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what it means for Asia junk bond investors



Real estate and related industries account for more than a quarter of China’s economy, according to Moody’s estimates.

CFOTO | Future Publishing | Getty Images

China’s real estate bonds were once key performance drivers for Asia junk bond funds, but the market share from property bonds has fallen as a result of the country’s property debt crisis.

As a result, investors of high-yield bonds in Asia must brace for lower returns, investment analysts tell CNBC.

The market capitalization of those real estate bonds has fallen from an average of over 35% to around 15% within some Asia high-yield funds as the debt crisis drove down prices of property bonds, according to portfolio managers and analysts who spoke to CNBC.  

Property bonds traditionally form the bulk of the Asia high-yield universe. But as their market value fell, their share in the overall Asian junk bond market shrank as well. Consequently, fund managers turned to other kinds of bonds to make up for those losses, and investors in these high-yield funds might not be able to find the same kind of returns again.

High-yield bonds, also known as junk bonds, are non-investment grade debt securities that carry bigger default risks — and therefore higher interest rates to compensate for those risks.

“The share of China real estate has fallen substantially,” said Carol Lye, associate portfolio manager at investment manager Brandywine Global.With China real estate bond supply down by near 50% year-on-year, the market remains pretty broken with only selected high quality developers able to refinance.”

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The drop is mainly due to a combination of lower bond supply and defaulted bonds falling out of the indexes, according to financial research firm Morningstar.

“As a result, China real estate’s importance in [the] Asian credit universe is shrinking,” said Patrick Ge, research analyst at Morningstar.

Last December, the world’s most indebted property developer China Evergrande defaulted on its debt. The fallout from that crisis spread to other firms in China’s property sector. Other developers showed signs of strain — some missed interest payments, while others defaulted on their debt altogether.

Fund managers are pivoting to other areas to fill the gap left by China real estate, but analysts say these replacements are unlikely to offer better yields than their predecessors.

“Shifting to other sectors and countries [away from the very high yielding China property space] certainly reduces relative yield [to the index] in the portfolio,” said Elisabeth Colleran, emerging markets debt portfolio manager at Loomis Sayles.

“However, managers need to think about what yield can actually be achieved with the loss from a default,” she told CNBC.

With lower supply from China, interest in Indonesian high-yield has grown since the China property crisis.

Carol Lye

associate portfolio manager, Brandywine Global

In the past, funds that were more overweight on China’s real estate bonds outperformed those that had less weighting on Chinese property bonds, Ge said — but that is not the case anymore.

“It’s unlikely that this will be the case going forwards, at least for the short-term given the sector’s ongoing liquidity struggles and damaged reputation,” he said.

China’s massive real estate sector has come under pressure in the past year as Beijing clamped down on developers’ high reliance on debt and a surge in housing prices.

Filling the gap

As fund managers for Asia’s high-yield bonds move their money out of China property, the areas they are diversifying into include the renewable energy and metals sectors in India, according to Morningstar.

Some are also seeing potential upside in real estate in Indonesia, which they expect to benefit from low mortgage rates and extended government stimulus to support the Covid recovery, said Ge.

“With lower supply from China, interest in Indonesian high-yield has grown since the China property crisis,” said Lye of Brandywine Global.Indonesia has been relatively more stable as it benefits from commodities, there is housing demand and inflation has not gone beyond control.”

Asia high-yield portfolios in Southeast Asia are likely to be less risky for investors, as they have “relatively stable” credit quality and lower default risk, according to a recent Moody’s report.

“Portfolio managers will have to rely on their bottom-up credit selection capabilities more than they have in the past to select the winners/survivors within this sector,” Morningstar’s Ge told CNBC. Bottom-up investing is an approach that focuses on analyzing individual stocks, as opposed to macro economic factors.

Going into other sectors is a “healthy” development as it helps to diversify the portfolios of investors, said Lye, who nonetheless warned it comes with other risks.

Road ahead for developers

China’s property debt crisis has resulted in plummeting investor confidence in the ability of its developers to repay their debt, after they received a spate of ratings downgrades.

Real estate firms there have also been facing challenges in attracting overseas financing — and that will keep liquidity and refinancing risks high, according to ratings agency Moody’s in a June report.

“The US dollar bond market remains largely shut to Asian [high yield] companies, raising concerns over companies’ ability to refinance their large upcoming maturities,” said Annalisa Dichiara, a senior vice president at Moody’s.

Moody’s expects more China real estate developers to default on debt this year — half of the 50 names that the agency covers are under review for downgrade, or have a negative outlook.

Data released earlier in June showed China’s real estate market remains subdued.

Real estate investment during the first five months of this year fell by 4% from the same period a year ago, despite growth overall in fixed asset investment, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics.

Property prices across 70 Chinese cities remained muted in May, up 0.1% from a year ago, according to Goldman Sachs’ analysis of official data.

— CNBC’s Evelyn Cheng contributed to this report.

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Tim Draper predicts bitcoin will reach $250,000 despite FTX collapse



Tim Draper, founder of Draper Associates, onstage at the Web Summit 2022 tech conference.

Ben McShane | Sportsfile via Getty Images

Venture capitalist Tim Draper thinks bitcoin will hit $250,000 a coin by the middle of 2023, even after a bruising year for the cryptocurrency marked by industry failures and sinking prices.

Draper previously predicted that bitcoin would top $250,000 by the end of 2022, but in early November, at the Web Summit tech conference in Lisbon, he said it would take until June 2023 for this to materialize.

He reaffirmed this position Saturday when asked how he felt about his price call following the collapse of FTX.

“I have extended my prediction by six months. $250k is still my number,” Draper told CNBC via email.

Bitcoin would need to rally nearly 1,400% from its current price of around $17,000 for Draper’s prediction to come true. The cryptocurrency has plunged over 60% since the start of the year.

Digital currencies are in the doldrums as tighter monetary policy from the Fed and a chain reaction of bankruptcies at major industry firms including Terra, Celsius and FTX have put intense pressure on prices.

FTX’s demise has also worsened an already severe liquidity crisis in the industry. Crypto exchange Gemini and lender Genesis are among the firms said to be impacted by the fallout from FTX’s insolvency.

Last week, veteran investor Mark Mobius told CNBC that bitcoin could crash to $10,000 next year, a more than 40% plunge from current prices. The co-founder of Mobius Capital Partners correctly called the drop to $20,000 this year.

Nevertheless, Draper is convinced that bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency, is set to rise in the new year.

“I expect a flight to quality and decentralized crypto like bitcoin, and for some of the weaker coins to become relics,” he told CNBC.

What is DeFi, and could it upend finance as we know it?

Draper, the founder of Draper Associates, is one of Silicon Valley’s best-known investors. He made successful bets on tech companies including Tesla, Skype and Baidu.

In 2014, Draper purchased 29,656 bitcoins confiscated by U.S. Marshals from the Silk Road dark web marketplace for $18.7 million. That year, he predicted the price of bitcoin would go to $10,000 in three years. Bitcoin went on to climb close to $20,000 in 2017.

Some of Draper’s other bets have soured, however. He invested in Theranos, a health startup that falsely claimed it was able to detect diseases with a few drops of blood. Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos’ founder, has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for fraud.

‘The dam is about to break’

Draper’s rationale for bitcoin’s breakout next year is that there remains a massive untapped demographic for bitcoin: women.

“My assumption is that, since women control 80% of retail spending and only 1 in 7 bitcoin wallets are currently held by women, the dam is about to break,” Draper said.

Crypto has long had a gender disparity problem. According to a survey conducted for CNBC and Acorns by Momentive, twice as many men as women invest in digital assets (16% of men vs. 7% of women).

“Retailers will save roughly 2% on every purchase made in bitcoin vs dollars,” Draper added. “Once retailers realize that that 2% can double their profits, bitcoin will be ubiquitous.”

Payment middlemen such as Visa and Mastercard currently charge fees as high as 2% each time credit cardholders use their card to pay for something. Bitcoin offers a way for people to bypass the middlemen.

However, using the digital coin for everyday spending is tough, since its price is very volatile and the coin is not widely accepted as currency.

“When people can buy their food, clothing and shelter all in bitcoin, they will have no use for centralized banking fiat dollars,” Draper said.

“Management of fiat is centralized and erratic. When a politician decides to spend $10 trillion, your dollars become worth about 82 cents. Then the Fed needs to raise rates to make up for the spend, and those arbitrary centralized decisions create an inconsistent economy,” he added. Fiat currencies derive their worth from their issuing government, unlike cryptocurrencies.

Meanwhile, the next so-called bitcoin halving — which cuts the bitcoin rewards to bitcoin miners — in 2024 will also boost the cryptocurrency, according to Draper, as it chokes the supply over time. The total number of bitcoins that will ever be mined is capped at 21 million.

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Three pharmaceutical stocks were top performers last week



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George Clooney, Gladys Knight among Kennedy Center honorees



Secretary of State Antony Blinken, second from left, and his wife, Evan Ryan, left, join 2022 Kennedy Center Honorees, front row from left, Amy Grant, Gladys Knight, George Clooney, Tania León, and Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter, back row from left, Kennedy Center Chairman David Rubenstein, along with fellow 2022 Honorees Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr., The Edge, and Bono for a group photo at the State Department following the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, in Washington.

Kevin Wolf | AP Photo

Performers such as Gladys Knight or the Irish band U2 usually would be headlining a concert for thousands but at Sunday’s Kennedy Center Honors the tables will be turned as they and other artists will be the ones feted for their lifetime of artistic contributions.

Actor, director, producer and human rights activist George Clooney, groundbreaking composer and conductor Tania León, and contemporary Christian singer Amy Grant will join Knight and the entire crew of U2 in being honored by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The organization honors a select group of people every year for their artistic influences on American culture. President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and their respective spouses are slated to attend.

The 61-year-old Clooney — the actor among this year’s musically leaning group of honorees — has television credits going back into the late 1970s but became a household name with the role of Doug Ross on the television show “ER.” conductor Tania León, and

From there he starred in movies such as “Three Kings,” “Ocean’s Eleven” (and “Twelve” and “Thirteen”), “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and his most recent film, “Ticket to Paradise.” He also has extensive directing and producing credits including “Good Night, and Good Luck.” He and his wife, humanitarian rights lawyer Amal Clooney, created the Clooney Foundation for Justice, and he’s produced telethons to raise money for various causes.

“To be mentioned in the same breath with the rest of these incredible artists is an honor. This is a genuinely exciting surprise for the whole Clooney family,” said Clooney in a statement on the Center’s website.

Knight, 78, said in a statement that she was “humbled beyond words” at receiving the Kennedy honor. The Georgia-born Knight began singing gospel music at the age of 4 and went on to a career that has spanned decades.

Knight and family members started a band that would later be known as Gladys Knight & The Pips and produced their first album in 1960 when Knight was just 16. Since then she’s recorded dozens of albums with such classic hits as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Midnight Train to Georgia.” Along the way she’s acted in television shows and movies. When Knight and the band were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Mariah Carey described Knight as “a textbook you learn from.”

Sometimes the Kennedy Center honors not just individuals but groups; “Sesame Street” once got the nod.

This year it’s the band U2. The group’s strong connection to America goes back decades. They performed in Washington during their first trip to America in 1980. In a statement the band — made up of Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. — said they originally came to America with big dreams “fueled in part by the commonly held belief at home that America smiles on Ireland.”

“And it turned out to be true, yet again,” read the statement. “It has been a four-decade love affair with the country and its people, its artists, and culture.”

U2 has sold 170 million albums and been honored with 22 Grammys. The band’s epic singles include “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” Lead singer Bono has also become known for his philanthropic work to eradicate poverty and to raise awareness about AIDS.

Christian music performed Amy Grant said in an interview with The Associated Press that she’d never even been to the Kennedy Center Honors even though her husband, country musician Vince Gill, has performed during previous ceremonies. Grammy winner Grant is well known for crossover pop hits like “Baby, Baby,” “Every Heartbeat” and “That’s What Love is For.” She’s sold more than 30 million albums, including her 1991 record “Heart in Motion,” which introduced her to a larger pop audience.

Composer and conductor León said during an interview when the honorees were announced that she wasn’t expecting “anything spectacular” when the Kennedy Center initially reached out to her. After all, she’s worked with the Kennedy Center numerous times over the years going back to 1980, when she was commissioned to compose music for a play.

But the 79-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner said she was stunned to learn that this time the ceremony was going to be for her.

León left Cuba as a refugee in 1967 and eventually settled in New York City. She’s a founding member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem and instituted the Brooklyn Philharmonic Community Concert Series.

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