China Auto Sales Off to a Strong Start

China topped the United States in auto sales for the first time ever last year, and it looks poised to keep its crown as the world's largest auto market this year as car sales in China got off to a strong start in the first quarter – soaring 76% from 2009.

Some 3.52 million cars were sold in China in the January-March period, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. The strong showing was partly the result of weak 2009 sales but it was enough to convince carmakers to raise their regional sales forecasts.

General Motors Corp., which leans heavily on its joint venture Shanghai General Motors Co. Ltd., said it would hit its target of 2 million sales in China this year, putting the company four years ahead of schedule.

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China May Let Yuan Appreciate Despite First Trade Deficit in Six Years

China's imports pushed higher in March, which may cause the Asian economic powerhouse to post its first trade deficit in six years.  But even though the deficit bolsters its argument for keeping the yuan pegged to the dollar, it appears Beijing will let its currency appreciate in the near future.

Rising commodity prices probably led imports to outpace exports by $390 million in March after a $7.6 billion trade surplus the previous month, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of 26 economists.

Nevertheless, a change in China's currency policy is "imminent", and may occur in the next few weeks, Ben Simpfendorfer, a Hong Kong- based economist at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (NYSE ADR: RBS), said Friday on Bloomberg Television.

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Geithner's China Jaunt May Signal Easing of Tensions on Yuan

In a surprise move, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will meet with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan in Beijing today (Thursday), as speculation increases that China is considering letting its currency, the yuan, rise against the dollar.

The unexpected meeting was arranged on-the-fly after Geithner's scheduled trip to India, and may be a sign that both countries are seeking to defuse the currency issue ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao's trip to Washington next week.

The move follows the Treasury Department's decision last weekend to delay a decision on whether to label China a "currency manipulator."

"[China is] becoming more open to the world, and with that, you're going to see the [yuan] take on a broader role internationally," Geithner said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Mumbai as he finished preparations for the previously unscheduled visit to China. "That's a healthy, necessary adjustment."

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Pacifying the Panda: U.S. Companies Must Take a New Approach to China

There's no question about what kind of profit opportunities the Chinese market offers. Moreover, the willingness of U.S. companies to partner with China in the pursuit of profit is equally blatant.

So why is it that more U.S. businesses feel less welcome in China now than they did four years ago?

The fact is that in the past four years, China's economy has continued to grow by leaps and bounds, while a humiliating financial collapse and soaring debt have tarnished much of the shine that once adorned the U.S. market.

Indeed, for the first time in perhaps more than a century China has the upper hand. How long that will last is a difficult question to answer, but right now, China wants to use its leverage to support domestic companies – and it's doing so unapologetically.

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Indonesia Catching China's Eye

It's an open secret that Indonesia's economy is on the rise. In the spirit of March Madness, it's something of a sleeper.  That's why China, which is always looking for promising new investments, is looking to make inroads there.

Indeed, China's appetite for commodities makes Indonesia – with its close proximity and abundance of natural resources – an ideal partner.

PetroChina Co. Ltd. (NYSE ADR: PTR), Sinopec, Sinosteel, Minmetals and China Investment Corp (CIC) – Beijing's $300 billion sovereign wealth fund – are all aggressively scouring South East Asia's largest economy for takeover targets and joint venture partners, the Live Trading News reported.

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Despite the Near-Record Run in U.S. Stocks, Oil, Commodities and China Will be the Long-Term Winners

Although U.S. stocks have made a fairly smooth transition into Year Two of what's so far been a near-record bull market, there are still many traps that can quickly ensnare a less-than-cautious investor.

Moving forward, investors need to focus on quality, take the time to understand what's really happening in Washington, and turn to such once-unconventional investments as oil, commodities and China stocks, says Money Morning Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald.

"I expect the markets to remain very fragmented. Volatility will almost certainly increase, leaving investors both psychologically scarred and totally confused," Fitz-Gerald said, underscoring the need for investors to embrace a truly global view. "Fully 75% of the economic activity on the planet now takes place outside U.S. borders. So it only makes sense that investors embrace new ways of thinking in order to avoid getting left behind. At the same time, energy and commodities still have a long way to run – meaning there's substantial profit potential available."

In a wide-ranging interview, the former professional trade advisor, best-selling author and noted Asia-investing expert:

  • Predicted that oil and commodity prices are headed higher, making them "must-invest" asset classes for investors who don't want to be left behind.
  • Stated that ongoing miscues in Washington coupled with higher growth abroad make it imperative that U.S. investors embrace a truly global view when planning their investing strategies.
  • And predicted that many blue-chip U.S. companies will go for dual-listings, listing their shares on China's Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE), providing those U.S.-based firms with access to the plentiful capital and robust growth available in that Asian giant's marketplace.

For a full transcript of this interview, read on...

Guilty Plea by Rio Tinto Execs Shines Light on Complexity of China's Iron Ore Market

When four Rio Tinto PLC (NYSE ADR: RTP) executives stunned observers by pleading guilty to bribery charges in a Shanghai courtroom, it brought to light the unorthodox and complicated nature of doing business in China's iron ore industry.

Unlike corrupt transactions in other resource-rich countries where customers often receive bribes or kickbacks in exchange for arranging lucrative contracts, in China just the opposite is often the case.

The Rio Tinto executives, for instance, were accused of receiving bribes in return for delivering supplies of highly-desirable iron ore – the key commodity in China's burgeoning steel-making industry.

The four executives admitted receiving $13.5 million (92.18 million yuan) between them in bribes, China's state news agency Xinhua reported, citing court documents. They could face up to 20 years in prison.

But the gist of the story revolves around China's chaotic iron-ore trading system.

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Google Unveils Another Surprise Twist in China Drama

For the first time in two months there is a new development in Google Inc.'s (Nasdaq: GOOG) feud with China. The search engine today (Monday) began redirecting traffic from its China page,, to its uncensored Hong Kong page,

Google said the move is "entirely legal," and said it will continue research and development activities in China. Some market observers had expected Google to announce its total withdrawal from the country today, as the company's disagreement with Beijing had reached a standstill. But Google's new approach is another surprise development.

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The Year of the Tiger is the Perfect Time for Caterpillar Inc.

In China, the tiger is commonly thought of as lazy, merely appearing to be strong and ferocious.

But that's truly not the case. The tiger does not waste his energy showing his strength. Instead, it sees the future and knows precisely when to pounce on its prey. Those who can see past the great wall of today and look into the future – much like our wise friend, the tiger – understand just what it takes to be successful.

If we were to analyze the growth potential for the worldwide construction industry, we would find that Japan's Komatsu Ltd. (OTC ADR: KMTUY) and the U.S.-based Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) are best-positioned for global success.

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U.S. China Currency Dispute Heating Up

The heated debate between China and the United States over the value of its currency intensified yesterday (Thursday) when a senior Chinese trade official warned that further appreciation of the yuan could put many of its exporters out of business – something China can't afford.

Those remarks came shortly after a key International Monetary Fund (IMF) official flatly stated that the currency is severely undervalued.

China's Vice Commerce Minister Zhong Shan told The Wall Street Journal in an exclusive interview that the profit margins on many Chinese export goods were less than 2% and any further increase in the currency's value would endanger more exporters' survival.

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