Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Asia markets fall as China worry deepens; Saudi Arabia pulls $70bn from global funds; India's highway of death and village of widows

1 Asia markets fall as China worry deepens (Justin McCurry in The Guardian) Deepening concern over the health of the Chinese economy has again struck Asian markets, with shares in the region plummeting to their lowest level for three-and-a-half years. The Nikkei 225 ended Tuesday down 714.27 points, or 4.05%, from Monday at 16,930.84 – its lowest level for about eight months.

MSCI’s broader index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slumped 2.3%, touching its lowest levels since June 2012 and extending early declines after Chinese shares opened lower. China’s blue-chip CSI300 index and the Shanghai Composite Index were down 2% and 1.9%, respectively.

 “Investors are worried about a sharp slowdown in China ... but the biggest risk is a global recession, not just a China issue,” said Steven Leung, a director at UOB Kay Hian in Hong Kong. “If you look at Japan ... its economy is in bad shape. And the economic situation is not good in Europe, either.”

For now, global concern is centered on China, where industrial companies’ profits fell at their fastest rate in four years, official data showed on Monday. The S&P 500 index hit a one-month low on bullish US consumer spending data in August as it raised concerns the Federal Reserve could hike rates at a time of slackening global growth.

Although the Fed decided not to raise interest rates at its meeting earlier this month - citing concern over China – speculation is building that the central bank could approve a rate hike as early as next month.

2 Saudi Arabia pulls $70bn from global funds (Khaleej Times) Saudi Arabia has withdrawn $70 billion from global asset managers as Opec's largest oil producer seeks to plug its budget deficit, according to financial services market intelligence company Insight Discovery.
"Fund managers we've spoken to estimate Sama has pulled out between $50 billion to $70 billion from global asset managers over the past six months," Nigel Sillitoe, CEO of the Dubai-based firm, said. "Saudi Arabia is withdrawing funds because it's trying to cut its widening deficit," he said.
Saudi Arabia is seeking to halt the erosion of its finances after oil prices halved in the past year. The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority's (Sama) reserves held in foreign securities have fallen about 10 per cent from a peak of $737 billion in August 2014, to $661 billion in July, according to central bank data. The government is accelerating bond sales to help sustain spending.
"Foreign-exchange reserve depletion, rather than accumulation, is the new reality for Saudi Arabia," Jason Tuvey, Middle East economist at Capital Economics, said. "None of this should come as much surprise," given the current-account deficit and risk of capital flight, he said.
Saudi Arabia's attempts to bolster its fiscal position contrast with the scene in Qatar. The world's richest nation on a per capita basis plans to channel about $35 billion of investment into the US over the next five years as it seeks to move away from European deals. That's on top of plans to set up a $10 billion investment venture with China's Citic Group.
With income from oil accounting for about 80 per cent of revenue, Saudi Arabia's budget deficit may widen to 20 per cent of gross domestic product this year, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Sama plans to raise between 90 billion riyals ($24 billion) and 100 billion riyals in bonds before the end of the year as it seeks to diversify its $752 billion economy, people familiar with the matter said in August.
3 India’s highway of death and village of widows (Sriram Karri on BBC) It connects India's north and south and has been blamed for the deaths of an alarming number of south Indian tribal villagers who live alongside it. One such village is Peddakunta, belonging to the Mahbubnagar district of Telangana, and lying adjacent to the highway bypass. It is easy to locate because of its reputation as the "village of highway widows".
In the village of 35 huts and families, there is only one male adult. Thirty seven others have died, and three have left the village for good. Even World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics, which indicate that India has a road accident death every four minutes, pale in the case of Peddakunta.
"There are no men left there", says 65-year-old Mohammed Dastagir, who runs a paan-cigarette shop near the road leading to the village. "The village headquarters are on the other side of the highway. Everyone has to cross it to get any work with the government done - and many do not return. The most shocking death was a few months ago when a member of a nearby village went to the government office with a petition over the high number of deaths and died while returning."
When the highway bypass was built nearly a decade ago, provisions to build a service lane were also passed. This would have allowed pedestrians a safe route to the other side of the road without them having to cross the bypass. This never materialised, and as a result villagers are forced to walk across the four lanes of the highway bypass if they are to collect their monthly pensions or take up employment in nearby villages.
Thariya Korra, is the only man left alive, but lost his wife to the highway. He has had to look after his five-year-old son alone ever since. "First came the highway. It brought no prosperity, only death. The factory nearby came later. We were promised water, a health centre and jobs. Nothing happened," he said.

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