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The Chinese economy is a bigger worry right now than the U.S. economy, according to an investments expert at a private bank.

Speaking to CNBC on Friday, Felix Brill, the head of investment solutions at Liechtenstein-based VP Bank, said investors should expect more market volatility due to the ongoing trade war negotiations between Washington and Beijing. Still, he ultimately expressed optimism that China’s leaders will keep their economy together.

“The Chinese economy is, at the moment, a bigger cause of concern right now compared to the U.S. economy,” Brill told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

He added that there are “clear signs” that China’s economy is slowing in the short term, and there may be more dragging on the nation as it looks to transition its economic model from one led by exportation to a more consumption-driven approach. Adding the tariff battle between the two largest economies just means growth will be “a bit more difficult” for Beijing, he noted.

But, Brill said, that doesn’t mean China won’t be able to push through those challenges.

“This is some cause for concern in the short term, but I’m confident that the Chinese authorities, again, will step in and implement additional measures to support the economy,” he said.

As for how markets will react to the continued trade war gyrations, Brill said to expect more “swings.”

Washington and Beijing are careening toward the March conclusion of a 90-day agreement not to implement new tariffs on each other, but analysts have seen some positive signs out of this week’s three-day round of talks in Beijing.

That won’t be enough, though, and there are still some thorny issues left to iron out, Brill said.

“The market sentiment will be very much dependent on what’s going on in the trade talks,” he said. “We’ve seen some progress this week, some good news, but it was just a start. I think there (are) still some obstacles along the way and we’re far away from really a solution.”

“So this is going to weigh from time to time on markets — but in case we see progress, it can always be also relief for markets and spur some good market movements,” he added.

Overall, Brill said he was taking a neutral stand on stocks. Last month’s declines corrected some of the excesses in valuations, he said, but there were still significant risks — including the ongoing U.S. government shutdown — on the horizon.

“For us it’s too early to go really strong into the markets already now … because we have still some severe uncertainties weighing on markets: The economic outlook is clouded by quite a bit of uncertainty — with the shutdown, not only the trade talks,” he said. “So, it very much depends what the next couple of weeks will bring.”

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Putin’s missile with ‘unlimited’ range is too expensive and hasn’t flown more than 22 miles



Putin’s push to develop weapons of this caliber has sparked concerns of a budding arms race among China, the U.S. and Russia.

What’s more, the latest revelations come a little more than a year after the Russian leader touted his nation’s growing hypersonic arsenal. Of the six new weapons Putin unveiled last March, CNBC learned that two of them, a hypersonic glide vehicle and air-launched cruise missile, will be ready for war by 2020.

The hypersonic glide vehicle, dubbed Avangard, is designed to sit atop an intercontinental ballistic missile. Once launched, it uses aerodynamic forces to sail on top of the atmosphere.

One U.S. intelligence report, according to a source, noted that the hypersonic glide vehicles were mounted to Russian-made SS-19 intercontinental ballistic missiles — and one test featured a mock warhead.

Previous intelligence reports, which were curated last spring, calculate that Avangard is likely to achieve initial operational capability by 2020, a significant step that would enable the Kremlin to surpass the U.S. and China in this regard.

The hypersonic cruise missile dubbed “Kinzhal,” which means “dagger” in Russian, has been tested at least three times and was mounted and launched 12 times from a Russian MiG-31 fighter jet.

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US slaps sanctions on Venezuela bank Bandes after Guaido aide’s arrest



Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro meets with UN chief Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations headquarters in New York on July 28, 2015.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro meets with UN chief Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations headquarters in New York on July 28, 2015.

The United States imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s development bank Bandes, a day after the Trump administration warned there would be consequences for the arrest of opposition leader Juan Guaido’s top aide.

The U.S. Treasury said it was slapping the sanctions on the Banco de Desarrollo Economico y Social de Venezuela, including its subsidiaries in Uruguay and Bolivia.

“(President Nicolas) Maduro and his enablers have distorted the original purpose of the bank … as part of a desperate attempt to hold onto power,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement announcing the action.

Guaido, who invoked the constitution to assume the interim presidency in January, has accused Bandes of being used by officials of Maduro’s government to steal funds.

The U.S. Treasury said Maduro tried to move $1 billion out of Venezuela through Banco Bandes Uruguay in early 2019.

Bandes has received billions of dollars over the past decade from the China Development Bank, in exchange for oil, which the Venezuelan government used to fund infrastructure projects.

The sanctions freeze assets belonging to the bank and its subsidiaries, and prevent U.S. citizens from any dealings with Bandes.

The announcement comes after Venezuelan authorities detained Guaido’s chief of staff, Roberto Marrero, on Thursday in a pre-dawn raid, sparking vows of reprisals from the United States, which backs Guaido.

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Brazil shares tumble after arrest of former president Temer



Brazilian stocks fell sharply on Friday as the arrest of the country’s former president, Michel Temer, sparked worries that government debate over key fiscal reforms may be delayed.

The iShares MSCI Brazil ETF (EWZ) dropped 3.9 percent and was headed for its worst day since Feb. 6, when it fell 4.2 percent. The Bovespa index, Brazil’s benchmark index, fell about 2 percent after hitting an all-time high earlier this week.

Temer was arrested in Sao Paulo on Thursday, with prosecutors alleging he was the head of a “criminal organization” that took more than $470 million in bribes or kickbacks.

Temer already faced ongoing criminal investigations against him before leaving the presidency. However, his arrest comes as current President Jair Bolsonaro tries to push forward major changes to the country’s pension system, which investors largely bet will happen.

“The key question is whether or not his arrest affects pension reform. In theory it shouldn’t,” Dirk Willer, head of emerging market strategy at Citigroup, said in a note. However, “the period between the unveiling of the pension reform and approval by the special house committee will be filled with much noise and headline risk. [Thursday’s] news was a good example of the sort of headline risks one should expect over the next months when pension reform makes its way through congress.”

Brazilian stocks surged to start the year amid hopes the Bolsonaro administration would pass key changes to the country’s social security system. Brazil’s generous pension system effectively lets citizens retire in their 50s. This has led to massive government debt, which has stymied consistent economic growth in Brazil.

But while investors are still betting on some sort of reform taking place, they are realizing it could be a bumpy ride. On Wednesday, Bolsonaro unveiled a military pension reform plan that would save just $265 million on average over the next 10 years. These savings are well below those proposed by the country’s Economic Ministry.

But it is key for Bolsonaro’s broader pension-reform efforts as lawmakers indicated they could not debate the matter until they saw the president’s plans for military pensions.

Now, Temer’s arrest could delay that process even further depending on how his party — which holds 34 seats in the lower house — reacts, Citi’s Willer said.

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