Hi everyone. I’m Stephanie LI.
Coming up on today’s program.
China home prices in February rose for first time in 18 months;
Baidu unveils the highly anticipated Ernie Bot in a pre-recored demonstration.
Here’s what you need to know about China in the past 24 hours
China’s home prices rose in February for the first time in 18 months, a sign that government efforts to stabilize the property market are starting to pay off.
New home prices in 70 cities, excluding state-subsidized housing, gained 0.3 percent after being unchanged in January, the National Bureau of Statistics reported Thursday. Prices snapped an 18-month decline in the secondary market, rising 0.12 percent.
In February, 55 out of 70 large and medium-sized cities saw month-on-month increases in new home prices, up from 36 in January, according to NBS. Meanwhile, 40 cities witnessed higher resale home prices, up from 13 in the previous month.
Remarking on the data, Sheng Guoqing, the bureau's senior statistician, said the effect of government policies to stabilize the property market gradually appeared and the housing demand was also further unleashed.
New home prices in four first-tier cities edged up 0.2 percent, same with January, while those of the 31 second-tier cities gained 0.4 percent, picking up pace from the 0.1-percent increase a month earlier. New housing in 35 third-tier cities saw the prices up 0.3 percent, reversing a 0.1-percent drop registered in January.
Warming signs were also seen on the second-hand market as prices went up 0.7 percent and 0.1 percent month on month in first and second-tier cities, respectively, and ended a losing streak to stay flat in third-tier cities.
The official data came after figures from China Real Estate Information Corp showed home sales rose last month for the first time in 20 months, with that rise partly helped by a low comparison base last year when the Lunar New Year holiday fell in February.
Property investment and sales data from the NBS yesterday also indicate that a real estate recovery is taking shape. The amount of real estate space completing construction reached 131.8 million square meters, up 8 percent year-on-year, among which 97.8 million square meters of residential space was finished during the January-February period, up 9.7 percent from a year ago.
From January to February, commercial housing sales fell 3.6 percent year-on-year, edging down 0.1 percent to 1.55 trillion yuan in terms of value over the same period of the previous year, the NBS said. The figures for residential real estate are more encouraging as housing sales saw a year-on-year growth of 3.5 percent in terms of value.
Moving on to regional highlights
Beijing has become one of the latest localities in China to adopt the China-Europe freight train platform. Beijing sends its first China-Europe freight train service on Thursday, which carries 55 40-foot containers worth of auto parts, apparel, home appliances and construction material. The train will enter Russia via Manzhouli Port in China's Inner Mongolia before arriving in Moscow with the 9,000-kilometer journey taking about 18 days to complete.
Greater Bay Area, Greater future
Hong Kong and the mainland on Wednesday signed an agreement to work together to speed up the building of an international innovative technology hub in the SAR. Minister of Science and Technology Wang Zhigang said Hong Kong plays an indispensable role in the nation’s self-reliance on high-value IT industry. Meanwhile, Chief Executive John Lee noted that the agreement will bring about more profound collaboration between the two sides in areas such as research and development, sharing of resources and exchange of personnel.
Guangdong government is supporting the Guangzhou Futures Exchange to develop weather futures, which help businesses such as farming and renewable energy hedge against losses caused by unexpected changes in the weather pattern. The local government will also help to set up research institutes for the investment and financing of weather derivatives, it said Tuesday.
Next on industry and company news
Chinese airlines are rapidly scaling up the number of overseas flights following the country's lifting of travel restrictions. Air China's flight capacity for international routes in February was up 167.4 percent year-on-year, following China Eastern Airlines' 425.9 percent increase and China Southern Airlines' 317 percent jump, according to operational data released by the carriers on Wednesday. Similar growth was also seen in two major private airlines, Spring Airlines and Juneyao Air. Data from information provider VariFlight showed that accumulated passenger flights as of Sunday was 25,900, an increase of 187 percent over the same period last year, but a decrease of 86 percent from the same period in 2019.
Chinese search engine giant Baidu on Thursday unveiled its much-anticipated AI-powered chatbot known as Ernie Bot. Billionaire founder Robin Li took to the stage Thursday, showing Ernie Bot’s multimodal ability to generate text, images, audio, and videos in a series of pre-recorded demo videos. Baidu’s Ernie has all-around skills, Li said, as it can answer complicated questions, write poems, as well as generating images and videos based on prompts. Ernie Bot will be open to an initial group of users with invitation codes starting today, and companies can apply to embed the bot into their products via Baidu's cloud platform. The limited presentation of Ernie Bot failed to match market hopes and Baidu's shares in Hong Kong tumbled as much as 10 percent today before getting back some ground to end 6 percent down.
Chinese AI pioneer SenseTime unveiled what it called the "largest multimodal open-source large-language model" on Tuesday. Named Intern 2.5, the model was jointly developed by SenseTime, Shanghai Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Tsinghua University, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Shanghai Jiao Tong University. The model's cross-modal open-task processing ability can provide efficient and accurate perception and understanding support for general scenarios such as autonomous driving and robots, SenseTime added.
Philips' air conditioner business operator in China was ruled to pay Chinese white goods giant Gree Electric Appliance 2.5 million yuan for two patent infringement charges. Nanjing Zhipu Supply Chain Management should immediately stop manufacturing five Philips-branded electrical products that infringed Gree's invention patent rights and pay the Chinese firm compensations of 2.5 million yuan for the two charges within 10 days, according to a ruling of the Xi'an Intermediate People's Court in Shaanxi province.
Earnings reports express
Shares of Ping An Insurance fell after net profit at the Chinese insurance giant shrank for the third straight year in 2022 because its investment income plunged amid fluctuations in the capital market. Net profit fell 17.6 percent to 83.8 billion yuan last year from 2021, while revenue fell 5.9 percent to 1.1 trillion yuan. Profit from life and health insurance remained Ping An Insurance’s primary source of income but slumped 18.5 percent to 48.5 billion yuan, while that from property insurance plunged over 45 percent to 8.8 billion yuan. The declines were mainly dragged down by the firm’s investment income, which fell 29.3 percent to 101.8 billion yuan in the period. Operating profit excluding short-term investment fluctuations and other non-operational factors edged up 0.3 percent to 148.4 billion yuan, the company noted. Meanwhile, Ping An Insurance’s profit from its banking unit Ping An Bank rose 25.3 percent to 26.4 billion yuan last year from 2021.
Switching gears to financial news
China EximBank, a major policy bank in China, announced on Tuesday that it has achieved the first loan cooperation in yuan with Saudi National Bank, the largest bank in Saudi Arabia, facilitating financial cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The funds will be preferentially used to meet the demand of China-Saudi Arabia trade projects, China EximBank said.
China’s holdings of US treasury bonds fell for the sixth consecutive month in January to the lowest since June 2010. China, US’s second biggest creditor after Japan, cut its debt holdings by USD7.7 billion to USD859.4 billion in January from the previous month, data from the US Department of Treasury showed yesterday. The figure has stayed below the USD1 trillion threshold for 10 months in a row.
Wrapping up with a quick look at the stock market
Chinese and Hong Kong stocks fell on Thursday, as troubles at top lender Credit Suisse stoked fears of a banking crisis. China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite lost 1.1 percent and the Shenzhen Component fell 1.5 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index also closed 1.7 percent lower, and the TECH index dropped 1.4 percent.
Biz Word of the Day
Weather future is a type of weather derivative where the payoffs are based on the aggregate difference in the measured weather variable, usually the recorded temperature, over a fixed period. Weather futures enable businesses to protect themselves against losses caused by unexpected shifts in weather conditions.
Executive Editor: Sonia YU
Editor: LI Yanxia
Host: Stephanie LI
Writer: Stephanie LI
Sound Editor: Stephanie LI
Graphic Designer: ZHENG Wenjing, LIAO Yuanni
Produced by 21st Century Business Herald Dept. of Overseas News.
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