4 December 2018
ASEAN morning bytes

General market tone: Slight risk-on.

After the euphoria about the truce between China and the US over the weekend, investors are now digesting the 90-day reprieve with details apparently being elusive. This could cause some investors to hold off on taking substantial bets while clarifying the details and with the OPEC meeting looming on the 6th.

International theme: The details on the US-China deal are proving to be elusive as euphoria fades

  • Global markets rallied on Monday but the initial rally may be tempered on Tuesday with investors now seeing conflicting reports on the details of the 90-day truce between China and the US.  Market players will likely trade cautiously ahead of the OPEC meeting and until after details of the agreement between Washington and Beijing are ironed out. 
Thai inflation returns to sub 1% territory

Lower inflation coupled with slowing GDP growth provide more reasons for the Bank of Thailand to leave the monetary policy on hold in December. But expect food to be displacing transport as the key driver of inflation in 2019

Lower oil price have kicked in

Breaking the brief 1% plus trend, the consumer price inflation dipped to 0.9% year on year in November from 1.2% in October while core inflation eased by half a percentage point to 0.7%. We anticipated no change in both measures from their October levels.

What stood out the most was a sharp slowdown in the transport component to 1.6% in November from 3.9% in October as the recent plunge in global crude oil prices works its way through to domestic fuel prices. Lower transport inflation more than offset higher food inflation of 1.0% than 0.3% in October, while inflation in other components remained mostly unchanged over the course of two months.

We maintain our forecast of 1.1% inflation for 2018. 

G20: Don’t cry victory yet

The ceasefire between the world’s largest trading nations is positive because the signals coming from the preceding negotiations were rather pessimistic. The ceasefire means that the planned elevation of import tariffs by the US are off for the next three months. But there is a long way to go before there is a real deal

Little time for a deal

Although the deal between China and the US is mainly a question of buying time, China has committed itself to import more industrial, agricultural products and energy from the US.

If President Trump is consistent in his demands, the reduction of the bilateral trade deficit has to be more than China’s offer of US$70bn last spring, which was not good enough for Trump. Trump has demanded a halving of the deficit, which means a reduction of US$190bn. It is not clear how far China is prepared to go.

Another reason to wait before cheering the end of the trade war is that 90 days to work out a broad agreement is very short. Especially because the agreement should also encompass a deal on more sensitive issues like the theft of intellectual property and forced technology transfers in joint ventures. Most wide-ranging bilateral trade agreements take years to negotiate.

A positive is that both parties did not say that China's ‘Made in China 2025’- strategy will be part of the coming negotiations. This could mean that Trump has accepted that this is a ‘no go’ for China.

Uncertainty continues for WTO

On the WTO there is just a commitment to talk about reforms. No steps made on the content side, so it is too early to say whether a deal is possible. Trump will keep the WTO under high pressure by blocking the appointment of judges for the appellate body as long as his demands for reforms are not met. If there are no new judges before 1 December 2019, it will paralyse the WTO.

This approach fits the strategy that we have seen in all the trade battles that President Trump has started thus far. And it means that the closer we get to the December deadline, the larger the pressure will become on the other countries that are more attached to the survival of the WTO, to give in to Trump's demands.

In six months world leaders will discuss the progress of reforming the WTO at their next G20 meeting. Developed nations want China and other large emerging economies to give up their status as ‘developing nation’ within the WTO and the benefits that come along with it. China is thus far not prepared to give in. Once again, China faces a difficult choice in the months to come: does it want to call President Trumps bluff and risk that the US paralyses the WTO? Or will China compromise to save the international guard dog of trade, an institution that watches over a framework that helped China, like many other countries, to increase living standards of its people

Reading time around 4 minutes

Good MornING Asia - 4 December 2018

After the euphoria about the truce between China and the US over the weekend, investors seem to be now digesting the 90-day reprieve. 

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