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• Reserve Bank of India monetary policy decision on Friday
• The U.S. Labor Department releases unemployment and job creation data Friday
• S&P 500 futures rose 0.1% as of 8:18 a.m. in Tokyo. The S&P 500 rose 0.8%.
• Nasdaq 100 contracts advanced 0.1%. The Nasdaq 100 rose 0.9%
• Nikkei 225 futures climbed 1.1%
• Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index was 0.8% higher
• Hang Seng futures advanced 0.8%
• The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index was little changed
• The euro was at $1.1556
• The Japanese yen was at 111.64 per dollar
• The offshore yuan was at 6.4541 per dollar
• The yield on 10-year Treasuries advanced five basis points to 1.57%
• Australia's 10-year bond yield climbed five basis points to 1.63%
• West Texas Intermediate crude rose 0.7% to $78.87 a barrel
• Gold was at $1,754.83 an ounce
This is what's caught every one's eye over the past 24 hours
• Tokyo is shaken by its biggest quake since 2011.
• Has anyone seen Tether's billions?
• How is Apple looking to expand its reach within cars?
• Eleven un-magical secrets I learned while working at Disney World.
• This Nintendo game is primed to be its next smash hit.
Brace Yourselves Investors preparing for China's post-Golden Week market reopening have many reasons to hold their breath. You've got Evergrande putting strain on the country's $12 trillion domestic credit market; the impact of Fantasia Holdings Group's shock dollar-bond default this week; the uncertainty of where Beijing will strike next in its crackdown on excess and bid for "common prosperity"; and relations with the U.S. under the microscope. And there will be intense interest in how the People's Bank of China can keep liquidity ample, given the wall of short-term debt due this month. It's wait and see time — and there's not long left to wait.
Crisis Averted (For Now) U.S. Senate leaders reached a deal to vote on raising the U.S. debt ceiling until December 3, forestalling the threat of default. The agreement would lift the borrowing cap by $480 billion, and a vote could come later Thursday. While the compromise averts an immediate crisis, the partisan battle will ramp back up just as Congress deals with a funding deadline and as Democrats try to muscle through their infrastructure and tax-and-spending plans. The White House said in a statement that President Joe Biden looks forward to signing the bill once it is passed in the Senate and the House.
On the Up Asian stocks look set to rise after Wall Street climbed on easing concerns about the U.S. debt ceiling and an energy crunch. Traders are awaiting key jobs data as well as the start of trading in China. Equity futures rose for Japan, Australia and Hong Kong, while U.S. contracts were steady. The yield on U.S. 10-year Treasuries reached the highest since mid-June. The U.S. payrolls report Friday could cement expectations that the Federal Reserve will soon start tapering bond purchases. The dollar was steady.
Troops in Taiwan U.S. troops have been in Taiwan to train local forces for at least a year, to better defend themselves in case of attack by China, according to a U.S. defense official. The Pentagon deployed a special-operations unit and Marine contingent for ground and small-boat instruction, reflecting its concern about the island's tactical capacity in light of Beijing's military buildup. The development is likely to further antagonize ties between Washington and Beijing, just as Xi Jinping and Joe Biden are preparing a virtual meet-up. Biden yesterday told reporters that he and Xi had reaffirmed their agreement on Taiwan. Here's why Taiwan remains the biggest risk of a China-U.S. military clash.
Less Talk, More Action The World Health Organization called on countries with high vaccination rates to prioritize the delivery of Covid-19 shots to lower-income nations, setting out a strategy for countries to follow to reach a goal to inoculate 40% of the population in every nation in the world by the end of the year, and 70% by mid-2022. In other virus news, a study has found heart damage from Covid-19 extends well beyond the disease’s initial stages, even people who were never sick enough to need hospitalization are in danger of developing heart failure and deadly blood clots a year later.
Asian stocks look set to rise Friday after Wall Street climbed as concerns eased about the U.S. debt ceiling and an energy crunch. Traders are awaiting key jobs data as well as the start of trading in China after a holiday. Australian shares advanced, as did futures for Japan and Hong Kong. U.S. contracts edged up after the S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 pushed higher for a third day. Lawmakers in Washington are due to vote on a temporary resolution of the debt-ceiling impasse, a step that is bolstering sentiment. The yield on U.S. 10-year Treasuries reached the highest since mid-June. While some fears about energy costs eased, investors continue to fret over inflation. The U.S. payrolls report Friday could also cement expectations that the Federal Reserve will soon start tapering bond purchases. The dollar was steady. In China, financial markets are set to open for the first time in a week, turning the focus back on the debt woes in its property sector and Beijing’s wider regulatory broadsides. Central bank Governor Yi Gang said the nation will continue taking steps to curb monopolistic behavior among internet platforms and strengthen consumer and data protection. Global stocks are on course for their best week since early September, helped by the U.S. move to avert the risk of an immediate default amid the wrangling over the debt limit. But commodity-fueled price pressures, the prospect of tighter Fed monetary policy and China’s property-sector slowdown remain as risks for the recovery from the pandemic. “As soon as you start thinking about tapering it’s really hard to not then think about what that means for the Fed funds rate and when that might start to increase,” Kim Mundy, currency strategist and international economist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Sydney, said on Bloomberg Television. “We do see scope that markets can start to price in a more aggressive Fed funds rate hike cycle.” Elsewhere, oil rebounded after the U.S. Energy Department said it has no plans “at this time” to tap into the nation’s oil reserves to help quell rising fuel prices. The recent sharp rally in Bitcoin paused around the $54,000 level.
The hit from China’s energy crunch is starting to ripple throughout the globe, hurting everyone from Toyota Motor Corp. to Australian sheep farmers and makers of cardboard boxes. Not only is the extreme electricity shortage in the world’s largest exporter set to hurt its own growth, the knock-on impact to supply chains could crimp a global economy struggling to emerge from the pandemic. The timing couldn’t be worse, with the shipping industry already facing congested supply lines that are delaying deliveries of clothes and toys for the year-end holidays. It also comes just as China starts its harvest season, raising concerns over sharply higher grocery bills. “If the electricity shortages and production cuts continue, they could become yet another factor causing global supply-side problems, especially if they start to affect the production of export products,” said Louis Kuijs, senior Asia economist at Oxford Economics. Economists have already warned of slower growth in China. At Citigroup, a vulnerability index indicates that exporters of manufacturers and commodities are particularly at risk to a weakening Chinese economy. Neighbors like Taiwan and Korea are sensitive, as are metal exporters such as Australia and Chile, and key trading partners such as Germany are also somewhat exposed. As for consumers, the question is whether manufacturers will be able to absorb higher costs or will pass them along. “This is looking like another stagflationary shock for manufacturing, not just for China but for the world,” said Craig Botham, chief China economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. “The price increases by now are pretty broad-based -- a consequence of China’s deep involvement in global supply chains.” Beijing has been scouring for power supplies as it tries to stabilize the situation. The impact on the global economy will depend on how quickly those efforts bear fruit. Many Chinese factories reduced production for this week’s “Golden Week” holiday, and economists are closely watching whether power shortages will return as they ramp up again. Already, though, some industries are under pressure, and the damage they’re seeing could quickly fan out to other sectors.
The U.S. has had troops in Taiwan training local forces to better defend themselves in case of attack by China for at least a year, according to a U.S. defense official, a development likely to further antagonize ties between Washington and Beijing. The official, who asked not to be identified, confirmed an earlier report by the Wall Street Journal that more than two dozen American service members, including special forces, have been in Taiwan for more than a year. Some of the training has been with local maritime forces on small-boat training, according to the Journal. The development comes as China ramps up pressure on the island it considers part of its territory, sending scores of warplanes into Taiwan’s air-defense-identification zone. At the same time, the U.S. and several allies, including Japan and the U.K., have been conducting naval drills in nearby waters. “The United States has an abiding interest in the peace, security, and stability of the Indo-Pacific -- including in the Taiwan Strait,” Pentagon spokesman John Supple said in a statement on Thursday. “The United States will continue to support a peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues, consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people on both sides.” U.S. officials have repeatedly urged Beijing to scale back its activities and lower tensions.
Pfizer Kids Shot Moves Closer, Biden Touts Mandate: Virus Update
Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve its Covid-19 vaccine for children ages five to 11. The U.K. eased entry rules for 47 countries that were subject to the tightest Covid-19 restrictions, in the government’s latest bid to help revive the tourism industry. President Joe Biden is escalating his campaign to pressure U.S. employers to require vaccination, while data for some states suggest that strains on hospitals are easing. Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve its Covid-19 vaccine for children ages five to 11. The U.K. eased entry rules for 47 countries that were subject to the tightest Covid-19 restrictions, in the government’s latest bid to help revive the tourism industry. President Joe Biden is escalating his campaign to pressure U.S. employers to require vaccination, while data for some states suggest that strains on hospitals are easing.
Kiwi Gets Left Behind as Sure Bets on Rate Hikes Start to Waver
New Zealand’s central bank raised interest rates for the first time in seven years this week but doubts are growing over the pace of further tightening. That looks to be bad news for the kiwi but good for local bonds. The currency has already gone into reverse, dropping more than 3% from last month’s high, while an index of quarterly analyst forecasts for year-end has declined to 71 U.S. cents from 74 cents in June. Hawkish predictions for further tightening are being dialed back by Covid lockdowns that are sapping business confidence and weighing on economic growth. “We struggle to see other than large levels of government expenditure, where the next catalyst for New Zealand growth is going to come from,” said Fergus McDonald, head of bonds and currency at Nikko Asset Management New Zealand in Auckland. “Quite often in previous tightening cycles some other event pops up that means the top of the tightening cycle, which was initially anticipated, never actually eventuates.” Policy makers led by Governor Adrian Orr increased the official cash rate by a quarter percentage point to 0.5% Wednesday but said the latest Covid restrictions had badly affected some businesses in Auckland, and there will be longer-term implications for economic activity from the pandemic. New Zealand’s dollar briefly popped higher immediately after the decision before ending the day down 0.7% as the lack of further guidance about tightening damped sentiment. The kiwi was trading at 69.20 cents late on Thursday, down from as high as 74.65 cents in February, with selling also fueled by rising Treasury yields and a stronger U.S. dollar. Overnight indexed swaps show an 88% chance that the central bank will raise its benchmark by another 25 basis points at its November meeting, and are fully pricing in another move on top of that by April. The hawkish positioning leaves plenty of room for disappointment. “We are penciling a rate hold in November on the basis that the RBNZ has ‘lifted off’ from its record-low and would now prefer to keep its options open, with any further tightening likely to occur in a small and steady approach,” said Lee Sue Ann, a macro strategist at United Overseas Bank Ltd. in Singapore. “The RBNZ’s projections for rapid rate hikes through 2022 are overly optimistic.”
Ally of Japan’s Premier Calls for Capital Gains Tax Hike to 25%
An ally of new Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said capital gains tax could be raised to 25% from the current 20% without affecting stock prices, just as the premier prepares to make his first policy speech in parliament. Kozo Yamamoto, a veteran member of Kishida’s faction of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, also told Bloomberg more than 30 trillion yen ($269 billion) in fiscal spending was needed to help the economy recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The new premier will lay out his policy program in parliament Friday, in a bid to overcome weak public support and secure victory for his ruling coalition in an election in three weeks’ time that could set the tone for his term in office. “For shareholders to take everything is absurd,” said Yamamoto, a former Finance Ministry official with an MBA from Cornell University. Reviewing capital gains tax would be a symbolic move in correcting income disparities, he said, adding that research indicated a rate of 25% wouldn’t be harmful. Kishida has emphasized the need to share the fruits of economic growth by raising salaries and capital gains tax -- a policy line that hasn’t so far resonated with the public and has been blamed for a tumble in Japanese equities. Surveys published this week showed Kishida got a relatively weak boost in approval for a new leader after he took office Monday, with one poll indicating the lowest level for an incoming premier since 2008. The Nikkei 225 Average went on an eight day losing streak that ended Thursday -- the longest such run since 2009.
U.S. Loosens China Grip on $46 Billion Lithium-Battery Industry
The U.S. is narrowing the gap on China’s dominance of the $46 billion lithium-ion battery industry thanks to investments from Tesla Inc. and the Biden administration’s policy push to drive growth of electric vehicles. The U.S. rose to second spot in BloombergNEF’s global lithium-ion battery supply chain ranking for both this year and a 2026 projection, the energy data and analysis firm said in a Thursday report. The nation was sixth for 2020 in last year’s inaugural ranking. The U.S. has the second-largest EV market globally, after China, and Tesla and Asian cell makers are making “significant” investments in the country as government policies help establish a domestic battery supply chain. China still continues to dominate the ranking due to continued investment and strong local and domestic demand for its lithium-ion batteries. The Asian nation hosts 80% of all battery cell manufacturing capacity today, with capacity expected to more than double, enough for more than 20 million electric vehicles, in the next five years, the report said. Yet, as governments worldwide recognize the strategic importance of the battery industry, local supply chains are emerging to challenge China’s dominance. European countries are climbing the rankings as passenger EV sales steadily grow. While European nations are ranked individually in the report, the ability for tariff-free trade in Europe means that as a continent its battery demand is second only to China. If ranking Europe as a whole, it comes in first for both 2021 and 2026 rankings.
Lasertec Gets First Next-Gen Gear Orders From Memory Chipmakers
Lasertec Corp., the sole supplier of machines required to test designs for the world’s most advanced chips, has expanded its list of customers to computer memory makers, President Osamu Okabayashi said in an interview. First orders from DRAM manufacturers for testing gear used in the extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) method of chipmaking came in the fiscal year ended June, Okabayashi said, declining to name specific customers or disclose exact numbers. The demand helped push Lasertec’s bookings to a record 112.9 billion yen ($1 billion) in the period, a number the company forecasts will climb another 42% this year. The EUV process unlocks today’s smallest-scale designs, enabling more powerful and efficient microprocessors, referred to as logic chips in the industry. Yokohama-based Lasertec spent years developing equipment for it and has seen its share price rocket up more than 1,000% since early 2019 as EUV adoption by manufacturers like Samsung Electronics Co. and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. took off. It now forecasts a sixth straight year of record revenue and profit thanks to demand for advanced manufacturing from the likes of Apple Inc., whose latest iPhones and iPads are powered by EUV designs. DRAM is a type of computer memory used to perform operations that doesn’t hold data after the power is switched off. Until recently, EUV had been used only in the more complex and lucrative logic chips, but now Samsung’s memory-making division along with SK Hynix Inc. and Micron Technology Inc. -- the trio dominating the market -- have all announced and started to adopt EUV for their most advanced products. “Logic foundries have led the way on EUV, while DRAM makers are just beginning their mass production using the technology in 2021,” Okabayashi said. “It’s just the start.” In 2017, Lasertec solved a key piece of the EUV puzzle when it created a machine that can inspect blank EUV design masks for internal flaws. Though just one step of the manufacturing process, this verification is indispensable and owning the technology has put Lasertec in an enviable position. In September 2019, the company cleared another milestone with equipment that can do the same for stencils with chip designs already printed on them. Chipmakers buy these to minimize mask flaws and thus improve production yields and profitability.
Musk Says Tesla Will Move Its Headquarters to Austin, Texas
Tesla Inc. is moving its corporate headquarters to Austin, Texas, where a new factory for the Model Y and forthcoming Cybertruck is nearing completion, relocating from California after making the Golden State its home for 18 years. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk announced the move at the Austin plant Thursday during the electric-vehicle maker’s shareholder meeting. Tesla has been based in Palo Alto, California, the leafy Silicon Valley suburb that’s home to Stanford University and several venture capital firms, since its founding in 2003. But the company has grown from scrappy startup to the world’s most valuable automaker and Texas -- centrally located between the two coasts -- has become its center of gravity in the U.S. Musk’s decision to move the headquarters to Texas comes despite growing discomfort among some companies with the state’s policies, such as a recent abortion law -- that’s been temporarily blocked -- and efforts to restrict voter rights. But Tesla is just the latest California company to move to Texas, which has lower taxes, a lower cost of living and fewer business regulations. Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. has shifted its base to Houston and Charles Schwab Corp. moved its headquarters to the Dallas area from San Francisco. “We welcome Tesla home!” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said in an email. “It’s a tech company that creates the clean manufacturing, middle skill jobs Austin needs.”
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