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Ray Dalio on China investments amid tech, education crackdown

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Robot Xiao Cong hosts, talks and plays with students in class at a school in the Zhejiang province of China.

VCG | Visual China Group | Getty Images

Billionaire investor Ray Dalio says China’s recent regulatory crackdown has been misinterpreted as being “anti-capitalist” by some Western investors.

In a note on his LinkedIn account, Dalio said investors who think that way will “continue to miss out” on what’s happening in the Asian country.

He explained that he was referring to Western observers who have no direct contact with policymakers and “don’t follow in detail the patterns of the changes” by the government.

“They interpret moves like these two recent ones as the Communist Party leaders showing their true anti-capitalist stripes even though the trend over the last 40 years has clearly been so strongly toward developing a market economy with capital markets, with entrepreneurs and capitalists becoming rich,” Dalio said.

“As a result, they’ve missed out on what’s going on in China and probably will continue to miss out,” added Dalio, the founder of the world’s largest hedge fund Bridgewater Associates.

… don’t misinterpret these wiggles as changes in trends, and don’t expect this Chinese state-run capitalism to be exactly like Western capitalism.

Ray Dalio

Founder, Bridgewater Associates

Dalio urged investors to understand that Chinese regulators are “figuring out appropriate regulations” in the rapidly developing capital markets environment.

“So, when they are changing fast and aren’t clear, that causes these sorts of confusions, which can be misconstrued to be anti-capitalist moves,” Dalio wrote. 

“Assume such things will happen in the future and invest accordingly. But don’t misinterpret these wiggles as changes in trends, and don’t expect this Chinese state-run capitalism to be exactly like Western capitalism,” he concluded.

Clampdown on education a bid to reduce inequality 

The crackdown on the education sector is actually an attempt to reduce inequality in the country, as costs spiral in the huge tutoring and enrichment industry, some analysts said. 

Restrictions imposed on the sector include China barring tutoring for profit in core school projects, Reuters reported, citing a document that was distributed by China’s State Council. 

“I think the fundamental reason behind this crackdown is actually due to the tutoring and education training business (creating) social inequality, and behind the drop in birth rate,” Claudia Wang, partner of education practice at Oliver Wyman, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia.”

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Still, it remains to be seen if the new rules will really hold parents back.

Wang highlighted a segment of parents who are “self sufficient” and can well afford to pay, will seek out tutors despite the restrictions.

“Some of them have very high expectations. No matter how governments regulate the market, they’re not going to give up, they’ll find private tutors for their kids,” she added.

On the flip side, however, parents who are more “laid back” will be put off and just “give it up,” Wang added.

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Retail sales post surprise gain as consumers show strength despite delta fears

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Retail sales posted a surprise gain in August despite fears that escalating Covid cases and supply chain issues would hold back consumers, the Census Bureau reported Thursday.

Sales increased 0.7% for the month against the Dow Jones estimate of a decline of 0.8%.

A separate economic report showed that weekly jobless claims increased to 332,000 for the week ended Sept. 11, according to the Labor Department. The Dow Jones estimate was for 320,000.

Economists had expected that consumers cut back their activity as the delta variant continued its tear through the U.S. Persistent supply chain bottlenecks also were expected to hold back spending as in-demand goods were hard to find.

The pandemic’s impact did show up in sales at bars and restaurants, which were flat for the month though still 31.9% ahead of where they were a year ago.

However, sales were strong for most areas during the month, when back-to-school shopping generally results in a pickup in activity, especially so this year as schools prepared to welcome back students after a year of remote learning.

The headline number would have been even better without a 3.6% monthly drop in auto-related activity; excluding the sector, sales rose 1.8%, also well above the 0.1% expected gain.

With fears rising over the pandemic, shoppers turned online, with nonstore sales jumping 5.3%. Furniture and home furnishing also saw a healthy 3.7% increase, while general merchandise sales increased 3.5%.

Electronics and appliances stores saw a 3.1% drop, while sporting goods and music stores fell 2.7%.

The numbers overall reflected a more resilient consumer, with sales up 15.1% from the same period a year ago.

The retail upside surprise was tempered slightly with a disappointing read on jobless claims.

Initial filings increased 20,000 from a week ago after posting a fresh pandemic-era low. Still, the four-week moving average, which accounts for weekly volatility, declined to 335,750, a drop of 4,250 that brought the figure to its lowest point since March 14, 2020, at the pandemic’s onset.

The claims total came under heavy seasonal adjustments, as the unadjusted figure showed a drop in filings of 23,331 to 262,619.

Continuing claims also declined, falling by 187,000 to 2.66 million, also a new low since Covid hit. The four-week moving average nudged lower to about 2.81 million.

However, those receiving compensation under all programs actually increased just ahead of the expiration of enhanced federal jobless benefits. That total, though Aug. 28 and thus before the expiration, rose by 178,937 to 12.1 million.

In a separate economic report, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve reported that its manufacturing activity index rose 11 points to 30.7, representing the percentage difference between firms reporting expanding activity against those seeing contraction. That number was well ahead of the Dow Jones estimate of 18.7.

This is breaking news. Please check back here for updates.

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StanChart chairman still sees opportunity in China as regulations tighten

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Tourists visit the Bund waterfront area on May 10, 2021 in Shanghai, China.

Wang Gang | Visual China Group | Getty Images

But overall, I think China continues to be a tremendous source of opportunity for the private sector.

Jose Vinals

Chairman of Standard Chartered

“There’ve been some articles in the media about — is China becoming uninvestable? I don’t think so,” Jose Vinals told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble on Wednesday.

A number of sectors may be “a little bit more challenged now” and investors need to look more carefully at what investments they are making, he said.

“But overall, I think China continues to be a tremendous source of opportunity for the private sector,” he said, pointing out Beijing has slowly opened up its financial sector, granting some international firms access.

The regulatory crackdown in China has been interpreted differently by big names in the financial world, including Ray Dalio, George Soros and David Roche.

Inflation expectations

Separately, Vinals said he doesn’t expect inflation to be a big problem.

“I still subscribe to the view that inflation that we’re seeing in the United States and in other Western countries in particular … has an important transitory component,” he said.

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Fed Chair Jerome Powell similarly believes that inflation will soon subside and has said he wants to see more strong employment reports before the central bank starts paring back its bond purchases.

Vinals said many Western countries are operating below their maximum economic potential, adding the Federal Reserve is likely to hike rates early next year.

“My baseline is that inflation will not be a big problem. But there is a risk that it may become more of a problem than we think,” he said, acknowledging that it would “complicate things” for the world.

“But I see [inflation] more as a downside risk to the global economic recovery, than as the base case for the economic outlook,” he said.

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France rebukes Australia after it ditches submarine deal

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PARIS, FRANCE – JUNE 15: French President Emmanuel Macron (R) welcomes Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison (L) prior to a working dinner at the Elysee Presidential Palace on June 15, 2021.

Chesnot | Getty Images News | Getty Images

LONDON — France is not holding back showing its disappointment with Australia after it abruptly ended a submarine contract in order to sign a new deal with the U.S. and U.K.

“It was a stab in the back. We had established a relationship of trust with Australia. This trust has been betrayed,” Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s minister for foreign affairs, told radio station FranceInfo Thursday morning.

Australia had signed a contract with French shipbuilder Naval Group in 2016 to build a new fleet, at a cost of $40 billion, according to Reuters. Both sides had confirmed the deal a couple of weeks ago. However, Canberra has now decided to scrap that agreement and join forces with the U.S. and Britain.

Late on Wednesday, the three nations announced a new security partnership where Australia will receive new nuclear-powered submarines. The deal with France would have provided conventional submarines.

“We intend to build these submarines in Adelaide in close cooperation with the U.K. and the U.S. But let me be clear, Australia is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons,” Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Twitter.

He added that France is a “good partner” and the new deal was motivated by “a changed strategic environment,” according to France 24.

U.S. President Joe Biden made sure to reference France when presenting the new deal on Wednesday, saying the European nation will remain a key partner in the Indo-Pacific region.

However, these words are unlikely to appease the ill feelings in France.

“The American choice which leads to the removal of an ally and a European partner like France from structuring a partnership with Australia, at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region … marks an absence of coherence that France can only observe and regret,” France’s ministers of foreign affairs and the armed forces said in a joint statement on Thursday.

The statement also said that the latest developments intensify the need for European strategic autonomy — the idea that the EU should become more independent with its defense and security policies.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, is due to present its strategy for the Indo-Pacific region on Thursday afternoon.

 

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