The Week In Numbers: Time To Be Shellfish?

The strong dollar swelled imports into the US to a record of US$232b in June. But exports were down for the second consecutive month to US$189b. The difference between fewer imports and more exports meant that the US trade deficit widened to 7.1%. Amongst the countries that benefitted from the America’s fondness for foreign goods were China and the Eurozone. A strong dollar could be just what China needs.

Four of the five largest banks in the world are now based in China. The only non-Chinese bank in the top pecking order is HSBC. But China could achieve a clean sweep, should the UK’s largest bank decide to relocate to the east. Could HSBC be returning to Hong Kong?

The world’s biggest bank is currently Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) with assets of US$3.45 trillion. In second place is China Construction Bank Corporation (CCBC), followed by Agricultural Bank of China (ABC). Singapore’s DBS Group (SGX: D05), OCBC (SGX: O39) and UOB (SGX: U11) occupy positions 75, 79 and 96 respectively.

China is cracking down on short-selling in an effort to stabilise its volatile stock market. From its peak, the country’s stock market has lost around 30% of its value. Traders will now no longer be able to borrow; sell and buy back shares on the same day. China reckons that the recent frantic sell-off has shattered investor confidence. But preventing proper price discovery could cause more long-term damage.

The price of a barrel of Brent crude briefly climbed above US$50 but settled at around US$49.50. Fears over a growing oversupply of oil and slowing demand from China have sent the price of the black stuff down by over a fifth this quarter. But the main culprit for oil’s demise appears to be the rise of the US dollar.

And finally, forget about the price of oil. The new commodity in town is shellfish. According to lobster experts, the cost of lobster meat is up by almost a third from a year ago. The rise has been caused by Chinese consumers, who have developed a taste for the crustacean.

It is reckoned that China already consumes some 35% of the world’s seafood. Demand could increase further, if China’s middle class should surge from about 150 million people last year to around one billion by 2030.

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