China Uses Blockchain to Mitigate Coronavirus Damage

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With the coronavirus outbreak, China has been forced to delegate close to 80 billion dollars in funds in attempts to control the spread of the virus. However, possibly the most damaging economic fallout from the coronavirus is it’s impact on the small to medium sized businesses that make up over half of China’s economic power. With Chinese businesses under an inordinate amount of pressure from the virus outbreak, stemming from loss of employees, mandated extension of holidays, and other friction, the flaws experienced in Chinese business practices are becoming even more threatening. In general, many businesses in China feel distrust towards fellow companies as they struggle with data sharing, verification inefficiency, and more. In attempts to mitigate the economic friction caused from damaging Chinese business practices being brought to the forefront in combination with the economic duress from the virus outbreak, China has developed and begun to implement a blockchain system to lend out cross-border loans to small businesses across the nation. According to China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange, since the introduction of the blockchain system last March, around 16 billion dollars worth of loans have been processed through the system. During the coronavirus period, 87 businesses have received over 250 million dollars in support through this blockchain system.

The benefits of the blockchain system is potentially enormous, as it allows for extremely efficient processing of foreign currencies, and inherently grants the ability to record and retrieve virtual ledgers of recorded payments, allowing for fraud to be quickly identified. China is hopeful that their blockchain system will be able to help fix the short term economic pains caused by the coronavirus and the long term issues presented by current Chinese business practices.

Keith Knutsson of Integrale Advisors commented that, “The blockchain system implemented by China might not only solve some of their temporary issues, but could be a glimpse into the future of economies.”

US-China Sign Phase 1 Deal

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On Wednesday, President Trump officially signed the Phase 1 Deal at the White House, taking the first major step in reducing trade tensions with China. In summary, the trade deal focused on increasing Chinese expenditure on American goods, reducing theft of American corporate technology, and eliminating currency manipulation. By signing this agreement both countries are notably making an effort to cooperate and reduce the economic strain felt by both countries and the world. Although the results of the agreement do not solve many of the important issues that the United States has with China politically, such as cyberattacks on American companies, Trump claims a Phase 2 deal will remedy these problems and strengthen our relationship with China. There is no specific date set for Phase 2 negotiations to begin, but based on activity from both governing bodies, Phase 2 discussions will not be until after elections.

Despite the low feasibility of a Phase 2 agreement being signed soon, the Phase 1 Deal already cements a good foundation for establishing fair trade between the two countries and ending the internationally damaging trade war. Chinese President Xi Jinping stated that the Phase 1 deal is “beneficial to both China, the U.S. — and the world,” showing the desire of China and the U.S. to cooperate as partners to globally release the economic strain that the trade war as caused. Although there are many critics of the Phase 1 Deal, pegging it as “underwhelming,” it positions both the US and China extremely well to resolve many long lasting problems in their political and economic ties.

Keith Knutsson of Integrale Advisors commented that, “The Phase 1
Deal represents hope for future negotiations that can not only generate greater wealth in China and the United States, but inherently help the world as well.”

Growth in Solar Industry

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As the concern over environmental pollution increases, it is no surprise that the solar industry is booming. Another key factor driving the growth of solar photovoltaic (PV) industry is the immense support the U.S. government has offered. The government increasingly keeps pushing for the adoption of solar energy by offering incentives and tax benefits for both the consumer and producers. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 established the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which allows homeowners and businesses to deduct the cost of solar PV systems up to 50%. Because of incentives like the ITC, the number of systems being installed has significantly increased in the past decade. In 2018, the U.S. reached 64.2 gigawatts of solar PV. With this capacity, solar energy is powering over 12 million American homes. Homeowners are not the only ones taking advantage of these incentives. Big businesses are also investing in solar PV systems. Walt Disney World, Walmart, and Apple are all switching facilities and offices to solar energy.

Over the past decade, the average annual growth rate of the solar industry has been 50% and is expected to continue to see this growth for years to come. After reaching one million installations in 2016, and over two million in 2018, it is on track to reach over four million systems installed by 2023. Through 2023, this industry is expected to see a compound annual growth rate of 14.9%. Therefore, with the rising demand and support this industry is expected to be valued over $250 billion within the next four years.

Assuming this growth will continue, solar PV will become one of the cheapest sources of energy. We already have seen a whopping 70% drop in the cost of installation. With this drop, the industry has been able to expand into new markets and deploy thousands of systems nationwide. Furthermore, the U.S. economy has also benefited from this emerging industry. The solar industry now employs, directly or indirectly, over 370,000 Americans at more than 10,000 companies. Not only is it generating jobs, but also money. In 2018 alone it produced a $17 billion investment into the U.S. economy. We should expect to continue to see these positive outcomes from this industry as long as people and governments stride for cleaner energy alternatives.

Keith Knutsson of Integrale Advisors says, “The solar industry is growing at a record pace. Not only will it continue to be a leading force in the race for cleaner energy, but it will also serve as an economic engine for the U.S. economy.”

German Economic Growth

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In 2017, Germany’s economy grew at the fastest annual pace in nearly a decade. As a result, this is a large contribution to the pickup in growth across the eurozone.

According to the German National Statistics Office, GDP (gross domestic product) grew 2.2% last year, after analysts expected growth of 2.3%. Nevertheless, it was the fastest pace of growth recorded since 2011.

Germany’s strong performance feeds into the success of the eurozone. On Tuesday, the World Bank estimated the EU’s economy grew 2.4% in 2017, which would be its strongest performance since 2007. The expectation is that Germany’s positive growth and momentum will continue in the current year. Trade played a big role in the growth: imports grew 5.2%, exports were up 4.7%.

“Looking to the future, the fundamental factors that supported growth in 2016 and 2017, such as rising industrial production and larger demand for real estate, should still be in place in 2018” said Keith Knutsson of Integrale Advisors.

The recent pickup in growth across the eurozone has made policy makers at the European Central Bank more confident that they will reach their inflation target over the next couple of years. The central bank is decreasing monthly bond purchases under the quantitative easing program from €60 billion from €30 billion.

The acceleration in growth has been fueled in part by a rise in business investment, with Germany seeing a 3.5% rise in spending on domestic plant and machinery in 2017. Eurozone industrial production was 1% higher than in October, and 3.2% higher than in November of 2016. As a result, Germany remains the Eurozone’s manufacturing powerhouse.

Eurozone Industrial Output is shining

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Output at the eurozone’s mines, factories, and utilities rose at the fastest annual pace in more than five years in May, a clear indication that the area’s economic recovery is picking up.

The eurozone economy grew at the fastest rate in over two years during the first three months of 2017, outcompeting the U.S., U.K. and Japan. The European Union’s official statistics agency released output numbers, indicating Eurozone output was up 1.3% from April, and 4% from May 2016. The annual rate of increase was the fastest since August 2011, exceeding expectations.

Industrials, accounting for one fifth of total economic activity in the eurozone, contributed to 0.2% of growth. There were signs in April and May that the second quarter has seen more normal levels of output from the utilities, with energy production up in both quarters.

The positive results in industrial output was supported by a large increase in the production of capital goods, serving as a sign of increased investment by eurozone and international businesses. Among the zone’s largest members, France led the way with a 1.9% increase on the month.

According BNP Paribas, the eurozone economy grew by 0.7% in the past three months, marking an acceleration from the 0.6% rate of quarter-to-quarter growth recorded in the past

“Such improvements will force the European Central Bank to revise some of its policies moving forward in order to adjust to growth projections” said Keith Knutsson of Integrale Advisors.

ECB’s economists have raised their growth forecasts twice in the past year, now predicting growth to continue at 2% a year. In response to the strength of the recovery in the first half of the year, the European Central Bank has indicated it may soon withdraw some aspects of it’s current stimulus package. On the other hand, there are a few indications that inflation is to rise and stay at the central bank’s target.

Euro Funds on the Rise

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New statistics from PERE Research & Analytics revealed Europe-focused, closed-ended private real estate fundraising escalated to account for 39% of the roughly $48 billion total capital raised.  Q2 showed a huge increase in activity compared to the dormant Q1. Only 9% of the $19.57 billion raised during Q1 included European strategies. More recently, in Q2, multiple $1 billion plus fundraises in the region have accumulated to $18.71 billion.

The New York based Blackstone Real Estate Partners Europe V has played a record-breaking role in their European opportunistic offering, closing out last month with $8.87 billion. Additionally, Orion Capital Managers and Kildare Partners also held $1 billion-plus closes on European opportunistic strategies. Similarly, PGIM Real Estate’s sixth mezzanine real estate debt fund garnered $1.3 billion.

A major world player, Carlyle Group, is planning on re-entering private real estate capital markets after nearly a decade of being away. This will be the fourth opportunity fund for investments in Europe this year. The previous fund, Carlyle Europe Real Estate Partners III (CEREP III), had in Europe was in 2008, prior to the financial crisis, and raised 2.2 billion Euro in equity from institutional investors.

The group has undergone a rebranding to Carlyle Realty Europe. Additionally, significant personnel changes allow the vehicle’s identity to be more in line with its US counterparts. For their fourth fund, they will be setting their target to much lower to around 1 billion Euro. Senior Managing Director, Peter Stoll, who joined in 2015, mentioned “our dialogue with investors has now shifted to what’s next [and] what’s new.”

Nonetheless, the most popular strategy taking 49% share of the total continued to be a North-America focused fund. Cerberus Capital Management‘s latest instrument “ Cerberus Institutional Real Estate Partners IV“ has gathered $1.8 billion nearing their $2 billion target.

Global and Asia-Pacific (APAC) strategies accounted for 8 percent of the capital raised this year, compared to global funds taking 33% share, North America 32%, Europe 21%, and APAC with 13% first half (H1) year over year. Specifically, “[d]omestic demand in Europe is the driving force of recent economic growth” encouraging investors to take advantage of the profit opportunities stated Keith Knutsson of Integrale Advisors.

Compared to the 127 funds that closed H1 2016, H1 2017 saw a significant decline with only 84 closing. Although, “the average fund size trended upwards from $504.21 million in H1 2016, to $545.32 million in the first half of this year” according to PERE. Despite the increase in average fund size the overall global real estate fundraising continues to decline. The combined number funds closed in 2016 was the lowest in eight years, and the combined capital raised was at a five-year low. A modest $120.97 billion was raised for 214 funds in 2016 compared to the tally of $143.85 billion raised for 253 funds in 2015.