From: Michael Wilson (MWILSON/0005514706at_private)
Date: Sat Jan 10 1998 - 22:39:43 PST

  • Next message: Michael Wilson: "[IWAR] ECONOMIC CRISIS part two"

                    China says it won't devalue yuan to spur economy
       BEIJING, Jan 11 (Reuters) - China's economic growth is expected to slow
       to about eight percent in 1998, but Beijing will not devalue its yuan
       currency to spur the economy, the Business Weekly said on Sunday.
       `It will not be difficult for China to achieve growth of around eight
       percent under current conditions,'' the newspaper quoted Qui Xiaohua,
       chief economist for the State Statistical Bureau, as saying.
       That forecast is well below the 8.8 percent growth estimate for 1997,
       which in turn was a marked slowdown from the 9.5 percent notched up in
       the first half of the year and the 9.7 percent the year before.
       China would not try to boost growth by stimulating exports through a
       devaluation of the yuan, Qiu said.
       Analysts say the recent sharp devaluations of several Southeast Asian
       currencies could bite into China's exports by making products from those
       countries cheaper than Chinese products.
       There has been speculation that Beijing could engineer a yuan
       devaluation to keep its export sector competitive. Exports account for a
       big chunk of China's economic growth.
       `We do not need to do that,'' Qiu said.
       His words appeared to be bolstered by figures released last week that
       show China recorded a trade surplus of more than $40 billion last year,
       with exports growing by 20 percent.
       `A high growth rate is no longer the prime target for China. It has been
       replaced by improvements in industrial structure,'' Qiu said.
       Last September, the Communist Party endorsed a sweeping reform plan
       aimed at dismantling large chunks of the wheezing state sector that is
       one of the main drags on the economy.
       The reforms called for more share issues, mergers and bankruptcies.
       The state sector had boosted profits by a year-on-year 18 percent to
       34.2 billion yuan ($4.1 billion) in the first 11 months of 1997, the
       newspaper quoted bureau spokesman Ye Zhen as saying.
       Loss-making state enterprises were 70.5 billion yuan in the red while
       successful firms recorded 105 billion yuan in profits in the period, Ye
       said. He did not give comparative figures.
       ($1=8.3 yuan) [INLINE]
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                    Analysts: Asia woes to take toll on India shares
       BOMBAY, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Indian stocks will be hit this week as
       foreign funds, unsettled by the Asian financial crisis, and local
       players take profit, brokers and analysts said on Sunday.
       `The crises in Asian markets are forcing some foreign funds to book
       profits here, as seen on Thursday and Friday. A near absence of that had
       lent support to the market earlier,'' said Jaspreet Ahuja, head of
       sales, at Caspian Broking India.
       Bombay shares tumbled last week with the benchmark 30-share Bombay Stock
       Exchange (BSE) index losing over five percent, or 189.65 points, to end
       Friday at 3,530.20.
       The fall came after the index had surged over seven percent in four
       consecutive weeks on the back of huge positions built up by local
       speculators in anticipation of yearly foreign fund allocations.
       `There will also be some fall-out from unwinding of long positions (by
       local players),'' Ahuja said.
       He said foreign funds were wary of further exposure in India because of
       the financial turmoil in some Asian countries compounded by local
       mid-term polls, no signs of an economic revival and an edgy rupee.
       India's markets regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India,
       said on Friday net investments by foreign institutional investors (FIIs)
       dropped by $155.4 million during December -- the second straight month
       of net outflows as foreign investors pulled out of the troubled region.
       It said portfolio investments by FIIs fell by $4.7 million during
       January 1-8.
       Some said the market's recent rise was not warranted and there was only
       one way for the market to go from here -- down.
       `A correction was expected. There was no reason for the market to rise
       as it did in the face of local political uncertainty. I see the market
       falling further to a level of 3,400 before some support arrives,'' said
       Purvesh Shah, chief dealer at local brokerage Nucleus Securities.
       India goes to the polls in February and March after the minority
       coalition government of Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral fell in
       November after the Congress Party withdrew its key support.
       Brokers also said market sentiment would be dampened by Thursday's
       warnings by Moody's Investors Service that ratings of India's sovereign
       debt and the country's corporates would be reviewed for possible
       `There is no positive trigger in India while there are negative triggers
       all around India,'' Ahuja said.
       Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, a BSE broker, said there would be no recovery until
       after the elections, depending on the outcome.
       `We should not set a bottom (for the market), but only a top,'' he said.
                      Slide in Hong Kong stocks likely to continue
       HONG KONG, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Heavy selling left Hong Kong stocks at
       their lowest levels in more than 2-1/2 years last week and the slide
       looks set to continue as the market digests a surprisingly sharp rise in
       prime rates announced on Friday.
       The Hang Seng Index plunged 1,785.93 points, or 16.72 percent, last week
       to close at 8,894.64 on Friday, its lowest close since May 10, 1995.
       Hong Kong stocks in London continued the slide on Friday after local
       banks were forced by plunging Asian currencies to lift prime rates by 75
       basis points to 10.25 percent, higher than the 50 basis points the
       market expected in the market.
       And Bank of East Asia Ltd chairman David Li said Hong Kong interest
       rates were expected to rise at least half a percentage point in the next
       three to four months.
       `The (prime rate) rise will, of course, hit bank lending,'' Li was
       quoted by the Sunday Morning Post as saying.
       The Hang Seng London Reference Index plummeted 513.82 points, or 5.78
       percent, to close at 8,380.82 on Friday.
       `Hong Kong and China have been up until the beginning of the New Year
       relatively insulated from this but now they are taking quite severe
       punishment and can probably go lower from here,'' said Credit Lyonnais
       Securities Asia Ltd chairman Gary Coull.
       `The Hong Kong stock market is influenced by property and property
       prices are going down, so that weighs on the market. There is a weight
       overhanging Hong Kong which is only going to be lifted when there is
       some normality in interest rates.''
       Hong Kong home prices have tumbled some 20 percent from their 1997 peaks
       and are set to continue falling, casting a pall over the government's
       first land auction of 1998 due on Tuesday.
       Brokers said the property-heavy Hang Seng Index may test 8,000 points.
       ``You really cannot predict right now at which level the Hang Seng Index
       will find support,'' said Henry Lui, research analyst at Mansion House
       The plight of Peregrine Investments Holdings Ltd, a victim of turmoil
       rocking Asian currencies and stocks, has sent shivers through the
       brokerage community.
       Peregrine, one of the largest independent investment banks in Asia, said
       on Friday it was considering alternatives after Zurich Centre
       Investments Ltd pulled out of a deal to invest US$200 million into the
       Hong Kong's securities watchdog put restrictions on certain members of
       the Peregrine group and the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong has suspended
       Peregrine Brokerage Ltd's membership.
       Analysts said while Asian markets remain volatile, Hong Kong is unlikely
       to achieve a sustainable rebound.
       `It is very hard to gauge what the next regional factor will be. It is
       just one domino after another,'' said Geoff Galbraith, vice president
       institutional sales at DBS Securities.
       China-related stocks are also expected to remain sickly.
       The H-share index of China-incorporated companies has collapsed to a
       series of record lows and dropped 189.05 points, or 26.3 percent, last
       week to close at 531.02 points on Friday.
       The Hang Seng China-Affiliated Corporations Index tumbled 510.62 points,
       or 29.2 percent, last week to end at 1,235.22.
       China-based Huaneng Power International Inc is due to launch an offering
       of 250 million H-shares this week.
       Half of the new issue is due to be placed with strategic investors,
       leaving 40 percent for overseas institutional investors and the
       remainder for an initial public offering (IPO) in Hong Kong. The small
       size of the retail portion should ensure a reasonable take-up, analysts
       However, the response to two other IPOs, due to make their trading
       debuts this week, was poor.
       Q-Tech Holdings Ltd posted a subscription level of only 0.42 times for
       its IPO and Peaktop International Holdings Ltd had a subscription level
       of 0.70 times. Q-Tech offered 67 million new shares at HK$0.80 per share
       and is due to make its trading debut on Monday and Peaktop offered 62
       million new shares at HK$1.00 each and is set to begin trading on
       Kim Eng Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd, which offered 18 million shares at
       HK$8.00 a share in an IPO, is due to debut on Friday.
                    Asian currency crisis may stoke political change
       SINGAPORE, Jan 11 (Reuters) - The financial maelstrom ravaging Southeast
       Asia may eventually jeopardise the political stability of some countries
       in the region, with Indonesia most at risk, analysts said at the
       ``There is a lot of political dissatisfaction there. That may
       escalate,'' Carolina Hernandez, president of the Institute for Strategic
       and Development Studies in Manila, told Reuters.
       ``There may be a backlash with religious and racial overtones,'' she
       said, referring to simmering resentment among Indonesians against the
       ethnic Chinese who dominate the economy.
       Chaiwat Khamchoo, chairman of the International Relations Department at
       Chululangkorn University in Bangkok, said the crisis may spark political
       instability in Indonesia.
       ``Indonesia is problematic,'' Chaiwat said, adding that the problem
       stemmed mainly from the ``one-man leadership'' of President Suharto, who
       has led the country of 200 million people for 30 years.
       The rupiah plunged past 10,000 to the U.S. dollar last week in a
       sell-off sparked by fears Jakarta did not have the political will to
       implement tough austerity measures, which were the conditions of a US$40
       billion rescue deal put together by the International Monetary Fund
       The currency crisis erupted in July 1997 when Thailand was forced to
       float the baht. The contagion has spread like a deadly virus in
       Southeast Asia and has even struck down South Korea, once the world's
       11th largest economy.
       The Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd (PERC)
       said in a report the financial crisis in Indonesia had prompted some
       analysts to express fears of negative gross domestic product (GDP)
       growth this year.
       ``As a result, inflation and interest rates will remain high and social
       pressures are bound to increase as unemployment rises,'' it said.
       Hernandez said what was scary in Indonesia was that ``dissent there is
       suppressed. That may explode.''
       The problem of riots against ethnic Chinese ``may accompany (an)
       economic downturn,'' PERC said. ``A major question now is will the bad
       economics beget still more bad politics or will the pressures result in
       positive political reforms?''
       Morton Abramowitz, a senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations,
       wrote recently in the Washington Post that regional leaders ``will face
       difficulties maintaining political support.''
       ``However great their contribution to their countries' prosperity,
       Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad and Indonesian President
       Suharto are increasingly seen as the problem and not the solution,'' he
       The situation in other Southeast Asian countries may be more manageable,
       though no less problematic.
       Chaiwat said the crisis in Thailand should not lead to the re-emergence
       of army rule in the country, which has been ruled by a string of
       generals who came to power on the back of more than 30 coups.
       ``I don't think people will support a military solution. That can
       largely be ruled out,'' he said.
       He said people were more willing to allow the government of Prime
       Minister Chuan Leekpai a chance to get the country back on track, but
       ``I'm not sure how long people will have patience.''
       In Malaysia, PERC said ethnic tensions may rise between the majority
       Malays and Chinese and Indian minorities ``as a result of competition
       for scarce resources.''
       Washington is deeply concerned over the financial turmoil in Southeast
       and Northeast Asia, which has raised questions about security and
       stability in the region.
       President Bill Clinton called Suharto and Singapore Prime Minister Goh
       Chok Tong late on Thursday to discuss the economic situation.
       And U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen on Sunday begins a 12-day Asia
       visit in Malaysia. The tour was planned six months ago, but it has taken
       on growing importance due to the market and currency turmoil.
       Cohen will hold security talks with government leaders in Malaysia,
       Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, China, Japan and South Korea.
       ``Clearly, it (the economic crisis) is part of the general context of
       the visit,'' Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon told reporters. ``But the
       message is that the United States has a strong interest in the security
       of Asia.''
                   Japan's prime minister faces key test in parliament
       TOKYO, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto on
       Monday heads into a raucous session of parliament that will debate his
       plans to revive the nation's economy.
       But with opposition parties in disarray, commentators forecast a clear
       field for Hashimoto to pass a fiscal agenda that is regarded as crucial
       for Japan's financial recovery.
       Analysts say Hashimoto, who on Sunday started his third year in power,
       has been helped by troubles in the opposition, including the recent
       self-implosion of its biggest party Shinshinto (New Frontier Party), led
       by long-time Hashimoto rival Ichiro Ozawa.
       ``This Diet (parliament) session is going to feature a lot of screaming
       and yelling by the opposition, especially about Hashimoto's handling of
       the economy, but he will get his budget and supplementary budget through
       before the fiscal year ends (at the end of March),'' said political
       analyst Ryuichiro Hosokawa.
       Hashimoto's fiscal 1998 budget includes one-time income tax cuts worth
       two trillion yen ($15.1 billion).
       Critics have said the tax cuts are too little, too late to boost Japan's
       economy, hit hard by a nosedive in domestic demand after a two percent
       rise in the consumption tax last year.
       A newly-formed opposition alliance which includes former Prime Ministers
       Tsutomu Hata and Morihiro Hosokawa wants even more, demanding a
       permanent three trillion yen in income tax cuts and another three
       trillion yen in corporate tax breaks.
       Authoritative sources said Finance Minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka was
       expected to say in his opening speech to the parliament on Monday that
       Japan's economy is stalled.
       They said he is likely to stress that Japan's economic recovery is
       important for stabilising Asian economies and for continued global
       economic growth.
       The minister will tell the parliament Japan will introduce a system to
       use 30 trillion yen worth of public funds and a fund to help boost
       banks' capital, in order to stabilise Japan's financial system and
       protect deposits.
       Tetsufumi Yamakawa, chief economist at Goldman Sachs in Tokyo, said
       Hashimoto might be forced to beef up his fiscal measures in the course
       of the parliamentary session.
       He forecast Japan's unemployment rate would rise to post-World War Two
       highs during the session, a shock likely to prompt the government to
       come up with more money.
       ``If we see more signs of weakness in the economy, there is a higher
       chance of additional government measures,'' Yamakawa said.
       However while Hashimoto may bow to some opposition demands to show he is
       a leader willing to compromise, the basic thrust of his fiscal agenda is
       unlikely to change.
       ``The opposition will make certain demands, but the only question is
       whether or to what degree Hashimoto will accommodate them,'' Hosokawa
       The session comes at a critical juncture for Japan, which faces slumping
       economic growth, a precarious financial system and a currency hovering
       at five-year lows against the dollar.
       Under such dire circumstances, Hashimoto would have been expected to
       face a shaky political future.
       John Neuffer, senior research fellow at Mitsui Research Institute, said
       passing the budget would position Hashimoto's ruling Liberal Democratic
       Party to do well in its next election test, an Upper House poll in July.
       ``If they manage to muddle along they'll do okay in the election because
       the opposition is such a wreck,'' Neuffer said.
       In December, just as Hashimoto's popularity hit a record low amid a
       rapidly declining economy, Ozawa disbanded his own party.
       The breakup, triggered by policy differences, set off a flurry of
       opposition realignments whose net result was to leave it in greater
       disarray and less of a threat to Hashimoto.
       The LDP has 256 seats in the decisive 500-seat lower house while under
       the new alignments the biggest opposition alliance has about 100
       legislators, the largest of which is Naoto Kan's Democratic Party which
       holds 69 seats.
       Before its breakup Shinshinto boasted 126 seats.
                   U.S. team heads for Asia to take stock of economies
       LONDON, Jan 10 (Reuters) - A team of U.S. officials headed by Deputy
       Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers headed for Asia on Saturday to carry
       out a consultation mission on the region's troubled tiger economies.
       The whirlwind tour will start in Singapore and include visits to
       Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia to assess the region's deepening
       economic turmoil, the U.S. Treasury Department said on Friday.
       A U.S. embassy official in Singapore told Reuters that Summers would
       arrive there on Sunday evening and leave for Indonesia on Monday
       Summers will call on Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong early on
       Monday, a Singapore government statement said.
       President Bill Clinton spoke late on Thursday to Goh and Indonesia's
       President Suharto to discuss the regional economic situation.
       Summers' trip will ``take stock of the economic situation, hear the
       authorities' current plans and express (President Clinton's) commitment
       to effective stabilisation efforts,'' the U.S. Treasury Department said.
       The delegation includes representatives from the State Department and
       the National Security Council.
       Plans for the hastily-assembled trip, announced on Thursday night by the
       White House, still were tentative and other countries may be added, the
       Treasury said on Friday. There was speculation that Summers might also
       visit Japan and China.
       U.S. officials have indicated Summers will press Asian leaders, notably
       in Indonesia, to follow austerity measures proposed by the International
       Monetary Fund (IMF) as conditions for billions of dollars promised in
       Indonesia moved into the forefront as a cause for concern after
       announcing a budget that analysts said appeared to ignore the remedies
       that the IMF had proposed to deal with its huge levels of debt.
       Indonesia's currency plummeted in value, financial markets dropped
       sharply and neighbouring Asian countries' markets also suffered from the
       spreading worry.
       On Friday, White House economic adviser Janet Yellen said the vigorous
       U.S. economy would weather the Asian turmoil, likely with the loss of
       only one-half percentage point to one percentage point of growth in
       But Clinton administration concern over Asian instability clearly was
       mounting, leading to the decision to send the delegation led by Summers
       for a firsthand look.
                        Economist Sachs slams IMF for Asia crisis
       MADRAS, India, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs on
       Saturday blamed the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for aggravating
       Asia's financial crisis, but said regional economies should recover
       before long.
       Sachs, director of the Harvard Institute of International Development,
       told an international business conference in the southern Indian city
       that the crisis in East Asian economies had resulted from a ``panic
       withdrawal'' of funds from their markets.
       ``My sense is that the IMF added to the panic,'' he said, adding that
       the fund had erred by using the same rescue techniques employed in the
       past instead of specific remedies tailored to the differing needs of
       Asian economies.
       ``The IMF took its normal remedy off the shelf and started to apply
       it,'' he said. He criticised the Fund's demand for bank closures in
       Indonesia, Thailand and South Korea as part of its recent bail-out
       The move sent wrong signals to the market, Sachs said.
       Asia's fast-growing ``tiger'' economies retreated last year after a
       sudden withdrawal of investment funds linked to high short-term debt
       ``It is a short-term crisis which if properly managed can lead to quick
       recovery,'' Sachs said.
       He said the East Asian countries had open economies, government
       surpluses, high savings rates and low inflation but international
       investors suddenly chose to focus on short-term debt as the key issue.
       Private foreign investors had followed their peers in jumping off the
       Asian markets without fundamental justification, he said. ``It was an
       unjustified race for the exit.''
       But recent initiatives by South Korean banks to roll over their credit
       and efforts to recapitalise banks are expected to help East Asian
       economies tide over the crisis, Sachs said.
       ``I believe that we need one major development to happen. That is for
       the IMF to rethink its basic approach to the crisis,'' Sachs said.
       ``When that happens I am confident there is a turnaround beginning.''
       ``We are beginning to see the glimmer of a more sensible approach to the
       crisis,'' he said. ``I see a reasonable chance in the next two weeks as
       the crisis is assessed.''
                 Indonesia opposition chief calls on president to resign
       New York Times News Service
       BANGKOK, Thailand -- Indonesia's leading opposition figure, Megawati
       Sukarnoputri, called on President Suharto Saturday to step down when his
       term ends in March and told a chanting crowd she was ready to succeed
       Her declaration came during a period of growing public demands for an
       end to Suharto's 32-year rule as the country's economy swirls in crisis.
       A crash in the currency Thursday touched off a wave of panic buying that
       continued Saturday.
       ``I hereby take this opportunity to declare my determination to become
       the leader of our nation and people -- if this is indeed the will and
       consensus of the people,'' she told about 500 supporters in the garden
       of her suburban Jakarta home.
       They raised their fists and shouted, ``Long live Mega!''
       But the possibilities for Ms. Megawati to assume power are limited, and
       her speech Saturday seemed to involve protest as much as politics. In
       March, Suharto is expected to be reappointed by a largely handpicked
       Over the last two years, Ms. Megawati -- the daughter of Indonesia's
       founding father, Sukarno -- has become the symbol of dissatisfaction
       with Suharto and the focus of the nation's suppressed grievances.
       But this was the first time she put herself forward as a candidate to
       succeed him in a country where open challenges to Suharto are not
       tolerated. Suppression of her growing popularity 18 months ago led to
       the worst rioting in Jakarta, the capital, in decades.
       Her rally was held as Indonesian officials sought to calm fears of food
       shortages that have been spurred by the worst economic crisis since
       Suharto took office in 1965.
       After three decades of almost-uninterrupted growth in the world's
       fourth-largest nation in population, economists predict a recession this
       year, along with widespread bankruptcies, huge unemployment and a
       likelihood of social unrest.
       ``We have more than enough rice,'' declared a headline in the daily
       Jakarta Post, as people continued for the third day to clear shelves of
       foodstuffs, fearing shortages, price rises and possible rationing.
       ``We are asking people to remain calm,'' the newspaper quoted the
       production and distribution minister, Hartarto, as saying. Many
       Indonesians use only one name.
       ``The government is working hard to take care of the needs of the people
       for basic consumer goods across the country.''
       Indonesia's economic slump, which began last fall, caused a panic last
       week when the currency tumbled after the announcement of an annual
       budget that was seen as failing to address the country's urgent needs.
       This raised fears that in response to government inaction, the
       International Monetary Fund might withdraw a $40 billion rescue package
       it organized last October.
       Many Indonesians took hope on Friday from the news that President
       Clinton had spoken by telephone with Suharto and was sending a
       delegation to Jakarta led by Deputy Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers.
       The two top officials of the IMF were also on their way to Indonesia,
       joining the attempt to shore up confidence and halt the country's
       downward spiral.
       The current crisis comes before a session in March of a People's
       Consultative Assembly that is expected to name Suharto to a seventh
       five-year term -- although he has not yet formally declared his
       intention to stay on.
       Ms. Megawati is not legally the leader of a political party and is
       therefore not eligible to be chosen by this assembly, and it was not
       clear how she could succeed Suharto.
       Nor was it clear how seriously she intended to push forward with her
       declaration of readiness to lead the nation.
       If Suharto were to step aside, his successor is more likely to come from
       within his government's power structure, including the politically
       influential military.
       Suharto took power from Ms. Megawati's father in 1965 after what the
       government described as an aborted Communist coup. As many as 500,000
       people died in widespread massacres of leftists and minorities.
       Since then, Suharto has pulled his country of 200 million people up from
       poverty to increasing prosperity, but he has severely limited civil and
       political rights and has choked off potential opposition.
       In early 1996, when Ms. Megawati began to play a more prominent role as
       the leader of one of the two legal quasi-opposition parties, the
       government backed a rival faction of the party and engineered her
       removal. Rioting that followed in July took at least five lives.
       Ms. Megawati's public presence has been muted since then, but the
       political landscape has suddenly changed, and she appeared to be moving
       to reassert herself Saturday.
       ``I call on all people to demand that Suharto is not renominated for a
       seventh term of office,'' she said.
       ``We must orchestrate a peaceful succession of national leadership so
       our nation can be saved from this crisis of confidence.''
       )1997 - 1998 Mercury Center. The information you receive online from
       Mercury Center is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
       The copyright laws prohibit any copying, redistributing, retransmitting,
       or repurposing of any copyright-protected material.

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