Thailand’s 2019 foreign tourists up 4%; China virus, strong baht a risk By Reuters



By Orathai Sriring

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand saw slower growth of foreign tourist arrivals of 4.2% last year and the outlook for a lucrative industry is weighed by strength in the baht and China’s new coronavirus at a time of faltering economic growth.

Tourist receipts account for about 12 percent of Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, making it one of the most important drivers of growth for an economy that has lagged most regional peers for years.

Foreign tourist arrivals hit a record 39.8 million last year – equivalent to more than half of Thailand’s population – after a rise of 7% to 38.2 million in 2018, when a boat accident killed dozens of Chinese tourists, tourism ministry data showed.

Tourist revenue had risen 3% to 1.93 trillion baht ($63.49 billion) in 2019.

Visitors from China, Thailand’s biggest source of tourists, increased by 4.4% to 10.99 million in 2019.

The growth in foreign arrivals had slowed and missed a government target, and industry operators have blamed that on the strong baht, Asia’s top performer last year.

The baht rose nearly 9% against the U.S. dollar and about 11% against China’s yuan last year.

(GRAPHIC – Thailand’s overall foreign tourists and Chinese arrivals: https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/13/1492/1467/Thailand’s%20foreign%20tourists.png)

The Tourism Council of Thailand last week forecast less than 5% growth in overall foreign tourist numbers this year.

Kasikorn Research Centre on Friday predicted the number of Chinese tourists may fall 0.5%-2.0% this year, rather than the 1.6%-3.5% increase projected earlier.

China’s coronavirus has added to the concerns. Thailand on Friday confirmed its fifth case of the virus and Saturday’s start of the Lunar New Year holiday is expected to bring an influx of Chinese travelers.

“The outbreak of coronavirus is a risk. The strong Thai baht may also affect tourism growth,” said Tim Leelahaphan, economist of Standard Chartered (LON:).

“That is unlikely to help an already-slowing economy,” he said adding he expected the central bank to cut its policy rate by a quarter point in the first quarter.

The Bank of Thailand (BOT) cut the key rate twice in 2019, taking it to a record low of 1.25%. It will next review monetary policy on Feb. 5.

The BOT forecast economic growth of 2.8% this year, slightly picking up from an estimated 2.5% in 2019, a 5-year low.

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EIDOS Transaction Volumes Skew 2019 DApp Market Report By Cointelegraph



The transaction volume going through the EIDOS decentralized application (dApp) has massively skewed the results of the 2019 dApp Market Report, published Jan. 20. The token airdrop dApp on the blockchain, saw almost three times as many transactions in 2019 as all of the other dApps on nine leading platforms combined.

Perhaps the most notable aspect about this statistic is that EIDOS did not launch until 1st November 2019.

Continue Reading on Coin Telegraph

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Argo Blockchain Sees Mining Revenue Rise Tenfold in 2019 By Cointelegraph



Publicly-listed mining company Argo Blockchain had a tenfold increase in revenue for 2019 over the previous year, ProactiveInvestors reports on Jan. 20. Its shares bounced as the company plans further expansion in the upcoming year.

Argo Blockchain PLC is a company operating mining rigs for profit, as well as providing Mining-as-a-Service (MaaS) to institutional investors who are “looking to hold specific coins but do not want to procure via exchanges.”

Continue Reading on Coin Telegraph

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

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Germany’s 2019 hard coal imports fell 14.7%: importers By Reuters



By Vera Eckert

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Germany imported 40.2 million tonnes of hard coal last year, 14.7% less than in 2018 due to competition from renewables and gas, and as the steel industry curbed usage, importers said on Friday.

The total was comprised of an estimated 7.4% lower intake of coking coal for steelmakers, who purchased 11.5 million tonnes and a 15.5% fall in purchases of coke, a related product, of 1.9 million tonnes, lobby group VDKI said at its annual meeting.

Thirdly and most significantly, purchases by coal-to-power generators, the biggest user group, fell 17.4% to 26.8 million.

“Coal is being pushed out not only by renewable energy, there is an additional price competition with while carbon emissions permit prices are rising,” said the group’s managing director, Franz-Josef Wodopia.

Emissions allowances are a mandatory input for power generators.

Their prices have increased strongly amid political moves to tighten supply, in order to raise prices and incentivize the avoidance of more CO2 pollution.

Coal consumption was also hit because of the ongoing expansion of wind and solar power plants in the green energy transition, which are driven by the weather and whose output volumes are given priority on transmission grids.

VDKI did not give an import forecast for 2020.

Policymakers on Thursday finalised details of a long-term exit plan from burning domestically mined brown coal up to 2038 due to be passed by the cabinet by the end of this month.

VDKI criticized planned stipulations relating to phasing out sizeable hard coal capacity by 2026 and more still by 2030 and finally 2038. Known since last year, the plans may or may not be passed along with those for lignite.

It said the potential of emissions savings achieved this way could be outweighed by coal operators elsewhere in Europe producing more, while energy prices in Germany would go up.

As for the trend of coal’s demise, other industry data have recently mirrored those described by VDKI.

Within Germany’s primary energy mix, hard coal use last year fell 20.5% year-on-year to a historic low and brown coal use fell 20.7%, industry statistics body AGEB has said.

The primary energy mix, beyond power generation, describes usage of all fuels for use in transport, heating and industries, including nuclear energy, as well as mineral oil and products.

Coal burning’s share in Germany’s electricity production dropped by 9 percentage points last year to 29%, the Fraunhofer research service said.

VDKI separately commented on world coal trade.

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China’s state planner says approved projects in 2019 worth $195 billion By Reuters


China’s state planner says approved projects in 2019 worth $195 billion

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s state planner said on Sunday that it had approved 157 fixed-asset investment projects in 2019, worth a total 1.33 trillion yuan ($195 billion).

National Development and Reform Commission spokeswoman Meng Wei told a news conference that China’s economy has the foundations to continue to operate stably in 2020.

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Morgan Stanley CEO Gorman’s total 2019 pay falls 7% to $27 million


FILE PHOTO: James P. Gorman, chairman & CEO of Morgan Stanley, testifies before a House Financial Services Committeeon Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein/File Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Morgan Stanley (MS.N) Chief Executive James Gorman is receiving $27 million in total compensation in 2019, nearly 7% less than what he got the year before, the company said in a filing on Friday, following a reduction of bonuses staff-wide.

The board, which decides the top executives’ pay, called the 61-year-old’s performance in the year “outstanding” and acknowledged “the firm’s strong financial performance.” The bank’s reported profit jumped 46% to $2.09 billion in 2019 compared to 2018.

That kind of out-performance would typically result in the board giving the CEO a big raise. However, a source familiar with the board’s thinking said members also considered the bank’s recent disclosure that it would cut staff and discretionary compensation as it aimed to further reduce expenses.

In the bank’s fourth quarter earnings on Thursday it said it was lowering 2019 bonuses staff-wide in an effort to offset a 7% increase in other compensation expenses.

Morgan Stanley also disclosed it paid $172 million in severance packages to terminated employees, many of whom worked at the investment bank and trading business. The bank said in December that it would cut about 1,500 employees, or roughly 2% of its global workforce.(reut.rs/2qAtgES)

Gorman’s compensation is comprised of four parts: a base salary of $1.5 million; a cash bonus of $6.375 million; a deferred equity award of $6.375 million; and a performance-vested equity award of $12.75 million.

The board again required that 75% of Gorman’s incentive compensation be deferred over three years subject to a claw-back, and for all of that compensation to be paid in the form of equity in the company.

Reporting by Elizabeth Dilts Marshall and Supantha Mukherjee in Bangalore; Editing by Leslie Adler and Sonya Hepinstall



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China posts weakest growth in 29 years as trade war bites, but ends 2019 on better note


BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s economic growth cooled to its weakest in nearly 30 years in 2019 amid a bruising trade war with the United States, and more stimulus is expected this year as Beijing tries to boost sluggish investment and demand.

But data on Friday also showed the world’s second-largest economy ended the rough year on a somewhat firmer note as a trade truce revived business confidence and earlier growth boosting measures finally appeared to be taking hold.

As expected, China’s growth slowed to 6.1% last year, from 6.6% in 2018, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed. Though still strong by global standards, and within the government’s target range, it was the weakest expansion since 1990.

This year is crucial for the ruling Communist Party to fulfill its goal of doubling gross domestic product (GDP) and incomes in the decade to 2020, and turning China into a “moderately prosperous” nation.

Analysts reckon that long-term target would need growth this year to remain around 6%, though top officials have warned the economy may face even greater pressure than in 2019.

More recent data, along with optimism over a Phase 1 U.S.-China trade deal signed on Wednesday, have raised hopes that the economy may be bottoming out.

Fourth-quarter GDP rose 6.0% from a year earlier, steadying from the third quarter, though still the weakest in nearly three decades. And December industrial output, investment and retail sales all rose more than expected after an improved showing in November.

Policy sources have told Reuters that Beijing plans to set a lower growth target of around 6% this year from last year’s 6-6.5%, relying on increased infrastructure spending to ward off a sharper slowdown. Key targets are due to be announced in March.

On a quarterly basis, the economy grew 1.5% in October-December, also the same pace as the previous three months.

“We expect China’s growth rate will come further down to below 6%” in the coming year, said Masaaki Kanno, chief economist at Sony Financial Holdings in Tokyo.

“The Chinese economy is unlikely to fall abruptly because of … government policies, but at the same time the trend of a further slowdown of the economy will remain unchanged.”

SIGNS OF IMPROVEMENT, BUT WILL IT LAST?

December data released along with GDP showed a surprising acceleration in industrial output and a more modest pick-up in investment growth, while retail sales were solid.

Industrial output grew 6.9% from a year earlier, the strongest pace in nine months, while retail sales rose 8.0%. Fixed-asset investment rose 5.4% for the full year, but growth had plumbed record lows in autumn.

Easing trade tensions have made manufacturers more optimistic about the business outlook, analysts said, though many of the tit-for-tat tariffs both sides imposed during the trade war remain in place.

“Despite the recent uptick in activity, we think it is premature to call the bottom of the current economic cycle,” Julian Evans-Pritchard and Martin Rasmussen at Capital Economics said in a note.

“External headwinds should ease further in the coming quarters thanks to the ‘Phase One’ trade deal and a recovery in global growth. But we think this will be offset by a renewed slowdown in domestic demand, triggering further monetary easing by the People’s Bank.”

Among other key risks this year, infrastructure — a key part of Beijing’s stabilization strategy — has remained stubbornly weak.

Infrastructure investment grew just 3.8% in 2019, decelerating from 4% in January-November, despite sharply higher local government bond issuance and other policy measures.

“This shows that local governments continued to face funding constraints…,” said Tommy Xie, China economist at OCBC Bank in Singapore.

A girl runs past a man as he smokes in Beijing’s central business area, China January 17, 2020. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Some analysts are also worried about signs of cooling in the housing market, a key economic driver.

Property investment growth hit a two-year low in December even as it grew at a solid 9.9% pace in 2019. Property sales fell 0.1%, the first annual decline in five years.

Beijing has worked for years to keep speculation and home price rises in check, and officials vowed last year they would not use the property market as a form of short-term stimulus.

MORE SUPPORT MEASURES

China will roll out more support measures this year as the economy faces further pressure, Ning Jizhe, head of the Statistical bureau told a news conference.

Ning noted that per capital GDP in China had surpassed $10,000 for the first time last year. But analysts believe more painful reforms are needed to generate additional growth.

Beijing has been relying on a mix of fiscal and monetary steps to weather the current downturn, cutting taxes and allowing local governments to sell huge amounts of bonds to fund infrastructure projects.

Banks also have been encouraged to lend more, especially to small firms, with new yuan loans hitting a record 16.81 trillion yuan ($2.44 trillion) in 2019.

The central bank has cut banks’ reserve requirement ratios (RRR) – the amount of cash that banks must hold as reserves – eight times since early 2018, most recently this month. China has also seen modest cuts in some lending rates.

Analysts polled by Reuters expect further cuts in both RRR and key interest rates this year.

But Chinese leaders have repeatedly pledged they will not embark on massive stimulus like that during the 2008-09 global crisis, which quickly juiced growth rates but left a mountain of debt.

Slideshow (7 Images)

Containing financial system risks will remain a high priority for policymakers this year. Corporate bond defaults hit a new record last year, while state-linked firms had to step in to rescue several troubled smaller banks.

Even with additional stimulus and assuming the trade truce holds, economists polled by Reuters expect China’s growth will cool this year to 5.9%.

Reporting by Kevin Yao; Editing by Kim Coghill



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China’s economy expanded by 6.1% in 2019 By Investing.com


© Reuters.

By Cornelia Zou

Investing.com- China’s economy grew 6.1% in 2019, the lowest rate of growth since 1990, according to gross domestic product (GDP) growth data released by the National Bureau of Statistics Friday morning.

The rate is lower than the expected 6.2% but still within the 6% to 6.5% target the central government had set in early 2019. The world’s second-largest economy grew 6.6% in 2018.

Growth in the fourth quarter of 2019 came in at 6%, unchanged from the previous quarter.

Industrial output rose 6.9% in December year on year versus the median forecast of 5.9%; and retail sales rose 8%, also higher than the estimated 7.9%

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.



Activist hedge funds stepped up calls for asset sales and spin-offs in 2019: data


NEW YORK (Reuters) – Hedge funds that push for change at corporations stepped up their demands for asset spin-offs and sales last year, making them part of nearly half of all activist investor campaigns waged in 2019, according to data released on Wednesday.

“A record 99 campaigns with an M&A-related thesis were launched in 2019,” said Jim Rossman, the head of shareholder advisory at Lazard, which compiled the statistics. Calls for companies to be sold outright or for certain units to be divested accounted for 47% of last year’s activity, up from 35% in previous years, Rossman said.

Some of the most noteworthy mergers and acquisition plays from last year include Carl Icahn pushing for Hewlett Packard to accept a takeover offer from Xerox. Icahn owns shares in both companies.

Icahn also pushed for a strategic review at Caesars which was later purchased by Eldorado Resorts.

At AT&T, Elliott Management urged the company to consider selling off certain parts of its business. Elliott also called on Marathon Petroleum to break itself apart before the company spun off its Speedway unit.

The surge came as activist funds delivered their best returns in years, posting an average 18.3% return in 2019, Hedge Fund Research data show.

Activism has picked up dramatically since the 2008 financial crisis. But it was popular long before, including in the period form the 1970s to late 1980s when financiers including Carl Icahn and Nelson Peltz were called corporate raiders for strong-arm tactics used to replace top management and improve value for shareholders.

Activists also shifted their focus abroad with more non-U.S. companies being targeted, according to Lazard statistics.

Last year non-U.S. targets made up 40% of all campaigns, up from 30% in 2015. Among other destinations, they waged 19 campaigns in Japan, with Third Point returning for a second push for changes at Sony.

Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell



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China’s Exports, Imports Both Rise in 2019 By Investing.com


© Reuters.

Investing.com – China’s exports and imports both rose in 2019, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Tuesday.

China’s in December rose 7.6% from a year earlier, customs data showed. It was the first gain in China’s exports since July 2019 and the fastest growth rate since March 2019.

Meanwhile, in December rose 16.3% from a year earlier.

In yuan terms, 2019 exports rose 5% from a year ago while imports 1.6% in the same period.

On Monday, the U.S. removed China from a list of countries considered currency manipulators, the Treasury Department announced.

The Chinese yuan jumped today amid news that the U.S. will no longer label China as a currency manipulator. The two sides are expected to sign the phase one trade deal this week.

China will celebrate the week-long Lunar New Year holiday from Jan. 24.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.