Asian Insider Jan 2: China’s $150 billion boost to its economy, Singapore’s modest economic growth and Hong Kong’s continuing political woes

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents.

Happy New Year!

In the year’s first bulletin, we look at China’s move to boost its economy by injecting another tranche of funds so that the banks can free up more loans to businesses; Singapore beats analysts’ forecast to return a slightly better growth for 2019, and Hong Kong protesters ruined New Year’s Day with more trouble in the city

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CHINA MOVES TO BOOST ITS ECONOMY

China's central bank, the People's Bank of China, announced that it would inject about US$115 billion (S$155 billion) into the economy by freeing up banks to lend more money. The move comes after a similar action in September and is likely to focus renewed attention on the health of the Chinese economy, a major driver of global growth. The measure is relatively modest given the vast size of the Chinese economy, but the timing suggests that the country's leaders are on high alert for new evidence of a slowdown.   

Read also: Asian stocks rise on the first trading day of year, buoyed by hopes of an improvement to the US-China trade ties

SINGAPORE AVOIDS RECESSION IN 2019 WITH MODEST GROWTH

Singapore's economy grew by 0.7 per cent year on year in 2019, based on flash estimates released by the Ministry of Trade and Industry on Thursday (Jan 2). This was better than the 0.6 per cent growth forecast by analysts, even though it was far below the 3.1 per cent expansion in 2018. It is also Singapore’s slowest economic growth since 2009, when the economy expanded 0.1 per cent year on year.

Read more:

Singapore to spend S$2.5 billion to renew its oldest and most heavily used MRT network

Singapore’s private home prices edged up by 0.3 per cent in last quarter

NO END IN SIGHT FOR HONG KONG’S POLITICAL WOES

Hong Kong started the New Year with a familiar sight: tear gas, fires, vandalism and roadblocks in busy downtown areas as protesters vowed to maintain their fight for democracy and less Chinese control. At least 400 of them ended their first day of the year in police stations after scores of them blocked major roads and vandalised HSBC bank properties and even the wall of the High Court building.

Don't miss:

HSBC starts the year with some branches and facilities closed

HK cops tracked down assailants of a vicious attack one month later

NORTH KOREA SET TO GO NUCLEAR AGAIN

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is "deeply concerned" that North Korea has indicated it could resume nuclear and missile tests. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said this week that there were no longer grounds for Pyongyang to be bound by a self-declared moratorium on intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear bomb testing and that a "new strategic weapon" would be introduced in the near future.

Don't miss: Our South Korea Correspondent Chang May Choon shares her insights to the North Korean leader’s move

FIELD NOTES FROM OUR CORRESPONDENTS IN THE NEW YEAR

NIRMAL GHOSH in Washington: President Donald Trump enters 2020 with rock solid base

WALTER SIM in Tokyo: Drop in snow fall signals climate change in JapanThe woes of non-performing mid-career workers in Japan

LIM YAN LIANG in Beijing: New law protects doctors and nurses in China from violence

WAHYUDI SOERIAATMADJA in Jakarta: Haze in Indonesia likely to be less severe in 2020

COOL GADGETS IN 2020

And finally, if you are looking to reward yourself with some cool gadgets this year, you are in for a treat. New 5G smartphones will debut this year, along with super-sharp 8K TV sets and laptops that work all day with just a single charge.  

Check out a preview of the cool gadgets in 2020 by our Techies Vincent Chang and Trevor Tan

Thank you for reading the Asian Insider, and for being a reader of The Straits Times.

See you again tomorrow!

Ooi Boon

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