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China

Saudi Arabia Shifts its Focus to China as the United States Falls Out of Favor

Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil producer, last year shipped more oil to China than it did the United States for the first time ever – a shift that highlights China's ascension to the ranks of the world's economic elite, as well as its position as the new focal point for the world's energy producers.

The flow of oil from Saudi Arabia to China rose to more than 1 million barrels per day (bpd) last year, just as demand in the United States fell below that level for the first time in more than two decades.

China in December alone imported a record-high 1.2 million bpd of Saudi oil, as its economy rode the momentum of Beijing's $585 billion (2 trillion yuan) stimulus package. U.S. imports of Saudi oil, on the other hand, fell to a 22-year low of 998,000 bpd in the first 11 months of 2009, as the world's largest oil consumer clawed its way back from its worst recession in 70 years.

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The Chinese Are Selling Treasuries – So What Are They Buying?

In the monthly U.S. Treasury report this week, it was announced that China had sold $34.2 billion of Treasuries in December (or allowed short-term ones to run off), making Japan once again the largest holder of U.S. Treasuries.

The battle between China and Japan for the title of largest holder of this dubious asset is not very interesting. What's more interesting is the question of where China is instead opting to invest. After all, $34.2 billion is a fair chunk of change, and China's overall reserves are growing – not shrinking – and now total $2.4 trillion.

The People's Bank of China usually keeps its holdings a carefully guarded secret, much more so than for most central banks – our knowledge of its holdings of Treasuries comes from U.S. data, not from China. We do, however, have some evidence about the Chinese government's investment thinking, thanks to the holdings of China Investment Corp., the country's $200 billion sovereign wealth fund.

To discover the details of China’s global investments, please read on…

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How to Profit From China's Next Move

For many investors who don't have the benefit of 20 years of experience in Asia like I do, figuring out what Beijing is up to is both puzzling and difficult.

But a handy little tool called a "Form 13F" can help.

In case you're not familiar with it, the 13F is a disclosure document that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires institutional-investment managers to file when they hold $100 million or more of certain U.S.-listed stocks.

China's $300 billion sovereign wealth fund (SWF) – the China Investment Corp. (CIC) – just filed its first-ever 13F with the SEC, revealing that it purchased about $9.6 billion worth of U.S. stocks last year.

And it confirms much of what we've been telling you since the global financial crisis began – namely that China would take advantage of the crisis by purchasing beaten-down stocks, resources, and hard assets … and in a big way.

Even more important, this filing hints at what China is likely to do next – an insight that will help investors figure out where to put their money in order to maximize their personal profits.

To discover how to profit from China's next move, read on...

What China's Investment Trends Are Telling Us Now

Many investors have reaped their biggest gains by playing the stock-market equivalent of "follow the leader." In the past, investors pursuing this strategy have followed the moves of such luminaries as Warren Buffett, Jim Rogers, Bill Gross, and even the late Sir John Templeton.

But there's now a potential new "leader of the pack" whose moves investors need to watch and even emulate.

We're talking about China.

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Ghana May Kill Exxon's $4 Billion Oil Deal

The government of Ghana may kill Exxon Mobile Corp.'s (NYSE: XOM) plans to buy a $4 billion stake in a giant offshore oil discovery from Kosmos Energy LLC. The move could help China expand its growing presence in the region through its state-owned oil company China National Offshore Oil Corp. (NYSE ADR: CEO).

Ghanaian Energy Minister Joe Oteng-Adjei sent a letter to Exxon last week informing the company that the government wouldn't approve the deal with Kosmos. The letter said the government is "unable to support an Exxon Mobil acquisition of Kosmos's Ghana assets," according to a copy reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The government said Dallas-based Kosmos had shared critical information about the field with potential buyers without its permission. Ghana also said Kosmos had left Ghana's state-run oil company, Ghana National Petroleum Corp. (GNPC) out of discussions held to determine how the field should be developed.

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Five Reasons to Put Your Money In China Now

China is the greatest growth zone in economic history. The third largest economy in the world, China is projected to pass Japan in the coming year and to surpass the U.S. economy as soon as 2020. So, when you're deciding how to allocate your investment portfolio, do you want to put your money in the U.S. – a country projected to grow by less than 3% in 2010 – or in a country that is expected to more than triple that? Here's why I'm putting my money in China.

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If China Sneezes, Wall Street Will Catch A Cold

Investors who needed proof of China's increased importance in the post-financial-crisis world only have to look at the nervousness of recent weeks to get a glimpse of the future.

When U.S. stocks fell sharply late Friday, they capped off a harrowing 10-day span that has seen the broad U.S. market benchmarks drop by nearly 7%. Emerging markets are down 9%. Not surprisingly, investor fear has sent volatility rocketing 40% – the largest two-week increase since the global financial crisis went nuclear back in October 2008. 
 
Complicating matters was the continued strengthening of the U.S. dollar – something we've been discussing and warning about for a few weeks. With fear on the rise among global investors, many are abandoning risky positions in emerging-market stocks and bonds and moving cash into the safety of U.S. Treasuries. This bolsters the dollar, which was up 4% in two weeks. That exerts a lot of pressure on commodities. Crude oil fell more than 7% during the week. Gold is down 5%. 

The corporate bond market – which has been red hot lately, helping to underpin stock-market gains – continued to advance, but slipped relative to ultra-safe government debt. Tim Backshall of Credit Derivatives Research wrote in a note to clients that both high-yield and investment-grade credits have been making the longest and most consistent run of lower lows versus ultra-safe U.S. Treasuries since February 2008. 

While government debt has the edge for the moment, the long-term corporate-credit bull market remains intact, according to WJB Capital Group Inc. strategist Brian Reynolds. He sees the credit bears making a run at credit-derivative products that insure against bond defaults, which are a cheap way to try to manipulate the market.

Indeed, the cost to protect against default at banks like JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS), not to mention Greece, jumped noticeably last week. But the damage has been limited as bears have failed to get traction against the instruments that they used to catalyze the 2008 credit crisis.

This lays the groundwork for a powerful snapback rally for stocks.

To find out more about the China Surprise, read on ...

China Outrunning the Global Recovery and Still Looking Ahead

Many investors are focusing on China's recent moves to curtail lending and cool its economic growth, but in doing so they're forgetting that the Chinese economy has withstood the financial crisis better than any other economy in the world. And it remains investors' best bet.

"When the financial crisis forced the neoliberal economic system into a dead end, the shortcomings of the capitalist system were exposed for all to see," read a Jan. 5 front page editorial in the People's Daily, the central government's official mouthpiece. "But a China that was pushed to a crossroads proved its 'national capabilities' in taking on a crisis by answering with the advantage of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics."

That statement is cavalier almost to the point of tastelessness but Beijing has earned those bragging rights. China's economy expanded by 10.7% year-over-year in the fourth quarter as most of the world continued to struggle with the aftermath of 2008's financial crisis. For the full year, the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) grew 8.7%.

That easily tops the government's 8% target and dwarfs the economic growth posted by other economies around the world.

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China Tells Banks to Curb Lending After a Generous January Start

Stocks worldwide plunged yesterday (Wednesday), commodities sank, and the dollar pushed higher after Chinese authorities demanded domestic banks slowdown lending amid concerns about asset bubbles growing in the economy.

Overall credit growth in China will be capped at $1.1 trillion (7.5 trillion yuan) for 2010, Liu Mingkang, chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, told Bloomberg News in an interview in Hong Kong. Some banks were asked to limit credit because they failed to meet standards for capital reserves and other regulatory requirements, Liu said.

New loans in the first 10 days of this year were "relatively high," he told the Asian Financial Forum.

That may be understating the situation.

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Never "Short" a Country That Has $2 Trillion in Cash

The first rule of successful global investing – to paraphrase the words of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman – is a simple one.

Never short a country with $2.3 trillion in currency reserves.

I'm well aware that bond king Bill Gross has been sounding the alarm about a China bubble, and that Forbes magazine is predicting a major meltdown by the Asian giant. I've also heard all about noted short-seller James S. Chanos – who made his name by correctly calling the Enron Corp. demise – who recently described China as "Dubai times 1,000 – or worse."

Just yesterday (Wednesday), in fact, U.S. stocks suffered their worst beating of the New Year on fears that new bank lending curbs in China might blunt the worldwide economic rebound. Asian markets also were down yesterday.

So what's really going on here? China is making its banks tighten credit. Some of the biggest banks, I've heard, have actually suspended loans for the rest of January!   Many analysts and media pundits believe this is the beginning of the end of the Great China Growth Story.

Don't believe it.

To find out why you shouldn't short China, read on...