|From ZTE to Micron, it’s been a topsy-turvy 24 hours for U.S.-China trade relations. Here are some of the things people in markets are talking about.
ZTE’s Step Forward
The Trump administration is letting ZTE Corp. resume some business activities while the U.S. weighs ending a seven-year ban on the Chinese telecommunications company, according to a document obtained by Bloomberg News. While it wasn’t immediately clear when a permanent order might follow, a person familiar with the matter said ZTE is expected to be in compliance with U.S. demands by Aug. 1. Meanwhile, China’s No. 2 maker of telecoms gear is permitted to support existing networks or equipment under contracts signed on or before April 15, when the U.S. blocked companies from selling components to ZTE for violating sanctions against Iran and North Korea. The ban had forced ZTE to announce that it was shutting down.
A Chinese court temporarily banned Micron Technology Inc. chip sales, cutting the U.S. company off from the world’s largest semiconductor market, Taiwanese rival United Microelectronics Corp. said. The case is part of a broader dispute between the two companies centering on accusations that UMC acted as a conduit for the theft of Micron’s designs in an attempt to help China grow its domestic chip industry and replace imports that rival oil in total value. China is the largest market for semiconductors, yet isn’t home to even one of the top 10 producers of the crucial electronic components.
Stock Bulls Abandon Hong Kong
The Hang Seng Index’s best quarterly winning streak since 1996 has ground to a painful halt, on companies’ reliance on China for profits, Hong Kong’s ties to U.S. monetary policy, and disenchantment with favorites like Tencent Holdings Ltd. After five quarters of gains and a record high in January, the benchmark posted a loss in the three months through June. Bulls are losing faith in a market that treated them to some of the world’s best returns in January, when even the pessimists were forecasting only a temporary pullback. International investors, who piled into funds tracking Hong Kong and offshore-listed China stocks
Less than two months after a shocking election defeat, former Malaysian leader Najib Razak is facing possible criminal charges and imprisonment. Authorities arrested Najib on Tuesday in connection with an investigation into the disappearance of billions of dollars from state fund 1MDB, according to the task force on the case. He was expected to be charged on Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur, it said in a statement, without providing further details. Bernama News Agency reported he could face more than 10 counts of criminal breach of trust.
Making Japan Great Again?
U.S. President Donald Trump added fuel to his feud with Harley-Davidson Inc., saying he’s working with other motorcycle makers to offset the production that Harley is shifting overseas. “Now that Harley-Davidson is moving part of its operation out of the U.S., my Administration is working with other Motor Cycle companies who want to move into the U.S.,” Trump tweeted Tuesday. “Harley customers are not happy with their move — sales are down 7 percent in 2017. The U.S. is where the Action is!” Japan may be the beneficiary. Harley’s rivals in its domestic market include Honda Motor Co., Yamaha Motor Co., Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. and Suzuki Motor Corp.
What we’ve been reading
This is what caught our eye over the last 24 hours.
And finally, here’s what David’s interested in this morning
The chart below pretty much lays out the earnings story globally as the second half gets underway. What you see are changes to EPS estimates for various indices from April 2 to illustrate the divergence in expectations these last three months. The first thing that’s fairly clear is developed markets is where things are holding up. Japan stands out as the only major market that’s seeing a noticeable improvement, and I would imagine the Japanese Yen weakening 4.5 percent against the dollar helped that along. Australia has also very recently started to incrementally tilt up — which helps explain why stocks there have been the safe haven option within equities amid this rout.
On the flipside, pay very close attention to emerging Asia. While Latin America remains the worst-hit this year, the last three weeks have seen a sharp acceleration in cuts to earnings estimates especially on MSCI China. Whatever the reasons may be, it’s harder to make the case of remaining heavily invested in EMs short-term if the earnings outlook looks more and more like this. In short, if someone tells you to buy emerging market equities based on “sound fundamentals,” show them this chart. Let’s see what they say.