Why China’s Middle Class Is Losing Its Confidence
Kanebridge News
    HOUSE MEDIAN ASKING PRICES AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $1,613,207 (-0.60%)       Melbourne $969,484 (-0.54%)       Brisbane $991,125 (-0.15%)       Adelaide $906,278 (+1.12%)       Perth $892,773 (+0.03%)       Hobart $726,294 (-0.04%)       Darwin $657,141 (-1.18%)       Canberra $1,003,818 (-0.83%)       National $1,045,092 (-0.37%)                UNIT MEDIAN ASKING PRICES AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $754,460 (+0.43%)       Melbourne $495,941 (+0.11%)       Brisbane $587,365 (+0.63%)       Adelaide $442,425 (-2.43%)       Perth $461,417 (+0.53%)       Hobart $511,031 (+0.36%)       Darwin $373,250 (+2.98%)       Canberra $492,184 (-1.10%)       National $537,029 (+0.15%)                HOUSES FOR SALE AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 9,787 (-116)       Melbourne 14,236 (+55)       Brisbane 8,139 (+64)       Adelaide 2,166 (-18)       Perth 5,782 (+59)       Hobart 1,221 (+5)       Darwin 279 (+4)       Canberra 924 (+36)       National 42,534 (+89)                UNITS FOR SALE AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 8,638 (-81)       Melbourne 8,327 (-30)       Brisbane 1,728 (-19)       Adelaide 415 (+10)       Perth 1,444 (+2)       Hobart 201 (-10)       Darwin 392 (-7)       Canberra 1,004 (-14)       National 22,149 (-149)                HOUSE MEDIAN ASKING RENTS AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $820 (+$20)       Melbourne $620 ($0)       Brisbane $630 (-$5)       Adelaide $615 (+$5)       Perth $675 ($0)       Hobart $560 (+$10)       Darwin $700 ($0)       Canberra $680 ($0)       National $670 (+$4)                UNIT MEDIAN ASKING RENTS AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $750 ($0)       Melbourne $590 (-$5)       Brisbane $630 (+$5)       Adelaide $505 (-$5)       Perth $620 (-$10)       Hobart $460 (-$10)       Darwin $580 (+$20)       Canberra $550 ($0)       National $597 (-$)                HOUSES FOR RENT AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 6,197 (+313)       Melbourne 6,580 (-5)       Brisbane 4,403 (-85)       Adelaide 1,545 (-44)       Perth 2,951 (+71)       Hobart 398 (-13)       Darwin 97 (+4)       Canberra 643 (+11)       National 22,814 (+252)                UNITS FOR RENT AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 10,884 (-22)       Melbourne 6,312 (0)       Brisbane 2,285 (-54)       Adelaide 357 (-14)       Perth 783 (-14)       Hobart 129 (-14)       Darwin 132 (+6)       Canberra 831 (+15)       National 21,713 (-97)                HOUSE ANNUAL GROSS YIELDS AND TREND       Sydney 2.64% (↑)      Melbourne 3.33% (↑)        Brisbane 3.31% (↓)       Adelaide 3.53% (↓)       Perth 3.93% (↓)     Hobart 4.01% (↑)      Darwin 5.54% (↑)      Canberra 3.52% (↑)      National 3.34% (↑)             UNIT ANNUAL GROSS YIELDS AND TREND         Sydney 5.17% (↓)       Melbourne 6.19% (↓)     Brisbane 5.58% (↑)      Adelaide 5.94% (↑)        Perth 6.99% (↓)       Hobart 4.68% (↓)     Darwin 8.08% (↑)      Canberra 5.81% (↑)        National 5.78% (↓)            HOUSE RENTAL VACANCY RATES AND TREND       Sydney 0.8% (↑)      Melbourne 0.7% (↑)      Brisbane 0.7% (↑)      Adelaide 0.4% (↑)      Perth 0.4% (↑)      Hobart 0.9% (↑)      Darwin 0.8% (↑)      Canberra 1.0% (↑)      National 0.7% (↑)             UNIT RENTAL VACANCY RATES AND TREND       Sydney 0.9% (↑)      Melbourne 1.1% (↑)      Brisbane 1.0% (↑)      Adelaide 0.5% (↑)      Perth 0.5% (↑)      Hobart 1.4% (↑)      Darwin 1.7% (↑)      Canberra 1.4% (↑)      National 1.1% (↑)             AVERAGE DAYS TO SELL HOUSES AND TREND         Sydney 29.8 (↓)     Melbourne 31.7 (↑)      Brisbane 30.6 (↑)        Adelaide 25.2 (↓)       Perth 35.2 (↓)     Hobart 35.1 (↑)      Darwin 44.2 (↑)        Canberra 31.5 (↓)     National 32.9 (↑)             AVERAGE DAYS TO SELL UNITS AND TREND         Sydney 29.7 (↓)       Melbourne 30.5 (↓)     Brisbane 27.8 (↑)        Adelaide 22.8 (↓)     Perth 38.4 (↑)        Hobart 37.5 (↓)       Darwin 37.3 (↓)       Canberra 40.5 (↓)       National 33.1 (↓)           
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Why China’s Middle Class Is Losing Its Confidence

The country’s economic miracle created an optimistic middle class. A slowdown has left it shaken.

By CAO LI
Wed, Mar 27, 2024 9:10amGrey Clock 5 min

Three years ago, everything seemed to be going right for Blake Xu.

The 33-year-old entrepreneur and his family had built a portfolio of properties during China’s real-estate boom. His wife was expecting their first child. He had just sold an apartment, and put almost half of the proceeds into the stock market.

Since then, the property market has entered a years long downturn, the country’s benchmark CSI 300 stock index has lost around a third of its value and the economy has become increasingly vulnerable, suffering from moribund consumer confidence, weak private-sector investment and sky-high youth unemployment.

Xu has already pulled almost all of his money out of China’s stock market. His next exit may be from China itself. undefined undefined “I don’t know where the future path lies,” said Xu, who lives in Shanghai. “Once our child grows a little older, we intend to send him abroad, and perhaps we will also go.” undefined undefined For most of their lives, China’s new generation of middle-class citizens could take a booming economy for granted. But the property rout, the stock-market slump and the wider economic downturn have forced them to confront a difficult question: Are China’s boom years over for good?

Chinese citizens are spending less, saving more and shying away from risky investments. Household savings in the country reached $19.83 trillion by February, the highest figure on record, according to data from the central bank. Consumer confidence is near its lowest level in decades.

The increasing sense of nervousness among China’s city-dwellers and white-collar workers could be a major problem for Beijing. China’s government has for years derived legitimacy from its reputation for sound economic management. undefined undefined Now, that reputation looks increasingly shaky.

Finding an exit strategy

Hugo Chen, 30, was born during the early stages of China’s remarkable economic transformation, which came after former leader Deng Xiaoping  rolled back the worst excesses of Maoism and opened the doors to global trade.

Chen, who was raised in the wealthy coastal city of Shenzhen, studied for a master’s degree in the U.K. He moved back to China in 2017 to work in finance and, like many Chinese citizens, decided to play the stock market. He also bought bonds and invested in insurance products.

But last year, he made a decision: no more Chinese shares.

Chen, a banker, had previously helped an insurance company manage its money. He knew more than most about investing—and China no longer seemed like a smart place to invest money.

By the end of 2023, the CSI 300 index had fallen for three years in a row. Even worse, stocks in the U.S., Japan and elsewhere had surged. It was  supposed to be China’s century , but the economy and the stock market were losing ground to those in other countries.

“Becoming poor is one thing. Becoming poor while others get rich is another,” said Chen.

He shifted most of his investments into funds that buy U.S. stocks.

China has more than 220 million individual investors, meaning stock-market moves can have a big impact on the national psyche. These small investors once had a reputation as gamblers. After the slump of the past few years, they have scaled back their bets and  increasingly shifted to safer assets  such as money-market funds.

The real-estate sector has done even more damage to confidence. What started as an attempt by Beijing to rein in excessive debt in the sector around three years ago has morphed into a multiyear crisis, pushing dozens of developers to the brink of collapse and pulling the rug out from under one of China’s main drivers of economic growth.

The price of existing homes in China’s most developed cities fell 6.3% in February compared with the same month last year— the biggest year-over-year decline on record.

Xu, the entrepreneur, sold a second property in a process he described as extremely painful. But he has no regrets: The money will give him the flexibility he needs to leave the country if things get worse, he said.

“Emotionally, I hope for the best for this country,” said Xu. “However, if this team of leaders stays, to be frank, I have to have an exit strategy, as the outlook is worrisome.”

That is precisely the kind of sentiment that will unsettle officials in Beijing. Although China’s government keeps a tight grip on power, it is acutely sensitive to the public mood.

China’s population has a history of public displays of dissent,  including public protests against banks and companies . Beijing has tolerated at least a degree of dissent, as long as its citizens follow one overriding principle: Don’t blame the central government.

But some people in the country do blame Beijing for the current economic troubles, pointing to policy U-turns on internet companies, private education and real estate, and a strict approach to containing Covid-19 that has dealt lasting damage to confidence in the country.

The shift toward low investment and high savings is fuelling a vicious cycle, where the economic slump erodes confidence levels and, in turn, low confidence worsens the downturn, said Yasheng Huang, professor of global economics and management with MIT Sloan School of Management and a fellow at the Wilson Center.

“When a society settles on a particular psychology, it’s not easy to shift,” he said.

From hope to fear

Scarlett Hu, 37, remembers how it felt to be back in China in 2014. She had just returned from studying abroad, and took a job in Shanghai’s luxury-goods sector.

“At that time everyone in the society was full of hope. There was this promising sentiment around,” said Hu. “When we went out to relax after work, we believed that tomorrow would be better and let’s have fun today.”

Hu bought an apartment in Shanghai in 2017 and started buying mutual funds that invest in the stock market in 2020, before the birth of her son. She hoped the money would help pay for his education. At the time, it seemed like a smart bet: The real-estate market was booming, and stocks were nearing a record high,  cheered on by China’s bullish state media.
Her apartment has now lost 15% of its value, and her mutual-fund portfolio is down 35%.

“Now we talk about concrete plans and measures to secure a more certain future, focusing on ways to enhance our sense of security. You don’t feel that kind of ambition any more,” she said.

China’s government has taken steps to tackle the downturn, including easing lending rules for battered real-estate firms, cutting borrowing rates and pledging to resolve the debt problems of local governments. But Beijing appears reluctant to adopt the sort of direct stimulus Western governments embraced in the wake of Covid-19, when  direct payments to consumers  helped get spending back on track.

In early March, Chinese Premier Li Qiang said the government was targeting growth of around 5% for 2024, and there have been recent signs of improvement.

But economists think Beijing will find it difficult to hit this growth target, and some people in the country worry that things are about to get worse.

A 40-year-old equity analyst based in Beijing said she lost her job last August when the consulting firm she worked for closed. She has two children to care for, her husband’s income is unstable, and she is bracing herself for more pain to come.

“Everyone is saying that this year might still be the best in the next decade, so we should be prepared for a long period of hardship,” she said.



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The Top 10 highest paid CEOs of the ASX 200 revealed

Along with pay rates, the latest report from the ACSI shows bonuses are no longer based on exceptional results

By Bronwyn Allen
Tue, Jul 23, 2024 2 min

The CEOs of the ASX 200 were paid a little less in FY23 compared to the year before, but bonuses appear to have become the norm rather than a reward for outstanding results, according to the Australia Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI). ACSI has released its 23rd annual report documenting the CEOs’ realised pay, which combines base salaries, bonuses and other incentives.

The highest-paid CEO among Australian-domiciled ASX 200 companies in FY23 was Greg Goodman of Goodman Group, with realised pay of $27.34 million. Goodman Group is the ASX 200’s largest real estate investment trust (REIT) with a global portfolio of $80.5 billion in assets. The highest-paid CEO among foreign-domiciled ASX 200 companies was Mick Farrell of ResMed with realised pay of $47.58 million. ResMed manufactures CPAP machines to treat sleep apnoea.

The realised pay for the CEOs of the largest 100 companies by market capitalisation fell marginally from a median of $3.93 million in FY22 to $3.87 million in FY23. This is the lowest median in the 10 years since ACSI began basing its report on realised pay data. The median realised pay for the CEOs of the next largest 100 companies also fell from $2.1million to $1.95 million.

However, 192 of the ASX 200 CEOs took home a bonus, and Ed John, ACSI’s executive manager of stewardship, is concerned that bonuses are becoming “a given”.

“At a time when companies are focused on productivity and performance, it is critical that bonuses are only paid for exceptional outcomes,” Mr John said. He added that boards should set performance thresholds for CEO bonuses at appropriate levels.

ACSI said the slightly lower median realised pay of ASX 200 CEOs indicated greater scrutiny from shareholders was having an impact. There was a record 41 strike votes against executive pay at ASX 300 annual general meetings (AGMs) in 2023. This indicated an increasing number of shareholders were feeling unhappy with the executive pay levels at the companies in which they were invested.

A strike vote means 25 percent or more of shareholders voted against a company’s remuneration report. If a second strike vote is recorded at the next AGM, shareholders can vote to force the directors to stand for re-election.

10 highest-paid ASX 200 CEOs in FY23

1. Mick Farrell, ResMed, $47.58 million*
2. Robert Thomson, News Corporation, $41.53 million*
3. Greg Goodman, Goodman Group, $27.34 million
4. Shemara Wikramanayake, Macquarie Group, $25.32 million
5. Mike Henry, BHP Group, $19.68 million
6. Matt Comyn, Commonwealth Bank, $10.52 million
7. Jakob Stausholm, Rio Tinto, $10.47 million
8. Rob Scott, Wesfarmers, $9.57 million
9. Ron Delia, Amcor, $9.33 million*
10. Colin Goldschmidt, Sonic Healthcare, $8.35 million

Source: ACSI. Foreign-domiciled ASX 200 companies*

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