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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Allianz Leaders Talk Elections and Global Politics

Reported by Tommy Fernandez

During the "Countdown to 2013" panel discussions held at Allianz Global Investors Wednesday morning, a team of Allianz investment executives discussed the global investment landscape for 2013, the implications of the upcoming U.S. elections, and China's change of leadership. Also discussed was the ECB's implementation plan and the possibility of a hard landing in China.

The panelists were CIO Andreas Utermann, Asia Pacific CIO Raymond Chan, PM Ben Fisher and Kristina Hopper, head of portfolio strategies.

One major focus of the discussion was the presidential debate and the potential ramifications for US debt and the fiscal cliff.

Utermann had this to say:
I would just let politics play out. Refocus on what is going to really drive the markets. There is the Ongoing question of how we are going to get out significant debt levels.
The only way out of debt, he said, is by growth, an issue that the Federal Reserve in the US and central banks in other countries have been trying to address via interest rate easing.

"The key question we should ask ourselves is this, are there signs that the latest signs of easing will generate growth," he said.

Investors need to focus on whether will growth be marginalized in the next twelve months.

Chan addressed the issue of investing in China and the ongoing worries of its slowing economy and pending government transition.

For example, he noted that the Chinese government will formally start transitions on November 8th which will continue to March, in which the will be quite a bit of changes in the people who run The Communist Party and it's government.

Chan was optimistic about the changes.

"We have seen a bit of stability in terms of change," he said.

The two big areas for potential reform, Chan said, involved the financial sector and taxes. For example, the Chinese central bank had cut interest rates in July, indicating that the government was aware of the fat margins enjoyed by the Chinese banks. Another important reform would allow provincial governments to raise more taxes to meet their expenses and address local infrastructure issues.

"The central government is very cash rich. The provisional governments are not," he said.

Chan also downplayed the concern of a hard economic landing in China. For years, the country has enjoyed double digit economic growth and the government has been working to pare it down to single digits. That is a good thing, Chan said, because the economy had simply been growing too fast.

What is most important now, Chan said, is the development of the infrastructure and economies in the second, third and fourth tier cities.

He said that there has been a hard landing in corporate earnings due to growing corporate costs and that has led to investment opportunities.

"Companies have never been this cheap before," he said.

Fisher meanwhile said the markets are especially concerned about uncertainty and the tension related to the political race. Any actions related to the fiscal cliff won't take place until politicians are sure who will win the presidential election. The markets are similarly unsure.

Moreover, Fisher said that the Reserve's ongoing QE3 efforts were essential in keeping the US out of a great recession. 

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