach in existing policies that it currently has in place and that included Top Glove’s commitment to combating forced labour and its current implementation of robust policies to protect the rights of its workers, it added.

It was reported that the CBC had on Friday published videos and articles detailing what it termed as “appalling" working conditions at Top Glove’s factories.

The reports made use of hidden camera footage, reportedly filmed using a camera smuggled into the premise with the help of a Top Glove employee, of which CBC claimed showed unsafe working and poor living conditions of its employees.

“Top Glove is committed to ensuring that debt bondage and other related issues which were wrongly reported by CBC have no place in our business operations. We approach this by ensuring appropriate decision making across all levels of our operations which are evaluated by our management and directors.

“As an added compulsory measure, the company conducts assessments to identify gaps and potential risks within our operations and supply chains, develop mitigation plans, and provide remedial actions on areas which our business and operations do not meet our aspiration on the rights of our workers,” it stressed.

Top Glove reiterated that the health and safety of its employees is the company’s top priority. As it continues to produce high-quality medical gloves to protect medical practitioners and frontliners across the world, the company is dedicated to adhering to stringent measures to safeguard all employees as well as the communities it serve.

At 11am, shares of Top Glove declined 0.63 per cent to RM6.30. — Bernama




Source: Malay Mail

Dollar hovers near one-month high as Biden’s FX policy takes shape

The greenback has started the year with a near 2 per cent rally against major peers, supported by a rise US Treasury yields in response to Biden’s plan for a US$1.9 trillion (RM7.69 trillion) pandemic relief package. — Reuters pic
The greenback has started the year with a near 2 per cent rally against major peers, supported by a rise US Treasury yields in response to Biden’s plan for a US$1.9 trillion (RM7.69 trillion) pandemic relief package. — Reuters pic

TOKYO, Jan 19 — The dollar hovered around its highest in nearly one month today with traders expecting US Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen to affirm a more traditional commitment to market-set currency rates when she testifies at Capitol Hill later.

President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to head the Treasury is prepared to say the United States “doesn’t seek a weaker currency to gain competitive advantage”, returning to a more traditional posture after outgoing President Donald Trump often railed against dollar strength.

Biden is set to be inaugurated tomorrow.

The greenback has started the year with a near 2 per cent rally against major peers, supported by a rise US Treasury yields in response to Biden’s plan for a US$1.9 trillion (RM7.69 trillion) pandemic relief package.

The safe-haven currency fell nearly 7 per cent last year on expectations US monetary policy would stay ultra-loose and on hopes for a post-pandemic global recovery.

The greenback has also been helped recently by an unwinding of bearish bets, with data showing that hedge funds piled up the biggest net short position since May 2011 in the week ended January 12. Such large positions suggest that traders would be relatively more inclined to reduce their positions than add to already big bets.

However, many analysts still expect the currency to eventually resume its march lower during 2021.

An improving economic outlook under increased fiscal spending and accelerated vaccinations, along with ultra-easy monetary policy, will scupper any attempt for a more sustained rally, Commonwealth Bank of Australia analyst Kim Mundy wrote in a note.

“Further USD upside this week will be contained,” she said.

The dollar index was 0.1 per cent lower at 90.690 in early Asian trading, after edging as high as 90.94 overnight for the first time since December 21. Trading was subdued with US markets shut for Martin Luther King Jr. Day yesterday.

The dollar was little changed at 103.72 yen, consolidating in a narrow range after reaching a one-month high of 104.40 last week.

The euro rose 0.1 per cent to US$1.20855, after dipping to 1.2054 yesterday for the first time since December 2. — Reuters




Source: Malay Mail

Hartalega’s Q3 earnings likely to surge 643pc to record high, says RHB Investment

RHB Investment Bank, which is maintaining a “buy” on Hartalega with a target price of RM23.50, said the rubber glove maker was likely to release its Q3 results in two to four weeks. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
RHB Investment Bank, which is maintaining a “buy” on Hartalega with a target price of RM23.50, said the rubber glove maker was likely to release its Q3 results in two to four weeks. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 19 — Hartalega Holdings Bhd’s earnings are projected to hit a record high in its third financial quarter (Q3) ended Dec 31, 2020, surging 643 per cent year-on-year to RM900 million, said RHB Investment Bank Bhd.

The investment bank said the growth would be driven by an estimated 50 per cent quarter-on-quarter jump in average selling price (ASP) to US$50 (RM202.25) per box of 1,000 pieces of gloves.

“As Hartalega’s ASP comes from low base of US$33.80 per box in the second quarter (of the financial year ending March 31, 2021, the magnitude of increase is likely to be higher (compared to Top Glove’s increase),” it said in a note today.

RHB Investment Bank, which is maintaining a “buy” on Hartalega with a target price of RM23.50, said the rubber glove maker was likely to release its Q3 results in two to four weeks.

On top of superb earnings, the bank said it liked Hartalega for its gold standard in Covid-19 prevention among workers.

Hartalega plans to test 10 per cent of its workforce every week on a voluntarily basis despite having a low Covid-19 infection rate of 0.4 per cent of its workers.

“We are positive on this, as it should translate into operational stability  —  as we expect very minimal downtime due to Covid-19 in view of strict testing and precautionary measures taken,” RHB Investment Bank said.

As for risks, it said these included worse-than-expected glove demand after the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, lower-than-expected sales volume, and higher-than-estimated raw material prices.

At 10.50 am, Hartalega shares rose 10 sen to RM12.46 with 687,800 shares transacted. — Bernama




Source: Malay Mail

Bursa Malaysia higher at mid-morning

On the broader market, losers edged past gainers 467 to 448, while 440 counters were unchanged, 741 untraded and 13 others suspended. ― Picture by Hari Anggara
On the broader market, losers edged past gainers 467 to 448, while 440 counters were unchanged, 741 untraded and 13 others suspended. ― Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 19 — Bursa Malaysia remained on an uptrend at mid-morning, supported by buying activities in selected heavyweights, particularly the financial services counters.

At 11am, the benchmark FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI (FBM KLCI) rose 3.35 points to 1,612.87 from 1,609.52 at yesterday’s close.

However, on the broader market, losers edged past gainers 467 to 448, while 440 counters were unchanged, 741 untraded and 13 others suspended.

Total volume stood at 2.6 billion units worth RM1.56 billion.

Among the heavyweights, Maybank added 11 sen to RM8.41, PetChem added six sen to RM7.34, while Public Bank and Tenaga were flat at RM20.98 and RM10.08, respectively.

Conversely, Top Glove receded four sen to RM6.30.

Of the actives, Vsolar and KTG were flat at four sen and 27 sen, respectively, while ARB improved 2.5 sen to 30 sen and PNE PCB eased two sen to 36 sen.

On the index board, the FBM Emas Index gained 16.17 points to 11,645.13, the FBMT 100 Index expanded 16.11 points to 11,371.92, and the FBM Emas Shariah Index improved 11.01 points to 13,182.81.

The FBM 70 eased 8.09 points to 14,859.97 and the FBM ACE was 47.97 points better at 10,936.33.

Sector-wise, the Financial Services Index climbed 48.56 points to 14,850.8, the Industrial Products and Services Index inched up 0.62 of-a-point to 178.86 and the Plantation Index improved 24.61 points to 7,323.92. — Bernama




Source: Malay Mail

Asia shares look to China for recovery lead, earnings in focus

Data out yesterday had confirmed China’s economy was one of the few in the world to grow over 2020 and actually picked up speed as the year closed. — Reuters pic
Data out yesterday had confirmed China’s economy was one of the few in the world to grow over 2020 and actually picked up speed as the year closed. — Reuters pic

SYDNEY, Jan 19 — Asian share markets edged ahead today as investors wagered China’s economic strength would help underpin growth in the region, even as pandemic lockdowns threatened to lengthen the road to recovery in the West.

Data out yesterday had confirmed China’s economy was one of the few in the world to grow over 2020 and actually picked up speed as the year closed.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan firmed 0.2 per cent, to be a whisker from record highs. Japan’s Nikkei bounced 1 per cent, recovering all the losses suffered yesterday when caution had dominated markets.

US stocks also looked a little steadier as futures for the S&P 500 added 0.4 per cent and Nasdaq futures 0.3 per cent.

Analysts at JPMorgan felt the coming earnings season could brighten the mood given the consensus in Europe was for a fall of 25 per cent year-on-year, setting a very low bar.

“The projected EPS growth in Europe now stands at the lows of the crisis which seems too conservative, and could likely lead to positive surprises over the reporting season,” they wrote in a note.

The same could be true for the United States where results this week include BofA, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Netflix.

For now, dealers were cautious ahead of US President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration given the risk of more mob violence, along with doubts about how much of his fiscal stimulus package will pass Republican opposition in Congress.

Janet Yellen, Biden’s nominee to run the Treasury Department, will tell the Senate Finance Committee today that the government must “act big” with the coronavirus relief plan.

“Biden will not want the risk of a double-dip recession to escalate,” said analysts at ANZ in a note.

The full US$1.9 trillion (RM7.69 trillion) proposal combined with stimulus already agreed would amount to 10 per cent of GDP.

“That would be sufficient to close any output gap and underpin a gradual recovery in inflation as demand firms,” they wrote. “But it will be a difficult winter, and investors will need renewed confidence in the inflation trade before established earlier trends reassert themselves.”

Wall Street is also bracing for tougher regulations now that the Democrats control the Senate, with Biden set to nominating two consumer champions to top financial agencies.

In bond markets, 10-year Treasury yields were steady at 1.10 per cent and off their recent 10-month high of 1.187 per cent as investors waited to see how much fiscal stimulus might actually get passed.

Currencies were also quiet with the dollar index last at 90.770, comfortably above its recent trough of 89.206.

The euro idled at US$1.2080, after touching a six-week low of US$1.2052 overnight, while the dollar was sidelined on the safe-haven yen at 103.70.

The Canadian dollar eased to US$1.2750 on reports Biden would cancel a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline as one of his first acts in office.

Gold steadied at US$1,836 an ounce after briefly reaching a six-week low of US$1,809.90 overnight.

Global demand concerns kept oil prices in check. US crude added 1 cent to US$52.37 a barrel, while Brent crude futures had yet to trade. — Reuters




Source: Malay Mail

Brent crude edges up as optimism over economy trumps demand concerns

SINGAPORE: Brent crude futures edged up on Tuesday as optimism that government stimulus will buoy global economic growth and oil demand trumped concerns that renewed COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns globally could cool fuel consumption.

Brent crude futures for March rose 17 cents, or 0.3%, to $54.92 a barrel by 0150 GMT after slipping 35 cents in the previous session.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude was at $52.25 a barrel, down 11 cents, or 0.2%. There was no settlement on Monday as U.S. markets were closed for a public holiday. Front-month February WTI futures expire on Wednesday.

Investors are upbeat about demand in China, the world's top crude oil importer, after data released on Monday showed its refinery output rose 3% to a new record in 2020. China was also the only major economy in the world to avoid a contraction last year as many nations struggled to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Yesterday's data out of China was a positive for oil prices," Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney said.

Investors are watching out for U.S. President-elect Biden's inauguration speech on Wednesday for details on the country's $1.9 trillion aid package.

Oil prices have also been supported by Saudi Arabia's additional supply cuts in the next two months which are expected to draw down global inventories by 1.1 million barrels per day in the first quarter, ANZ analysts said.

Concerns about rising COVID-19 cases globally and renewed lockdowns weighing down fuel demand kept a lid on oil prices.

ANZ analysts flagged concerns about falling fuel sales in India in January from December and rising COVID-19 cases in China and Japan that could dampen oil demand.

"In Europe and the U.S., the slow rollout of vaccines is also raising concerns that a rebound in demand will remain elusive," the bank said. - Reuters



Source: The Sun Daily

Malaysian construction sector’s outlook for first-half 2021 dampened

PETALING JAYA: The termination of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high speed railway (KL-SG HSR) bilateral agreement, movement control order (MCO) 2.0 and the state of emergency declaration have dampened the construction sector’s catalyst-driven positive outlook for first-half 2021, according to CGS-CIMB.

“At this juncture, we feel that the speed of the construction sector’s recovery could remain muted but still backed by Budget 2021’s RM37 billion direct infrastructure allocation,” it said in a report.

From its channel checks, the research house found that a revised version of the MRT 3 project could be given the green light ahead of following the termination of the SG-KL HSR project, ahead of the ongoing feasibility studies on the alternative Kuala Lumpur-Johor Baru high speed rail (KL-JB HSR).

It highlighted that one of the key developments for the MRT3 project is a proposal for up to a 40% cut to the original cost of RM45 billion due to the removal of certain underground scopes with a longer above-ground alignment for the entire line.

CGS-CIMB noted the discussions among stakeholders have shifted towards implementation as the government is considering to fast track the project, subject to the availability of funding.

It stated the funding model will likely be similar to MRT 1 and MRT 2, via bonds raised by Danainfra and that the turnkey joint-venture contractor for MRT 2 is upbeat on MRT3 project given that Budget 2021 has allocated an undisclosed amount to kickstart the project.

As for the key HSR development, the research house opined that the removal of the AssetsCo component and the pursuit of a likely KL-JB HSR line will give Malaysia full control over project procurement, alignment and land acquisition, but the timeline for the process remains unknown.

It said the new feasibility studies will likely consider the addition of a spur line to KLIA, a potential 30% cost reduction due to the removal of AssetsCo and minimising the cost of stations.

“The government is likely to pursue a private sector funding model to enable the project to commence two years ahead of the original target,” it said.

With the changes in the HSR project, the alternative is projected to be 30% cheaper to the original RM60 billion cost estimate (excluding rolling stock and systems) and it is projected to start two years earlier, in 2022.

Together, CGS-CIMB calculated that the cost-cutting measures from the proposals translate to an estimated RM63-74 billion in combined potential civil works against an initial estimate of RM105 billion, which remains a huge catalyst for the sector’s job outlook.

“However, our reservations about the MRT 3 and new HSR projects lie in the timing risks/uncertainties brought about by the political landscape, which could remain in a state of flux till 2H21F.”

As for the state of emergency declaration, since it will likely persist until August this year, this leaves the 12th Malaysia Plan (MP) as the only leading indicator for a potential longer-term recovery phase for the construction sector.

CGS-CIMB stated while it remains to be seen if political overhang will lead to a delay in the implementation of recovery initiatives for the construction sector, the assessment of the sector based on the recent events points to an unexciting first half in terms of sector news flow.

However, it opined that MCO 2.0 may impact the sector’s earnings per share less severely compared with the first one, as it does not entail a stop-work order and will not cause a severe disruption to construction works and the building material supply chain.

With that, the research house has decided to maintain a neutral call on the sector, with its preferred stocks being YTL Corp, IJM Corp and MRCB.



Source: The Sun Daily

Ringgit higher vs greenback after Permai announcement

At 9.13am, the ringgit rose to 4.0450/0490 versus the greenback, from 4.0500/0540 at Monday’s close. — Reuters pic
At 9.13am, the ringgit rose to 4.0450/0490 versus the greenback, from 4.0500/0540 at Monday’s close. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 19 — The ringgit opened higher against the US dollar today, boosted by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s announcement of the RM15 billion Malaysian Economic and Rakyat’s Protection Assistance Package (PERMAI) package yesterday, as well as higher crude oil prices.

At 9.13am, the ringgit rose to 4.0450/0490 versus the greenback, from 4.0500/0540 at Monday’s close.

A dealer said that crude oil prices are expected to stabilise in line with the progress in the Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

“Investors’ sentiment will be positive, hence, a steadier local currency,” he said.

The prime minister had announced the RM15 billion PERMAI assistance package on Monday, which comprised 22 initiatives to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and cushion its impact on the people as well as the economy.

The package is anchored on three goals, namely, to fight the pandemic, preserving the people’s welfare, and supporting business continuity.

Meanwhile, traders will be paying close attention to Bank Negara Malaysia’s two-day Monetary Policy Committee meeting that starts today.

Analysts have projected that the central bank would make another interest rate cut in response to the potential economic impact from the re-implementation of the movement control order and the declaration of the nationwide state of emergency.

Despite its improved performance against the greenback, the local note had opened mostly lower against a basket of major currencies except the yen, where it rose to 3.8984/9027 from 3.9010/9056 at the close yesterday.

The ringgit weakened against the Singapore dollar to 3.0418/0467 from 3.0378/0417 yesterday, eased vis-a-vis the British pound to 5.4988/5046 from 5.4784/4855 previously and fell versus the euro to 4.8888/8940 from 4.8847/8903. — Bernama




Source: Malay Mail