Thursday, September 17, 2015
US Fed declines to raise rates; Alibaba's wipeout and after; Over 2m vie for 368 jobs in India
1 Fed declines to raise rates (Rupert Neate in The Guardian) The Federal Reserve declined to raise interest rates from their record low of near-zero on Thursday, citing concerns that the still fragile world economy may “restrain economic activity” and further drag down already low inflation.
While some economists had expected a rate rise – the first since 2006 – recent stock market turmoil in China and fears that a slowdown in the world’s second largest economy could dampen the global economy appear to have put off the decision for now.
Janet Yellen, the Fed chair, said the central bank had maintained the federal funds rate at 0-0.25% – where it has been since the 2008 financial crisis – because of “heightened concerns” about a sharp slowdown in China and lower-than-desired inflation.
She said the US recovery from “the great recession” meant that there was an argument to be made for increasing rates – and the bank’s poliycmakers had that argument today – but in the end they still needed more evidence that there was a sustained global recovery. The Fed said that while the US economy is almost balanced, it could be knocked off course by global developments and the central bank was closely “monitoring developments abroad”.
Rates are still expected to be raised this year, with 13 of the 17-member committee predicting that the Federal Open Markets Committee (FOMC) will raise rates by at least 0.25 percentage points. However, four policymakers believe that rates should not be raised until at least 2016, including one who pushed out until 2017. In June only two members felt the rate hike should be left unchanged until 2016.
An increase in rates will eventually lead to an increase in mortgage, car and personal loan and credit card rates in the US, and spark central banks throughout the rest of the developed world to also consider raising their interest rates. The Fed forecast that unemployment will drop to 5% by the end of this year, down from 5.3% in June. The unemployment rate in August dropped to a seven-year low of 5.1%.
2 Alibaba’s wipeout and after (Lulu Yilun Chen in Sydney Morning Herald) Alibaba looked like a sure thing a year ago when it pulled off the largest sharemarket float ever last year. It had a lock on China e-commerce as the economy was surging and consumer spending was steadily rising. Shares soared 76 per cent from the IPO price in just two months.
Then it all crumbled. Alibaba came under fire from a China government agency, it cut deals that baffled investors and it replaced its chief executive as growth slowed. Most important, China's economy turned wobbly, jeopardising the rise in consumer spending Alibaba needed. Its stock slid down, down, down to the IPO price and then below. The sure thing was no such thing.
What now? Investors who watched $125 billion in market value disappear through Wednesday shouldn't expect a reprieve any time soon. Atlantic Equities' James Cordwell, the top-ranked analyst covering the stock, predicts the slowing Chinese economy will undercut e-commerce transaction growth until at least 2016. The many deals Alibaba has negotiated will take time to pay off too.
Jack Ma, Alibaba's chairman and co-founder, isn't known for coddling investors. In a letter with the IPO filing, he said explicitly shareholders would be the third priority after customers and employees. He and his partners didn't want short-term market volatility to distract from building a successful business for the long term.
Indeed, many of Alibaba's troubles derive from a domestic economy over which it has no control. While conceding some missteps in its first year, Alibaba isn't one for introspection. The Hangzhou-based company is trying to push beyond China and e-commerce, announcing $15 billion of deals. Many of the investments make clear strategic sense, but others have been harder to rationalise, like the stakes in a Guangzhou soccer team, a minor player in Chinese smartphones and an unprofitable entertainment studio.
John Choi, an analyst at Daiwa Capital Markets, says that despite the bad press and unfavourable economy, the fundamentals of Alibaba remain positive with e-commerce still growing.. Atlantic's Cordwell, who has a neutral rating, sees light at the end of the tunnel, with the company ultimately emerging stronger. "There's going to be another two to three tough quarters for the company," he said. The current challenge "is making Alibaba a better company for the next 10 years."
3 Over two million Indians vie for 368 jobs (BBC) Authorities in India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, say they have been overwhelmed after receiving 2.3 million applications for 368 low-level government jobs. Prerequisites for the posts include having primary school qualifications and being able to ride a bicycle.
But, tens of thousands of graduates, post-graduates and others with doctorate degrees have also applied. An official said it will take four years to interview all the candidates. Those who have applied for the posts, advertised in August, include 255 PhD holders and 152,000 graduates.
With the number of applicants, there are more than 6,250 candidates vying for each post. The successful candidates will receive a monthly salary of 16,000 rupees ($240). Unemployment is a huge challenge in Uttar Pradesh where tens of millions are out of work. The state, with a population of 215 million, is expected to have 13.2 million unemployed young people by 2017, according to one estimate.
Government recruitment drives have attracted massive responses in other parts of India, too. Earlier this year, several people were injured in a stampede when thousands turned up to join the Indian army in the southern city of Visakhapatnam. In 2010, one man was killed and 11 others were injured in the crush when more than 10,000 candidates gathered to join the police in Mumbai. And in 1999, the government in West Bengal state was deluged with responses when they advertised 281 jobs and received nearly one million applications.