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China set to implement its first civil code, as private investment slows – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Keith Zhai, Gabriel Crossley and Yew Lun Tian

(Reuters) – China’s parliament is poised to enact its first civil code, a wide-ranging legislative package that includes strengthening protection of property rights in a Communist Party-ruled country whose embrace of private ownership has long been awkward.

The civil code, in the works since 2014, will become law at a time when China needs its often-embattled private sector to step up investment to help revive a virus-battered economy, and will be a centrepiece of the annual parliamentary session that begins on Friday after a more-than two month delay.

However, the civil code is largely an amalgamation of existing laws, meaning its impact may be limited, some analysts said. And enforcement is uncertain, as courts are not independent and ultimately answer to the party, although legal reforms in recent years have aimed to give judges more independence and rein in local officials’ influence over courts.

The civil code, which among other provisions protects personal information and makes it easier to divorce or sue for sexual harassment, is expected to spell out the clearest boundary yet between government and markets since the 1949 founding of the People’s Republic of China.

It is a cornerstone of President Xi Jinping’s push to reform the country’s legal system by 2020, even as China has tightened controls on civil society and expanded party control under his leadership.

The legislation – on paper at least – reduces the scope for bureaucratic meddling and abuse that have often bedevilled private firms and property owners in a country where business owners were not allowed to join the Communist Party until 2001 and are still treated with suspicion by some party officials.

“It gives more complete protection to the rights of the individual,” said Wang Jiangyu, a law professor at the City University of Hong Kong.

“The bigger context is, is this a country that adheres to the rule of law? Is the government really executing the law?”

BUSINESS INSECURITY

Implementation of the code, which incorporates existing laws including those covering property, contracts and torts, reflects long-running concerns among business owners over protection of personal and property rights.

“All private firms have their ‘original sin,'” Xu Bin, a steel trader in Henan province, told Reuters in March, referring to the sometimes dubious actions taken by entrepreneurs in the early days of China’s reform and opening.

Some worry those “sins” can still be used against them.

A 2017 survey on the climate for private sector firms by Unirule Institute of Economics, a now-defunct liberal Beijing-based think tank, found companies rated “legal fairness” 4 out of 10.

“Without legal protection, private businessmen don’t feel safe. Our survey showed that they think there is a 22.5% chance of danger to themselves and a 26.8% chance that their assets are at risk,” Sheng Hong, an independent scholar who was previously Unirule’s executive director, told Reuters.

However, the civil code will not protect entrepreneurs in criminal cases.

“Since the Civil Code only covers civil disputes, it does not help protect property rights against seizure of assets by the state, a most important concern among entrepreneurs,” said Xin Sun, a lecturer in Chinese and East Asian business at King’s College London.

NEEDED INVESTMENT

Private sector investment in China has slowed sharply, to the worry of officials, from more than 20% growth when Xi assumed power to single digits in recent years. It fell 13% during the coronavirus-battered first four month of this year, compared with a 7 percent decline for state companies.

In an April meeting chaired by Xi, the Communist Party’s decision-making Politburo said the government will support the private economy and development of small- and medium-sized firms, which remain excluded from several industries and have long had difficulty securing bank credit.

“The civil code could restore confidence of private business owners and to help prop up economic growth,” said Hu Xingdou, a retired economics professor with Beijing Institute of Technology.

Sun, of King’s College, isn’t so sure, saying the civil code brings little added protection for rights and property, and is more symbol than substance.

“China does have a comprehensive system of high-quality written laws but a lot of concerns arise from their enforcement rather than the laws themselves,” he said.

(Reporting by Keith Zhai, Gabriel Crossley, and Yew Lun Tian; Editing by Tony Munroe and Michael Perry)

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U.S. stocks rebound following rout, bond yields dip

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U.S. shares rebounded on Thursday after falling for three consecutive days and benchmark Treasury yields dipped, as investors snapped up technology stocks and shrugged off worries about rising prices, for now.

After posting their biggest slump in at least 11 weeks on Wednesday, U.S. shares bounced back as cash-flush investors looked past concerns that accelerating inflation may prompt quicker interest rate hikes, and deployed their funds once more.

So intent were investors on leaving inflation worries aside that financial markets barely responded to Thursday’s data, which showed U.S. producer prices posting their biggest annual gain since 2010 in April.

“It’s rebound Thursday,” said John Augustine, chief investment officer at Huntington Private Bank, which manages $20 billion. “Given the money on the sidelines, investors are going to be coming back in.”

Still, Augustine said investors should re-deploy their funds in a measured way because “inflation concerns are not going away”.

By midday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had added 1.4%, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite narrowed earlier gains to be up 1.3% and 0.9%, respectively.

The MSCI world equity index, which includes 50 countries, also bounced slightly, gaining 0.2%.

U.S. stocks had tumbled earlier this week after data showed U.S. consumer prices unexpectedly jumped by the most in almost 12 years in April.

Some investors now worry that quickening price pressures could lead the Federal Reserve to tighten monetary policy sooner than expected, and reduce its supply of cheap money that has been propelling financial markets higher.

For now, however, inflation woes took a backseat.

Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields, which had spiked 7 basis points overnight in the biggest daily rise in two months, edged down by more than 3 basis points to 1.6625% as investors took a breather.

Benchmark two-year Treasury yields also pulled back to 0.1589%.

Against a basket of major currencies, the dollar was steady at 90.727, holding gains eked out on Wednesday when expectations of rate hikes burnished the currency’s appeal.

A firm dollar capped gains in the euro, which edged up 0.1% to $1.20875. [USD/]

The pull-back in Treasury yields helped gold to recoup some of Wednesday’s losses, when the jump in bond yields dampened the allure of non-yielding bullion. Spot gold climbed 0.7% off a one-week low to $1,825.61 per ounce.

A recent rally in oil prices also paused on Thursday as investors turned their attention to the coronavirus crisis in India, and as a key U.S. fuel pipeline resumed operations.

Brent crude slumped 3.5% to $66.93 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude lost 3.8% to $63.53 a barrel.

Among cryptocurrencies, bitcoin, which tumbled 13% overnight when Elon Musk said Tesla would stop accepting it as payment because of its high energy use, fell below $50,000 again on Thursday following reports that the U.S. Justice Department is investigating crypto exchange Binance.

By midday, bitcoin had dropped 2.2% to $48.314.

(Reporting by Koh Gui Qing; additional reporting by Tom Wilson and Marc Jones in London; Wayne Cole in Sydney; Editing Nick Macfie, Dan Grebler and Cynthia Osterman)

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Dogecoin dropped after Elon Musk calls it a ‘hustle’ on ‘SNL’ show

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By Alden Bentley and Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK (Reuters) -The value of dogecoin dropped sharply in early U.S. hours on Sunday, after Tesla chief and cryptocurrency supporter Elon Musk called it a ‘hustle’ during his guest-host spot on the “Saturday Night Live” comedy sketch TV show.

Dogecoin was quoted as low as $0.47 on crypto exchange Binance, down 28% from levels around $0.65 before the show.

The billionaire Tesla Inc chief executive hosted the show at 11:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday (0330 GMT on Sunday).

Cryptocurrency enthusiasts had for days been eager to see what he would say, after his tweets this year turned the once-obscure digital currency into a speculator’s dream.

Asked ‘what is dogecoin’, Musk replied, “It’s the future of currency. It’s an unstoppable financial vehicle that’s going to take over the world.”

When a show cast member Michael Che countered, “So, it’s a hustle?”, Musk replied, “Yeah, it’s a hustle.” And laughed.

Musk is the rare business mogul to have been asked to host the venerable comedy TV show. The timing puts Musk back in the spotlight just as Tesla’s stock is losing steam following last year’s monster rally.

The unconventional CEO has posted numerous comments about cryptocurrencies on Twitter and criticized regular old cash for having negative real interest rates.

“Only a fool wouldn’t look elsewhere,” he said in February.

His cryptic tweets “Doge” and “Dogecoin is the people’s crypto” that month kicked off a rally in dogecoin – created as a parody on the more mainstream bitcoin and ethereum.

On Thursday, Musk tweeted: “Cryptocurrency is promising, but please invest with caution!” with a video clip attached in which he said, “it should be considered speculation at this point. And so, you know, don’t don’t go too far in the crypto speculation …”

But he also said, in the video, that cryptocurrency has a “good chance” of becoming what he called “the future currency of the Earth.”

On crypto data tracker CoinGecko.com, dogecoin has jumped more than 800% over the last month and is now the fourth-largest digital currency, with a market capitalization of $73 billion. It hit a record high Thursday above $0.73.

It has overtaken more widely used cryptocurrencies such as litecoin and tether.

Tesla said in February it bought $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin and would soon accept it as a form of payment for its electric cars, a large stride toward mainstream acceptance that sent bitcoin soaring to a record high of nearly $62,000.

Tesla shares closed 1.3% higher at $672.37 on Friday.

(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss and Alden Bentley in New York, and Noel Randewich and Hyunjoo Jin in San Francisco Additional reporting by Joe White and Vidya RanganathanEditing by Matthew Lewis & Simon Cameron-Moore)

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Wealthsimple hits $4 billion valuation on funding from Ryan Reynolds, Drake

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Wealthsimple

(Reuters) -Wealthsimple said on Monday it has raised C$750 million ($610.40 million) in its latest funding round, which more than doubled the Canadian fintech company‘s valuation to C$5 billion.

The latest funding round included participation from celebrities Drake, Michael Fox and Ryan Reynolds, according to the company.

The Toronto-based company that has helped make stock trading, peer-to-peer money transfers and tax filing easily accessible, said it will use the amount raised to further expand its market position, product suite and team.

The latest funding round, led by venture capital firms Meritech and Greylock, also includes investments from iNovia, Sagard, TSV and Redpoint.

The funding consists of C$250 million primary fundraising by Wealthsimple and a C$500 million secondary offering by holding company Power Corp of Canada, its largest shareholder.

Wealthsimple said it has seen rapid growth in the past 14 months as Canadians took an interest in stock trading during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this year, the company said it plans to grow revenue by adding premium features for its clients.

($1 = 1.2288 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Eva Mathews and Tiyashi Datta in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Shounak Dasgupta)

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