(Bloomberg) — China is betting that a pickup in infrastructure spending can spur investment and cushion a property-led slowdown which has dragged economic growth down to almost its lowest pace in more than three decades.
But because the property curbs are hitting government revenue from selling land, Beijing will need to ease its tough campaign to crack down on “hidden” local government debt if it wants a long-lasting revival in infrastructure spending.
Premier Li Keqiang last month urged local governments to make better use of the proceeds from the sale of 3.65 trillion yuan ($573 billion) in “special” bonds to counteract “downward pressure” on the economy. The bonds are used to fund specific projects rather than general expenditures and regional authorities have almost completed the sale of this year’s quota.
The quota could be expanded to 4 trillion yuan next year, according to state media reports, but even that amount of funding would be small relative to China’s total infrastructure spending needs. Bloomberg Economics estimates infrastructure investment will reach about 23 trillion yuan in 2021, which implies special bonds can only around 16% of that expenditure.
The remainder is mainly paid for with money from land sales and local government financing vehicles, which are companies set up by local governments to raise debt from loans and bond sales and then keep that borrowing off of government balance sheets. Both those sources of financing are under strain from property sector curbs and a campaign against “financial risks.”
Those financing vehicles raised less money in 2021 as Beijing ordered local governments to cut their “hidden” off-balance sheet debt. LGFV’s net local bond issuance — the excess of newly sold bonds over repayments — in the first 11 months of the year was 1.95 trillion yuan, down from 2.19 trillion yuan in the same period last year, according to Bloomberg estimates.
The platforms have found it harder than in the past to obtain loans from banks and from non-bank “shadow” financing because Beijing has been shrinking the shadow finance sector as part of its financial de-risking effort. They have also raised less from foreign investors: LGFV’s net issuance of dollar-denominated bonds through the end of last month more than halved to $5.7 billion.
The property crackdown is also reducing local government’s sales of land to property developers, a major source of funds for local government investment. Infrastructure spending growth has moved almost exactly in line with land sales revenue growth in recent years, according to analysis from Goldman Sachs Group Inc., while the correlation with special bond and LGFV bond issuance is less significant.
Beijing’s efforts to slow the real estate market began cutting into land sales volumes and prices this summer. Local government income from land sales shrank by more than 10% year-on-year in August, September and October, the largest and most sustained decline since 2015, according to Wei He, an analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics.
In the first 10 months of the year, infrastructure investment rose just 1% compared with the same period a year earlier, leaving local governments with unspent funds.
“The positive factors such as money that hasn’t been spent this year will be countered by the negative impact from land sales,” He said. “Therefore I do not expect a significant acceleration in infrastructure spending to materialize next year.”
To be sure, “special” bond issuance has been concentrated at the end of this year, which could translate into a slight pick-up in infrastructure spending in the first half of 2022 if the funds are quickly put to use. But local governments have been struggling to find suitable projects to fund with special bonds whose conditions stipulate that investments must generate enough income to repay the bond principal and interest.
Local governments’ land sale revenue could fall 10% year-on-year in 2022, according to Gavekal’s He. That means if Beijing really wants infrastructure investment to increase, it will need to loosen the constraints on LGFVs, compromising on its goal to control debt-levels in the economy.
“If the economy softens in 2022 and the government needs to increase infrastructure spending to support economic growth, there would be easing in financing for LGFVs,” said Ivan Chung, associate managing director at Moody’s Investors Service in Hong Kong.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
Pandemic darlings face the boot as investors eye return to normal life
Stay-at-home market darling Netflix slumped on Friday, joining a broad decline in shares of other pandemic favourites this week as investors priced in expectations for a return to normal life with more countries gradually relaxing COVID restrictions.
The selloff, which began after Netflix and Peloton posted disappointing quarterly earnings, spread to the wider stay-at-home sector as analysts judged the new Omicron coronavirus variant will not deliver the same economic headwinds seen in the first phase of the pandemic in 2020.
“This a confirmation that the economy is gradually moving towards some sort of normalisation,” said Andrea Cicione, head of strategy at TS Lombard.
France will ease work-from-home rules from early February and allow nightclubs to reopen two weeks later, while Britain’s business minister said people should get back to the office to benefit from in-person collaboration.
“With a return to the office and travel lanes opening, darlings of the WFH (work from home) thematic are reflecting the growing reality that the world is moving slowly but with certainty towards a new normalcy,” said Justin Tang, head of Asian research at United First Partners in Singapore.
Netflix tumbled nearly 25% after it forecast new subscriber growth in the first quarter would be less than half of analysts’ predictions.
The stock, a component of the elite FAANG group, was on track for its worst day in nearly nine-and-a-half years following rare rating downgrades from Wall Street analysts.
“It is hard to have confidence that Netflix will return to the historical +26.5 million net subscriber add run rate post the 2022 slowdown,” MoffettNathanson analyst Michael Nathanson said.
“The decay rate on streaming content is incredibly rapid. ‘Squid Game?’ That’s so last quarter. ‘The Witcher?’ Done on New Year’s Eve!”
Exercise bike maker Peloton lost nearly a quarter of its value on Thursday, leading at least nine brokerages to cut their price target on the stock.
The selloff erased nearly $2.5 billion from its market value after its CEO said the company was reviewing the size of its workforce and “resetting” production levels, though it denied the company was temporarily halting production.
Peloton’s shares were up nearly 5% on Friday morning, bouncing back somewhat from a 23.9% drop on Thursday, its biggest one-day percentage decline since Nov. 5.
Both companies were part of a group, along with others such as Zoom and Docusign whose shares soared in 2020, and in some cases 2021 as well, as people around the world were forced to stay at home in the face of the coronavirus.
However, thanks to vaccine rollouts and the spread of the less severe Omicron strain of COVID-19, life is returning to normal in many countries, leaving companies like Netflix and Peloton struggling to sustain high sales figures.
According to data from S3 Partners, short-sellers doubled their profits by betting against Peloton in 2021, the third best returning U.S. short.
Direxion’s Work from Home ETF has fallen more than 9% in first three weeks of the year, compared to a 6% drop in the fall of the broader U.S. stock market. Blackrock‘s virtual work and life multisector ETF has weakened more than 8% this year.
In Europe, lockdown winners are also going through a rough patch as rising bond yields pressurise growth and tech stocks.
Online British supermarket group Ocado, Germany’s meal-kit delivery firm HelloFresh and food delivery company Delivery Hero which emerged as European stay-at-home champions in the early days of the pandemic have underperformed the pan-European STOXX 600 so far in 2022.
(Reporting by Alun John and Julien Ponthus; Additional reporting by Nivedita Balu, Anisha Sircar and Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Saikat Chatterjee, Alison Williams and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)
Bitcoin falls 9.3% to $36,955
Bitcoin dropped 9.28% to $36,955.03 at 22:02 GMT on Friday, losing $3,781.02 from its previous close.
Bitcoin, the world’s biggest and best-known cryptocurrency, is up 2.4% from the year’s low of $36,146.42.
Ether, the coin linked to the ethereum blockchain network, dropped 12.27% to $2,631.35 on Friday, losing $368.18 from its previous close.
(Reporting by Jaiveer Singh Shekhawat in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)
Oil, gas investment forecast to rise 22% in Canada – Investment Executive
It’s positive news for an industry that has now essentially recovered to its pre-pandemic levels, after a disastrous 2020 that saw oil prices collapse due to the impact of Covid-19 on global demand.
But CAPP president Tim McMillan pointed out that in spite of the fact that oil prices are at seven-year highs and companies are recording record cash flows, capital investment remains well below what it was during the industry’s boom years. In 2014, for example, capital investment in the Canadian oilpatch hit an all-time record high of $81 billion, capturing 10% per cent of total global upstream natural gas and oil investment.
“Today we’re at $32 billion, and we’re only capturing about six% of global investment,” McMillan said. “We’ve lost ground to other oil and gas producers, which I think is problematic for a lot of reasons . . . and it leaves billions of dollars of investment that is going somewhere else, and not to Canada.”
Investment in conventional oil and natural gas is forecast at $21.2 billion in 2022, according to CAPP, while growth in oilsands investment is expected to increase 33% to $11.6 billion this year.
Alberta is expected to lead all provinces in overall oil and gas capital spending, with upstream investment expected to increase 24% to $24.5 billion in 2022. Over 80% of the industry’s new capital spending this year will be focused in Alberta, representing an additional $4.8 billion of investment into the province compared with 2021, according to CAPP.
While the 2022 forecast numbers are good news for the Canadian economy, McMillan said, it’s a problem that companies aren’t willing to invest in this country’s industry at the level they once did.
He said investors have been put off by Canada’s record of cancelled pipeline projects, regulatory hurdles and negative government policy signals, and many now see Canada as a “difficult place to invest.”
However, Rory Johnston, managing director and market economist at Toronto-based Price Street Inc., said laying the decline in the industry’s capital spending at the feet of the federal government is overly simplistic.
He added while current “rip-roaring, amazing” cash flows and a period of sustained high oil prices will certainly give some producers the appetite to invest this year, Johnston said, it will likely be on a project-by-project basis and certainly on a smaller scale than the major oilsands expansions of a decade ago.
“You have global macro trends across the entire industry that have begun to favour smaller, fast-cycle investment projects – and most oilsands projects are literally the polar opposite of that,” he said.
One reason capital spending isn’t likely to return to boom time levels is because companies have become much more cost-efficient after surviving a string of lean years. And that’s not a bad thing, Johnston said.
“The decade of capex boom out west was tremendously beneficial for Canada and Albertans, but it also caused tremendous cost inflation,” he said.
“While what we’re seeing right now is not as construction-heavy and not as employment-heavy – and those are two very, very large downsides – the upside is that you’re much more competitive in a much more competitive oil market,” Johnston said.
In a report released this week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) hiked its oil demand growth forecast for the coming year by 200,000 barrels a day, to 3.3 million barrels a day.
According to the IEA, global oil demand will exceed pre-pandemic levels this year due to growing Covid-19 immunization rates and the fact that the new Omicron variant hasn’t proved severe enough to force a return to strict lockdown measures.
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