Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Big money doubts Japan's inflation goal
Bill Gross's Pimco Total Return Fund in Newport Beach, California boasts $244 billion of assets -- and an E.F. Hutton vibe. When Pimco talks, people listen. Well what about $1.21 trillion in assets? That's how much Takahiro Mitani, president of Japan's Government Pension Investment Fund has to play with. And it should worry Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda that Mitani is down on the nation's chances of spurring 2 percent inflation. As he told Bloomberg News today: "We haven't seen real demand to pull prices up yet. Whether inflation will be stable is questionable."
China has a new richest man
Speaking of the big money, China has a new man on the top of its billionaire league tables: Robin Li, founder of China's largest Internet search engine Baidu. Li has seen his fortune surge by $2.9 billion to $12.167 billion in 2013, passing Wang Jianlin of Dalian Wanda Group. And all appearances are that Li isn't about to stop adding to his riches in 2014: "We probably invested a lot more than any of the competitors in the mobile-search front," Li told investors on an earnings call. "This year and next year will be very, very crucial for the eventual success of the overall mobile strategy." Lucrative, too, it seems.
In Thailand, it's good to be the king
Only one thing can stop tens of thousands of protesters from calling for the ouster of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and breaking into government buildings: the king's birthday. Tomorrow, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest-reigning living monarch, turns 86. So happy birthday, your Highness. It's just too bad Thais can't commemorate the happy occasion every day: Protesters are likely to be back in action come Friday. "From December 6 we will resume the fight every day, every hour and every minute until we achieve victory," protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban said. Never a dull moment in the Land of Smiles.
Those unhappy Korean kids
South Korea's per-capita income is rising, its technology companies are chipping away at Apple's global smartphone domination, the nation is a world power in automobiles, shipbuilding and steel and its soft power is being advanced by "K-pop" bands, movies and television dramas as the population nears the 50 million mark. Why, then, are Koreans consistently among the most unhappy among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries? The phenomenon starts young in the hyper-competitive nation, according to this interesting OECD study. Blame it on a bubble in parents' expectations.
Shanghai free-trade zone on the way
China's stocks rallied today on speculation Shanghai is speeding up plans for its free-trade zone. As Du Liang, analyst from Shanxi Securities, put it: "The upward momentum is now confirmed and any good news will result in an overreaction. Today there's the free trade zone news and that may become a catalyst to buy. The sentiment is good." To maintain that sentiment, it's imperative that China make good on pledges of reform not just in Shanghai, but throughout the world's second-biggest economy.
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