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Five Things - Asia

Questions are raised over Oracle's TikTok deal. A global vaccine initiative moves into its next phase. The Fed says America's economic recovery has a long way to go. Here are some of the things people in markets are talking about today.

Deal in Doubt

All of a sudden, Oracle's TikTok takeover is looking less certain. U.S. President Donald Trump said he wouldn't approve the deal if the video-sharing app's Chinese parent, ByteDance, retains control of the new entity, TikTok Global. Shortly after he made the comments, the Chinese government signaled its own reluctance through state-owned media. Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times, tweeted that Beijing would likely reject the deal "because the agreement would endanger China's national security, interests and dignity." As things stand, the deal would leave ByteDance with as much as an 80% share of TikTok Global. Proponents have said that because of the closely held company's U.S. investors, Americans would have slightly more than a 50% stake in the new company.

Vaccine Advance

An $18 billion initiative to deploy future Covid-19 vaccines around the world is moving into the next phase with 156 countries and regions taking part in the program — but China and the U.S. are staying on the sidelines, at least for now. Thirty-eight governments are expected to sign up to the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or Covax, in the coming days. The goal of the program is to have 2 billion doses available by the end of 2021. Countries that have already snapped up future supplies will have an opportunity to hedge the risk of backing unsuccessful vaccine candidates, while the program offers a lifeline for poorer nations that can't otherwise afford vaccines. Beijing has focused on cutting one-on-one deals for vaccine doses and a number of other countries including the U.S. are crafting their own deals to obtain vaccines, sparking concern that poorer regions will be left behind. Here's where the race to find a vaccine stands

Weaker Markets 

Asian stocks are set to open weaker on Tuesday after U.S. equities ended lower on concerns over prospects for economic stimulus and increasing coronavirus cases. Bonds rose and futures fell in Australia and Hong Kong. After approaching the threshold that many investors consider to be a market correction, the S&P 500 came off session lows as the Nasdaq 100 climbed. The dollar rose the most in three months against its major peers. Japan is shut for a holiday and cash Treasuries won't trade until the London open. Oil declined the most in almost two weeks and gold tumbled.

Long and Uncertain

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the U.S. economy is improving but has a long way to go before fully recovering from the coronavirus pandemic. "Many economic indicators show marked improvement," Powell said Monday in the text of testimony he's scheduled to deliver before the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday. "Both employment and overall economic activity, however, remain well below their pre-pandemic levels, and the path ahead continues to be highly uncertain," he said. In his testimony, Powell repeated earlier remarks that more is required from both fiscal and monetary policy to prevent the pandemic from causing long-term damage to the economy.

Xi's Anti-Poverty Push

Soon, China is likely to announce that President Xi Jinping's promise to eradicate extreme rural poverty by the end of 2020 has been fulfilled. Success will help Xi show the public that the Communist Party is delivering concrete economic gains, which is crucial to maintaining the legitimacy of its one-party rule. It also marks a milestone ahead of next year's 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party's founding. Official data show Xi is getting close: The number of extremely poor rural residents fell to 5.5 million last year from almost 56 million in 2015. Still, the country faces a more immediate problem after the pandemic left millions of migrant workers without a job. While the economy is now recovering, consumption is still well below where it was in 2019 and the rebound likely hasn't replaced lost income for many in rural poor areas. 

What We've Been Reading

This is what's caught our eye over the past 24 hours:

And finally, here's what Adam's interested in this morning

Investors around the world are getting to grips with testing valuations in many pockets of the global equities market. With central banks pulling down interest rates in the wake of the pandemic, money flowing into stocks is increasingly looking for a way to hedge against future falls. With yields so low in government bond markets across much of the developed world, there is a need to put extra hedges on the equity component of your portfolio.

In China, as this chart from my colleague Molly Dai shows, the value of short positions (those that profit when stocks prices go down) has climbed to its highest level on record.

The picture is one of increased nervousness on the part of traders in the Chinese market. With the Shanghai Composite index sitting just above a key support level at 3,300 points, it may be worth tracking to see if this increase in stock lent out — typically for shorting — continues to grow.

Adam Haigh is an editor covering global markets for Bloomberg News in Sydney.


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