Nami Hamaura said she feels less lonely working from home thanks to her singing companion Charlie, one of a new generation of cute and clever Japanese robots whose sales are booming in the COVID-19 pandemic. Smart home assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa have found success worldwide, but tech firms in Japan are reporting huge demand for more humanlike alternatives, as people seek solace during COVID-19 isolation. “I felt my circle became very small,” said 23-year-old Hamaura, a recent graduate who has worked almost entirely remotely since April last year. With socializing limited, life in her first job at a Tokyo trading company was nothing like she had imagined. So she adopted Charlie, a mug-sized robot with a round head, red nose and flashing bow tie, who converses with its owner in song. Yamaha Corp, which makes Charlie, describes it as “more chatty than a pet, but less work than a lover.” “He is there for me to chat with as someone other than family, or friends on social networks or a boss I needed to produce a report for,” Hamaura said. She is a prelaunch test customer for Charlie, which Yamaha plans to release later this year. “Charlie, tell me something interesting,” she asked while typing at her dining table. “Well, well ... balloons burst when you spray lemon juice,” he said, cheerfully tilting his head to each side. Sharp Corp said that sales of its small humanoid Robohon were up 30 percent in the three months to September last year from a year earlier. “Not only families with children, but also seniors in their 60s and 70s” are snapping up Robohon, which talks, dances and is also a working phone, a Sharp spokesman said. However, the adorable android — first released in 2016 and only available in Japan — does not come cheap, with regular models priced between US$820 and US$2,250. Charlie
From constrictive corsetry to blistering 15cm heels, the oft-quoted line “You have to suffer for fashion” has afflicted humanity for centuries, however much it seems alien to our current wardrobe of Zoom-friendly sweatpants. Yet what happens when even a simple garment is disabling? Or when suffering for fashion is not a stylistic choice, but an everyday reality that can affect someone’s quality of life? For many disabled people, off-the-peg clothes are inaccessible and cause discomfort, from fiddly buttons to seams that chafe in a wheelchair. “Clothing plays an important part in living well,” said Monika Dugar, the designer of Reset, an adaptivewear brand that launched at a virtual event during London fashion week. “Due to restricted mobility, clothing choices can impact whether people with disabilities can operate functionally,” she said. Inspired by Dugar’s father, who has Parkinson’s disease, the first Reset collection fuses optical art prints with solution-based design; think jackets with Velcro closures and a polo neck with easy-entry shoulder fastenings. “Every garment has to make a statement; a statement where design and functionality merge,” Dugar said. “We go through multiple stages of prototypes, testing and feedback.” Thinking about fashion in this way requires designers to become engineers, utilizing problem-solving, innovation and empathy. Although she studied at the London College of Fashion and completed internships at Paul Smith Ltd and Mary Katrantzou, Dugar’s foray into adaptivewear is self-taught. “An important part of the process is failing — and recognizing this — to bring the best solution,” she said. “Designing for people with disabilities isn’t a trend, it’s a necessity.” The launch of Reset reflects a growing demand for disability-friendly fashion. With the adaptive clothing market forecast to be worth nearly ￡280 billion by 2026, it is unsurprising that a handful of brands have their sights on this overlooked consumer group. This month, Nike Inc
For the second time in two years, Gildardo Urrego is scooping up piles of dead bees after an invisible evil invaded his hives in northwest Colombia, wreaking havoc among his swarms. Urrego has no proof, but he suspects the culprit is pesticides that have been fueling a commercial avocado and citrus boom in the country. Hundreds of hives have been killed off in Colombia in the past few years, and some investigations have pointed to fipronil, an insecticide banned for use on crops in Europe and restricted in the US and China. It is used to control all manner of insects and has been blamed for several bee massacres worldwide. Urrego’s apiary in Colombia’s Antioquia Department produces honey flavored with pollen from nearby passion fruit orchards. In 2019, he lost 10 of his 19 hives. This time, he said, one-third of his 12 hives were wiped out — a loss of about 160,000 of the industrious little pollinators. “There is a theory that, yes, this is due to poisoning, there are some crops around here that perhaps have not managed their agrochemicals well, and so this area was affected,” he said. In the past few years, bees in North America, Europe, Russia, South America and elsewhere have started dying off from “colony collapse disorder,” a mysterious scourge blamed partly on pesticides along with mites, viruses and fungi. The UN said that nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction. About 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on pollinators, mainly bees, which provide free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, a 2016 study said. About 300km south of Antioquia, in the Quindio Department, Abdon Salazar has no qualms pointing the finger at fipronil as he counts his losses. “Over the last two years, we have calculated more than 80 million dead bees,”
SLIGHT POSITIVE: Technology stocks recouped some of their losses, but they still had their worst week in months because of a major jump in US Treasury yields
The tech-heavy NASDAQ index on Friday rallied in choppy trading, even as sentiment remained fragile after the index’s worst performance in four months the day before, as fears of rising inflation kept US bond yields near a one-year high. The S&P 500 ended little changed, while the Dow closed lower after earlier dropping to a three-week low. However, the Dow still posted gains of nearly 4 percent for the month, as investors bought into cyclical companies set to benefit from an economic reopening. The NASDAQ, which had its worst week since October last year, ended the month about 1 percent higher, while the S&P 500 posted a monthly gain of about 2.6 percent. Shares of Apple Inc, Amazon.com Inc, Microsoft Corp and Alphabet Inc on Friday rose from 0.2 percent to 1.4 percent, but had their worst week in months due to a sharp rise in US Treasury yields. The benchmark 10-year US Treasury yield eased to 1.404 percent after jumping to 1.614 percent on Thursday, roiling stock markets. Wall Street’s fear gauge hovered at a one-month high. Tech stocks are particularly sensitive to rising yields because their value rests heavily on future earnings, which are discounted more deeply when interest rates go up. “There’s no question that the path in rates today is higher,” 6 Meridian chief investment officer Andrew Mies said. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 469.64 points, or 1.50 percent, to 30,932.37, the S&P 500 lost 18.19 points, or 0.48 percent, to 3,811.15 and the NASDAQ Composite gained 72.91 points, or 0.56 percent, to 13,192.35. For the week, the Dow dropped 1.78 percent, the S&P 500 declined 2.45 percent and the NASDAQ lost 4.92 percent. Financials and energy shares, the best performing S&P 500 sectors this month, slipped 2 percent and 2.3 percent. Technology stocks rose 0.6 percent and semiconductor stocks advanced 2.3 percent. “There are
Equity markets were pummeled on Friday, on growing fears that an expected strong global economic recovery this year would fan inflation and force central banks to hike interest rates, despite reassurances that ultra-loose monetary policies would be kept in place for as long as needed. The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, slowing infections and US President Joe Biden’s impending huge US stimulus package are proving to be a double-edged sword for traders as they weigh the much-needed return to pre-COVID-19 life with the prospect that prices could soar. There is also a worry that this could threaten one of the key pillars of the rally on world markets from their nadir in March last year — record-low borrowing costs and a vast bond-buying program. Alarm bells have been ringing for weeks as the yield on benchmark 10-year US Treasuries climbed to one-year highs, as investors moved out of the safe havens — yields rise as prices fall — and on Thursday a better-than-expected read on US jobless claims pushed them up further. Yields have also advanced in other parts of the world, including Australia, France and Germany, New Zealand and even Japan, which has struggled for decades to fire inflation. That sparked a hefty sell-off in New York on Thursday as all three main indices tanked — led by the NASDAQ’s 3.5 percent plunge as tech firms are more susceptible to higher interest rates. Asia followed suit on Friday, suffering one of its worst sessions since the dark days of last March’s collapse. In Taipei, the TAIEX closed down 498.38 points, or 3.03 percent, at the day’s low of 15,953.80. Turnover was NT$432.112 billion (US$15.27 billion). It declined 2.37 percent from a week earlier. In Japan, the broader TOPIX declined 3.21 percent to 1,864.49 and posted a weekly loss of 3.34 percent, while the Nikkei 225 plunged 3.99 percent
Gold on Friday lost 1.39 percent as a stronger US dollar and expectations of improving economies diminish demand for the haven asset. On Friday, the US dollar index rose 0.59 percent to 90.847, its highest level in a week. Meanwhile, a report showed that US personal incomes soared last month as COVID-19 relief checks helped recharge the US economy with the strongest spending advance in seven months. Bullion has fallen more than 8 percent this year as traders focus on a recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and higher US Treasury yields, which make the metal less competitive because it does not offer interest. That has caused holdings in bullion-backed exchange-traded funds to fall to their lowest since July last year. Gold “is having a rough 2021 and the only thing that can right the ship is if central banks thwart the trajectory of bond yields,” Oanda Corp senior market analyst Edward Moya said. “The Fed will have plenty of opportunities to stem surging Treasury yields, but for now it seems they can be a little more patient.” US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell this week assured investors that the central bank is in no rush to pull back stimulus, boosting demand for many raw materials, while further reducing the appeal of gold as a haven asset. Powell called the recent run-up in bond yields “a statement of confidence” in the economic outlook. Bullion declined further on Friday as traders exited positions, with US equities trading mixed and global bond rout easing. “Gold got hit aggressively just after the cash equities open[ed] today,” BMO Capital Markets head of metals derivatives trading Tai Wong said, adding that investors sold their holdings after the metal failed to maintain the key levels of US$1,760 to US$1,765 an ounce in overnight trading. Spot gold ended Friday at US$1,734.38 per ounce, down 2.79
European stocks on Friday closed lower, ending three weeks of gains as investors booked profits in technology and commodity-linked shares due to concerns over rising inflation and interest rates on the back of a jump in bond yields. The benchmark STOXX 600 fell 1.64 percent to 404.99 and shed 2.38 percent for the week — its first weekly loss this month — with technology stocks losing the most as they continued to retreat from 20-year highs. On the day, resource stocks were the softest-performing European sectors, tumbling 4.2 percent from a near 10-year high in their worst session in five months. “Equity markets across the US and Europe are quite expensive now, and with bond yields constantly rising, the fixed income market is proving to be more attractive than the riskier equity market,” Societe Generale SA strategist Roland Kaloyan said. “Investors are actually looking at the pace at which yields drop and the current speed is quite concerning for equity markets.” US and eurozone bond yields retreated slightly, but stayed close to highs hit this week as investors positioned for higher inflation this year. Yields were also set for large monthly gains. BETTER RETURNS Sectors such as utilities, healthcare and other staples — usually seen as proxies for government debt due to their similar yields — lagged their European peers for the month as investors sought better returns from actual debt. Still, the STOXX 600 has gained this month, helped by a rotation into energy, banking and mining stocks on expectations of a pickup in business activity following COVID-19 vaccine rollouts. Travel and leisure was the strongest sector this month as investors bet on an economic reopening boom. Banks also outperformed their peers thanks to higher bond yields. Better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings have also reinforced optimism about a quicker corporate rebound this year. Of the 194 companies in the STOXX 600
Oil fell the most since November last year with a stronger US dollar and concerns surrounding inflation weighing on crude’s best start to the year on record. West Texas Intermediate for March delivery on Friday declined 3.2 percent to US$61.50 a barrel, with a rising US dollar reducing the appeal of commodities priced in the currency. However, the US crude benchmark still managed to post a nearly 18 percent gain this month and a weekly increase of 3.81 percent, as inventories worldwide tighten and pockets of demand return. Domestic crude production dropped for the first time in four years last year, according to the US government. Brent crude for April delivery dropped 1.12 percent to US$64.42 a barrel, increasing 2.4 percent from a week earlier. “Prices have a little bit more risk to the downside from the recent run that we’ve seen,” said Tariq Zahir, managing member of the global macro program at Tyche Capital Advisors LLC. “To continue going higher from here, demand has to come back pretty substantially.” Crude prices have notched the largest year-to-date gain than in any year prior for the same time period, in part due to OPEC+ production curbs helping to deplete global stockpiles. The unprecedented cold blast that recently halted millions of barrels of US output has also resulted in oil markets being about 100,000 barrels a day tighter than previously thought, JPMorgan Chase & Co has said. Supply scarcity might also worsen in the coming months as North Sea fields undergo major maintenance. The OPEC and its allies are to meet next week to decide on output levels. While Russia has signaled it favors a further easing of production cuts, the country’s oil output dipped below its OPEC+ target this month, meaning it failed to take full advantage of the more generous quota it was afforded after
The US dollar gained on Friday as US government bond yields held near one-year highs, while riskier currencies such as the Australian dollar weakened. Yields have surged as an acceleration in the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations globally and optimism over improving global growth bolster bets that inflation will rise. That has also led investors to price in earlier monetary tightening than the US Federal Reserve and other central banks have signaled. The US dollar’s move is “a function of what’s happening on the yields side,” said Jeremy Stretch, head of G10 FX strategy at CIBC World Markets. The 10-year yield briefly climbed above the S&P 500 dividend yield on Thursday, indicating “uncertainty that is writ large,” he said. On Friday, the US dollar index rose 0.59 percent to 90.847, its highest level in a week. It gained against the yen, touching ￥106.69 for the first time since September last year. In Taiwan, the New Taiwan dollar lost NT$0.050 to close at NT$28.306 against the greenback, but it was up 0.11 percent from NT$28.338 a week earlier. The benchmark 10-year US Treasury yield surged above 1.6 percent on Thursday for the first time in a year after a weak seven-year note auction. US yield increases have accelerated this month as Fed officials refrain from expressing concern about the yield gains. “The Fed has not really hinted that that’s making them uncomfortable, so the bond market’s going to push that,” Oanda Corp senior market analyst Edward Moya said in New York. “That’s really dictating this move in the dollar.” Riskier currencies retreated on Friday. The Australian dollar fell 1.99 percent to US$0.7713, after topping US$0.80 on Thursday for the first time since February 2018. Marshall Gittler, head of research at BDSwiss, said the Australian dollar was underperforming despite the market signaling higher growth, likely because the country’s central bank’s yield curve control
CAUGHT OFF GUARD: A jump in the US Treasury yield might have surprised investors, putting pressure on equities as the 10-year yield outperformed stocks, an analyst said
The TAIEX yesterday closed down 498.38 points, the largest one-day loss this year, as foreign institutional investors sold a record net NT$94.4 billion (US$3.33 billion) of local shares, likely prompted by the advancing 10-year US Treasury yield, analysts said yesterday. The weighted index plunged 358 points to 16,094.93 points soon after the market opened, before gradually recouping some losses to end the day 3.03 percent lower at 15,953.8 points, on turnover of NT$432.112 billion, Taiwan Stock Exchange data showed. It was the first time the index closed below 16,000 points after standing above it for seven consecutive trading days, the data showed. The record daily sale of local shares by foreign institutional investors sent technology and financial stocks tumbling. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (台積電) saw its share price decline 4.57 percent to NT$606, while flat-panel maker Innolux Corp (群創) slid 4.49 percent to NT$17 and United Microelectronics Corp (聯電) fell 2.69 percent to NT$54.2. Cathay Financial Holding Co’s (國泰金控) share price also declined 3.78 percent to NT$41.95. The sell-off could be due to the 10-year US Treasury yield climbing 16 basis points to close at 1.54 percent on Thursday, the highest level since February last year, Taishin Securities Investment Advisory Co (台新投顧) general manager Mason Li (李鎮宇) said by telephone. That sharp increase “surprised many investors and put pressure on stock markets. With the 10-year [US Treasury] yield of 1.54 percent outperforming many stocks’ yields, some investors began to consider favoring bonds over stocks and pulling money out of equities,” Li said. However, the US Federal Reserve is expected to take action to curb the advancing 10-year Treasury yield, which is used as a benchmark for mortgage rates, as its rise would increase borrowers’ burden and the US economy has not recovered from the effects of COVID-19, Li said. Although the local stock market took a hit, Li
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) was on Thursday set to sell local currency bonds, as it prepared for a spending blitz amid a global chip shortage. The world’s largest contract chipmaker planned to price about NT$16 billion (US$565.25 million) of notes in three parts in an auction, though the actual issuance size might change. The manufacturer would have to contend with a recent rise in rates globally that has sent many corporate bond yields up from record lows in the past few weeks. The debt offering comes at a promising time for the semiconductor industry as the world scrambles its way through the shortfall for the key components in everything from smartphones to TVs and vehicles. US President Joe Biden’s administration has pressed Taiwan, home to the largest semiconductor manufacturing sector in the world, to help resolve a shortfall of auto chips that has idled some auto plants. TSMC last month announced that its outlay for capital expenditure this year could total as much as US$28 billion, up from US$17 billion last year. The staggering sum would help expand its technological lead and fund construction of a planned US$12 billion fab in Arizona. The company’s board approved a plan this month to raise up to NT$120 billion of unsecured corporate bonds in Taiwan, as well as the provision of a guarantee to a unit for dollar note issuance of up to US$4.5 billion. “TSMC needs funds to build its US factory,” and it might decide later in the year to increase its debt issuance plans, Capital Securities Corp (群益金鼎證券) trader Baker Tu (涂瑞勝) said. Concerns about extra future bond supply from the company could dampen demand for Thursday’s offering, he said.
DRAM chipmaker Nanya Technology Corp’s (南亞科技) board of directors yesterday approved a proposal to boost capital expenditure for this year to NT$15.6 billion (US$551.12 million), mainly to fund the initial production of next-generation 10-nanometer (nm) class technology. The capital spending exceeded its original estimate of NT$15 billion and represented a sharp increase from last year’s NT$8.5 billion. Nanya Technology told investors last month that 60 to 70 percent of the funds would be used to buy manufacturing equipment to support the pilot run of its first 10nm-class technology at the end of this year. The company mainly relies on 20nm process technology at present. As the new technology would not contribute to production until early next year, Nanya Technology expects bit shipments this year would be flat on an annual basis, compared with an annual expansion of 35 percent last year. The remaining funds would be used to procure research-and- development equipment and to construct an office building, parking lot and other projects, the chipmaker said. Nanya Technology’s board also approved a proposed cash dividend of NT$1.299 per common share, with total payment estimated to reach NT$4 billion. That would represent a payout ratio of 52 percent based on the chipmaker’s earnings of NT$2.51 per share last year, the weakest in about seven years. Revenue increased 17.9 percent year-on-year to NT$61 billion last year, with the biggest contribution coming from DRAM chips used in consumer electronics, such as TV set-top boxes, accounting for as much as 65 percent. PC DRAM chips contributed about 10 to 15 percent, it said. The cash dividend proposal is subject to shareholders’ approval at its annual general meeting on May 27.
VACCINE-DRIVEN RECOVERY: Aside from manufacturers, select service industries, such as shipping, logistics and securities firms, expect business to continue picking up
Business sentiment among local manufacturers last month climbed for the ninth straight month to 106.42, the highest since October 2007, as restocking demand ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday ramped up their business, a survey by the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research (台灣經濟研究院) showed on Thursday. Many manufacturers described their business as healthy last month and are looking forward to a continued uptick in the coming six months, the institute’s economic forecasting center director Gordon Sun (孫明德) said. The world is anticipating a recovery in the second half of the year, when a large number of people would have received vaccines to curb the spread of COVID-19, Sun said, adding that recovery expectations have spurred demand for crude oil and raw materials, as evidenced by a surge in steel and other metal product prices. Manufacturers generally expect business to grow or hold steady in the next six months, with the exception of garment makers, which are looking at a slowdown due to unfavorable seasonality, Sun said. The sentiment gauge for the service sector also rose to 98.02, adding 1.3 points from the revised 96.72 one month earlier, as insurance and transportation companies reported an upturn in business, the Taipei-based think tank said. While 60 percent of companies in the tourism and hospitality industries expect business to soften after the end of the winter break, an overwhelming 80 percent of shipping, logistics and securities companies remain upbeat, it said. The confidence reading for civil engineering and building companies shed 2.3 points to 106.73, weakening for three months in a row, TIER said. TIER research fellow Arisa Liu (劉佩真) said that public and private constructions slowed due to labor and building material shortages, while selective credit controls also weighed on interest in property purchases. The housing market would need a few more months to digest the policy shift, Liu
Quanta Computer Inc (廣達電腦) is to invest NT$910 million (US$32.15 million) to expand capacity in Thailand through its subsidiary QMB Co, the company said in a regulatory filing yesterday. The investment is part of Quanta’s NT$2 billion Thai expansion plans, which it announced in a regulatory filing in November last year. QMB was established in 2019 as a part of Quanta’s efforts to exit China amid a US-China trade dispute. In an investors’ conference call, Quanta chairman Barry Lam (林百里) described the move to Thailand as a “must.” According to the Taiwan Stock Exchange filing, Quanta entered into a contract with Cheer You Construction Thailand (啟宇營造). The money would be used for materials and construction of factory facilities for “expanding production capacity, it said. Quanta’s board approved the plan the same day, it said. Quanta is the world’s biggest contract notebook computer maker, although Lam told an investors’ conference in November last year that the company is expanding its business into new technologies, such as robotic arms, artificial intelligence testing equipment and driverless vehicles. In addition to investing in Thailand, Quanta has continued to expand its Taiwanese production capacity. Chinese-language online news outlet cnYES.com reported that Quanta has completed a third production building across the road from its headquarters in New Taipei City’s Linkou District (林口) to produce servers and other high value-added products starting from the second quarter of this year.
China Steel Corp (CSC, 中鋼), the nation’s largest steelmaker, yesterday announced plans to distribute a cash dividend of NT$0.30 per common share based on last year’s earnings of NT$0.50 per share, as the COVID-19 pandemic reduced demand and cut into profits. The Kaohsiung-based company also plans to pay a cash dividend of NT$1.4 per preferred share, up from NT$0.5 last year. The proposals are subject to approval at the company’s annual general meeting on June 18. The company was hit hard in the first half of last year by the global pandemic, which drove down steel demand and prices. It reported a net loss of NT$2.26 billion (US$79.84 million) in the first quarter. However, its fortunes turned around in the second half of last year and it ended the year in positive territory. Net profit last year was NT$885.87 million, down 90 percent from NT$8.81 billion in 2019, a company filing with the Taiwan Stock Exchange showed. Earnings per share slid to NT$0.05 last year from NT$0.57 in the previous year. The steelmaker plans to use some of its reserved profit to pay for this year’s cash dividend. With steel demand from the automotive, home appliances and machinery industries surging and raw material costs rising, China Steel has raised its domestic price quotes every month since September last year. The company also announced the formation of a carbon reduction group as a part of its environmental, social and governance, or ESG, efforts, it said in a statement.
CHANGE: Katherine Tai called for a revamp in global trade rules to eliminate ‘gray areas’ exploited by Beijing and end a ‘race to the bottom’ that had hurt workers
Katherine Tai (戴琪), US President Joe Biden’s top trade nominee, backed tariffs as a “legitimate tool” to counter China’s state-driven economic model and vowed to hold Beijing to its prior commitments, while promising a sweeping new approach to US trade. At her US Senate confirmation hearing to become US trade representative (USTR), Tai also called for a revamp of global trade rules to eliminate what she called “gray areas” exploited by China, and end a “race to the bottom” that she said had hurt workers and the environment. “For a very long time our trade policies were based on the assumption that the more we traded with each other, and more liberalized our trade, the more peace and prosperity there would be,” Tai said, adding that trade liberalization in the past too often led to less prosperity, and lower labor and environmental standards. Tai’s testimony at the US Senate Committee on Finance is the latest sign that Washington’s approach to overseas commerce might have changed permanently, after decades of market-based “free trade” liberalization that benefited multinational corporations, but was upended by former US president Donald Trump’s protectionism. Tai did not reject Trump’s “America First” trade policies, but said she would revamp them to a “worker-centric” trade model that aimed to safeguard US livelihoods through investment and trade enforcement. The Yale and Harvard Law School educated daughter of US immigrants from Taiwan, Tai called China “an extremely formidable competitor where the state is able to conduct the economy almost like a conductor with an orchestra.” The US needs to respond with more strategic investments, supply chain resilience and trade enforcement to counter Beijing’s strategy and ambitions, Tai said. Tai said that China needed to live up to its commitments under the phase 1 trade deal it signed with the US early last year, but she gave few specifics
Global stocks fell yesterday, with Asian shares down by the most in nine months, as a rout in global bond markets sent yields flying and spooked investors amid fears the heavy losses suffered could trigger distressed selling in other assets. MSCI’s Emerging Markets equity index suffered its biggest daily drop in nearly 10 months and was 2.7 percent lower, while European shares opened in the red, with the STOXX 600 down 0.7 percent, recovering from heavier losses earlier in the session. The MSCI World equity index, which tracks shares in 50 countries, was 0.9 percent lower and heading for its worst week in a month. Asia saw the heaviest selling, with MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan sliding more than 3 percent to a one-month low, its steepest one-day percentage loss since May last year. For the week the index is down more than 5 percent, its worst weekly showing since March last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic had sparked fears of a global recession. “It is not the beginning of a correction in equities, more a logical consolidation as price to earnings ratios were excessive,” said Francois Savary, chief investment officer at Swiss wealth manager Prime Partners. “What is reassuring is that Q4 2020 earnings were good and earnings per share suprisingly good, and that means down the road we should get back to growth,” he said. Yesterday’s carnage was triggered by a whiplash in bonds. The scale of the sell-off prompted Australia’s central bank to launch a surprise bond-buying operation to try and staunch the bleeding. The European Central Bank (ECB) is monitoring the recent surge in government bond borrowing costs, but will not try to control the yield curve, ECB chief economist Philip Lane told a Spanish newspaper. Ten-year German government bond yields were down nearly 4 basis points at minus-0.267 percent, and French and
STRATEGIC SHIFT? Reeling from US sanctions, the telecom equipment maker is in talks with Changan and other automakers to use their plants to make EVs
China’s Huawei Technologies Co (華為) plans to make electric vehicles (EVs) under its own brand and could launch some models this year, four sources said, as the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker, battered by US sanctions, explores a strategic shift. Huawei is in talks with state-owned Changan Automobile (長安汽車) and other automakers to use their plants to make its electric vehicles, two of the people familiar with the matter said. The company is also in discussions with Beijing-backed BAIC Group’s (北京汽車集團) BluePark New Energy Technology (藍谷新能源科) to manufacture its EVs, said one of the two and a separate person with direct knowledge of the matter. The plan heralds a potentially major shift in direction for Huawei after nearly two years of US sanctions that have cut its access to key supply chains, forcing it to sell a part of its smartphone business to keep the brand alive. Huawei was placed on a trade blacklist by former US president Donald Trump’s administration over national security concerns. Many industry executives see little chance that blocks on the sale of billions of dollars of US technology and chips to the Chinese company, which has denied wrongdoing, would be reversed by his successor. A Huawei spokesman denied the firm plans to design EVs or produce Huawei branded vehicles. “Huawei is not a car manufacturer. However, through ICT [information and communications technology], we aim to be a digital car-oriented and new-added components provider, enabling car OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] to build better vehicles,” the spokesman said. Huawei has started internally designing the EVs and approaching suppliers at home, with the aim of officially launching the project as early as this year, three of the sources said. Richard Yu (余承東), head of Huawei’s consumer business group who led the company to become one of the world’s largest
Bitcoin’s rally this year has hit a speed bump, putting it on track for the worst weekly slide in almost a year amid wider losses in risk assets. The largest cryptocurrency slumped as much as 21 percent this week, the most since March. The wider Bloomberg Galaxy Crypto Index, tracking bitcoin, ether and three other cryptocurrencies, is down 23 percent this week. The price earlier dipped to as low as US$45,525, nearing a key Fibonacci level at about US$45,000, before recovering some losses to about US$46,375 as of 6:21am in London, according to consolidated pricing compiled by Bloomberg. The rough patch for bitcoin comes amid wider chaos in global markets, as a surge in bond yields heralds growing expectations that growth and inflation are moving higher, and forcing traders to re-evaluate their positions across multiple asset classes. The tech-heavy NASDAQ 100 dropped in seven of the past eight sessions as stocks like Tesla Inc and Peloton Interactive Inc declined. “Risk-on assets are taking a hit at the moment — we’re seeing stocks slide and crypto is following,” said Vijay Ayyar, head of Asia-Pacific for cryptocurrency exchange Luno in Singapore. “The [US] dollar is strengthening, which is a good indication to expect a slide in bitcoin and crypto.” Bitcoin’s weakness in the face of market gyrations raises questions about its efficacy as a store of value and hedge against inflation, a key argument among proponents of its stunning fivefold rally over the past year. Detractors have maintained the digital asset’s surge is a speculative bubble and it is destined for a repeat of the 2017 boom and bust. While bitcoin is often touted as the new “digital gold,” the yellow metal is winning out at the moment, with spot gold holding at US$1,764 per ounce, down about 1.1 percent for the week. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index
Tesla Inc temporarily halted some production at its auto assembly plant in California because of problems with its supply chain, but work has begun to resume, CEO Elon Musk told employees in an e-mail on Thursday. “We are experiencing some parts supply issues, so took the opportunity to bring Fremont production down for a few days to do equipment upgrades and maintenance,” Musk said in an all-staff message seen by Bloomberg. The factory was “back up and running as of yesterday,” and would rapidly ramp up to full production of Model 3 and Model Y cars “over the next several days,” he said. Backlogs at ports and severe snowstorms affecting ground transport have caused some of the supply-chain issues, a person familiar with the matter said. Representatives for the Palo Alto, California-based electric-vehicle maker did not respond to messages seeking comment. Bloomberg reported earlier on Thursday that some production had been paused at the factory. Staff on a Model 3 production line in Fremont were told their line would be down from Monday through Sunday next week, although some Model 3 employees were back in the factory on Wednesday, said another person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. While production-line outages are not unusual for automakers, they cost the companies revenue. Tesla has said capacity issues at ports and semiconductor shortages are affecting its supply chain. Chief financial officer Zach Kirkhorn said on an earnings call last month that the company is working to manage the disruptions, adding that they “may have a temporary impact.” “We are not overly concerned this supply chain/factory disruption changes the overall delivery trajectory for 1Q and 2021,” Dan Ives, a Wedbush Securities analyst with a neutral rating on Tesla’s stock, wrote in a research note published on Thursday. Musk’s e-mail encouraged