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The coronavirus could cost China’s economy $60 billion

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The economic impact of the virus is still impossible to determine, but one state media outlet and some economists have said that China’s growth rate could drop two percentage points this quarter because of the outbreak, which has brought large parts of the country to a standstill. A decline on that scale could mean $62 billion in lost growth.

China can ill afford that kind of hit. Growth last year was already the country’s weakest in nearly three decades, as China contended with rising debt and the fallout from its trade war with the United States.

US warns its citizens not to travel to China as coronavirus cases top 9,600

The coronavirus, which first appeared in the central city of Wuhan, has already killed more than 200 people and infected more people than the SARS outbreak in 2003. A disease of this magnitude wasn’t even on China’s radar. Before the outbreak, the government was more worried that social unrest could be its “black swan” problem — an improbable but chaotic event officials feared could be spurred by rising unemployment.

Now Beijing is scrambling to stop the virus from cratering its economy. The ruling Communist Party recently put Premier Li Keqiang in charge of virus control. The decision was a clear signal that stopping the virus is “the priority among priorities” for the government right now, the official People’s Daily newspaper wrote in a recent commentary.

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So far, policymakers have taken some steps to help the businesses that are most affected by the rapid spread of the disease.

Central and local governments have allocated $12.6 billion so far to spend on medical treatment and equipment.

Major banks have cut interest rates for small businesses and individuals in the worst-hit areas. And the Bank of China said it would allow people in Wuhan and the rest of Hubei province to delay their loan payments for several months if they lose their source of income because of the disruption.

The People’s Bank of China, the country’s central bank, has said that it will ensure there is enough liquidity in the financial markets when they reopen next Monday after a 10-day Lunar New Year holiday. When Hong Kong’s markets reopened earlier this week, the Hang Seng index (HSI) plunged nearly 6% in just a few days of trading.

A Chinese man wears a protective mask as he rides an escalator at a large empty shopping area that would usually be busy during the Chinese New Year and Spring Festival holiday on January 28, 2020 in Beijing, China. A Chinese man wears a protective mask as he rides an escalator at a large empty shopping area that would usually be busy during the Chinese New Year and Spring Festival holiday on January 28, 2020 in Beijing, China.

Aggressive action

The government will likely have to be even more aggressive in the coming months to avert a more serious slowdown, according to Chinese economist Zhang Ming.

Zhang, who works at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, wrote this week that he expects economic growth to slump by a percentage point to 5% in the first quarter, assuming the epidemic lasts until the end of March. He described that as his most optimistic scenario, but didn’t give a specific forecast should the outbreak last even longer.

China is really worried about unemployment. Here's what it's doing to avoid mass layoffs China is really worried about unemployment. Here's what it's doing to avoid mass layoffs

The government could cut taxes and boost spending on public healthcare and employment training, Zhang said. He also expects local governments to spend more on infrastructure. By boosting economic activity and creating jobs, he added, cities can offset any weakness in private investment in real estate and manufacturing.

The central bank is also likely to deliver more interest rate cuts to stabilize the economy, Zhang said. Altogether, he said such measures could help growth rebound next quarter and push annual GDP growth to around 5.7%. While that’s lower than last year’s 6.1% growth, it would be in line with many analyst expectations.

Others take a more pessimistic view.

Analysts at Nomura believe growth could drop by two percentage points or more in the first quarter. The Global Times, a state-run tabloid, wrote Friday that the outbreak could shave two percentage points off GDP growth this quarter, citing industry insiders. Government’s efforts to contain the virus by extending Lunar New Year holidays and forcing factories to shut down could “take a piece out of the nation’s manufacturing industry and disrupt the global supply chain.”

Measuring the fallout

It’s too early to say whether that level of upheaval is on the horizon. Tesla (TSLA) has been forced to close its new Shanghai-built factory temporarily. And Apple (AAPL) has lost production from suppliers in Wuhan. The longer term impact on both companies is much less clear.

Apple, more than most companies, stands to lose from the coronavirus outbreakApple, more than most companies, stands to lose from the coronavirus outbreak

Other sectors might have more to lose right now. Tourism — a multibillion-dollar industry during the Lunar New Year — has been decimated as the government quarantines major population centers and people avoid traveling for fear of becoming infected. Major travel companies, hotels and airlines have offered refunds through most of February, while some airlines have suspended services to and from China.

Holiday celebrations have been canceled and major tourism spots have been closed off. China’s massive box office will also likely take a hit after several blockbuster movies set to release during the holiday season were pulled.

Zhang and other analysts suggested that the fallout could even be more serious than after SARS, the respiratory disease that caused China’s economic growth to briefly plunge before rebounding nearly two decades ago.

The spread of the coronavirus threatens to cause job losses and push consumer prices higher, compounding economic woes that already exist.

The employment market is already under stress this year. Industries that traditionally create a lot of jobs, like the technology sector, have been hurt by the economic slowdown. The coronavirus outbreak will make things worse, according to Zhang.

China’s 290 million migrant workers are among those most exposed to a slump. Many of them travel from rural areas to the cities to take on construction and manufacturing jobs or perform low paying but vital work, such as waiting tables in restaurants, delivering packages or acting as janitors.

But because many factories and businesses remain shut down, millions of those workers might find it hard to land a job after the extended Lunar New Year holiday ends. More than 10 million migrant workers from Hubei province alone might also face discrimination from employers fearful that they may spread the virus.

How the coronavirus is already hurting global business How the coronavirus is already hurting global business

Zhang warned that China’s unemployment rate — already a concern for officials — could reach a record high in the coming months. The rate traditionally has hovered around 4% or 5%.

He added the virus could also make consumer goods more expensive. Budgets are already tight because of rising debt, and a pork crisis brought on by the outbreak of African swine fever among China’s pigs last year has caused the price of meat to skyrocket. Now vegetable prices have risen as people rush to buy basic necessities during the virus outbreak, according to the state news agency Xinhua.

Other challenges

Dealing with the disease will make some of China’s other problems that much tougher to solve — including its tricky trade relationship with the United States.

As part of a truce reached earlier in January, Beijing agreed to buy $200 billion worth of US products in the next two years. Analysts have already said that shrinking domestic demand in China will make it tough for the country to hit those targets. If the virus weakens the country’s buying power even more, those goals could move even further out of reach.

The trade war is still on. Consider this a fragile truceThe trade war is still on. Consider this a fragile truce

Substantial tariffs totaling hundreds of billions of dollars also remain in place on many Chinese goods. And Washington has made it clear that those will remain a form of leverage as the two sides negotiate the next phase of their agreement.

Even so, at least one analyst finds it unlikely that the trade war will escalate just because China is “temporarily” unable to honor its trade commitments. The United States is in an election year, and such an action could jeopardize President Donald Trump’s campaign, said Ken Cheung, chief Asian foreign exchange strategist at Mizuho Bank.

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No, Britain’s Economy Isn’t On The Rocks.

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How bad is Britain’s economy?

It depends on what you read.

For instance, the Atlantic magazine headlined a recent feature “How the U.K. Became One of the Poorest Countries in Western Europe.”

The features continues with the following: “The U.K. is now an object lesson for other countries dealing with a dark triad of deindustrialization, degrowth, and denigration of foreigners.”

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In other words, the Atlantic has some pretty brutal thoughts on the U.K.’s economy.

Unfortunately, none of that reflects the reality I have lived and the economic data.

Let’s start with some basics.

UK Post-pandemic Growth Shines

First up is inflation-adjusted GDP since the beginning of 2021. In that case, the UK leads the pack of the three largest European economies. It grew 7.4% last year following by 3.6% this year, according to data from the International Monetary Fund.

Contrast that with France which grew 6.8% last year and 2.5% this year, then Germany which limped along at 2.6% in 2021 and 1.5% so far this year.

It shouldn’t take a PhD in mathematics to see that the UK is growing faster than the others over that period. Its not a huge difference in the case of France, but still its not like Britain is a basket case.

Fewer Jobless

UK unemployment is also far lower than either France or Germany. Britain’s jobless rate is a mere 3.6%, according to TradingEconomics. That compares with 5.5% and 7.3% for Germany and France respectively.

Some observers say the UK’s rate is so low because many people have stopped looking for work. Its a fair point, but only at the margin. In other words, its a relatively small issue. People who aren’t looking for work can hardly be unemployed. Second, if the UK rate was adjusted for the lower participation its hard to see the jobless figures jump to the current levels in France or Germany.

Modest Debt

Despite claims to the contrary that cutting taxes would send an already-indebted country into economic oblivion, the U.K. could probably afford to borrow bit more cash.

That’s because there’s massive hole in the assertion that Britain is in hock up to its eyeballs, its plainly wrong, especially compared to other rich countries.

The UK’s debt-to-GDP ratio is around 97%, again according to TradingEconomics. However, for France the figure is 113%, and the U.S. is 137%. Germany stands out at 69%.

In other words, the U.S. (generally considered to be a strong economy,) and France (a bedrock economy of the European Union) are much more in debt than Britain and yet observers seem excited to bash the U.K. like it was going out of fashion.

Germany does have a better debt ratio, but it is also a country that spends proportionately far less on defense than the other comparison countries. That’s something that the world has scrutinized closely since the invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

Illegal Migrants

However, perhaps the trump card in demonstrating the strength of the UK’s economy is the wave of illegal migration into the country.

Wave may understate the matter.

Its more of a tsunami.

This year so far more than 40,000 people have made the life-threatening journey across the channel from France to England. That’s up from less than 30,000 last year, and under 10,000 in 2020. Many of the people who make that journey get granted refugee status.

When considering this information its important to understand that migrants are leaving a democratic country will at top notch record on human rights and with a strong economy. Its also worth remembering that France has better weather than the U.K., and finer food.

It’s the Economy, Stupid

So why would so many people risk their lives crossing by far the world’s busiest shipping lane at night in a rubber dinghy to get to Britain? People can and do die on that trip with banal regularity.

Maybe they really do like the abundant grey skies, and drizzle that the country has to offer. Perhaps they really like British food in the way a native enjoys them.

But what about this: There’s a chance that the U.K.’s market driven economy is attractive to people in a similar way that America is attractive to migrants of all types.

On top of that, the Atlantic is wrong about Britons not liking foreigners. In fact, the U.K. population embraces people from all over the world.

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Charting the Global Economy: OECD Raises Inflation Forecast

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(Bloomberg) — Central banks around the world must be steadfast in their inflation fight even though economies will suffer as a result, the OECD said this week.

The organization boosted its 2023 inflation estimates and said it expects price increases the following year will remain above the targets set by many global central banks. While economies will slow because of tighter monetary policies, the OECD didn’t forecast a recession.

Though a survey of US manufacturers showed a fifth month of shrinking activity, another report indicated a healthy increase in business investment. A survey of the euro area businesses indicated that any downturn may not be severe as initially expected.

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Meantime, the Bank of China eased reserve requirements for banks to help bolster the world’s second-largest economy.

Here are some of the charts that appeared on Bloomberg this week on the latest developments in the global economy:

World

The world’s central banks must keep raising interest rates to fight pervasive inflation, even as the global economy sinks into a significant slowdown, according to the OECD. The organization raised inflation projections for next year and said that while the global economy will suffer a “significant growth slowdown,” it’s not forecasting a recession.

This week saw more major rate hikes across the world, with 75 basis-point hikes in Sweden, New Zealand and South Africa and full percentage-point moves in Pakistan and Nigeria. Turkey went the opposite way, cutting rates by 150 basis points.

US

Business activity contracted for a fifth month in November as demand faltered, while inflationary pressures continued to slowly ease. The S&P Global flash composite purchasing managers’ index slid to the second-lowest level since the immediate aftermath of the pandemic.

Orders placed with US factories for business equipment rebounded in October, suggesting capital spending plans are holding up in the face of higher borrowing costs and broader economic uncertainty. Core capital goods shipments jumped the most since the start of the year, suggesting a solid start to fourth-quarter gross domestic product.

Europe

Euro-area businesses see tentative signs that the region’s economic slump may be easing as record inflation cools and expectations for future production improve. A gauge measuring activity in manufacturing and services unexpectedly rose in November, according to S&P Global.

Sweden’s home-price decline accelerated in October, as the Nordic country gripped by the most severe housing slump in three decades shows what may lie ahead for many other developed economies.

Asia

For the second time this year, China’s central bank cut the amount of cash lenders must hold in reserve, ramping up support for an economy racked by surging Covid cases and a continued property downturn. The People’s Bank of China reduced the reserve requirement ratio for most banks by 25 basis points.

Signs are growing in China that local government debt burdens are becoming unsustainable. China’s 31 provincial governments have a stockpile of outstanding bonds that’s close to the Ministry of Finance’s risk threshold of 120% of income. A major cause of the financial squeeze is the property crisis.

Australia has spent big to attract swathes of Indian tourists to its shores, signed a free-trade deal with post-Brexit Britain and uncovered new Middle East markets during its 30-month trade rift with China. Still, outside iron ore and other key commodities, there’s been substantial pain for exporters.

Emerging Markets

Chile is set to lead the world into a steep interest rate-cutting cycle next year as inflation slows and its economy goes from boom to bust, according to swap markets. Traders are forecasting more than 5 percentage points in cuts in the next 12 months after a surprise inflation print last month and as the economy teeters on the edge of recession.

Shipments of boats, vehicles and computer parts are leading Mexico’s export boom, showing growing US demand for industrial products from its southern neighbor. The export of boats produced in Mexico increased 266% in September compared to a year ago, the fastest-growing item among Mexican exports worth more than $100 million.

–With assistance from Maya Averbuch, Sebastian Boyd, Valentina Fuentes, Sybilla Gross, William Horobin, John Liu, Yujing Liu, Swati Pandey, Reade Pickert, Jana Randow, Niclas Rolander, Zoe Schneeweiss and Ben Westcott.

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Canada’s Best Credit Cards for 2023

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Canada’s Best Credit Cards for 2023

Choosing the best credit card in Canada can get confusing. Not only are there so many options, but everyone has different goals, desires, and credit histories – all of which come into play when choosing a credit card. For example, parents with a large family would likely benefit from a credit card that has great cash-back rewards on groceries and gas while a digital nomad might enjoy points and comprehensive insurance from a card that rewards travel purchases.

 

However, rewards aren’t the only thing to consider. You should also take into account the annual percentage rate (APR), annual fee, and welcome bonuses. To help you decide which is Canada’s best credit card for 2023, we’ve broken them down by category and included all the important details.

Best Credit Cards in Canada 2023

No matter your financial situation or goals, there is a credit card out there for you. Here’s a breakdown of Canada’s best credit cards in 2023:

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Best Cash Back Credit Card

CIBC Dividend Visa Infinite Card

 

  • Welcome bonus: $200
  • Annual fee: $120 after the first year
  • Regular APR: 20.99% – 24.99% (variable)

 

This card gives you 10% cash back on $2,500 in purchases over the first four billing cycles. Additionally, you can earn 4% cash back on groceries and gas, 2% cash back on dining, transportation, and recurring bills, and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

 

Best Travel Credit Card

American Express Cobalt

 

  • Welcome bonus: 2,500 Membership Rewards points
  • Annual fee: $155.88 ($12.99 per month)
  • Regular APR: 20.99%

 

You can earn 2 American Express Membership Rewards per dollar spent on travel or gas, and 3 points per dollar on travel bookings made through the Amex Travel Portal. This card also comes with travel insurance coverage and a $100 USD hotel credit.

 

Best Business Credit Card

CIBC Aeroplan Visa Business Plus Card

 

  • Welcome bonus: 60,000 Aeroplan Points
  • Annual fee: $120 (rebated in the first year)
  • Regular APR: 19.99%

 

This is the best credit card in Canada for anyone that travels for business. This card offers annual earnings of $456.68 when you book Air Canada and $430.63 in value when you book other any travel, including non-Air Canada flights, cruise lines, rental car companies, and tour companies. You can also benefit from a Buddy Pass to anywhere Air Canada flies in North America, including Hawaii and Mexico.

 

Best Credit Card for Bad Credit

KOHO Prepaid Mastercard

 

  • Welcome bonus: None
  • Annual fee: None
  • Regular APR: None

 

This card is almost a credit/debit card hybrid, and an excellent option for anyone with bad or no credit. The card is loaded with money from your bank account or a direct deposit paycheque. It can be used as a debit card for free, or you can request to open a line of credit to work on building or repairing your credit. If you choose to open a line of credit, there is a $10 per month fee.

Final Thoughts

These are only a few of the best credit cards in Canada for 2023. Give them a try next year and see if your choice helps improve your financial situation!

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