Economist and Hedge Fund Manager Shayne Heffernan of www.livetradingnews.com takes a look at ASEAN, Jaya Ancol, Sun Life, UMW Holdings, PTT, Noble Group
This week is heavy on economic data, especially on the housing front. Some of the numbers have been affected by Superstorm Sandy, which hit the U.S. East Coast more than three weeks ago, killing more than 100 people in the United States alone and leaving billions of dollars in damages.
The housing data, though, could continue to confirm a rebound in the sector that is seen as a necessary step to unlock spending and lower the stubbornly high unemployment rate.
Tuesday’s S&P/Case-Shiller home price index for September is expected to show the eighth straight month of increases, extending the longest continuous string of gains since prices were boosted by a homebuyer tax credit in 2009 and 2010.
New home sales for October, due on Wednesday, and October pending home sales data, due on Thursday, are also expected to show a stronger housing market.
Other data highlights this week include durable goods orders for October and consumer confidence for November on Tuesday and the Chicago Purchasing Managers Index on Friday.
At Friday’s close, the S&P 500 wrapped up its second-best week of the year with a 3.6 percent gain. Encouraging economic data this week could confirm that regardless of the ups and downs that the fiscal cliff could bring, the market’s fundamentals are solid.
The CBOE Volatility Index, known as the VIX, Wall Street’s favorite barometer of market anxiety that usually moves in an inverse relationship with the S&P 500, is in a long-term decline with its 200-day moving average at its lowest in five years. But the VIX could spike if dealings in Washington begin to stall.
Many in the market agree there will be some sort of agreement that will fuel a rally, but the road there will be full of political landmines as Democrats and Republicans dig in on positions defended during the recent election.
Liberals want tax increases on the wealthiest Americans while protecting progressive advances in healthcare, while conservatives make a case for deep cuts in programs for the poor and a widening of the tax base to raise revenues without lifting tax rates.
The Communist Party of China (CPC) outlined development objectives for the country for the next eight years at the recently concluded 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.
It vowed to double China’s 2010 gross domestic product (GDP) and per capita income for both of urban and rural residents by 2020.
China’s economy grew by 7.4 percent year-on-year in the third quarter, slowing for the seventh straight quarter and down from 7.6 percent in the second quarter and 8.1 percent in the first quarter, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
Commodity supplier Noble Group reported a third-quarter net profit of US$75.2 million compared with a loss of US$17.5 million a year earlier.
The improved performance came on the back of higher volumes of coal, oil and gas, it said in a statement to the Singapore Exchange (SGX).
The SGX-listed firm said revenue grew 9 per cent from a year ago to US$22.7 billion.
It added that it retained a strong balance sheet with liquidity headroom of US$5.9 billion at the end of September 2012.
The company said the growth in revenue and profit was primarily due to the continued expansion of its Energy Coal and Carbon Complex and Oil, Gas and Power Divisions.
At the same time, its Metals, Minerals and Ores segments “proved the resilience of its business model yet again”.
Revenue from the energy division rose 29 percent, while volumes were up 20 percent.
“We expect contributions from the newly-acquired gas and power assets to gain traction as we move into 2013.”
Noble’s sugar processing operations in Brazil also performed well, it said, helping offset losses in grains and oilseeds.
PTT Plc is considering building a huge petrochemical and refining complex in Vietnam, according to a statement released Thursday by the provincial government of the Vietnamese central province of Binh Dinh.
Sukrit Surabotsopon, PTT’s senior executive vice-president for petrochemicals and refining, presented a pre-feasibility study to top provincial officials on November 22.
The complex, in the Nhon Hoi Economic Zone of coastal Binh Dinh province, is scheduled to have a capacity of 660,000 b/d or 36 million mt/year. “PTT, through initial studies, has found that the Nhon Hoi Economic Zone is suitable for building a mega petrochemical and refining complex,” the statement said.
Total investment is expected near $28.7 billion, which is projected to be funded by PTT, Vietnamese companies and investors in other countries, it added.
UMW Holdings Bhd's net profit more than doubled to RM299.1mil in the third quarter ended Sept 30 from RM146.9mil a year ago, boosted by the turnaround in both the oil and gas, manufacturing and engineering segments.
Its revenue rose 7.4% to RM3.96bil from RM3.69bil a year ago. Earnings per share increased to 25.60 sen from 12.60 sen previously.
UMW has declared a second interim single-tier dividend of 30% or 15 sen per share of 50 sen each, amounting to a net dividend payable of about RM175.2mil for the year ending Dec 31, 2012 to be paid on Feb 8 next year.
For the nine months ended Sept 30, UMW posted a net profit of RM743.4mil against RM401.7mil last year, which was adversely affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Revenue for the period was higher at RM11.79bil from RM10.07bil a year ago.
“Based on internal key financial indicators and the current economic outlook for the fourth quarter of this year and bearimg unforeseen circumstances, the board is confident of achieving its 2012 headline key performance indicators of a minimum annual return on shareholders' funds of 10% and annual dividend payout ratio of at least 50% of net profit attributable to shareholders after excluding unrealised profits,” UMW said in the notes accompanying its financial results.
For the third quarter ended Sept 30, UMW said the sale of Toyota vehicles improved by7.6% or 1,879 units compared with the same quarter last year while revenue went up to RM2.93bil from 2.61bil last year.
However, for the third quarter of this year, Perodua recorded a reduction of 2.9% or 1,400 units in vehicle sales compared with the same quarter last year.
Bank Negara Malaysia's tighter guidelines on responsible lending continue to affect sales of its entry-level Viva model.
For the same period, 73,577 Toyota and Perodua vehicles were sold, representing 46.8% of the total industry volume of 157,223 units.
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Pembangunan Jaya Ancol, a recreational park operator in North Jakarta, plans to sell Rp 300 billion ($31 million) in bonds next month to finance its expansion plans.
The company plans to build residential houses and coastal villas inside the Ancol park complex in North Jakarta. Proceeds from the bond sale will be used to boost the company’s capital in a unit, the company said in the brief prospectus published in Bisnis Indonesia newspaper on Friday.
The company plans to offer the notes to investors on Dec. 19-20, and they are scheduled to list on the Indonesia Stock Exchange on Dec. 26, the prospectus showed. The bonds will mature in three and five years. The company did not provide a size for each tenor.
The company has named Indo Premier Securities and Mandiri Securities as financial adviser for the debt sale.
The Jakarta government owns 72 percent of Jaya Ancol, with 18 percent owned by Pembangunan Jaya and 10 percent by other investors.
Shares in the company rose 1.2 percent to Rp 870 on Friday in Jakarta.
Many Indonesian companies and financial institutions are selling bonds to capitalize on low borrowing costs in the country. Bank Indonesia has kept its benchmark interest rate at a record-low 5.75 percent since February.
Bank Himpunan Saudara 1906, a mid-sized Indonesian lender, also plans to raise Rp 300 billion through selling five- and seven-year bonds next week.
The lender will sell Rp 100 billion in five-year notes at a coupon of 11.75 percent. It will sell Rp 200 billion in seven-year subordinated debt at a coupon rate of 12.625 percent, the company said in a brief prospectus published in Investor Daily newspaper on Thursday.
Bank Saudara, partly held by the Medco Group, hired Victoria Securities Indonesia and Woori Korindo Securities Indonesia as the underwriters for the debt sale.
Sun Life Financial Philippines expects to report a sharp rise in revenues this year as sales of its insurance and investment products surged, aided by the country’s booming economy.
In an interview, Sun Life president and CEO Riza Mantaring said that preliminary figures point to a growth rate of “over 80 percent” in sales for products and services of the insurer as the end of 2012 draws near.
“The growth in Sun Life’s premium income from the Philippines is up because of both organic growth and the acquisition of Sun Life-Grepa,” she said, referring to the former Grepalife Financial Inc. of the Yuchengco family in which the insurer acquired a 49-percent stake last year.
“We’re above target for both Sun Life and Sun Life-Grepa,” she said.
The growth in the local unit of the Canadian insurance giant is pacing the growth of the Philippine insurance industry which, Mantaring pointed out, is also on the rise.
“The whole industry is showing strong growth,” she said. “The economy is doing extremely well, and this is the third year in a row that the insurance industry is growing by an average of 30 percent.”
The Sun Life chief noted that the growth of the industry is still being driven, for the most part, by heavy demand from the market for variable universal life (VUL) products.
In a VUL plan, premiums and death benefits are flexible and the fund value depends on the performance of the funds chosen by the policyholder.
“The [VUL] market is so strong, and there are two factors driving it,” she said.
The first one, according to Mantaring, is the prevailing low interest rate regime, which is making traditional investment products more difficult to sell because of the declining yields.
“In other markets, they understand the need for [insurance] protection, but here, there’s still the mindset that the savings component has to be there,” she said, in explaining why VUL products are more popular than traditional insurance policies. “We need more financial literacy because insurance is a need by itself.”
The other factor boosting Sun Life’s VUL sales is the strong performance of local equities and bond markets.
Last year, Sun Life Philippines became the largest insurer in the Philippines in terms of premium sales, as it collected P13.9 billion worth of premiums in 2011, 31 percent more than the P10.6 billion yielded in 2010, making this the highest in the company’s 117 years in the Philippines.
Mantaring expressed confidence that the company’s No. 1 position would be maintained in 2012, but said that the final tally would only be available once the complete sales figures for 2012 are presented.
“We’re quite positive and hopeful on the Philippine market,” she said, when asked about the prospects of the local economy going forward. “From an external perspective, [foreign businesses] are also very positive.”
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