WHY should Asian stock markets react negatively if America does not create any new jobs? This is the question on everybody's lips, especially those who have argued that Asia can stand alone and Asian growth has decoupled from American growth.

But the news on Sept 5 that most Asian stock market indices dropped appreciably because America did not create jobs in August, must in fact mean that Asia cannot stand alone and is not decoupled from the West. The West can still influence what happens in most Asian economies including Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand because these Asian economies are linked to America and Europe through the real and financial economy.

The real economy in many Asian economies are dependent on and in fact compete for greenfield investments in the form of foreign direct investments (FDI) from America and Europe. They are also dependent on America to absorb the manufactured exports from the multinational corporations (MNCs) operating from Asia. Asian stock markets and bond markets are also open to foreign portfolio investments that are managed by foreign hedge funds.

In fact, it has been said the peaks and troughs of Bursa Malaysia are determined by foreign portfolio investments and the floor of the Bursa Malaysia is maintained by government investments in government-linked companies (GLCs) listed on Bursa Malaysia.

A man looking at a stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo. The Nikkei 225 index added 0.23% to 8 ,741.16 points yesterday. — Reuters

The foreign ownership of stocks in Bursa Malaysia, for example, is quite high and amounts to about 22%. Recently the bond market in Malaysia got a boost because of the large inflow of foreign portfolio investments into the bond market, including the sukuk bond market.

The Asian banking system is also linked to the West as there are numerous branches of foreign banks in Asia and an increasing number of Asian banks are setting up branches in the West to participate in the financing of trade. The financial links are then kept alive by the banks and the capital markets.

If America does not create jobs then it means that the recovery from the recession is slow and this means that incomes will not grow and hence consumption will not grow in America.

Most of the exports of East Asian countries are destined to the USA and Europe although there has been some growth in exports to China. If American consumption does not grow then the demand for manufactured goods from countries like Malaysia will fall. If this happens investor confidence in the Malaysian economy might turn negative. If American jobs do not grow, then American GDP will not grow and may even fall if the recession gets worse.

It has been found that Asian economies are very sensitive to changes in the GDP of the USA. A study by, for instance, Bank of America (BoA) Merrill Lynch found that if the US GDP declines by 1%, it will have the impact of reducing GDP by 1.7% in Singapore; 0.8% in Malaysia; 0.4% in Thailand, 0.3% in the Philippines and Indonesia. It is clear then that the more an economy is dependent on trade as a percentage of its GDP, the more it is affected by an economic crisis in the USA. The sensitivity of GDP growth to changes in the GDP of the USA is then a function of the trade dependence of the Asian countries. Singapore, for example, is more trade dependent than Indonesia and hence its GDP is more sensitive to movements in the GDP of the USA.

If Asian countries are not able to keep up their export momentum, their incomes will drop and their companies may not generate more profits.

In fact profits might fall and this may lead investors to sell the stocks of the companies negatively affected by the fall in exports. If incomes go down as a result of the drop in external demand then savings will drop and the amount of funds available for margin financing of stocks might fall. Tighter loan conditions or credit conditions may persuade investors to move out of the market and this may cause stock prices and the market index to fall.

So American jobs mean an increase in aggregate demand for manufactured goods from Asia and this translates into increased incomes and increased demand for Asian stocks.

If Asian exports decline then the demand for Asian currencies will decline and this will trigger a depreciation of the local Asian currencies, which will mean that foreign portfolio managers will not be attracted by the prospects of an appreciating local currency.

If the money supply declines as a result of the drop in exports, then interest rates will rise and this will cause the price of stocks and bonds to tumble because there is an inverse relation between asset values and interest rates.

The rate of job creation in a crisis economy such as America, which is linked to the real and financial economies of Asia, has therefore a significant effect on the stock market performance of the dependent Asian economies.

In August, for example, foreign investors sold more than RM3.8bil worth of Malaysian stocks because of the fall in the S&P credit rating of America and the European debt crisis because of the expectation that the external demand for Malaysian exports will decline. As a result, the FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI Index fell 6.6% in August.


Posted by Mr Thx Thursday, September 22, 2011


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