The government is considering building three reservoirs to help address water shortages, which are expected to become more severe in the coming years, the Water Resources Agency (WRA) said yesterday. The planned facilities are Shuangsi Reservoir (雙溪水庫) in New Taipei City, Tianhuahu Reservoir (天花湖水庫) in Miaoli County and Nanhua Second Reservoir (南化第二水庫) in Tainan, WRA Deputy Director-General Wang Yi-feng (王藝峰) said. Although the reservoirs are needed to prepare for potential droughts, there is no timetable for their construction, which requires environmental impact assessments and communicating with residents in the areas they would be built, Wang said. Upon completion, the three reservoirs could boost the daily water supply by 126,000 tonnes, 260,000 tonnes and 170,000 tonnes respectively, he said. Taiwan has experienced intensifying water shortages over the past few months, prompting the government last week to suspend farm irrigation on the Chianan Plain (嘉南平原) in southern Taiwan next spring. The restrictions would affect 19,000 hectares of rice paddies, the Council of Agriculture announced on Wednesday. The council is also considering similar suspensions in areas in Taichung and Taoyuan, and Hsinchu and Miaoli counties, affecting the first rice harvest of the year. A decision is expected next month. The government is working to improve some reservoirs in Taiwan, such as increasing the capacity of Chiayi County’s Zengwen Reservoir (曾文水庫), the nation’s largest reservoir, Wang said. After related work on seven reservoirs is completed, they could provide an extra 180 million tonnes of water per year, he said. Separately, science-based parks and industrial zones are gearing up for water shortages as the nation faces the dry season, with falling water levels in reservoirs, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said. At a meeting on Wednesday, the ministry decided to ask science-based parks and industrial zones, which are perceived as two of the largest water consumers in the nation, to save more water to
‘STRATEGIC COLLABORATION’: The potentially NT$2 billion deal, which still faces shareholder approval, would help the firms enhance their respective businesses
Grape King Bio Ltd’s (葡萄王) board of directors on Friday approved a private placement from Uni-President Enterprises Corp (統一企業), giving it an 8 percent stake in the nutritional supplement firm. In the deal, Grape King would issue up to 11.851 million new common shares to Uni-President, which would become a strategic investor, the Taoyuan-based supplier of probiotics and mycelium health foods said in a statement. Unlike a public offering, an investor in a private placement is subject to a three-year lockup period, it said. The deal is expected to further bolster their collaboration in the food and beverage, and health and wellness sectors, Grape King said. “This strategic collaboration will be a key driver of growth for Grape King Bio,” chairman and CEO Andrew Tseng (曾盛麟) said. “We are confident that the combination of Uni-President’s know-how in running successful multinational food and beverage and retail businesses, along with Grape King’s expertise in health supplements, will yield attractive growth opportunities.” Uni-President, the nation’s largest food and beverage conglomerate, said in its regulatory filing that its board of directors had agreed to the private placement at a cost no higher than NT$2.015 billion (US$69.94 million). The deal comes as many nations face aging populations and businesses have seen a greater demand for preventive care, while the partnership would allow both firms to leverage their respective expertise in products and services, distribution networks, manufacturing, marketing and food safety. “This collaboration will ensure that overseas expansions can be achieved more rapidly utilizing Uni-President’s overseas production plants to manufacture high-quality products for global healthcare markets,” Grape King said. The company would share its knowledge and experience in supplements and biotechnology with Uni-President, and help its partner expand its offerings in the health and wellness sector, it said. Grape King’s Taiwan Accreditation Foundation-certified laboratory and Uni-President’s food safety center would work together to improve food
Analysts are positive on IC testing service provider King Yuan Electronics Co’s (京元電子) outlook due to its customers’ commitment to communication chips and complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) image sensors. While King Yuan’s revenue growth is likely to be affected by a loss of orders from China-based Hisilicon Technologies Co (海思半導體) due to US trade sanctions, orders from MediaTek Inc (聯發科) and others should fill the void left by Huawei Technologies Co’s (華為) chip division, Yuanta Securities Investment Consulting Co (元大投顧) said in a note last week. King Yuan also counts Qualcomm Inc, Xilinx Inc and Nvidia Corp among its customers. The company had been expanding capacity significantly for HiSilicon over the past two years, with 30 to 35 percent of its capital expenditures spent to meet the Chinese customer’s testing demand, Yuanta said. “Although we estimate a revenue gap of 15 percent next year on no Hisilicon contribution from the fourth quarter of this year, we still expect relatively flat growth in sales next year, thanks to strong demand for MediaTek’s 5G system-on-chip and power management ICs, as well as other customers’ graphics processing units, field-programmable gate arrays, CMOS image sensors and automotive-related chips,” Yuanta said. With capacity adjustment from this quarter, King Yuan’s utilization rate and gross margin are to improve next year on the back of strong demand from customers, Yuanta added. King Yuan shares closed 2.05 percent higher at NT$34.9 in Taipei on Friday, hitting its highest since Aug. 18. Year to date, shares have fallen about 7 percent. “We believe this is due to expectations on easing China-US tensions after the US presidential election outcome and Huawei’s impact has been well digested,” Yuanta said. King Yuan reported cumulative revenue of NT$24.26 billion (US$842.04 million) in the first 10 months of the year, up 16.83 percent from NT$20.76 billion a year earlier. The company’s net profit for
US hotel operator Hilton Worldwide Holdings is next month to launch its third property in the nation, Hotel Resonance Taipei (台北時代寓所), despite the COVID-19 pandemic that has diminished international travel. Hotel Resonance Taipei is a joint venture between Tapestry Collection by Hilton and Tainan-based Prince Housing and Development Corp (太子建設) to cater to technology-savvy business and leisure travelers. Located on Taipei’s Linsen S Road near the MRT Shandao Temple Station, the hotel — which features 175 guestrooms, a Starbucks cafe, a wellness spa and other amenities — is available for reservations from NT$3,360 (US$116.62) per night ahead of its opening. The property sits on a 1,091 ping (3,607m2) lot, the superficies rights of which Fubon Life Insurance Co (富邦人壽) won for NT$2.61 billion in April 2013 and later leased it to Prince Housing and Development. Hotel Resonance Taipei is Prince Housing and Development’s second lodging facility after W Hotel in Taipei’s prime Xinyi District (信義). It is the first hotel under the Tapestry brand in the Asia-Pacific region, reflecting confidence on the part of the US hotelier about the region’s tourism market. Hotel executives declined to speculate on occupancy and room rates for the first year after the opening, but said they hoped that independent tourists would account for 90 percent of its customers after the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. The convenient location, just one stop from the Taipei Main Station, Michelin-star restaurants and popular tourist attractions, would lend support to its business, hotel executives said.
CPC Corp, Taiwan (CPC, 台灣中油) and Formosa Petrochemical Corp (台塑石化) yesterday announced that they would increase their gasoline and diesel prices by NT$0.2 per liter, effective today. Prices at CPC stations are to increase to NT$22.1, NT$23.6 and NT$25.6 per liter for 92, 95 and 98-octane unleaded gasoline respectively, while the price of premium diesel would rise to NT$19.4 per liter, CPC said in a statement. International oil prices last week rose after Pfizer Inc said its COVID-19 vaccine candidate was 95 percent effective and as geopolitical tension in the Middle East increased, providing a lifeline for the oil industry, CPC said. Although its gasoline and diesel prices should have increased by NT$1.5 and NT$1.7 per liter respectively this week based on its floating oil price formula, CPC said that it would absorb part of the cost increase to comply with a government policy of keeping domestic fuel prices the lowest in Asia. Formosa said that the oil market also received a boost on the indication of a smooth transfer of power following the US presidential election, coupled with the reduction of US crude oil inventories from the previous week. The company said that the prices of its 92, 95 and 98-octane unleaded gasoline would increase to NT$22.1, NT$23.5 and NT$25.6 per liter respectively, while the price of premium diesel would be NT$19.2 per liter.
BRICK-AND-MORTAR LOSSES: In-store visits on Friday plunged by 52 percent, with apparel, home goods, jewelry and footwear seeing some of the biggest declines
Black Friday online sales hit a new record this year as pandemic-wary Americans filled virtual carts instead of real ones. Consumers spent an estimated US$9 billion on US retail Web sites on Black Friday, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracks online shopping. That was a 22 percent increase over the previous record of US$7.4 billion set last year. Meanwhile, traffic to physical stores plummeted as retailers tried to prevent crowds by cutting their hours and limiting doorbuster deals. US store visits dropped by 52 percent on Black Friday, according to Sensormatic Solutions, a retail tracker. Jewelry and footwear saw some of the biggest in-person sales declines, according to RetailNext, a shopping tracker. Apparel sales were down 50 percent, while sales of home goods fell by 39 percent. Even with that drop, Black Friday is still likely to end up as one of the biggest in-person shopping days in the US this year, Sensormatic senior director of global retail consulting Brian Field said. He thinks many people would still shop for the holidays in person, but will choose mid-week days when crowds are smaller. Heavier in-store discounts and concerns about lengthy shipping times could also draw shoppers closer to Christmas. “Black Friday had a lot to lose, but some of it is going to be distributed throughout the holiday season,” Field said. One trend that could remain after the COVID-19 pandemic ends is that stores could remain closed on Thanksgiving Day, Field said. Since 2013, a growing number of stores had opened on Thanksgiving to match their competitors and get a jump start on Black Friday. However, it is typically not a big day for retailers, and this year many stayed closed. Thursday’s store traffic was down 95 percent, he said. Field said stores might be rethinking the cost of paying employees and opening on Thanksgiving when they
A Chinese factory owned by South Korean semiconductor giant SK Hynix Inc yesterday halted operations after a plant worker was found to have an asymptomatic infection of COVID-19, Xinhua news agency reported. The South Korean worker based at the plant in Chongqing since February had departed on Thursday for South Korea, Xinhua reported. He was tested at Incheon Airport in Seoul and confirmed positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, it reported. All factory staff as well as staff and recent guests at the hotel where the worker lived have been isolated and given nucleic acid tests, the agency said. “We’re cooperating with the local government on their containment efforts, and at the same time trying to resume production as soon as possible,” a spokesman at SK Hynix said. He declined to comment on the impact the suspension would have. SK Hynix, the world’s No. 2 memorychip maker, employs about 2,700 workers in the Chongqing facility, including some South Koreans. The city has carried out nucleic acid tests on 3,283 people, with 2,674 found negative, Xinhua said. Almost 500 environmental samples had also been collected, and all found negative. China reported 11 new COVID-19 cases in the mainland on Saturday, compared with six cases a day earlier, the Chinese National Health Commission said yesterday, adding that all of the new infections were imported cases. There were no new deaths. China also reported 10 new asymptomatic patients, compared with four a day earlier. As of Saturday, mainland China had a total of 86,512 confirmed cases, it said, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.
Tony Hsieh (謝家華), the retired chief executive of Zappos.com who revolutionized the online shoe industry and gained notoriety for his company’s unique corporate culture, has died. He was 46. Puoy Premsrirut, a lawyer for the Taiwanese-American Hsieh, told news outlets that Hsieh had been injured in a house fire while visiting Connecticut. He was with family there when he died on Friday night, KLAS-TV reported. A Nov. 18 house fire in which Hsieh is believed to have been injured remains under investigation, according to the Hartford Courant, which cited the New London fire chief and reported the home that burned is owned by a long-time Zappos employee. A Harvard graduate, Hsieh gained success in the dot com era. He joined Zappos in 1999 when it was called ShoeSite.com and led it for two decades. Amazon.com Inc purchased the company for US$1.2 billion in 2009 and Hsieh remained as chief executive until stepping down in August. Amazon’s purchase of the firm signaled CEO Jeff Bezos was both impressed and threatened by Zappos’ fast delivery of online orders and customer service reputation. Hsieh’s success selling shoes online stood out because it was a product people traditionally like to feel on their feet before buying. “The world lost you way too soon,” Bezos wrote on Saturday on Instagram. “Your curiosity, vision, and relentless focus on customers leave an indelible mark.” Hsieh was a fixture in the tech speaker circuit and espoused his company’s commitment to “holocracy,” a decentralized management style where decisionmaking was spread throughout the organization without traditional hierarchy. He stood out as a non-traditionalist even in an industry known for breaking tradition. He lived in a trailer park in downtown Las Vegas that attracted creative people working on the strip. They would eat communal meals by a big fire pit and a pet alpaca roamed the park.
South African retailers, including The Foschini Group Ltd (TFG) and Woolworths Holdings Ltd, are increasing investment in local clothing manufacturers — both to reduce a dependency on Chinese imports and secure a supply chain thrown into disarray by COVID-19 restrictions. The companies have signed up to an industry plan that includes a target to source 65 percent of their goods from local manufacturers within the next decade. While progress toward the goal varies per chain, the spread of COVID-19 has sharpened their collective focus. The pandemic caused “such disruptions to the supply chain that everyone’s sitting back and saying do we ever really want to be that reliant on China ever again?” TFG chief executive Anthony Thunstrom said in an interview. “I think the penny’s dropped and retailers are looking more and more to buy locally.” The initiative comes as South African President Cyril Ramaphosa looks to revive the cloth manufacturing industry, that would help achieve a goal of creating jobs, easing an official unemployment rate that is at a 17-year high. “As South Africa opened to trade in the late 1990s, China came in and decimated the market as cost was the only dictating factor,” said Lawrence Pillay, head of sourcing at Woolworths. “But the world has changed radically and there is now so much more than just the cost. Sustainability, carbon footprints, challenges of logistics — all of these factors are going to force a rethink.” Yet opening new factories during a pandemic will not be easy. The industry’s decline has led to a shortage of skills, training and raw materials, meaning significant up-front investment would be required to eventually wring savings from shorter lead times and cheaper transport costs. That is at a time where consumer confidence is low, putting retailers on the back foot. “There are certain products, like heavy winter jackets,
JAPAN Management goal unmet Women held an average 7.7 percent of executive positions at major companies as of last month, suggesting the government’s latest target of 10 percent by this year would not be met, a survey by the Yomiuri Shimbun found. The figure has risen from 4.9 percent in a 2016 survey and 6.1 percent in 2018, the newspaper said yesterday. The percentage of women in management positions was 9.9 percent this year — rising from 7 percent in 2016 and 8.5 percent in 2018 — but far short of a 2003 government target of 30 percent by this year. BANKING HSBC mulls US retail exit HSBC Holdings PLC is considering an exit from US retail banking, the Financial Times said on Saturday. In the coming weeks, senior managers are to outline the plan to the bank’s board, the newspaper said, citing two unidentified people familiar with the matter. They are also likely to suggest reducing investment banking activities to concentrate on international clients, with a focus on Asia and the Middle East. A full exit from the US is no longer being considered. No final decision on the retail business has been made. An HSBC spokesman declined to comment on the report. AUTOMAKERS Tesla plans wider roll out Tesla Inc chief executive Elon Musk on Friday said that there would probably be a wider roll-out of a new “Full Self Driving” software update in two weeks. Tesla last month released a beta, or test version, of what it calls a “Full Self Driving” software upgrade to an undisclosed number of “expert, careful” drivers. “Probably going to a wider beta in 2 weeks,” Musk wrote on Twitter, in a reply to a user asking if the software would be available in Minnesota.
Biting new Chinese trade tariffs have stoked fears that Australia’s virus-weakened economy is being targeted for political retribution and the two countries might be sliding into a “shadow trade war.” Since Canberra pointedly demanded an investigation into the origins and spread of COVID-19, the number of Australian businesses being squeezed in China has exploded. Crates of Australian rock lobsters have been left to rot at a Chinese airport and mountains of coal have been stuck in Chinese ports. On Friday, Beijing turned the screw again, hitting Australian wine exports with punitive tariffs of up to 212 percent, essentially closing off a US$1 billion market. In total, 13 sectors have been targeted, according to a running tally from Jeffrey Wilson, a trade expert with the Perth USAsia Centre think tank. The list so far includes barley, beef, coal, copper, cotton, lobsters, sugar, timber, tourism, universities, wine, wheat and wool. Wilson estimated the total value of Australian goods at risk at about US$40 billion. It is an eye-watering number that represents 12 percent of all Australia’s exports, in a country experiencing its first recession in 30 years. Beyond the fear, fury and headline-grabbing restrictions, trade experts said the overall economic effect for Australia has so far been more modest. “The number of industries that have been sanctioned is large, but the direct economic impact to the economy as a whole in Australia is going to be significantly smaller,” Wilson said. He said that the actual economic impact might be US$2 billion to US$4 billion and perhaps less if affected firms look for other export markets. Curbs on Australian beef have affected only four meat processing plants, three of which are not Australian-owned. China’s suggestion that its tourists and students boycott Australia poses only a limited threat while there is a virtual ban on travel to during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The action on coal is something
With the speed cryptocurrency is emerging as the millennial generation’s alternative asset of choice in India, it is hard to imagine that just two years ago a couple of blockchain pioneers were briefly in police custody. Sathvik Vishwanath and Harish BV, cofounders of a then five-year-old start-up, were arrested in late 2018. No, they had not pulled off a shady initial coin offering. Their “crime” was that they put up a kiosk in a mall in Bangalore where customers could swap bitcoin, ether or ripple for cash or vice versa. That was the whole point of unocoin, their crypto token exchange. However, the police were suspicious of the new-fangled “ATM.” A lot has changed since then. Unocoin, which just raised financing from Tesla Inc backer Tim Draper’s Draper Associates, is flourishing, together with other Indian blockchain ventures. India’s share of person-to-person virtual currency trading in Asia has surged to 33 percent, the same as in China, according to Oslo-based Arcane Research’s analysis of volumes on Paxful and LocalBitcoins, the biggest platforms for transactions in the region. Some of this is no doubt due to the bubbly rise this year in bitcoin, which recently came within US$100 of its all-time high after surpassing US$19,000 for the first time since 2017. Even after Thursday’s wobble, prices have still more than doubled this year. However, fundamental factors are also at play. Sending money to India in a tokenized form, and thus avoiding hefty bank charges, is becoming an option. Some customers of digital-asset exchanges, probably tech-savvy freelancers, receive tokens at regular intervals as payment for their work and convert them into rupees via their local bank accounts. Families in India are using the same channel to send money to students overseas. Having the world’s largest diaspora — and more than US$100 billion in two-way money flows last year —
When all is said and done this year, African economies would probably have outperformed the rest of the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. Africa’s 54 countries now include seven of the globe’s 10 fastest-growing economies, in part because the lethal virus might have improved their competitive advantage as they accelerated their decade-long transformation from exporters of natural resources to hubs of wireless, remotely engaged commerce. The transition to technology-driven, 21st-century business in a region where people are younger than anywhere else is reflected in the changing landscape of the 1,300 publicly traded companies that make up corporate Africa. Communications firms have become a robust presence, making up 29 percent of the total market capitalization of the continent this year, compared with 13 percent a decade earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Materials and energy, the region’s benchmarks since colonial times, declined to 23 percent from 34 percent during the same period. Africa has held off the COVID-19 assault better than many developing regions. The coronavirus had receded by the middle of this month in some of the continent’s largest countries — South Africa, Nigeria and Ethiopia — to their lowest levels since April or May, according to data compiled by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The economies of Ethiopia, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Ghana, Rwanda and Kenya withstood the economic impact of the pandemic so successfully that they were among the world’s 10 fastest-growing this year. At least five of them are expected to remain in that elite growth club through 2022, according to forecasts by economists compiled by Bloomberg during the past three months. Two years ago, Africa included only three of the best performers and in 2015 it had four. Shares of sub-Saharan Africa’s 200 largest public companies have appreciated 13 percent this year as the comparable emerging-market
‘ENCOURAGING’: Customer traffic on Black Friday was down due to COVID-19, but online sales hit a record, and the markets might yet see a Santa rally, an economist said
Wall Street stocks advanced on Friday in a holiday-shortened week as retailers started the year-end shopping season amid record COVID-19 hospitalizations in the US. The NASDAQ Composite closed at a record high as investors favored tech-related, market-leading stocks that have fared well during the COVID-19 pandemic, while economically sensitive cyclical stocks weighed. All three indices rose for the week, in which the S&P 500 reached a new closing high and the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average ended above 30,000 for the first time ever. “It’s an abbreviated session and volume is light, so the only conclusion is that the rally is not faltering for now,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities LLC in New York. “It does bode well for next month,” Cardillo added. “Will we see a Santa rally? Most likely. Will it be as robust as November? That’s a big question mark.” Retailers opened their doors to Black Friday shoppers, with social distancing practices and other measures put in place to mitigate infection risks, while offering steep discounts. “Black Friday has been somewhat tarnished — traffic is down due to the pandemic — but the good news is e-commerce sales have reached a new record,” Cardillo said. “That’s encouraging.” In the latest development on the road toward developing a vaccine against COVID-19, the UK gave drugmaker AstraZeneca PLC the green light after experts raised questions about the vaccine’s trial data. As US hospitalizations for coronavirus set a grim record of more than 89,000, the race for a medical solution to the pandemic has led to promising vaccines from Pfizer Inc, Moderna Inc and others, fueling optimism for light at the end of the tunnel. The Dow Jones Industrial Average on Friday rose 37.9 points, or 0.13 percent, to 29,910.37, the S&P 500 gained 8.7 points, or 0.24 percent, at 3,638.35, and the NASDAQ
GREAT EXPECTATIONS: The market is turning more bullish even at the slightest easing of restrictions coupled with expectations of more government stimulus, an analyst said
European shares gained for a fourth straight week on Friday as investors looked past near-term virus damage and hoped for a quicker economic revival next year, while Spanish lender Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA (BBVA) gained after ending merger talks with Banco Sabadell SA. The pan-European STOXX 600 ended 0.4 percent higher and added 0.93 percent for the week, with tech and banks leading gains, while energy stocks were the top gainers for the week on rising oil prices. BBVA gained 4.2 percent and was among the top gainers on the benchmark index. Banco Sabadell shares fell 13 percent, as the merger failure is expected to add pressure on the lender, which was seen as the weaker link in the potential transaction. The two banks had looked for a deal to create Spain’s second-biggest domestic bank. “Investors have looked past the near-term risks and placed their bets on faster economic growth next year with the market turning more bullish even at the slightest of ease in restrictions coupled with expectations of more stimulus in case things go wrong,” ETX Capital analyst Michael Baker said. The STOXX 600 has gained 40 percent since a COVID-19-driven slump in March and was set to end its best month on record, but rising infections in some European countries have capped gains. The number of infections in Germany surpassed 1 million and the daily death toll hit a record high on Friday, while lawmakers announced plans to almost double the borrowing for next year to fight the pandemic. A survey by the European Commission showed that eurozone economic sentiment fell this month for the first time in seven months as a second COVID-19 wave struck the continent. British mid-caps were the worst performers for the week and the only index among its European peers that recorded losses as the end-of-year deadline for a
Gold plunged while copper soared on Friday, with increasing optimism that a vaccine would spur a global economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Copper surged to a seven-year high in London, while gold slid below US$1,800 an ounce for the first time since July, with the sell-off accelerating after liquidation pushed it through a key technical support level. Gold’s decline quickened pace as investors continued to swap into riskier assets looking to profit from an eventual recovery from the pandemic. The divergence underscores how investors are increasingly turning away from gold, considered a haven in times of economic stress, in favor of copper, seen as a bellwether for the global economy and an important part of the transition to low-carbon energy resources. Gold prices posted a third weekly drop, having declined 13 percent from its record high in August. Copper rallied for a fourth day as other industrial metals climbed, while global stocks were on track for the best month on record with valuations near the highest in about 20 years. A gauge of global copper producers rose to the highest since January 2013, led by Teck Resources Ltd, Vale SA and Antofagasta PLC. China’s rapid economic rebound has driven its imports to record levels this year, helping to offset lower demand in the rest of the world. The country’s latest factory gauge, due tomorrow, is expected to show activity in the top copper consumer continuing a steady expansion. On Friday, data from the Shanghai Futures Exchange showed copper stockpiles in its warehouses falling to the lowest since late 2014. Spot gold fell 1.5 percent to US$1,782 an ounce in New York, down 5 percent for the week. Bullion for February delivery declined 1.3 percent to settle at US$1,788.10 an ounce. Silver dropped 3.6 percent, while platinum and palladium advanced. Copper for three-month delivery on the
Oil rose for a fourth straight week on Friday, buoyed by optimism over COVID-19 vaccine progress ahead of an OPEC+ ministerial gathering next week. Futures in New York advanced more than 7 percent this week, despite edging lower on Friday. The shape of the oil futures curve firmed over recent sessions with some nearer-dated futures contracts rising above later-dated ones. It is a sign of how the market has dramatically repriced the increased likelihood of a vaccine rollout jump-starting a stronger demand rebound next year. Informal talks between an OPEC+ panel is to take place today after previously being scheduled for yesterday. That would precede the formal ministerial meetings scheduled for tomorrow and Tuesday, when producers are to decide whether to postpone a planned output hike. West Texas Intermediate for December delivery on Friday fell 0.4 percent to US$45.53 per barrel, up 7.3 percent for the week. Brent crude for December delivery on Friday rose 0.8 percent to US$48.18 per barrel, gaining 6.9 percent weekly. “With three vaccine candidates at least close to deployment, a material recovery in economic activity and oil consumption in the next six months is on the horizon,” said Erduan Reid, head of crude swaps at Eagle Commodities Ltd in London. If OPEC+ extends its current output cuts, “most balance estimates assume a first-quarter 2021 global draw driven by Asia, even if Europe and the US build on mobility restrictions,” he said. While most analysts surveyed by Bloomberg are forecasting that OPEC+ would postpone the planned increase by three months to March, oil’s recent rally might further complicate the decision amid growing tension with some member countries. Meanwhile, Algeria, which holds the rotating OPEC presidency this year, said the group must remain cautious, because the organization’s internal data point to the risk of a new oil surplus emerging next year.
Asian stock markets were mixed on Friday as questions about the effectiveness of one COVID-19 vaccine candidate weighed on investor optimism. Benchmarks in Mumbai and Sydney retreated, while Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul gained. Investors have been encouraged by reports of progress toward a possible vaccine. However, they were uneasy after researchers questioned data that showed a candidate from the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca was 70 percent effective. “Market participants showed increasing signs of nervousness as data errors were revealed,” Mizuho Bank Ltd said in a report. The MSCI Asia-Pacific ex-Japan index rose 0.15 percent to 635.20, up 1.6 percent for the week. In Taipei, the TAIEX rose 0.2 percent to 13,867.09, adding 1.1 percent for the week. Hong Kong stocks ended at a nine-month high on Friday, gaining for the fourth week in a row, tracking mainland strength as upbeat profits from industrial firms pointed to a continued recovery in China’s economy. The Hang Seng Index (HSI) rose 0.3 percent to 26,894.68, its highest closing level since Feb. 21, while the China Enterprises Index (HSCE) gained 0.8 percent to 10,790.30 points. For the week, the HSI rose 1.7 percent, while the HSCE climbed 2.2 percent, both posting their fourth week of gains in a row. Profits at Chinese industrial firms last month rose 28.2 percent annually, official data showed, pointing to a steady recovery in the manufacturing sector after it was hit by the pandemic. China’s factory activity likely expanded at a slightly faster pace this month, a Reuters poll showed on Friday, as the world’s second-largest economy steadily recovers from the coronavirus crisis. “Overall, we believe China’s economic recovery remains largely on track and maintain our real GDP growth forecast of 5.7% y-o-y for Q4, up from 4.9% in Q3. We firmly believe Beijing will maintain its policy stance,” Nomura Holdings Inc analysts wrote in a note
The US dollar index hit an almost three-month low on Friday after strong economic data from China pushed investors toward riskier currencies and equity markets extended their rally. The US dollar has fallen more than 2 percent so far this month after Democratic US president-elect Joe Biden’s election victory and positive COVID-19 vaccine progress, which has reduced demand for safe havens. New Zealand’s dollar hit its highest level in more than three years, while the Australian dollar scaled September levels after data showed that profits at China’s industrial firms last month grew at their quickest pace since early 2017. In Taipei, the New Taiwan dollar ended the day unchanged against the US dollar at NT$28.811, little changed from last week’s NT$28.820. The British pound declined against the euro as the EU and the UK said substantial differences remained over a Brexit trade deal as the EU chief negotiator prepared to travel to London in a last-ditch attempt to avoid a tumultuous finale to the five-year Brexit crisis. Along with the data and Brexit headlines, Erik Bregar, head of foreign exchange strategy at Exchange Bank of Canada in Toronto, cited month-end selling of the US dollar as investors balance portfolios after solid monthly gains for equities. “There’s been talk all week that the US dollar will see waves of selling going into Monday,” said Bregar, who also noted “dollar selling into the London fix every day this week.” However, with many US traders still on vacation a day after Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday, thinner trading volume was likely exaggerating the US dollar move, CIBC Capital Markets North America head of foreign exchange strategy Bipan Rai said. “It started with the impressive industrial profits data in China and that’s translating into what is a very patchy backdrop for liquidity in the North American time
NDC ‘GREEN’: An official attributed slack wholesale figures to holiday disruptions caused by China’s Golden Week and said things would return to normal this month
The government’s business climate monitor last month flashed “green” for the third consecutive month, as all aspects of the Taiwanese economy improved, the National Development Council (NDC) said yesterday. Industrial output, trade, financial and consumer spending data moved upward, indicating a healthy recovery for the nation’s economy, NDC director of research Wu Ming-huei (吳明蕙) told a media briefing in Taipei. The council uses a five-color system to show the nation’s economic state, with “green” indicating steady growth, “red” suggesting overheating and “blue” signaling a recession. Dual colors indicate that the economy is changing gears. The overall score last month was 28, up 1 point on the back of better exports, and an increase in imports of electrical and machinery equipment, as well as improved business sentiment among local manufacturers, the council said. The improvement offset retreats in wholesale, retail and restaurant revenue, the council said in a report. Wu attributed slack wholesale figures to holiday disruptions caused by China’s National Day Golden Week. Things would return to normal this month and beyond, she added. “We are upbeat about continued recovery, although uncertainty lingers abroad in light of skyrocketing COVID-19 infections in Europe and the US,” Wu said. The leading indicators, which project the economic picture for the subsequent six months, rose 1.62 percent to 106.92, with all constituents showing positive cyclical movements from a month earlier, Wu said. The gauge has accumulated 9.01 percent over the past seven months, suggesting solid growth, she said. The index of coincident indicators, which reflects the current economic situation, increased for the fifth consecutive month, by 1.1 percent to 103.27, the report said, adding that all sub-indices gained ground, with the exception of non-farm payrolls. In related developments, consumer confidence improved slightly this month as stock investment sentiment improved, although people remained conservative about the outlook for the jobs market, a National Central University survey