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Broadgate: Weekly Briefing 3/9

3 September 2012

U.S. – U.S. shoppers spent a little more in July compared with June, according to the U.S. Commerce Department, raising hopes that the country’s economy is continuing to recover.

Consumer spending rose 0.4% in July, the largest increase for five months and following no change in June.

On Wednesday, figures showed that the U.S. economy grew at an annualised pace of 1.7% in the April-to-June period.

Brazil – Brazil’s central bank has cut its benchmark interest rate to a record low of 7.5% in an attempt to reignite a stalled economic recovery.

The cut, from the previous level of 8%, in the main Selic rate follows recently unveiled government stimulus measures.

The central bank move is the ninth cut in a row since August last year, as the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate has fallen dramatically from the 7.5% recorded in 2012.

Trends – Japanese equities have seen huge inflows over the past year as money has been sucked out of Europe, the U.K. and the U.S., according to U.K.’s Investment Management Association (IMA) figures.

Money has also been flowing into emerging market, Asian and globally focused funds, but Japan is the surprising addition to that list, as a developed market with well-known demographic and debt-related issues.

Richard Troue, investment analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “The country has been hit by everything that has been going on in Europe, but it is sheltered to some extent because a lot of Japanese companies are managing to capture growth in Asia.”

“Approximately 60% of Japanese exports are going to Asia and emerging markets rather than Europe or the U.S.”

India – India’s economy grew faster than expected in the three months to the end of June, easing some fears about a sharp slowdown in Asia’s third-largest economy.

Annualised growth was 5.5% in the April to June period, most analysts had forecast a rate of 5.2%.

“Whilst an upside surprise at 5.5%, the pace of growth is undeniably below potential and validates the need for the government to address sluggishness in investment and external sector activity,” said Radhika Rao an economist at Forecast Pte.

China – China’s top banks are stepping up their lending activities in the U.S. as large U.S. companies diversify their funding sources and seek to penetrate more deeply into the world’s second-largest economy.

Chinese banks’ share of U.S. syndicated lending has risen to 6.1% of the total market so far in 2012, up from 5.1% last year, according to data from Dealogic. So far this year, the total value of syndicated loans from Chinese banks into the U.S. has reached $51bn.

Liao Qiang, Chinese banking analyst at Standard & Poor’s, said: “Many global banks have been deleveraging as a result of the 2008 global financial crisis and the debt crisis in Europe. Their retreat in lending markets provides opportunities for Chinese banks to deepen relationships with the multinational companies and steadily increase their international presence.”

Philippines – A hefty rise in government spending on infrastructure and private investment in durable equipment helped the Philippine economy continue to grow in the second quarter, albeit at a slower pace, despite slowing exports and weak farm output.

GDP grew 5.9% in the second quarter year on year, the National Statistical Co-ordination Board said on Thursday. This was above analysts’ average forecasts of 5.3% but below the first quarter’s surprising 6.3%.

Euben Paracuelles, south-east Asia analyst at Nomura in Singapore, downplayed the fears. “While the Philippines, like many export-dependent countries, was affected by the global slowdown” he said “it had strong domestic drivers of growth such as government spending and private investment.”

“There is no question that the export sector is going to be a drag, but it’s a question of what happens to domestic demand. Domestic demand is the bigger offset in the Philippines,” said Mr Paracuelles. He recently upgraded his forecast for the country’s 2012 growth from 5.1% to 6%.

Commodities – Global food prices have leapt by 10% in the month of July, raising fears of soaring prices for the planet’s poorest, the World Bank has warned.

The bank said that a U.S. heatwave and drought in parts of Eastern Europe were partly to blame for the rising costs.

The price of key grains such as corn, wheat and soybean saw the most dramatic increases, described by the World Bank president as “historic”.

Spotlight on: A key development for Russian equity funds

Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is likely to result in a significant boost for economic growth and direct foreign investment, according to BlackRock’s David Reid.

Reid, head analyst of the BlackRock Eastern European Investment Trust, believes this “historical reform” will be a big help to fund managers focused on the region, who are already encouraged by strong fundamentals and cheap valuations across a number of sectors.

“Almost all the countries that have joined the WTO in the past have experienced sustained improvements in foreign direct investment and economic growth,” he explained.

“China’s entry in 2001 is often held up as one of the big success stories, but the eastern European region can also boast a record of success including countries like Poland, Hungary and the Baltic states.”

“Many sectors stand to benefit from this accession. For example, many export industries where Russia has a competitive advantage, such as steel and chemicals, will have easier access to foreign markets.”

“The consumer sector will also benefit from higher employment and wages as foreign investment in the economy takes effect.”

“Greater competition and lower tariffs will improve the quality and cost of goods and services, freeing up resources across the whole economy for additional investment and consumption.”

“Perhaps the most important point to note is that Russia’s accession comes after 18 years of talks, which could easily have dragged on for longer.”

“Russia’s leadership has decided now is the time to send a signal to the world that it is finally serious about engaging with global commerce, a key message to take away from these events.”

While Reid believes this is a long-term trend, he says historically cheap valuations in the Russian market imply a good entry point.

According to Financial Express data, the MSCI Russia index is down 14.09% over six months, compared with a gain of 0.74% from MSCI World.

“This is a historic development, but we are not anticipating miracle results in the short term,” Reid said. “Only a certain proportion of reforms are immediate, with the rest being phased in over a period of several years. Ongoing work by the government is required, but the WTO accession agreement is a powerful ‘anchor’ for policy that should ensure the direction of travel is firmly positive.”

“The Russian equity market is very close to historic lows in its valuation, both compared to its own history and to other emerging markets. This is in spite of the fact that the economy has been growing steadily since the crisis and has achieved record low inflation and unemployment levels this year.”

“WTO accession will help to highlight the country’s strong investment fundamentals and the market deserves renewed consideration from investors,” he finished.

The information set out herein has been obtained from various public sources and is by way of information only. Broadgate Financial can accept no liability of any sort in relation thereto and readers should obtain their own verification of any statement before making any decision which may have any financial or other impact.

Neither the information nor the opinions herein constitute, or are they to be construed as, an offer or a solicitation of an offer to buy or sell investments.