back to blog homepage

Earnings Season Kicks Off, Plus the Story You Haven’t Heard

Earnings season kicked off tonight with Alcoa reporting better than expected earnings and stronger demand. Was it from a stronger than expected Europe? A China that has engineered a soft landing? Not sure as I won’t look the report over until tomorrow. Alcoa is not the biggest company in the world, but they are always the first to report which makes them one that everyone watches.

Even more important is that CSX, the rail line, reported much stronger than anticipated domestic demand. Maybe that double dip recession everyone seems to have written into our future is not as much of a sure thing as everyone has us believing.

But its early in earnings season and two reports do not a season make.

However, much more interesting are these two stories from AP and Bloomberg out of China of the downgrade of the US Dollar from AAA status to just 13th most safe currency and treasury debt in the world. This is a fairly critical story, and one that you aren’t hearing much about yet, but keep an eye on it as it could have as-yet unknown impact on foreign currency relationships.

Chinese credit firm says US worse risk than China
By Joe Mcdonald
July 11, 2010

BEIJING (AP) —
A Chinese firm that aims to compete with Western rating agencies declared Washington a worse credit risk than Beijing in its first report on government debt Sunday amid efforts by China to boost its influence in global markets.

Dagong International Credit Rating Co.’s verdict was a break with Moody’s, Standard & Poors and Fitch, which say U.S. government debt is the world’s safest. Dagong said it rated Washington below China and 11 other countries such as Switzerland and Australia due to high debt and slow growth. It warned the U.S. is among countries that might face rising borrowing costs and risks of default.

The report comes amid complaints by Beijing that Western rating agencies fail to give China full credit for its economic strength, boosting borrowing costs — a criticism echoed by some foreign analysts. At June’s G-20 summit in Toronto, President Hu Jintao called for the creation of a more accurate system.

Dagong, founded in 1994 to rate Chinese corporate debt, says it is privately owned and pledges to make its judgments impartially. But in a sign of official support, its announcement Sunday took place at the headquarters of the Xinhua News Agency, the ruling Communist Party’s main propaganda outlet.

Dagong’s chairman, Guan Jianzhong, said the current Western-led rating system is to blame for the global crisis and Europe’s debt woes. He said it “provides the wrong credit-rating information” and fails to reflect changing conditions.

“Dagong wants to make realistic and fair ratings,” he said.

Beijing has more than $900 billion invested in U.S. Treasury debt and has appealed to Washington to avoid hurting the value of the dollar or China’s holdings as it spends heavily on its stimulus.

Dagong’s report covered 50 governments and gave emerging economies such as Indonesia and Brazil better marks than those given by Western agencies, citing high growth. Along with the United States, some other developed nations such as Britain and France also received lower ratings than those of other agencies.

Dagong rated U.S. government debt AA with a negative outlook, below the firm’s top AAA rating. It warned that Washington, along with Britain, France and some other countries, might have trouble raising more money if they allow fiscal risks to get out of control.

“The interest rate on debt instruments will run up rapidly and the default risk of these countries will grow even larger,” its report said.

Dagong said it hopes to “break the monopoly” of Moody’s Investors Service, Standard & Poors and Fitch Ratings. Their reputation suffered after they gave high ratings to mortgage-linked investments that soured when the U.S. housing market collapsed in 2007.

Manoj Kulkarni, head of credit research for SJS Markets in Hong Kong, said that despite the possibility China’s government might try to influence Dagong’s decisions, there is room in the market for a Chinese agency because Western firms’ credibility is badly tarnished.

“As long as there is another opinion and it is backed up, I don’t really think a China-based company will have an incentive to rate, say, Indonesia any better than a U.S.-based rating agency,” Kulkarni said.

“If it comes to Chinese government-related companies, maybe there might be a conflict of interest, and investors would have to be aware of that fact,” he said.

Chinese leaders have appealed repeatedly to Washington to safeguard their country’s U.S. holdings and avoid taking steps in response to the global crisis that might weaken the dollar or the value of American assets.

Dagong rated China AA-plus with a stable outlook — higher than Moody’s A1 and S&P’s A-plus — due to rapid growth and relatively low debt.

Ahead of it were seven countries including Switzerland, Australia and Singapore that received the top rating of AAA, the same as those from Western agencies. Canada and the Netherlands also ranked above China…

Bloomberg
China Wins Higher Rating Than U.S. in First Ranking
July 12, 2010

July 12 (Bloomberg) — A Chinese company gave its own government a higher debt rating than the U.S., U.K. and Japan in the nation’s first sovereign ranking because of widening deficits in the developed world.

Dagong Global Credit Rating Co. rated U.S. government debt AA with a negative outlook, and China AA+ with a stable outlook, the company said in a report covering 50 nations published on its website. The yuan-denominated rating is higher than Japan’s AA- and the same as Germany’s, Beijing-based Dagong said…

Dagong’s rating report gave “markedly” different valuations to 27 countries compared with those of Moody’s Investors Service, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings, the statement said. The euro has slumped 12 percent this year on concern that Europe’s fiscal crisis may expand beyond Greece and Spain to Germany and France.

“This marks a new beginning for reforming the irrational international rating system,” Chairman Guan Jianzhong said in a statement. “The essential reason for the global financial crisis and the Greek crisis is that the current international rating system cannot truly reflect repayment ability.”…

Don’t be blinded by the main stream media – the dollar bear market is alive – it was just sidelined by the sovereign debt crisis in Europe.

Mark