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Has China reached tipping point?

Discussion in 'The Economy' started by Tropo, 22nd Jul, 2010.

  1. Tropo

    Tropo Well-Known Member

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    In recent months, it’s been clear that there have been new forces stirring in China. We’ve witnessed a surge in the number of worker strikes.
    And instead of being confined to localised disputes in smaller factories, the industrial unrest has erupted in major factories operated by big multinationals, such as Japan’s Honda, and the giant Taiwanese contract electronics assembler, Foxconn.
    Chinese workers have become increasingly strident in their demands for bigger pay packets.

    The latest research report by Louis Gave, from the highly-regarded research firm, GaveKal, provides a very interesting analysis of the big changes that are now at work in Asia, and what they might mean for investors.
    Gave notes that for years, it’s been relatively easy to make money out by investing in Asian stocks, because Asian markets have tended to be undervalued, and because the region has notched up such impressive growth rates.
    That’s now changed. Most Asian markets are now trading at significant premiums to Western markets. And this means that unless Asian shares are able deliver what investors are hoping for, Asian markets could again face a de-rating.

    Gave notes that Asian stocks could face some headwinds because Asian central banks have broken step with their western counterparts.
    While US and European central banks are still locked into pursuing extremely loose monetary policies, most Asian central banks have started tightening in a bid to keep inflation under control.
    And Asian currencies are likely to come under some upward pressure as a result.
    Not surprisingly, the more hawkish policy stance on the part of the Asian central banks is likely to impact exporters (which typically make up 20-25 per cent of Asian equity indices) and Asian financial stocks (which usually make up between 30-35 per cent of the indices).

    Gave argues that it’s important for investors to take heed of the big shifts occurring within Asian markets.
    He points to the Chinese equity market which peaked almost a year ago, and has since dropped by more than 25 per cent.
    But despite the drop in the overall market, stocks linked to local consumption and stocks paying high dividends – such as utility stocks and stocks in the pharmaceutical, consumer staples, software and tech sectors – have held up strongly.
    On the other hand, Chinese financials, and stocks in the steel and cement, mining, oil and gas, and real estate sectors have underperformed.

    Gave argues that this reflects an important structural shift in the Chinese economy. In the first place, Chinese exports to the West are not likely to maintain the same blistering growth rates as they did over the past decade.
    It’s also likely that Chinese infrastructure spending will lose some steam, mostly because much of the obvious infrastructure build-out (such as highways and high-speed rail lines) is already nearing completion.
    But, even more importantly, Gave argues that the Chinese labour market is at a crucial tipping point.

    When countries first begin to industrialise, there’s an almost infinite pool of rural workers flocking to urban sectors to work in factories.
    And because productivity in the industrial sector is higher, factories can hire huge numbers of workers without having to raise real wages.
    But there comes a tipping point when the pool of labour available in the rural sector is smaller than the demand for labour in the industrial sector.
    And that’s the point when real wages start rising. Gave argues that 2010 looks like being the year that China hits its tipping point – and real wages start rising.
    According to Gave, as labour becomes more scarce, Chinese wages will be bid up until they match, or even exceed, the rate of productivity growth.
    And this explains what been witnessing in the industrial disturbances at the Honda and Falcon factories.

    “This is a momentous change: for years, businesses have simply assumed that China has an unlimited supply of young people who can be had for modest wages and replaced at will.
    Over the next 15 years this will cease to be the case: businesses will have to pay more for entry level workers, and then work harder to retain them for longer, because they will not be so easy to replace.”
    One consequence of hitting the tipping point is that China can no longer rely on simply adding more capital and labour to drive economic growth.
    Instead, economic growth will increasingly depend on using capital and labour more efficiently.

    But higher real wages mean that Chinese households will boost their spending.
    “Once wages grow faster than productivity, the labour income share of GDP will start to grow and household consumption will begin to assume its rightful place as the main motor of the Chinese economy”, he writes.
    Gave concludes by saying that these are not easy times for Asian investors.
    But within Asian equity markets, he recommends high-yield paying stocks, utility stocks, and stable growth stocks, especially those that are linked to the consumer.
    Karen Maley
     
  2. Chris C

    Chris C Well-Known Member

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    Are sweat shops on their way to Africa?

    :D