Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Is New Zealandthe next Canada?
After making Canadian cities like Vancouver their own, deep-pocketed Chinese are increasingly flocking to New Zealand. As this South China Morning Post piece points out, China is now New Zealand's biggest source of long-term arrivals at a time when net migration in the year until March hit an 11-year high of 31,900. And as Canada acts to restrict the flow of mainlanders with real estate investments on their mind, New Zealand is putting out the welcome mat. With one caveat, though: New Zealand Prime Minister John Key hopes Chinese won't just buy land, but invest in fixed assets like manufacturing and hotel projects, too.
Japan's massive bondmarket risk.
Tokyo has a bond-market mystery to consider: Why isn't the nation’s bond market adjusting to reflect emerging inflation pressures? This disconnect is very much on Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda's mind as Tokyo’s consumer prices rose 2.7 percent in April, the biggest jump since 1992. There are mitigating circumstances, of course. Prices are being pumped up by a sales-tax increase, but also by a year of unprecedented BOJ stimulus. With the yen's plunge increasing the costs of imported energy, the question is when will bond traders rebel? As this Jiji Press piece explains, a one-percentage-point jump in bond yields could quickly destabilize the world's most indebted nation.
China's $700 billion mystery.
It's the biggest rainy-day fund history has even seen: China's nearly $4 trillion of currency reserves. It also raises one of the most tantalizing questions in modern economics: Exactly where does China stuff all that money? Half of it is parked in U.S. Treasuries and sizable chunks are traceable elsewhere. But, as this Nikkei Asian Review analysis points out, roughly $700 billion of China's reserves appears unaccounted for. The conundrum offers two possibilities. One, China might be holding reserves in so-called nominee accounts at large banks. Two, it's using custodial account in nations other than the U.S. Mystery solved? Only time and further sleuthing will tell.
Singapore, a model for Puerto Rico?
To many, the city of five million people is an economic role model. With zero natural resources, it's left neighboring Malaysia in the dust, created some world-class companies and beaten the middle-income trap. But is Singapore an exemplar for far off Puerto Rico? Billionaire John Paulson thinks so. Even though the three biggest ratings companies cut the highly-indebted island’s credit ranking to junk earlier this year, the hedge-fund manager is enamored with its new tax regime and booming real estate market. All Puerto Rico needs now is its own Lee Kuan Yew.
Asia's Obama alarm bells.
As Barack Obama makes his way around the region, he faces an uphill climb convincing Asia he has its back. America's willingness to match rhetoric on Syria and Ukraine with force has Asia wondering what the president's pledges are really worth. In this op-ed, Brahma Chellaney of New Delhi's Center for Policy Research fears Obama’s whistle-stop tour of Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines "will do little to rescue the pivot or put his regional foreign policy on a sound footing." That, he concludes, "is why they are stepping up efforts to build credible military capabilities."
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