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China

Money Morning Mid-Year Forecast: Why China's Economy Will Exceed Expectations in the Second Half of 2010

The rapid growth China's economy experienced in the first half of the year was a blessing and a curse. It helped propel the world out of a disastrous recession, but it forced policymakers into action to prevent overheating – which scared off many investors.

But the fact is that while most of the world was struggling to keep the engine of economic recovery from sputtering to a halt, China spent the first half of 2010 with its foot on the brake. And now that the Red Dragon has reigned in growth, the second half of 2010 will likely look very different from the first.

Money Morning Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald says nearly everyone felt the first quarter's 11.9% growth in Chinese gross domestic product (GDP) was "too hot." But the 10.3% growth China saw in the second quarter will likely be topped in the second half.

The reasons for that are simple:

"From an investment perspective, the single biggest concern right now is how hard and for how long the Chinese government will keep tapping on the brakes," says Fitz-Gerald. "I personally don't think it's going to be too much longer – an easing sometime in the third quarter now seems realistic."

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"A New Age in the History of Energy" as China Tops the U.S. in Consumption

China, powered by years of surging economic growth, is now the world's largest energy consumer, bumping the United States from the top spot for the first time in more than a century, according to new data from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

China consumed 2.25 billion tons of oil equivalent last year, or about 4% more than the United States, which burned through 2.17 billion tons of oil equivalent. China's total energy consumption was just half that of the United States a decade ago.

"The fact that China overtook the U.S. as the world's largest energy consumer symbolizes the start of a new age in the history of energy," IEA chief economist Fatih Birol told The Wall Street Journal. The United States had been the world's biggest overall energy consumer since the early 1900s, he said.

China was expected to become the biggest energy consumer in 2015, but the economic meltdown and green energy programs in the United States accelerated the transition, Birol said.

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China Stockpiling Uranium in Rush to Build More Nuclear Plants

China is stockpiling uranium and purchasing the yellow metal in unprecedented quantities as part of its effort to build new nuclear reactors and provide electricity for its power hungry populace.

The nation may purchase about 5,000 metric tons of uranium this year, more than twice as much as it consumes, Thomas Neff, a physicist and uranium-industry analyst at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, said in a July 6 telephone interview with Bloomberg News.

India and China are gearing up for the biggest expansion of nuclear energy since the 1970s oil crisis to cut pollution and supply their economies with enough fuel to keep them growing twice as fast as Europe and North America.

"They are essentially stockpiling in anticipation of new reactor build," said Neff, who is an independent director of GoviEx Uranium Inc., a privately held exploration company with interests in Niger. "They are stockpiling like crazy."

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The Case for the Yuan: Why China's Currency Isn't the Problem Policymakers Make it Out to Be

By allowing the yuan to appreciate, China at least temporarily placated foreign trade partners that had expressed concern about the currency's value. However, the decision has done little to quell criticism from many U.S. policymakers and trade groups who are angry that the Obama administration refuses to brand China a "currency manipulator."

Still, while the yuan does need to appreciate, critics in the United States should remember that the dollar too is flawed, and that the uneven relationship between the two currencies has often worked to America's advantage.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has thrice declined to tag China as a currency manipulator in his biannual report to Congress. Geithner even delayed the release of the most recent report to give China more time to adjust its policy. That move paid off in June when just days ahead of the Group of 20 (G20) leaders' summit in Toronto, Beijing announced that it would allow the yuan to appreciate against the dollar. Since then, the currency has risen about 1% against the greenback.

Geithner, who made two visits to China in the spring for closed-door talks with top officials on the issue, called the policy shift a "significant step" in his report, but said the yuan remains "undervalued."

What matters now is "how far and how fast the renminbi [or yuan] appreciates," Geithner said, adding that the United States "will closely and regularly monitor the appreciation" of the currency.

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Tech Stocks Priced for Bargain Deals, Edge Higher on Analyst Upgrades

Analyst upgrades lifted the technology sector on Monday, as cheap valuations and strong balance sheets in tech companies are making for good buys, as outlined in Money Morning's Midyear Forecast on tech stocks.

Analysts say tech stocks haven't been this cheap since 1992, excluding a brief period before the March 2009 bull market started, and now is the time to buy.

"Tech stocks have some of the strongest balance sheets in the S&P 500," Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist of Robert W. Baird & Co., told Bloomberg. "The valuations are inexpensive – that's another plus. It's a good time to invest in tech."

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Question of the Week: Readers Respond to Money Morning's Question on China's Currency

After months of intense political pressure, China last week announced that it would allow its currency to gradually appreciate against the U.S. dollar. China's currency – the yuan – has been pegged to the American greenback since 2008.

"This is going to lead to a transition from export-lead, investment-lead to more of a consumption-lead economy going forward," Jing Ulrich, chair of China equities and commodities at JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM), told CNBC. "I think the ramifications are profound not just for the next few months but actually for the coming years."

Not surprisingly, U.S. exporters embraced the news as an opportunity to compete against Chinese companies and to reduce the U.S. trade deficit. Foreign nations, including the United States, have accused China of undervaluing its currency to give its exporters an advantage in global trade.

Chinese domestic consumption stands to benefit the most, as consumers will have more purchasing power on top of China's recent wave of multi-industry wage increases. Western companies that reach out to Mainland China can access a consumer base with more money and an increased desire to spend, which should give Western investors a chance to cash in on climbing profits.

However, not everyone will see immediate benefits from the new currency policy. In fact, the combination of big double-digit wage increases in China and an increase in the yuan will reanimate inflation.

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Commodities Are Key as China Continues to Call the Shots

China ended up being the big story this month, as investors looked past Europe to the Far East for clues about what shape the global recovery – if you can even call it that – is taking.

Markets around the globe tanked yesterday (Tuesday) after the Conference Board revised its leading economic index for China to show the smallest gain in five months in April. The index rose just 0.3% in April, which was a significant reduction from the 1.7% gain the Board reported on June 19.

The news of the error contributed to the biggest sell-off in Chinese stocks in more than a month, and sent U.S. indices into a dizzying downward spiral. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 268.22 points, or 2.65%, to close at 9,870.30 and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index tumbled 33.33 points, or 3.10%, to close at 1,041.24.

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We Want to Hear From You: Are You Worried About China's Currency Rise Sparking Inflation?

After months of intense political pressure, China announced Saturday that it would allow its currency to gradually appreciate against the U.S. dollar. China's currency – the yuan – has been pegged to the American greenback since 2008.

"This is going to lead to a transition from export-lead, investment-lead to more of a consumption-lead economy going forward," Jing Ulrich, chair of China equities and commodities at JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM), told CNBC. "I think the ramifications are profound not just for the next few months but actually for the coming years."

Not surprisingly, U.S. exporters embraced the news as an opportunity to compete against Chinese companies and to reduce the U.S. trade deficit. Foreign nations, including the Untied States, have accused China of undervaluing its currency to give its exporters an advantage in global trade.

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China's Plan For Yuan Appreciation Likely to Boost Inflation in U.S. & Lift Chinese Consumer Stocks

China's plan to let the yuan appreciate against the U.S. dollar is likely to hit U.S. shoppers in the pocketbook, while also making the stocks of companies with goods aimed at Chinese consumers more attractive.
But because of wage pressures, the effects of China's move to introduce more flexibility to its currency policy won't fundamentally change its inflation problems, according to Money Morning Contributing Editor Martin Hutchinson.

"With workers in China demanding huge wage increases to keep up with prices, there's really no economic case for letting the yuan appreciate," Hutchinson said in an interview yesterday (Monday).
But a rising yuan and wage increases in China may gradually spell bad news for U.S. consumers.

"Eventually, the guy shopping at WalMart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) won't like it when he sees prices go up 15% or more…prices of Chinese goods – everything from video games to sweatshirts – are likely to rise in dollar terms," Hutchinson said.

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Taiwan Outlines Export Deal With China To Boost Its Economy and Open Door for Global Trade

Taiwan on Sunday announced a monumental trade deal with China that will boost the island's exports and shift its economy toward China-centric policies.

The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) will reduce tariffs on 500 products exported from Taiwan to China and 200 products shipped from China to Taiwan including car parts and machinery. It will also open the door for Taiwan to be included in future free trade agreements that China previously prevented because it viewed Taiwan as a rebellious province.

"Signing the ECFA is a route that Taiwan must take and it is a milestone, " Liu Bih-rong, a political science professor at Soochow University in Taipei, told Bloomberg. "It signifies how the relationship between the two sides has recovered and, more importantly, it will pave the way for more free-trade agreements and benefits. "

The agreement's details still need to be ironed out and should be finalized by early July at the latest.

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