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High Probability Sovereigns to Hold Treasuries Despite Downgrade

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Sovereign wealth funds and other governmental investors will likely continue to hold positions in U.S. treasuries, at least in the short-run. Last Friday, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the United States, while Moody’s and Fitch Ratings affirmed their AAA status for the United States. This downgrade is unlikely to cause any mandatory sell-off of treasuries or massive dump by central banks, governmental pension funds, and sovereign funds since treasuries remain the most liquid asset. At this point in time, the United States is not facing the exact same dilemma that Greece is currently dealing with.

Around the globe, government officials publicly did not state there would be a massive sell off of treasuries from their respective countries.

From a practicality stance, treasuries remain safe as other major Western nations with sovereign debt issues are in similar or worse shape than the United States.

Asian countries are major holders of U.S. treasuries, especially China and Japan. Unlike Japan, in China there is a strong growing consensus from government officials of the need for the United States to curb its addiction on borrowing.

South Korea’s vice finance minister, Yim Jong Yong, told reporters in Gwacheon, “Our faith in U.S. Treasuries has not changed,” after a meeting with counterparts from the central bank and financial agencies.

Major Foreign Holdings of U.S. Treasury Securities in Billions – End of Period

Country May 2011 Apr 2011 Mar 2011 May 2010
China, Mainland 1159.8 1152.5 1144.9 867.7
Japan 912.4 906.9 907.9 784.8
United Kingdom* 346.5 333.0 325.2 350.7
Oil Exporters** 229.8 221.5 222.3 228.6
Brazil 211.4 206.9 193.5 161.5

Source – U.S. Treasury

* Includes Channel Islands and Isle of Man
**Oil exporters include Ecuador, Venezuela, Indonesia, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Gabon, Libya, and Nigeria.

With all things being said, many countries with non-commodity sovereign funds have large allocations to treasuries. For central banks, this is a result to prevent the unwanted appreciation in their currency against the U.S. dollar. If their currencies appreciate over the U.S. dollar it would hurt their export competiveness. Already, Japan has indicated they are willing to intervene again after selling currency on August 4th. Asian central banks are not thrilled about the American downgrade, but they are willing to hold out.

Saudi Aramco Contemplates SABIC Stake from PIF

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Oil giant Saudi Aramco is in early discussions on whether to pursue an ownership stake in Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) from the Public Investment Fund (PIF). At the moment, Saudi Aramco has no plans to buy publicly-held shares of SABIC. SABIC was founded in 1976 by Saudi royal decree to convert oil by-products into useful chemicals, polymers, and fertilizers.

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SWFI First Read, July 19, 2018

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GIC Eyes Provenance Land

GIC Private Limited is nearing a deal to purchase up to 50% of Provenance Land. Provenance Land owns India’s first Four Seasons hotel.

Eduard van Gelderen Leaves UC Regents for PSP Investments CIO Role

Eduard van Gelderen exited his position as Senior Managing Director at the University of California Regents’ Office of the Chief Investment Officer. His role will not be replaced. He accepted an offer to be Chief Investment Officer of the Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP Investments).

PAAMCO Prisma Holdings CEOs to Exit

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Google Fined Big Time by EU Regarding Antitrust Violations

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The European Union (EU), through its competition commissioner, levied a €4.34 billion fine against Alphabet Inc., the owner of Google. The fine is over Google having “imposed illegal restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators to cement its dominant position in general internet search,” according to the European Commission (EC).

The European Commission is requiring Alphabet to cease from its conduct that it is accused of within 90 days or face penalty payments of up to 5% of the average daily worldwide turnover of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said in a press release, “Today, mobile internet makes up more than half of global internet traffic. It has changed the lives of millions of Europeans. Our case is about three types of restrictions that Google has imposed on Android device manufacturers and network operators to ensure that traffic on Android devices goes to the Google search engine. In this way, Google has used Android as a vehicle to cement the dominance of its search engine. These practices have denied rivals the chance to innovate and compete on the merits. They have denied European consumers the benefits of effective competition in the important mobile sphere. This is illegal under EU antitrust rules.”

The EC press release added, “In particular, Google: 1. has required manufacturers to pre-install the Google Search app and browser app (Chrome), as a condition for licensing Google’s app store (the Play Store); 2. made payments to certain large manufacturers and mobile network operators on condition that they exclusively pre-installed the Google Search app on their devices; and 3. has prevented manufacturers wishing to pre-install Google apps from selling even a single smart mobile device running on alternative versions of Android that were not approved by Google (so-called “Android forks”).”

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