Thursday, December 22, 2016
US growth revised higher; More Asian defaults loom in 2017; World's first solar panel road
1 US growth revised higher (BBC) The US economy grew even faster than thought in the July-to-September period, latest official figures indicate. The world's largest economy grew at an annualised rate of 3.5% in the quarter, up from an earlier estimate of 3.2%, the Commerce Department said. It was the second time that the figure had been revised upwards, from an initial 2.9%.
The rate of growth in the third quarter was the strongest for two years. The Commerce Department said consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the US economy, increased at a rate of 3%, compared with the previous estimate of 2.8% and the initial estimate of 2.1%.
2 More Asian defaults loom in 2017 (Straits Times) As if investors in Asia's troubled corporate bond markets don't have enough to worry about, concern is mounting about whether South Korean shipyards will be able to repay record amounts of debt coming due next year.
Yields on bonds of Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co and Samsung Heavy Industries Co have shot up this year. The top four Korean shipbuilders have 2.3 trillion won in notes maturing next year, the most in Bloomberg-compiled data going back to 1997.
The bond slump adds to jitters in Asia's debt market, which has seen Chinese defaults climb to 28 this year from seven in 2015 and delinquencies spreading in Singapore as weak commodity markets took their toll. Hanjin Shipping Co sought bankruptcy protection this year and earnings suffered at Korea's top shipyards including Hyundai Heavy Industries Co and Hyundai Mipo Dockyard Co, amid a slump in oil prices and growing competition from China.
Hyundai Heavy, Daewoo Shipbuilding and Samsung Heavy have all posted multiple quarters of losses in the past year-and-a-half amid delivery delays and a plunge in demand for new vessels and oil platforms. Korea Ratings, a local affiliate of Fitch, cut the credit scores of all three shipyards in 2016 and has a negative outlook.
3 World’s first solar panel road (Kim Willsher in The Guardian) France has opened what it claims to be the world’s first solar panel road, in a Normandy village. A 1km route in the small village of Tourouvre-au-Perche covered with 2,800 sq m of electricity-generating panels, was inaugurated by the ecology minister, Ségolène Royal.
It cost €5m to construct and will be used by about 2,000 motorists a day during a two-year test period to establish if it can generate enough energy to power street-lighting in the village of 3,400 residents.
In 2014, a solar-powered cycle path opened in Krommenie in the Netherlands and, despite teething problems, has generated 3,000kWh of energy – enough to power an average family home for a year. The cost of building the cycle path, however, could have paid for 520,000kWh.
Before the solar-powered road – called Wattway – was opened on the RD5 road, the panels were tested at four car parks across France. The constructor was Colas, part of giant telecoms group Bouygues, and financed by the state. Normandy is not known for its surfeit of sunshine: Caen, the region’s political capital, enjoys just 44 days of strong sunshine a year compared with 170 in Marseilles.
Critics say it is not a cost-effective use of public money. Marc Jedliczka, vice-president of Network for Energetic Transition (CLER) told Le Monde: “It’s without doubt a technical advance, but in order to develop renewables there are other priorities than a gadget of which we are more certain that it’s very expensive than the fact it works.”