Sunday, 21 March 2010

Chinese torture looms

While bad news in the world's biggest economies keeps flowing amid threats of a rate hike in China, investors are keeping faith with Russia.

China has been driving the economic recovery, but signs that it is overheating have fuelled speculation that the authorities will raise interest rates to curb inflation.

"Tightening in China is for real," said Ivan Ivanchenko, an analyst at VTB. "They're starting with quantitative tightening by withdrawing liquidity, but pure rate hikes are coming a little later."

Last week, the Chinese government increased reserve requirement ratios for banks, while India and Brazil are also thought to be mulling tighter monetary policies.

Economists fear that withdrawing cheap credit and stimulus plans from the market will set back the recovery, where growth was boosted by heavy government influence. Fears of a Chinese rate hike already hit the oil price on Monday when crude slipped below $81 a barrel.

"This oil price is the result of loose monetary policy from around the world including China, so more restrictive monetary policy ... could potentially undermine oil prices," said Vladimir Osakovsky, an economist at Unicredit.

While Russian equities would suffer under a lower oil price, Moscow's stock markets are already receiving increased fund flows as emerging market investors switch their attention away from the other BRICs.

Russia's Central Bank is expected to continue reducing interest rates as inflation continues to fall and green shoots fail to sprout in comparison to other major emerging economies.

The recovery has not yet convinced US consumers to spend that much more, after the University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index slipping from 73.6 to 72.5 in February. Despite monthly retail sales unexpectedly rising, the failure of sentiment to meet expectations and continued unemployment are slowing the recovery.

"Consumer confidence keeps tanking in the developed world and that doesn't bode well for global end demand," said Ivanchenko.

Russian investors will also be looking closely at the first OPEC meeting of the year on Wednesday, though quotas are likely to remain the same. Although compliance has slipped the organisation is thought to be reluctant to change official output while the price remains close to their target.

Moscow's dollar-denominated RTS was up 2 per cent on Friday.

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