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China’s economy could be dragged down by loss of confidence in property sector

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The loss of confidence in China’s property sector could feed into a contagion that would further drag down the Chinese economy, analysts warned.

The comments come after beleaguered developer China Evergrande Group failed to deliver a promised $300 billion restructuring plan over the weekend.

In filings with the Hong Kong stock exchange, Evergrande instead said it had “preliminary principles” in place for the restructuring of its offshore debts. It also said one of its subsidiaries, Evergrande Group (Nanchang), had been ordered to pay an unnamed guarantor 7.3 billion yuan ($1.08 billion) for failing to honor its debt obligations.

“For the government, the priority is to break the negative feedback loop that features the high leverage ratio and the liquidity crunch on the part of the developers,” Shuang Ding, Standard Chartered chief economist for Greater China and North Asia, told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia.”

“That leads to a mortgage boycott and very low appetite on the part of the homebuyer, and that goes back to the developer because low sales affect its liquidity.”

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China is facing a mortgage repayment revolt, with homeowners across 22 cities refusing to pay their loans on unfinished housing projects.

“So if this problem is not handled properly, it will have a profound impact on the economy, including the government balance sheet, the banks’ balance sheet as well, and households,” Ding said.

Ding said the problems in China’s property sector threaten a crucial foundation of a sturdy economy: market confidence.

Land sales, which make up a dominant portion of provincial government revenue, have fallen 30% in the past year.

The economist said Beijing should ringfence the issues in the property sector and deal with them holistically, rather than with a piecemeal approach, with an aim to avoid mass insolvencies.

Dan Wang, Hang Seng Bank’s chief China economist, said the government can do this by making sure the companies in trouble have enough money to finish building half-started homes or complete a sold project. 

The Chinese politburo last week signaled the country could miss its 5.5% GDP growth target for the year, while new data showed China’s factory activity contracted unexpectedly in July after bouncing back from Covid-19 lockdowns in June

While Beijing is taking the property sector crisis seriously, it is unlikely the Evergrande crisis will be resolved anytime soon and may never be resolved at all, CreditSights’ co-head of Asia-Pacific research Sandra Chow said. 

“I think it’s going to take a long time for investors to get confidence not just in Evergrande, but in the China property sector as a whole,” Chow said.

“China’s property market is in difficulty, still, despite all the easing measures and asset values are still falling, especially in the lower tier regions as well. So it’s going to be very difficult to rebuild confidence.”



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Kim Kardashian, Floyd Mayweather crypto scam lawsuit dismissed

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A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a proposed class action lawsuit by investors against the founders of the cryptocurrency EthereumMax, as well as celebrity endorsers including Kim Kardashian and boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. over their promotion of the cryptocurrency on social media.

Investors who bought EMAX tokens alleged they had suffered losses after taking the word of the celebrity influencers about the value of the crypto. The suit claims the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to artificially inflate the value of the EMAX tokens.

Judge Michael Fitzgerald wrote that he recognized that the lawsuit’s claims raised legitimate worries about “celebrities’ ability to readily persuade millions of undiscerning followers to buy snake oil with unprecedented ease and reach.”

“But, while the law certainly places limits on those advertisers, it also expects investors to act reasonably before basing their bets on the zeitgeist of the moment,” wrote Fitzgerald, of the Central District of California.

The judge found that the plaintiffs’ allegations were insufficiently backed, especially “given the heightened pleading standards” for fraud claims, according to his ruling in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

In addition to Kardashian, Mayweather and former Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce, the defendants in the case included Steve Gentile and Giovanni Perone, the co-founders of EthereumMax, and Justin French, a consultant and developer for the cryptocurrency, court documents state.

Fitzgerald in his ruling said he would allow lawyers for the plaintiffs to refile their suit after amending some of their claims under a number of the statutes cited in the original complaint, which included the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, also known as RICO.

“We’re pleased with the court’s well-reasoned decision on the case,” Michael Rhodes, a lawyer for Kardashian, told CNBC.

The dismissal came weeks after investors in fallen crypto exchange FTX filed a class-action lawsuit against former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried and celebrity advertisers for the company, among them NFL superstar Tom Brady, for allegedly overstating the value of the crypto tokens in promotional messaging.

And the ruling came two months after Kardashian agreed to pay $1.26 million, and not to promote cryptocurrency for three years, to settle claims by the SEC for her failure to disclose a $250,000 payment touting EthereumMax on her Instagram account.

Fitzgerald in his ruling Wednesday said the EthereumMax lawsuit reflects a broader conflict surrounding celebrity and influencer promotional schemes.

“This action demonstrates that just about anyone with the technical skills and/or connections can mint a new currency and create their own digital market overnight,” Fitzgerald wrote in his dismissal.

Investors sued EthereumMax and its celebrity advertisers in January after a slew of influencers started snagging sponsorships to promote cryptocurrencies to their millions of social media followers.

Kardashian’s Instagram post in June 2021 had written, “Are you guys into crypto??? This is not financial advice but sharing what my friends told me about the Ethereum Max token.”

Her post included “#ad” at the bottom, indicating she had been sponsored. But it did not disclose her $250,000 payment from EthereumMax.

Mayweather promoted EMAX at a boxing match and a large Miami bitcoin conference in June 2021.

But by January, the cryptocurrency had lost 97% of its value.

Fitzgerald at a hearing last month indicated he was inclined to dismiss the case.

Bloomberg News, in an article about that hearing, said that an attorney for the plaintiffs in the suit asked the judge to allow him to revise the suit’s racketeering claims to show how the statements by the celebrity defendants harmed the investors.

“If plaintiffs had known the true facts related to the promoters’ financial interest in the tokens, and that they were being paid to shill these tokens, they wouldn’t have paid as much for the tokens as they did,” the attorney, John Jasnoch, told Fitzgerald, according to a transcript cited by Bloomberg.



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Cathie Wood says the Fed is making a serious mistake as bond market flashes worst signal since 1980s

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How the U.S. became a global corn superpower

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The United States has just about 90 million planted acres of corn, and there’s a reason people refer to the crop as yellow gold.

In 2021, U.S. corn was worth over $86 billion, according to calculations from FarmDoc and the United States Department of Agriculture.

According to the USDA, the U.S. is largest consumer, producer and exporter of corn in the world.

“We’re really good at [corn production],” Seth Meyer, chief economist at the USDA, told CNBC. “And that’s why you see big acres, big demand, export competitiveness.”

It’s not just what we eat.

“We turbocharged the value of corn through the application of science,” Scott Irwin, agricultural economist and professor at the University of Illinois, told CNBC.

Corn is in what we buy, including medications and textiles, and corn is turned into ethanol, which helps to fuel cars across the nation.

The rest of the world relies on U.S. corn, too. 

At $2.2 billion in 2019, corn is the most heavily subsidized of all crops in the country.

“A lot of these subsidies … do get embedded into the cost of farmland and they essentially bid up the price of farmland marginally,” Joseph Glauber, senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute and former USDA chief economist, told CNBC. “So the benefits accrue largely to those who own land.”

The federal crop insurance program’s net spending is forecast to increase to nearly $40 billion from 2021 through 2025, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

At the same time, farmland values have reached all-time record highs.

“Do we get the corn acres because we’ve got the support, or do we have the support because we have the corn acres?” Meyer said, posing the chicken-and-egg question about the nation’s grain superpower.

Watch the video above to learn more about how corn fuels the U.S. economy from its people to its vehicles, the power of the corn belt states, the role of subsidies and where government policy for the industry may go from here.



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