Haver Analytics
Haver Analytics

Introducing

Tian Yong Woon

Tian Yong joined Haver Analytics as an Economist in 2023. Previously, Tian Yong worked as an Economist with Deutsche Bank, covering Emerging Asian economies while also writing on thematic issues within the broader Asia region. Prior to his work with Deutsche Bank, he worked as an Economic Analyst with the International Monetary Fund, where he contributed to Article IV consultations with Singapore and Malaysia, and to the regular surveillance of financial stability issues in the Asia Pacific region.

Tian Yong holds a Master of Science in Quantitative Finance from the Singapore Management University, and a Bachelor of Science in Banking and Finance from the University of London.

Publications by Tian Yong Woon

  • In this week's newsletter, we delve into recent developments in China ahead of anticipated economic support measures from the Third Plenum meetings. The economic backdrop in China remains mixed, with cautious signals from forward-looking indicators. On monetary policy, we explore possible reasons behind unchanged policy rates this year, including the central bank’s views toward a depreciating yuan and banks' interest margins. We also look at potential reforms by the central bank, which would more closely align with practices seen in developed markets and enhance its liquidity management tools. Turning to the property sector, persistent challenges are evident despite recent government efforts to provide support. Sentiment remains subdued, reflecting sluggish sales and uncertain market conditions. We also assess the fiscal implications at the local government level, where declining revenues from land sales and high indebtedness pose significant pressures.

    Growth Latest data present a mixed picture about China’s economy. In May, retail sales outperformed expectations, growing by 3.7% y/y, yet industrial production disappointed with a slowdown to 5.6% growth, as depicted in Chart 1. The deceleration in industrial output was driven by a slowdown in the manufacturing sector, with mining providing only partial offsets. Furthermore, growth in fixed asset investment unexpectedly slowed to 4% y/y ytd, largely due to a further sharp decline in real estate investment. Recent data highlight the uneven growth across China's sectors, with persistent pockets of weakness despite the government's recent efforts to implement support measures.

  • In this week's newsletter, we analyze recent developments in advanced Asian economies, highlighting their gains from the upswing in the global tech cycle. Robust demand for AI-related semiconductor products and equipment continues to drive this upswing, bolstering overall economic growth. Additionally, we explore the geopolitical dynamics influencing the semiconductor industry. This includes US efforts to strengthen its onshore chip manufacturing capabilities and China's proactive measures to secure chipmaking equipment, possibly in anticipation of future export restrictions.

    Shifting focus from semiconductors, we delve into domestic issues within these advanced Asian economies. Specifically, we address concerns such as the growth of household debt in South Korea and Taiwan. Central banks in these regions are actively addressing these concerns through measures aimed at controlling excessive debt accumulation. Meanwhile, Japan's household sector has shown promising signs of improvement recently.

    Developments in Advanced Asia Taiwan’s electronics sector has lately demonstrated strong growth, largely thanks to the current upswing in the global tech cycle. Chart 1 highlights a significant acceleration in the industrial production of semiconductor-related products, such as electronic parts and components, which surged by nearly 30% y/y in May. Moreover, production of other electronic goods, including computers, saw a substantial increase of 31.8% over the same period. Forward-looking indicators such as electronics export orders also point towards robust demand in the near future, having grown 9.2% m/m. Setting aside cyclical considerations, the trajectory of Taiwan’s semiconductor sector is deeply intertwined with global geopolitics. For instance, the US government is actively advancing onshore advanced chip manufacturing capabilities through initiatives like the CHIPS Act. This includes substantial funding to incentivize Taiwan’s TSMC, a global leader in chip production, to establish manufacturing facilities for highly advanced two-nanometer chips within the US. This strategic endeavour seeks to counter the trend of offshoring crucial chip production capacity away from the US in recent decades.

  • In this week's newsletter, we delve into post-election dynamics in India. Initial market reactions to the election outcome were negative but swiftly reversed, underscoring India's promise as both a high-growth economy and attractive investment destination. In the short term, sentiment indicators signal ongoing growth in India’s pivotal sectors of services and manufacturing. Furthermore, India continues to be projected as the fastest-growing major economy this year by both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Looking ahead, India is poised to leverage its demographic promise via its youthful workforce, a stark contrast to other major economies grappling with rapidly aging populations.

    Turning to monetary policy, we note that while the central bank has kept policy rates unchanged in recent months, there is mounting pressure within its decision-making committee to consider rate cuts. On inflation, recent trends show a gradual disinflation driven by easing price pressures in non-core items, despite persistently high food price inflation. Shifting to currency markets, we note once more the Indian rupee’s resilience, which has been supported by central bank intervention and robust foreign reserves.

    Market reactions to elections Indian equities plunged and bond yields surged on June 4th, following indications that Prime Minister Modi’s political party (BJP) would secure a smaller parliamentary majority than initially predicted. Among the initial market concerns was some apprehension that the BJP would need to depend on potentially fragile alliances with other parties to advance its reform agenda, a departure from its previous independent governance. However, initial apprehensions eased quickly as Indian equities rebounded and yields retraced, as evidenced in Chart 1. One of the key recent drivers behind rallies in Indian equity markets was the significantly higher involvement of retail investors, particularly in the options markets. This surge in participation has been partly spurred by regulatory measures aimed at enhancing market accessibility for individuals. Additionally, optimism about the longer-term outlook for the Indian economy has also contributed to the equity market rallies.

  • In this week's newsletter, we explore shifting trade patterns between China and the rest of the world. These shifts reflect changes stemming from the pandemic and, more importantly, from geopolitical pressures and supply chain dynamics. While China's export dependency on Western economies like the US and the EU has decreased, it remains substantial. Additionally, certain product categories, notably transportation equipment, have gained ground in China's export portfolio. In addition to this, we delve into China's rapid development in the electric vehicle (EV) sector, both domestically and internationally. This includes achieving high retail penetration domestically and experiencing rapid export growth abroad. However, concerns have been raised by several governments regarding overcapacity issues resulting from China's escalating EV exports, leading to discussions of possible retaliation via e.g. increased tariffs to address these concerns.

    Expanding our scope, government concerns regarding overcapacity extend beyond EVs to other goods, such as steel products and cement, among others. Additionally, we examine China's trade relationships with its Asian neighbors, noting a diminished share of advanced Asian economies in China’s aggregate trade, while relationships with Southeast Asian nations and India have strengthened. Lastly, we delve into China's burgeoning bilateral trade ties with Vietnam, driven by deepening supply chain integration and Vietnam's reliance on China-sourced parts for its electronics exports. These developments underscore the intricate and evolving dynamics shaping China's trade landscape.

    Shifts in China’s export composition In recent years, China's export landscape has undergone significant shifts, primarily influenced by the rearrangement of supply chain dynamics stemming from the pandemic and, more recently, heightened geopolitical factors. Chart 1 illustrates this transformation, depicting a decline in China's export share to Western economies like the US and the EU compared to pre-pandemic levels. Conversely, there has been an uptick in China's export share to Asian economies such as India and those in Southeast Asia. The relative significance of product categories within China's export mix has also undergone notable shifts. Specifically, China has witnessed a substantial increase in the export share of transportation equipment, plastics, rubbers, and basic metals. This surge can be attributed to an increase of exports of specific products, such as electric vehicles (EVs), a trend we will delve into further below.

  • In this week's newsletter, we assess the recent trends and factors shaping Japan's balance of payments. Notably, Japan has witnessed a substantial improvement in its current account surplus in recent months, with an improved goods balance a primary driver. We attribute Japan's improved goods balance in part to a favorable trend in its terms of trade, although we also acknowledge the rise in export volumes for certain key products. Additionally, we highlight Japan's significant net primary income flows, which have played a crucial role in bolstering its current account balance. These substantial primary income flows are arguably a consequence of Japan's long-standing accumulation of overseas assets through both direct and portfolio investments.

    This discussion naturally leads us to Japan's substantial net international investment position, which stands as the largest globally. Upon closer examination, we observe a pronounced shift within Japan's investment portfolio, with direct investment holdings progressively displacing its portfolio investment holdings in relative significance. Lastly, we explore recent patterns in Japan's outbound direct investment flows, with a pronounced increase in investments directed towards the US. In contrast, investments into China and the European Union have experienced a downturn in recent times.

    Japan’s current account Japan’s current account surplus has surged since early 2023, surpassing 25 trillion yen ($160 billion) in March 2024 on a rolling 12-month basis (Chart 1). A significant portion of this improvement stems from the easing of its goods trade deficit, which decreased to about 3.6 trillion yen ($23 billion) over the period. Concurrently, Japan’s net primary income has remained the primary driver behind the economy’s overall current account surplus, hovering around 35 trillion yen ($220 billion) in recent months. This unique characteristic distinguishes Japan from many other Asian economies, where goods and services exports typically play a more dominant role in current account inflows.

  • In this week's letter, we look at direct investment flows across Asian economies. We find that there has been a discernible decline in foreign direct investment (FDI) across several economies in the region in recent quarters. This dip in investment activity can be attributed to various factors, including shifts in investor sentiment towards the recipient economies.

    Additionally, we explore outbound direct investment flows from these economies. Hong Kong remains the primary intermediary for mainland China's investment flows, underscoring its crucial role in facilitating cross-border investments. Conversely, Japan, boasting the world’s largest stock of net international assets, maintains a strong preference for the United States as its favored investment destination. This preference underscores the enduring ties and strategic partnerships between the two nations.

    Finally we shift our focus to scrutinize specific economies in Southeast Asia, where we observe a noteworthy recovery in FDI inflows following the pandemic. We find that investor interest in pivotal themes such as the energy transition and the digital economy has played a vital role in propelling these flows. We note, nevertheless a slight retracement in these flows in 2023.

    China Foreign direct investment (FDI) in China has plunged in recent months, based on the standard measure adopted by the Ministry of Commerce. Monthly actual utilized FDI has consistently shown double-digit year-on-year declines throughout the year so far, with the contraction worsening to 38.2% in March (Chart 1). Additionally, China’s direct investment liability flow plunged to under 300 billion yuan in 2023, from 1.25 trillion in 2022. Analysts attribute China’s FDI declines to various factors, including domestic growth risks and ongoing tensions with other countries, such as the United States. However, the impact on growth may be nuanced, as business investment within China is predominantly domestically sourced. The outlook on China’s broader economy however, remains uncertain, with April’s economic data presenting a mixed picture. Specifically, growth in retail sales and fixed asset investment slowed further in April, while industrial production logged an unexpected growth rebound.

  • In this week's letter, we examine monetary developments in Asia. In particular, we take stock of the latest decisions by central banks in the region and delve into the possible motivations behind them. We find that while the Fed's policy trajectory remains a key policy focus, their recent actions have also been driven by domestic factors. Furthermore, we also find their policy priorities to be wide-ranging, with some aiming for currency stability, while inflation remains the focal point for others.

    In Japan, recent bouts of yen appreciation have fueled speculation about potential currency intervention by the authorities. Also, the Bank of Japan’s latest summary of opinions indicates an unexpected shift from some members towards a more hawkish stance. In South Korea, persistently high inflation and potential improvements to Q2 GDP growth serve as reasons for the central bank to keep rates higher for longer. In Indonesia, the central bank’s recent surprise rate hike has drawn attention to its focus on currency stability and its broad range of policy tools. In Thailand, the central bank remains committed to maintaining its policy rates, despite ongoing governmental pressure for looser policy. Finally, in Malaysia, we acknowledge the central bank's consistent approach to policy rates and explore recent developments concerning the ringgit.

    Japan The yen experienced sudden bouts of appreciation in early May, with the USD/JPY exchange rate having fallen by about 3% through May 2-3 (Chart 1). The moves spurred speculation that Japanese authorities had stepped in to support the yen following its prolonged spell of weakening this year. To infer possible episodes of currency market intervention, some market participants have turned to analyzing the Bank of Japan’s (BoJ) daily current account data for clues. Specifically, market participants looked at the BoJ’s daily net receipt of funds and contrasted them with broker-estimated figures to estimate possible currency intervention activity. Regardless, and despite its sporadic moves, the yen seems to have resumed its previous trend toward weakening. This has been fueled in part by the still-wide yield differentials between Japan and other major economies.

  • In this week's letter, we examine recent developments in China. We first take a pulse on the economy, with a nod to its consensus-beating real GDP performance in Q1. We note, however, some signs of weakening momentum, and, most notably, some disappointing industrial and retail sales readings seen for March. As such, it remains to be seen if the economy is conclusively out of the woods, especially when pockets of weakness remain. We analyze next some trends in China’s tourism space, which has seen a pickup in international air travel volumes, likely boding well for tourism-reliant economies in Asia. We then investigate export trends in the broader Asian region in relation to China. Here, we notice a mixed landscape: while some economies like Japan have reduced their export dependence on China, others, such as Vietnam, are seeking deeper economic integration. Lastly, we delve into shifts in cross-currency relationships, observing a decline in the correlation between yuan-yen and yuan-baht returns, among other notable trends.

    We deduce from the recent developments that China’s recovery, whilst still underway, remains uneven and not yet set in stone. Nonetheless, China’s tourism sector continues to strengthen, initially in domestic travel and more recently in international trips. Moreover, beneath the interim recovery lies shifts in economic relationships with other Asian economies, relating to both export dependence and to currency moves.

    China’s recent economic results China continues to be focal point for global investors, given its potential impacts on the world economy. The domestic economy posted better than expected real GDP results for Q1, with growth accelerating to 5.3% y/y during the period. The impulse came from net exports, which contributed to growth for the first time in six quarters. Looking at China’s March data, however, we saw rather disappointing results from its industrial and retail sector as growth rates slowed towards the end of the quarter (Chart 1). Hence, while China’s January and February figures offered some hope of economic stabilization, its more recent dataflow for March now raise concerns about weakening momentum.

  • In this week's letter, we look at a few more macroeconomic themes relating to Asia. We first analyse recent Asian currency performance, noting the Japanese yen’s weakness and the Indian rupee’s relative resilience in the face of a strengthening US dollar. We then examine the explanatory power of yield differentials for the respective performance of these currencies. We find that while yield differentials explain about half of the currencies’ returns variability, much remained unaccounted for, particularly in the case of the yen.

    We move next to study more localized issues within specific Asian economies. Starting with Japan, we discuss the recent slowdown in the growth of its monetary base and in its central bank’s government bond holdings in light of monetary policy moves. We also examine Japan’s latest Tankan survey results, which indicate diminished large manufacturer optimism, but elevated sentiment amongst large non-manufacturers. Moving to China, we take stock of developments in its electric vehicle market and investigate possible drivers of its recent sales slump, including seasonality and increased competition. Lastly, we explore South Korea’s latest exports numbers in the context of its broader relevance for global trade. We find that while headline export growth remains positive, underlying weakness exists when semiconductors – a major export component – is removed.

    Asian FX performance The US dollar has been on the front foot lately, with its strength spurred in part by some unwinding of Fed rate cut expectations. The strengthening has come to the detriment of Asian currencies, which have weakened on average by 3.5% against the dollar so far this year (Chart 1). The extent of Asian currency depreciation against the dollar has been varied, however, with the Japanese yen having weakened the most, while the Indian rupee has displayed relative resilience.

  • In this week's letter, we explore recent developments in India, China, and advanced Asian economies. We observe ongoing disparities across Asian economies in their recent growth figures, but we also note a big uptick in their latest inflation readings. Economically, India remains on a solid footing heading into its general elections, while China is showing signs of stabilization following its latest official PMI prints. The divergence extends to advanced Asia’s industrial complex, with February readings indicating continued growth in South Korean production, while Taiwan’s and Japan’s contract for idiosyncratic reasons. Nonetheless, South Korea and Taiwan continue to experience an increased share in semiconductor-related goods production, reaping continued benefits from the upswing in chip demand.

    Setting aside these divergences, we also examine recent financial market developments, with a specific focus on India. We note the interim rebound in small and mid-cap equities following recent steep selloffs. Additionally, we look into the Indian rupee, which has appreciated slightly against several currencies but weakened considerably against the US dollar.

    Developments in India Elections are increasingly at the forefront of attention for India watchers, as the country gears up to head to the polls from April 19. The elections will be the largest in the world, involving about 960 million voters and spanning seven phases over 44 days. India’s current Prime Minister Modi seeks to secure a third term, with his political coalition poised to compete against one led by the Indian National Congress. Heading towards the polls, the Indian economy has benefited from a robust foundation and strong growth. India’s real GDP growth accelerated to 8.4% y/y in fiscal Q3 (October-December), far outpacing growth seen in several other emerging Asian economies. Nearly half of India’s growth over the period was driven by capital formation (Chart 1), which logged double-digit growth in fiscal Q2 and Q3. India’s rapid expansion in capital investment can be partly traced to the government’s push for more infrastructure and manufacturing investment.

  • In this week's letter, we delve into the recent wave of rate decisions enacted by central banks across the region. We begin by examining the Bank of Japan’s (BoJ) latest policy shifts, highlighting its significant move to terminate its negative interest rate policy. We then explore financial market responses to the BoJ’s decision, discussing possible drivers behind the subsequent weakness of the yen and declines in Japanese government bond (JGB) yields. We move next to review interest rate developments in China, where loan prime rates (LPR) were left unchanged. We then shift our focus to the economies of Australia and New Zealand, where we examine the change in messaging by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) and disappointing Q4 GDP results in New Zealand. Finally, we wrap up the week’s letter with a nod to interest rate decisions in Taiwan and Indonesia.

    Recent events speak to the varied stages of monetary policy implemented by central banks in the region, given respective domestic considerations. China continues to pursue an easing approach with economic stabilization looking only nascent, whereas Japan has only recently initiated policy tightening due to encouraging wage growth. Australia and New Zealand, having seemingly completed their tightening cycles, now face increasing pressures to consider easing moves given recent weak economic readings, although with inflation a persisting concern.

    Policy shifts by the Bank of Japan Recent headlines have shed light on some subtle yet significant aspects of the Bank of Japan’s (BoJ) departure from its negative interest rate policy. In a notable shift, the BoJ has now set its sights on targeting the uncollateralized overnight call rate to lie between 0% and 0.1% (chart 1). This objective will be accomplished by imposing an interest rate of 0.1% on the current account balances that financial institutions maintain with the bank, starting March 21. Previously, the BoJ aimed at a rate of -0.1% on financial institutions' Policy-Rate Balances. Governor Ueda highlighted that this move signifies the bank's return to a "normal" monetary policy that focuses on short-term interest rates, aligning with practices of other central banks. Additionally, the BoJ has terminated its Yield Curve Control (YCC) policy and announced the cessation of its purchases of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and Japan real estate investment trusts (J-REITs). Furthermore, the bank intends to gradually conclude its buying of commercial paper and corporate bonds over the coming year.

  • In this week's newsletter, we examine the key takeaways from the National People's Congress (NPC) in China. Initially, we highlight the government's economic objectives for the year ahead, including for a real GDP growth of "around" 5% and an inflation rate of "around" 3%. Following this, we examine potential obstacles that could impede China's achievement of these targets, including persisting drags from China’s property sector and still-subdued domestic inflation. We move next to take stock of China’s latest hard data, which revealed consensus-beating growth in the manufacturing and retail sectors. We note, however, that any interim stabilization is likely still in nascent stages. Subsequently, we analyze China's ambitions for its labour market, taking into account underlying trends of rural migration and broader demographic challenges. Finally, we investigate China's budgetary strategies for the year, focusing on the government's deficit targets with a nod to its plans for increased special bond issuance. While many would agree that China could do more with fiscal policy given persisting domestic woes, the extent of government debt growth will likely draw continued concerns.

    Growth The Chinese government has set a GDP growth target of “around 5%” for 2024, unchanged from its goal for last year. The Chinese economy managed to log real GDP growth of 5.2% in 2023, having just barely exceeded its modest target while grappling with a slew of challenges (chart 1). Namely, China has faced, and continues to face headwinds from a struggling property sector, elevated local government debt levels, and fragile consumer confidence, among others. Also, recent official PMI data reveal a widening divergence between China’s manufacturing and non-manufacturing sectors. Specifically, the PMIs indicate ongoing, albeit mild, contractions in China’s manufacturing sector while the non-manufacturing sector has seen an accelerated pace of expansion.