Monday 25th July 2016
NEWS TICKER: JULY 25TH 2016: The Straits Times Index (STI) ended 4.87 points or 0.17% higher to 2945.35, taking the year-to-date performance to +2.17%. The top active stocks today were Singtel, which gained 1.66%, DBS, which declined 0.06%, Wilmar Intl, which declined 0.97%, UOB, which gained0.26% and ComfortDelGro, with a1.73% fall. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index declined 0.84%, while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index declined0.24%. Elsewhere in Asia, Taiwan stocks retreat from over 1-year high; TSMC down. Taiwan stocks retreated from more-than-one-year highs on Monday as investors took profits on recent winners such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC). The main index fell 0.6 percent at 8,954.58 points. It reached as high as 9,085.91 earlier in the session, an intraday level not seen since July 2015. The electronics subindex and the financial sub-index were both down about 0.7%. TSMC, the world's top contract chip maker, was off nearly 1%. The yen traded weaker with trade data showing better than expected figures though exports and imports declined notably ahead of a week that will see the Fed and the Bank of Japan comment on monetary policy. The adjusted trade balance came in at a surplus of ¥33bn while and imports eased 18.8%, less than the 19.7% drop expected and exports fell 7.4%, less than the 11.6% decline anticipated. The overall trade balance came in at a surplus of ¥693bn, better than the ¥495bn expected. USD/JPY changed hands at 106.32, up 0.18%, while AUD/USD traded at 0.7478, up 0.17%. GBP/USD traded at 1.3135, up 0.19%. -- Rangold Resources will be announcing its Q2 results at the London Stock Exchange on Thursday, August 4th – Most equity markets kicked off higher today, buoyed by the firm tone of the G-20 Finance Ministers meeting which promised “to use all policy tools –monetary, fiscal and structural- individually and collectively” to achieve the goal of “sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth” in view of lingering concerns over spillover effects from Brexit. Central bank meetings will be the focus of market attention this week. The Fed is widely expected to leave its monetary policy unchanged this week. However, a recent string of better than expected U.S. data reignited speculation that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates before the end of the year. Interest rate futures are currently pricing in a 45% chance of a rate hike by December, compared with less than 20% a week ago and up from 9% at the start of this month. The Fed monetary oversight committee starts its two-day meeting tomorrow. However, the story this week will focus on the Bank of Japan: will it, won’t it expand its monetary policy, without ‘helicopter money’? According to Russell Matthews, a portfolio manager at Russell Matthews, “Core government bond markets have largely moved sideways and very short dated US rates have repriced the probability of a Federal Reserve interest rate hike in 2016 meaningfully higher. Corporate bonds have continued to perform well as the insatiable demand for yield is unabated, with spreads compressing in all sectors… Rate and sovereign credit have had a good run of late but the question we are asking ourselves is are we at the point where policy makers and investors have become complacent? Our mantra has always been that policy makers are likely to be lazy and under deliver if there is no pressure from markets. We have been through two major risk events in the last six weeks (Brexit, Turkey) and risk assets have continued to perform. We expected and anticipated this outcome, but that does not prevent us from becoming uneasy at the level of calm that we are witnessing, and the growing confidence that the market has with policy makers.” The other trend on investors’ minds will be the EU’s stance on Italy’s growing banking crisis: will the EU stick its ostrich like head in the sand? Elsewhere in Europe, Greek Minister of Finance Euclid Tsakalotos stated in an interview on Saturday that the primary surplus targets until 2018 are attainable and the government will not have to activate the automatic spending cuts mechanism. Beyond 2018 and in the medium term, however, the Greek government will pursue through negotiations primary surplus targets below 3.5% of GDP -

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France’s industrial crisis: predictable and set to last

Friday, 03 August 2012 Written by 
France’s industrial crisis: predictable and set to last France’s industrial sector is in the midst of a steadily worsening crisis. There has been a decline in production, employment and productive investment, the external deficit remains significant, and export market shares are declining rapidly. We would argue that this situation was foreseeable, particularly if we add up issues with supply, domestic and external demand, and the impact of the eurozone crisis. Unfortunately, not a lot can be done about the weakness of demand, and the remedies to the supply problem are difficult to implement rapidly. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

France’s industrial sector is in the midst of a steadily worsening crisis. There has been a decline in production, employment and productive investment, the external deficit remains significant, and export market shares are declining rapidly.

We would argue that this situation was foreseeable, particularly if we add up issues with supply, domestic and external demand, and the impact of the eurozone crisis. Unfortunately, not a lot can be done about the weakness of demand, and the remedies to the supply problem are difficult to implement rapidly.

Let’s go through these issues, their causes and their implications.

Cause no. 1: The supply problem



Supply conditions for goods and services continue to deteriorate in France. The low profitability of companies discourages investment hence the production capacity of French industry is on the decline.

Since 2001, French industry sales prices have been falling relative to unit wage costs. Such falls reflect the excessive level of unit wage costs compared to the sophistication of industrial production in France. The downmarket nature of French industrial production prevents an increase in its selling prices, because of the high level of the price elasticity of demand for industrial products made in France: 0.9 versus 0.3 in Germany.

However, the rise in the unit wage cost – relative to selling prices – does not come as a result of the trend in productivity, but what has been happening to wages. This is because the level of costs is pushed up by the level of employers’ welfare contributions.

The subsequent fall in French industry’s profitability is substantial, reducing its capacity to invest and create jobs. This leads to the off-shoring of production capacity to countries where industrial profitability is higher, thereby weakening industry financially and threatening it with a serious crisis in the event of a recession and falling demand.

Cause no. 2: The demand problem

Between 2011 and 2012, French industry suffered from the weakness of both domestic and external demand. This resulted in a lower capacity utilisation rate than normal, which makes the problem of low profitability even more detrimental. And the decline in demand may deteriorate further if there is a fall in real wage incomes and government expenditure.

Cause no. 3: The euro-zone crisis

The eurozone crisis has two negative effects on French industry:

  1. it weakens demand and therefore imports in the eurozone countries that usually would have been France’s customers. This is significant because the eurozone accounts for 46% of French exports – the United Kingdom, which is also mired in a recession, accounts for 6%;
  2. it reduces domestic demand and capacity utilisation rates in Spain and Portugal and persuades industrial companies in these countries to turn to exports. As wage costs are lower in these countries, there is an increase in the competition that has a direct impact on French industry. France’s export market share tends to decline, whereas those of PortugalSpain and Ireland have recovered.

Remedies are very difficult to implement

Of the three issues mentioned, weakness of demand and the effects of the eurozone crisis cannot be controlled, particularly in a situation where there is private-sector deleveraging and a reduction in fiscal deficits. The question for French industry is therefore which remedies can be implemented on the supply side? We have put together the following list of possible measures:

 

  • an improvement in the sophistication of industrial production and in the differentiation of products, which will require innovation, investments, and marketing;
  • increased geographical diversification in companies' sales to increase the weight of emerging countries, which is currently quite low in France;
  • a major reform of the financing of social welfare in France to reduce the weight of welfare contributions paid by companies;
  • a fall in the hourly labour cost, either through a fall in the per capita wage, or through an increase in the number of hours worked (which is obviously a source of conflict).

 

However, these measures are all very difficult to implement rapidly.

It is also important to understand the major fragility of companies that are not very profitable (i.e. they have a shortfall in supply) when they are faced with a significant and lasting decline in demand.

Unfortunately, it looks as though this French industry crisis is not going to go away any time soon.

Patrick Artus

A graduate of Ecole Polytechnique, of Ecole Nationale de la Statistique et de l'Adminstration Economique and of Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, Patrick Artus is today the Chief Economist at Natixis. He began his career in 1975 where his work included economic forecasting and modelisation. He then worked at the Economics Department of the OECD (1980), before becoming Head of Research at the ENSAE. Thereafter, Patrick taught seminars on research at Paris Dauphine (1982) and was Professor at a number of Universities (including Dauphine, ENSAE, Centre des Hautes Etudes de l'Armement, Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées and HEC Lausanne).

Patrick is now Professor of Economics at University Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne. He combines these responsibilities with his research work at Natixis. Patrick was awarded "Best Economist of the year 1996" by the "Nouvel Economiste", and today is a member of the council of economic advisors to the French Prime Minister. He is also a board member at Total and Ipsos.

Website: cib.natixis.com/research/economic.aspx

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