China

U.S.-China Tension Evident in Futile House Currency Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives today (Wednesday) will vote on legislation that would let the U.S. government take punitive actions against countries that undervalue their currencies.

The bill isn't likely to have any tangible impact on U.S. policy, but it's yet another manifestation of the growing friction between the world's two greatest economic powers.

The Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act (HR 2378) is the apparent result of increasingly harsh rhetoric towards China's currency policy, which U.S. lawmakers say keeps the yuan undervalued. It is a relatively toothless measure that will likely have no effect on U.S. policy, but instead serve as a rallying cry for Congressional lawmakers looking to win votes ahead of November's midterm elections, and perhaps, U.S. officials heading to a Group of 20 (G20) summit the very same month.

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China Steps Up Effort to Derail BHP Bid for Potash

China is attempting to derail BHP Billiton Ltd's (NYSE ADR: BHP) bid for Potash Corp. (NYSE ADR: POT), as Beijing frets over the long-term supply of resources, according to a report yesterday (Wednesday) by the Financial Times.

Fearing that it could have a negative impact on Chinese imports, the state-run Sinochem Group has hired Deutsche Bank AG (NYSE: DB) and Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) to help disrupt BHP's bid for the fertilizer company, people familiar the matter told the FT. A Chinese bank, thought to be Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, was also part of the team.

Citigroup, which acts as joint corporate broker to BHP along with Bank of America Corp.'s (NYSE: BAC) Merrill Lynch unit, has asked to be relieved of its role in BHP's bid in order to advise Sinochem on a potential counter-bid.

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What's In a Name: Can the U.S. Afford to Call China a Currency Manipulator?

It seems like every six months the debate over China's currency, the yuan, reaches a fevered pitch: The Washington bureaucrats threaten to label China a "currency manipulator" and Beijing threatens to dump its U.S. debt holdings.

Then, with the imminent approach of a major inflection point - be it a key international summit or major financial report - both sides grudgingly agree that a modest appreciation of the yuan would be mutually beneficial.

However, things could be slightly different this time around. China has routinely ducked calls to revalue its currency, and in doing so greatly agitated the West.

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Record Breaking Contango Suggests Higher Oil Prices for 2011

ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) is paying $41,000 a day to keep a storage tanker capable of holding 3 million barrels of oil floating in the Gulf of Mexico, according to international ship- and offshore broking firm RS Platou. And the TI Europe is just one of hundreds of oil tankers sitting idle in waters around the world, as energy companies and investment banks await higher prices for crude.

Oil prices have fallen precipitously since the spring, as optimism about "green shoots" of economic growth gave way to fears of a double-dip recession. Prices have fallen more than 12% to $75.81 a barrel, from a high of $86.54 a barrel in April.

Indeed, with the U.S. economy stuck in the mire, the global outlook for oil demand has diminished - at least in the near-term. Longer-term, however, traders expect prices to surge higher next year as growth solidifies. That's why contracts for crude set to be delivered six months from now are worth more than crude at its current prices - an anomaly known as "contango."

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China Trade Surplus Reignites Tensions Over the Yuan

China in August posted its third straight trade surplus of more than $20 billion, putting friction with the United States over the nation's currency back in the spotlight.

Exports rose 34.4% in August and imports climbed a greater-than-expected 35.2%, leaving the country with a $20.03 billion surplus, a customs bureau report showed Friday.

But a sustained trade gap with the United States could embolden American lawmakers who are pushing to penalize China for what they consider unfair trade practices.

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China Ousts U.S. as Most Attractive Market for Renewable Energy Investing

China for the first time has overtaken the United States as the most attractive country for renewable energy investment, according to a quarterly index ranking released yesterday (Wednesday) by accounting firm Ernst & Young.

As the world's biggest energy consumer, China set a goal to generate 15% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020 - up from 9% in 2008 - and has been encouraging investment in its clean energy companies to make its target.

"China has all the benefits of capital, government will, and it's a massive market," Ben Warren, Ernst & Young's environment and energy infrastructure leader, told Bloomberg. "We would expect to see China retaining a dominant position."

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China Using Government Muscle to Turbo Charge its Auto Industry

Having already supplanted the United States as the world's largest auto market, China is on the fast track to becoming the global leader in hybrid and electric cars.

General Motors and Chrysler were forced into bankruptcy largely because they failed to pursue more fuel-efficient models. Indeed, GM and Chrysler looked wholly unprepared as gas prices soared over $4.00 a gallon in 2008.

As GM emerges from bankruptcy - having been bailed out by the U.S. government - it will put a renewed focus on alternative energy. Unfortunately, it's too late to make a difference. As U.S. car companies sputtered amid the country's economic collapse, carmakers in China raced ahead. And with billions of dollars in government backing, they are the companies that will set the pace for the global auto market.

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China Traffic Jam Just a Brief Bottleneck on the Road to Growth

Besides recently being crowned the world's second-largest economy, China now has the dubious distinction of spawning the world's longest traffic jam. And it's all directly attributable to China's voracious appetite for energy and automobiles.

A line of cars and trucks 60 miles long (100 kilometers) has snarled the road along the Beijing-Tibet 110 Expressway for the past nine days.

The bumper-to-bumper gridlock, which finally began to ease yesterday (Wednesday), was created by a surge in trucks carrying coal from the province of Inner Mongolia to the suburbs of Beijing, where power plants continue to suck up and incinerate millions of tons of the black rock.

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South Korea Moves on U.K. Energy Assets as Competition with China Increases

Korea National Oil Corp. (KNOC) on Friday made a hostile bid for the United Kingdom's Dana Petroleum PLC, marking the first time a state-owned Asian company has gone directly to shareholders.

The move underscores South Korea's determination to double its oil output by 2012 and increase its energy security. It also shows that South Korea will not be denied energy assets, despite being outbid by Chinese companies in several instances.

KNOC took the $2.9 billion (1.87 billion pound) bid to Dana's shareholders after the oil explorer rejected KNOC's previous offer of 1,800 pence a share offer. In a filing with the London Stock Exchange, KNOC said it had support from 48.62% of shareholders, putting the needed 50% approval target within close reach.

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China Dumps the Dollar as Yields Sink

China cut its holdings of Treasury notes and bonds by the most ever in June, instead favoring the debt of Europe, Japan and Korea. The move has fueled speculation that plummeting U.S. yields are driving away the Asian giant, which has ambitions for its currency, the yuan, to replace the dollar as the world's main reserve currency.

China's holdings of long-term Treasuries fell by $21.2 billion in June to $839.7 billion, a U.S. government report showed recently. Total Chinese investment in U.S. debt declined 2.8% to $843.7 billion, the smallest in a year, following a 3.6% slide in May.

The shift comes as President Barack Obama increases U.S. debt to record levels, making it harder to finance sales to sustain the U.S. economic expansion.

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This China Province Will Become a Global Oil-and-Gas Market Powerhouse

Like everything else, the balance of power in the global energy market is shifting toward China, where a little-known province is perfectly situated to become a global oil-and-gas market powerhouse.

Nestled in the far northwest of China, Xinjiang is the country's largest province and the primary domestic source for oil and gas. It is sparsely populated and as big as Western Europe. The name, Xinjiang, literally means "New Frontier." And recent decisions in Beijing are going to give that translation even more meaning - transforming this province into a "new frontier" for the global energy sector.

To understand how to profit from this development, please read on...

Three Ways to Profit as China Causes Gold Prices to Spike

When recently gold sold off and fell as much as 8% below its record high level of $1,260 an ounce, investors had to be more than a little concerned.

With the huge debt loads top world economies have taken on to rebound from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, investors have grabbed onto gold as the best way to hedge against the inflation and other financial calamities they felt were certain to come. So far, those calamities haven't materialized.

But those investors shouldn't be worried. There's another catalyst on the horizon. It's headed directly for us. And, at least as far as gold prices are concerned, it figures to be an almost ideal catalyst: Even if it doesn't spawn the near-term price spikes some gold bugs predict, it's a near-certainty to send the yellow metal skyward in the long run.

I'm talking, of course, about China.

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To see just how powerful a gold-price catalyst China figures to be, please read on

Money Morning Mailbag: U.S. Credit-Rating Agency Fights Back to China's Attacks

Last week, the credit rating feud between Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and the Chinese firm Dagong Global Credit Rating Co. Ltd - which Money Morning Contributing Editor Martin Hutchinson examined late last month - heated up.

Harold "Terry" McGraw III, chairman and chief executive of S&P said that companies like Dagong joined up with politicians and other countries to unfairly attack U.S. ratings firms.

"If you're in a populist mood, you've got to find the villain," McGraw told the Financial Times in an interview in Beijing.

McGraw referred to comments made to the Financial Times in July by Guan Jianzhong, the chairman of Dagong.

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Special Report: Why Investors Must Buy Gold … Before it Runs Away in Price

As gold hovers near $1,200 an ounce and pundits speculate about a "gold bubble," it's important for investors to remember that a mere decade ago the picture was very different.

In the year 2000, gold sat at an unimpressive annual average of $279 an ounce - a two-decade low. At that time, most analysts thought gold was finished as a monetary metal. They said its price would never recover and only kooks with tin hats would invest in it. I was one of the very few financial commentators publicly saying that gold was not only viable, but entering a long-term uptrend.

With the benefit of hindsight, we can all see that the consensus was wrong. Gold has performed remarkably against the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Nasdaq Composite Index and U.S. real estate. The reason I was able to confidently forecast this result is because I ignore the 'certainties' determined by Wall Street consensus, and instead study the fundamental trends.

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