Thursday, March 31, 2016

After 8 months, China factory output jumps; Hunt begins for a Tata Steel buyer; Obese outnumber underweight

1 After 8 months China factory output jumps (Straits Times) China's official factory gauge showed improving conditions for the first time in eight months, suggesting the government's fiscal and monetary stimulus is kicking in.

The manufacturing purchasing managers index rose to 50.2 in March, compared with a median estimate of 49.4 in a Bloomberg News survey of economists. The measure matches its highest level since November 2014.

Top officials at the National People's Congress last month unveiled a record fiscal deficit and pledged to accelerate restructuring of bloated state-owned industries to meet their 6.5 per cent to 7 per cent expansion target for this year. Monetary authorities have flagged more room to act if growth falters.

Home prices in some of China's biggest cities are surging, spurring policies to curb loose lending even as authorities seek to support overall demand. To underpin economic growth targets, China's top planning agency is doling out new fiscal stimulus, further raising the amount of money available to local governments this year under a special infrastructure bond program.

2 Hunt begins for a Tata steel buyer (Anushka Asthana & Graham Ruddick in The Guardian) A source within Tata confirmed that the UK government was leading the efforts to find interested parties, but revealed that one option under consideration was a sale of “different portfolios”, which would mean breaking the company up.

However, sources inside Tata Steel said the company, which is losing £1m a day on its UK operations, had failed to find a buyer over the past 18 months. Tata Steel has appointed PwC to advise it on the restructuring of its UK business, but even though the company is willing to release its assets for “nothing”, investors could be put off by potential liabilities. The company – essentially the former British Steel and the UK assets of Corus – may also need a pension fund top-up of £2bn.

After hosting an emergency summit at No 10 following his return from holiday, prime minister David Cameron said the situation was “of deep concern”, but added: “I don’t believe nationalisation is the right answer. What we want to do is secure a long-term future for steel plants in the UK.”

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, had said he was shocked by the idea of ministers taking nationalisation off the table, while the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, urged ministers to consider a temporary return to public ownership and suggested that they should “get a grip”.

The government said its intervention helped ensure that Tata announced a sales process for Port Talbot, rather than immediate closure. But ministers have been widely attacked for failing to take more action.

Ministers stand accused of having “rolled the red carpet out” to China – with Labour MP Stephen Kinnock, who represents the constituency containing Port Talbot, arguing that Britain’s industrial strategy was being drawn up in Beijing.

3 Obese outnumber underweight (BBC) There are now more adults in the world classified as obese than underweight, a major study has suggested. The research, led by scientists from Imperial College London and published in The Lancet, compared body mass index (BMI) among almost 20 million adult men and women from 1975 to 2014.

It found obesity in men has tripled and more than doubled in women. Lead author Prof Majid Ezzat said it was an "epidemic of severe obesity" and urged governments to act. The study, which pooled data from adults in 186 countries, found that the number of obese people worldwide had risen from 105 million in 1975 to 641 million in 2014.

Meanwhile the number of underweight people had risen from 330 million to 462 million over the same period. Global obesity rates among men went up from 3.2% in 1975 to 10.8%, while among women they rose from 6.4 % in 1975 to 14.9%.This equates to 266 million obese men and 375 million obese women in the world in 2014, the study said.

The research also predicted that the probability of reaching the World Health Organization's global obesity target - which aims for no rise in obesity above 2010 levels by 2025 - would be "close to zero". The clinical definition of obese is a BMI - a measurement that relates weight and height - of 30 kilograms per metre squared (kg/m2).

More obese men and women now live in China and the USA than in any other country. Women in the UK have the third highest BMI in Europe and the 10th highest for men. Almost a fifth of the world's obese adults - 118 million - live in only six high-income English-speaking countries - Australia, Canada, Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, UK, and the US.

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