Five Things You Need to Know to Start Your Day
Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s former chief secretary, poses for a photograph in Hong Kong, China. (Photographer: Anthony Kwan/Bloomberg)

Five Things You Need to Know to Start Your Day

(Bloomberg) --

Hong Kong’s protesters aren’t satisfied with Carrie Lam’s concession, Boris Johnson’s early election bid flops, and Michael Burry of “The Big Short” fame sees a bubble ahead in passive index funds. Here are some of the things people in markets are talking about today.

Not Enough

Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam has at last scrapped the controversial China extradition bill that sparked the historic unrest that has gripped the city for three months — but it’s not enough for the protesters. Not only is the concession seen as “too little, too late,” pro-democracy activists say they still want for their other four demands met, most significantly a longstanding push to nominate and elect their own leaders — a proposal Beijing explicitly ruled out this week. China has, however, struck a softer tone in relation to the protests. Meanwhile, investors reacted with glee as stocks surged the most since 2011. Don’t get too excited yet though: most analysts saw the jump as a temporary bounce for a market that has been battered in recent months.

Markets To Lift

Stocks in Asia looked primed to start Thursday on the front foot, after a broad rally in global equities amid an improvement in investor sentiment. The dollar dropped the most since June. Futures signaled gains for shares in Japan and Australia, and Hong Kong contracts pointed lower after a 4% surge Wednesday when Carrie Lam formally withdrew legislation to allow extraditions to China. U.S. stocks closed higher and Treasuries slipped. The pound surged as Britain’s parliament rejected Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s demand for an early election and took further steps to block an imminent no-deal Brexit. Meanwhile, China signaled that a reduction in the amount of funds banks have to hold in reserve is on the way. The calls come as more and more economists lower their GDP forecasts for 2020 to below 6%. Elsewhere, oil climbed above $56 a barrel.

Early Election Flops

Boris Johnson has suffered another blow to his questionable Brexit strategy — his third defeat in just 24 hours. The U.K. prime minister failed in his attempt to trigger a snap general election after fewer than half of Parliament supported him. He needed at least two-thirds of members to back him up. Speaking after the loss, Johnson blamed his rival, opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, for refusing to support the proposed election. “He does not think he will win,” Johnson said. The prime minister’s call for a snap poll came after MPs moved decisively to stop Britain lurching out of the European Union without an agreement in eight weeks’ time. The decision looks like it could painfully drag out the timeline yet again. Former PM Theresa May, who stood down earlier this year, faced criticism from MPs for continually kicking the Brexit can down the road, so to speak. 

Burry’s Latest Bubble

The hero of “The Big Short” thinks index funds are like subprime CDOs. That means a lot, coming from someone who made his fortune and fame betting against CDOs before the crisis. Michael Burry’s thesis puts forward the idea of a bubble brewing in the index arena. He points to dangerous parallels between the recent flood of money into index funds and the pre-2008 bubble in collateralized debt obligations, the complex securities that almost destroyed the global financial system. “Like most bubbles, the longer it goes on, the worse the crash will be,” he said. That’s why Burry, who oversees about $340 million at Scion Asset Management in Cupertino, California, prefers  small-cap value stocks: they tend to be under-represented in passive funds.

Management Risks

Asset managers in Asia registered their slowest growth in seven years in 2018, as weaker equity markets damped performance and geopolitical turmoil caused volatility to spike. What’s more, asset-management firms’ profits could decline by around 10% over the coming five years. That’s according to McKinsey & Co. But that’s no reason for firms to shy away from investing in the region, they said. Firms just need to be aware of how to navigate some specific disruptions. Asia still dominates global growth, attracting 77% of flows, or about $1.5 trillion, in 2018, but McKinsey Senior Partner Jacob Dahl said companies should think about scaling up, and employ more fee flexibility through expanding product offerings, should they want to remain competitive.

What We’ve Been Reading

This is what’s caught our eye over the weekend.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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