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Here's why one investment chief says consumer confidence is the most important signal for markets amid th.. – Business Insider

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  • US consumer confidence is the top indicator Lisa Shalett, chief investment officer for wealth management at Morgan Stanley, is watching right now as fear of the coronavirus outbreak roils global markets. 
  • If consumers aren’t willing to spend, “then the earnings of a huge swath of S&P 500 companies are going to disappoint and that’s going to disappoint markets,” she told Markets Insider.
  • As an gauge of consumer confidence, she’s also keeping an eye on the housing market, as it’s one of few areas benefiting from the current low-rate environment. 
  • Read more on Business Insider.

US consumer confidence is the top indicator that Lisa Shalett, chief investment officer for wealth management at Morgan Stanley, will be watching as the coronavirus outbreak spreads in the US. 

“If consumer confidence collapses, it really doesn’t matter what the market does,” Shalett told Markets Insider in an interview. That’s because if consumers aren’t willing to spend, “then the earnings of a huge swath of S&P 500 companies are going to disappoint and that’s going to disappoint markets,” she said. 

In late February, the consumer confidence index rose to 130.7 from 130.4 in January, according to data from The Conference Board. The slight jump was less than economists expected for the month, a concern as the US consumer is a cornerstone of the economy. 

Markets have tanked amid panic that the coronavirus outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China, will halt global growth. As cases spread around the world, the US is also bracing for an economic slowdown – on Tuesday, the Federal Reserve announced an emergency half-point rate cut to combat the impact of the virus. 

But the Fed’s rate cut might have been the wrong move, as an epidemic presents a risk to public health, not monetary policy. Even though by lowering interest rates the Fed has made borrowing cheaper to encourage spending, it might not pan out if consumers are afraid to go out to eat or go on trips, according to Shalett.

For signs that the Fed rate cut is encouraging consumer spending, Shalett will be keeping an eye on the housing market, because it is “the most obvious beneficiary of the cratering in rates,” she said. 

As investors have piled into safe-haven assets, yields on long-term US Treasury bonds have plummeted to new lows. The average rate on the 30-year fixed rate mortgage, which loosely follows the benchmark 10-year, fell to 3.29% this week, the lowest on record

That’s a good thing for people looking to buy a home. It also gives current homeowners a chance to refinance their mortgage for a lower rate – this week, mortgage and refinancing applications spiked, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. 

But, coronavirus could have an adverse impact on the housing market going forward, if people become so worried about catching the virus that they don’t want to go out and look at new properties. 

“The next few weeks are key in whether these low mortgage rates bring in more buyers, or if economic uncertainty causes some home shoppers to temporarily delay their search,” Mike Fratantoni, senior vice president and chief economist at MBA, said in a statement.

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US, European Firms Rethink China Investment After Lockdowns – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — US and European businesses are reconsidering their investments in China after the lockdown in Shanghai and restrictions in other cities caused major disruption to their operations.

The American and European Union chambers of commerce in separate briefings said their members are rethinking their supply chains and whether to expand investment in the face of China’s zero tolerance approach to combating Covid-19.

“The Covid lockdowns this year and the restrictions over the past two years are going to mean that three, four, five years from now, we will most likely see investment decline,” Michael Hart, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said Tuesday in Beijing. 

While this doesn’t mean an immediate shift outside of China, Hart said that many firms that source from China are asking where else they can get supplies, and whether they should be building or sourcing from somewhere else.

The outlook is shared by European companies. Many members of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China are putting investment plans on pause and starting to consider whether to leave the country, the business group’s representatives said at a briefing Monday. Uncertainties about a potential next wave of outbreaks are taking a heavy toll on business confidence, they said.

“Uncertainty is really the keyword, because there’s no view, no outlook about how long this could last, and what will be next after Shanghai,” said Massimo Bagnasco, vice president of the European chamber.

Read More: China Vows to Ease Supply Chain Woes in Foreign Chamber Meeting

Profits of foreign firms in China are falling, and companies have become increasingly vocal about the impact on their businesses from Covid lockdowns and restrictions. Earlier this month, more than half of US firms said they were reducing or delaying investment plans and expected lower revenue due to the economic fallout from extended lockdowns, which have clogged the world’s biggest port, closed highways and shuttered factories and businesses. 

And last week, respondents to a survey by the German Chamber of Commerce in China reported that nearly 30% of their foreign employees had plans to leave China because of Covid. The chamber surveyed 460 companies.

The restrictions that began in March in Shanghai and elsewhere come on top of existing travel controls, which have made it hard for employees of foreign firms to travel to China or visit headquarters overseas.

The travel restrictions have left AmCham “very concerned” about US and other foreign investment into China, Hart said at a press conference to launch the chamber’s 2022 White Paper. 

China usually ranks among the top three destinations for investment among AmCham’s member companies, but “it is falling in preference,” Hart said, adding that if people can’t travel to the country, it will “decline as an investment destination.”

European businesses continue to face challenges including lost production days, labor shortages and supply chain and logistics disruptions due to lockdown measures. The pressure to leave China will rise significantly if the obstacles don’t improve by the end of the year, said Joerg Wuttke, president of the chamber.

The economy is also unlikely to rebound this time around as sharply as it did in 2020 because of ongoing headwinds from the crackdown on the technology sector, a persistent property market slump, and capital flowing out of China as the China-US interest rate differential diminishes, according to Wuttke.

Read more: China’s Covid Exit Hinges on Seniors Who Don’t Want Vaccines

Wuttke urged China to accelerate its vaccination efforts, as the vaccine uptake among those older than 65 has slowed in recent months. 

“You cannot hold an economy hostage by 150-to-160 million people that are insufficiently vaccinated,” he said. “This has to change, it can’t go on forever.”

(Updates with details about a survey by the German chamber of commerce in paragraph eight.)

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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Peru mining protests risk clogging $53bn investment pipeline – MINING.com

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With global prices soaring on high demand, that now threatens a mining investment pipeline of some $53 billion and could stall future projects expected by investment bank RBC to make up 12% of the world’s copper supply in years to come.

“Without any world-class projects on the horizon, the prospects for sustaining production are not good,” said Gonzalo Tamayo, analyst at Macroconsult and a former Peruvian mines and energy minister.

Mining executives and analyst met last week in Peru’s capital Lima, where the main concern was falling investment tied to rising social protests. A central bank report shows investment dipping some 1% this year and 15% in 2023.

The conflicts, mainly in poor Andean areas where communities feel bypassed by the huge mineral wealth beneath their soils, have started to bite, with protesters emboldened under Castillo who won election pledging to redistribute mining wealth.

Southern Copper’sCuajone mine was paralyzed for almost two months earlier this year.

Las Bambas, owned by China’s MMG Ltd, suspended operations in April after an invasion of the mine by communities demanding what they called ancestral lands. The mine, which produces 2% of the world’s copper output, remains offline.

Las Bambas had received government approval in March to expand the mine, a plan which is now under threat.

Álvaro Ossio, vice president of commercial and finance for ​​Las Bambas, said in a presentation at the Lima event, that the country faces a big task to benefit from high global prices.

“The great challenge that remains for all Peruvians is to take advantage of this great opportunity in these future trends,” he said.

Peru’s last big mining investments were in Anglo American’s Quellaveco and Minsur’s Mina Justa of a combined $6.6 billion. Their operations starting this year will help Peru hit annual output of 3 million tonnes of copper by 2025, experts say.

However, other major projects like Southern Copper’s Tia María, Michiquillay and Los Chancas worth some $6.7 billion, Buenaventura’s near billion dollar Trapiche and Rio Tinto’s $5 billion La Granja remain up in the air.

Not all was downbeat, however.

The world’s largest gold miner, Newmont Mining, said at the event that it was considering expanding into copper production in Peru, with a potential future return to the canceled Conga project.

Analyst Tamayo, though, stressed recent protests against mining had become harder to resolve.

“Now there are protests that stop mines in full operation,” he said. “The mining firms feel that the State does not support them and that the State has ceased to be the arbiter in conflicts.”

(By Marco Aquino; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Richard Pullin)

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German Hydrogen Utility HH2E Wins Investment From UK Firms – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — London-based private equity company Foresight Group Holdings Ltd. and investment firm HydrogenOne Capital Growth Plc acquired stakes in HH2E AG and will help the new hydrogen company to develop green energy projects in Germany. 

Foresight and HydrogenOne have taken minority equity stakes in HH2E and agreed to co-invest in energy projects, the German company said in a statement on Monday. HH2E — co-founded by Andreas Schierenbeck, former chief executive officer at utility Uniper — plans 2.7 billion euros ($2.8 billion) of investment to build 4 gigawatts of green hydrogen and green heat-production capacity by 2030. 

“Germany has one of the largest industrial and manufacturing sectors in the world,”  said Schierenbeck. “Leaders in these sectors know they must secure the supply of energy, control energy costs, and find low- or zero-carbon solutions soon. HH2E will be producing green hydrogen located close to the industries that need it.”

Germany aims to get almost 100% of its electricity from renewables by 2035, and is racing to expand green energy capacities as it tries to pivot away from reliance on Russian natural gas. The country plans to install 10 gigawatts of electrolyzer capacity by 2030 to scale up the hydrogen market. 

Russia’s Invasion Supercharges Push to Make a New Green Fuel

The two British investment companies will provide most of the capital needed for HH2E’s first five green hydrogen projects, which will need a total of 500 million euros in development costs and have an initial capacity of 500 megawatts. Some of them have the potential to be expanded to 1 gigawatt, according to Schierenbeck. 

HH2E seeks to produce green hydrogen cheaper than grey hydrogen — made from natural gas — in the coming years. It is “clear that the economics of green hydrogen are better than the grey and blue, as the latter two depend heavily on the cost of natural gas and carbon,” said Schierenbeck.

“This financing agreement enables a massive acceleration of our development plans,” said HH2E co-founder Mark Page. 

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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