Kyle Bass at the 2015 WEF in Davos, Switzerland.
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Hedge fund manager Kyle Bass, the often-bearish investor and outspoken China critic, told CNBC on Wednesday that he supports an effort by a U.S. lawmaker to terminate China’s candidacy for select World Bank loans.
He explained in an interview that U.S. Republican Rep. Anthony Gonzalez’s bill would curb World Bank funding to China by graduating the country from its International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) program, designed to offer financial aid to “middle-income and creditworthy low-income countries.”
“Why on earth is the World Bank lending China $3 or $4 billion a year?” Bass told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
“We’re lending money to the country that’s the second largest in the world. That’s putting up quantum-based satellites, that’s the largest consumer of Patek Philippe watches, Rolls-Royce, Chateau Lafite Rothschild,” he added. “And the U.S. consumer — the U.S. taxpayer — is the guarantor of World Bank loans,” he added.
Bass, who founded Hayman Capital in 2005, rose to prominence on Wall Street a decade ago for his prescient bets against assets tied to the U.S. housing market.
In recent years, however, he’s doubled down on his pessimistic view of U.S.-China relations and the bitter trade war between the globe’s two largest economies. He told CNBC in August that, without state support, China’s currency would plunge because so few investors choose to use the yuan to settle transactions.
One month later, he said that suspect investment standards in China make financial stakes in Chinese firms dangerous and called upon U.S. regulators to crack down on the “insane” nature of business standards between Washington and Beijing.
“Imagine what kind of fraud is behind these companies,” Bass said in September. “All of the U.S. money that goes into Chinese companies, it goes into companies that don’t operate under a rule of law.”
But Bass’ most-recent critique comes days before discussion over a bill introduced by Gonzalez, a Republican from the 16th District of Ohio. The congressman criticized the World Bank’s continued financing of China despite exceeding the economic threshold for the World Bank’s IBRD program.
“The United States cannot afford to give the World Bank a blank check as long as they continue to make cloudy investments and misuse taxpayer dollars by providing loans to countries that do not and should not qualify for them,” he said in a press release last month. “I cannot stand by and allow my constituents’ taxpayer money to go to China while they continue to abuse this nation and suppress democracy as we have seen in Hong Kong.”
The rocky relationship between the U.S. and China has made headlines over the past week as the two nations work toward a phase one trade truce.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell as much as 450 points on Tuesday after President Donald Trump suggested that he’d be happy to strike a deal with Beijing after the 2020 election, worrying investors that the yearslong spat could go on even longer.
A Wednesday report saying that the two nations are nearing an agreement on the amount of tariffs that would be removed under a truce helped ease the trade angst.
RBI did the ‘wrong thing’ by not cutting rates, Mark Mobius says
Mark Mobius, Executive Chairman of Templeton Emerging Markets Group.
Anjali Sundara | CNBC
India’s central bank was wrong to keep its benchmark interest rates unchanged on Thursday, according to veteran emerging markets investor Mark Mobius.
The Reserve Bank of India surprised markets by keeping its repo rate — the rate at which it lends to other banks — unchanged at 5.15%. Prior to the decision, economists predicted a sixth rate cut from the central bank amid a notable slowdown in the Indian economy.
“I think they did the wrong thing,” Mobius, who is founding partner at Mobius Capital Partners, told CNBC’s “Street Signs” on Friday about the RBI. “I think they were reacting to the short-term situation with inflation, which is mainly caused by food prices, and, specifically, onion prices.”
In October, India’s annual retail inflation rose to 4.62% on the back of higher food prices, Reuters reported. That was a tick above the RBI’s medium-term target of 4%.
“They should have lowered rates,” Mobius said, adding it could improve business confidence in the country and may help to solve some of the debt problems in India’s financial services sector. He explained that the country is “going through a big adjustment right now because of the reforms that have taken place, particularly on the taxation side,” referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s landmark Goods and Services Tax reforms.
The government has struggled to collect sufficient revenue since its new tax schemes went into effect in mid-2017. Recent reports said the GST structure is set to be reviewed.
“This is an adjustment that people have to be accustomed to and it takes time. But next year, I believe that this will do well — they would have made this adjustment and realize the reforms are having an impact,” Mobius said, adding he remains bullish on India. Many micro, small and medium-sized businesses have struggled as a result of the new value-added taxes.
The central bank had already cut the repo rate by 135 basis points this year to stem the economic slowdown. Last week, India reported its economy grew at the slowest pace since 2013.
That made Thursday’s move “more than surprising,” according to Jehangir Aziz, chief emerging markets economist at J.P. Morgan. “I thought it was very puzzling.” Aziz explained on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that since monetary policy is forward-looking, the RBI’s decision was confusing in terms of the “framework within which they are operating.”
For its part, the RBI said in its policy statement it felt appropriate to pause at this stage in light of the current growth-inflation dynamics.
Aziz said apart from inflation concerns, another reason that could explain the central bank’s decision Thursday is a worry over India’s growing fiscal deficit.
“I think the other reason could be, which they did not state, is that they are concerned about what happens to the fiscal deficit outturn,” he said, adding, “there’s a possibility that in February, when the (new) budget comes out, the outturn could be much worse than what people are thinking.”
The budgeted fiscal deficit target at the moment is 3.3% of GDP and if it widens too much, then investor confidence could be affected. India surprised with a $20 billion fiscal stimulus package in September, which mostly focused on a corporate tax cut that analysts agree makes the country more competitive. More fiscal measures are expected next year.
Aziz, however, pointed out that the corporate tax cut would not help to shift demand in the near term. Instead, if India had reduced its GST rates, there would have been an immediate impact on consumer demand, he said.
“There was a way in which they could have better utilized the space,” Aziz said. “Unfortunately, they did not. So, we really have to wait and see whether truly in the medium term, this corporate tax cut actually helps India or not.”
Police chief calls for peace ahead of march
Pro-democracy protesters participate in a “5 Demands” mass rally on December 1, 2019 in Hong Kong, China.
Anthony Kwan | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Hong Kong’s police chief has urged citizens to demonstrate peacefully ahead of what is expected to be a large-scale pro-democracy march on Sunday, an event planned amid a lull in violence in the Chinese-ruled city.
Police on Thursday gave a rare green light to the demonstration, organized by the Civil Human Rights Front, the group that called the million-strong marches in the summer. Sunday’s march is a key gauge of the pro-democracy movement’s support following its sweeping victory in local elections.
Speaking to reporters before departing for a “courtesy visit” to Beijing, newly-installed police commissioner Chris Tang urged Hong Kongers to set a global example.
“We hope our citizens can show the whole world (that) Hong Kong people are capable of holding a large scale rally in an orderly and peaceful manner,” he said. “We urge the organizer to assist the police on maintaining the order.”
Tang was traveling to meet with senior officials from the ministry of public security in Beijing and is expected to return to Hong Kong on Sunday.
The unrest in Hong Kong is the biggest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.
The former British colony has been wracked by six months of pro-democracy protests sparked by a now withdrawn China extradition bill and which have broadened into calls for greater democratic freedoms.
Escalating violence last month saw a dramatic university siege that pitted protesters against the police.
Despite the increasingly violent tactics adopted by some protesters, pro-democracy candidates achieved record gains in the Nov. 24 local elections, winning almost 90 percent of the seats after the highest ever voter turnout since local polls began in 1999.
Hong Kong has enjoyed a period of relative calm since, a state the new police chief said he hoped could be maintained.
“In the last two weeks the city was relatively peaceful,” he noted, “When the citizens have a chance to take a breather, we hope the violent people will really stop engaging in illegal activities.”
Later on Friday, protesters plan a smaller rally against police use of tear gas, which they say is excessive and harming innocent bystanders. The police has said its use of force has been restrained.
Apple is killing Lightning connector on top iPhones by 2021, Kuo says
Apple’s Lightning connector
Jaap Arriens | NurPhoto | Getty Images
Apple could ditch the Lightning connector on the highest-end versions of the iPhone in 2021, meaning the devices will require wireless charging, according to a report on Thursday from Ming-Chi Kuo, an analyst at TF Securities.
The removal of the Lightning cable, along with other differentiating updates, will boost shipments and the average selling price of the high-end iPhone models, Kuo, a top Apple analyst, wrote. Without the connector, the top-tier iPhone would provide a “completely wireless experience,” Kuo said.
Speculation has been building for several years that Apple plans to remove the Lightning cable. As far back as 2017, Kuo predicted that Apple would discard the Lightning connector in favor of the USB Type-C connector, which is widely used across the industry.
However, Apple has continued to include Lightning ports in the latest iPhone models. Apple’s new iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max models, which were announced in September, all have Lightning ports.
Apple has started to include the USB-C connector in some products. The new iPhones support Apple’s fast charger, which promises to deliver up to a 50% charge in 30 minutes. The charger uses USB-C and requires iPhone users to buy a specific cable that goes from the Lightning connector to USB-C ports.
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