China’s central bank cuts key lending rate as economy stagnates
China’s central bank cut the rate on its one-year loans on Tuesday, in a move that signals growing concern over the country’s stagnant economy.
The People’s Bank of China lowered the medium term lending facility rate to 2.5 per cent from 2.65 per cent. The rate was last lowered, by the same margin, in June. All but one of 15 analysts polled by Bloomberg had expected the PBoC to keep the rate unchanged.
But a series of gloomy data points released last week, including figures showing the economy slipping into deflation, a sharp decline in exports and the lowest level of new loans since late 2009, have added to calls for further stimulus from Beijing.
Japan’s 2nd-quarter economic growth outpaces expectations
Japan’s economy grew faster than expected in the second quarter of this year, as strong growth in exports offset a contraction in consumer spending.
The country’s Cabinet Office reported that gross domestic product added 6 per cent on an annualised basis, and 1.5 per cent compared with the previous quarter. Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast growth of 3.1 per cent and 0.8 per cent, respectively.
As well as strong net exports, which contributed 1.8 percentage points to growth, inbound tourism buoyed the economy. But private consumption declined 0.5 per cent quarter on quarter, signalling weak domestic demand.
What to watch in Asia today
Events: Beijing’s new rules for generative artificial intelligence come into effect. The Cyberspace Administration of China said it would “promote innovation” but “attach equal importance to development and security” in the updated AI measures. Chevron and Woodside Energy Group hold talks with liquefied natural gas plant workers in Australia, who are considering industrial action.
Indicators: China releases industrial production, retail sales and jobless data for July. Japan’s Cabinet Office issues second-quarter economic growth data, while the economy ministry publishes a revised industrial production index for June. South Korea and Indonesia issue trade figures. The Reserve Bank of Australia publishes July minutes.
Companies: Vietnamese carmaker VinFast plans to list on the Nasdaq. Vineyard group Treasury Wine Estates presents quarterly earnings. South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering, Taiwan-based China Airlines and National Australia Bank also report.
Markets: Stock exchanges are closed in India and South Korea for public holidays.
Berkshire Hathaway builds $814mn stake in homebuilders
Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway on Monday unveiled an $814mn investment in three US homebuilders in a bet on a sector that has benefited from dearth of supply.
Berkshire disclosed it had purchased 6mn shares of DR Horton, worth about $726mn at the end of the second quarter, as well as 152,572 shares in Lennar and 11,112 shares of NVR.
Shares of homebuilders and companies who service the industry have rallied this year after a difficult 2022 during which higher interest rates crimped demand.
However, while higher mortgage rates have cooled the pace of existing home sales, new home sales have remained surprisingly robust due to the limited supply.
Esmark becomes second US Steel suitor with $10bn offer
Esmark, the privately held industrial group, said it had made an all-cash offer to buy US Steel for about $10bn including debt, becoming the second company in two days to announce a bid.
James Bouchard’s family-controlled group said on Monday that it had offered to buy US Steel for $35 per share, although it did not give any details on how it plans to finance a deal or the names of investment banks and law firms advising it on the bid.
The move by Esmark comes a day after US Steel rejected a $35-per-share cash-and-stock offer bid from Cleveland-Cliffs, the largest North American producer of flat-rolled steel.
Read more about the bidding war for US Steel here.
Montana judge rules youth have right to a ‘clean’ environment
A judge in Montana ruled in favour of youth climate activists on Monday in a landmark case that established young people had a right to a “clean and healthful environment.”
District court judge Kathy Seeley found that the state’s exclusion of greenhouse gas emissions impacts in oil and gas permitting was “unconstitutional on its face”.
The court case, filed in March 2020, is the first of its kind to involve a constitutional claim and reach trial.
During a week-long trial in June, the plaintiffs, along with climate scientists and medical experts, testified on the negative impact of climate change on the wellbeing and development of young people.
Georgia prosecutor denies state has filed charges against Donald Trump
The Fulton County district attorney’s office has denied reports that the state of Georgia had filed a legal challenge against Donald Trump, even as prosecutors prepared a fourth indictment against the former president.
The Atlanta office, which has been probing alleged meddling by Trump and others in the 2020 presidential election, on Monday said that reports saying Georgia had filed charges against the ex-president were “incorrect”.
According to Reuters, a docket report appeared on the Fulton County court website on Monday suggesting that Georgia would charge Trump with counts including racketeering, false statements and conspiracy, but later became unavailable.
The office did not immediately respond to queries about the docket report.