According to fresh economic data, the Chinese factory activity contracted at its fastest pace in three years in August, confirming the slowdown in the country’s economy.
The official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) dropped to 49.7 from 50 in July.
A figure below 50 indicates contraction.
The weak data is likely to add to global concerns over China’s economy losing steam and could send Asian and global shares down further.
A separate private Caixin/Markit index also released on Tuesday puts the PMI number even weaker, at 47.3, the weakest reading since 2009.
The fresh economic data is also likely to undermine efforts by Beijing to reassure investors and calm markets.
Chinese mainland stocks have been on a steep downward slope over the past months, shedding almost 40% since June.
Authorities have injected money into the markets, allowed the state pension fund to start buying up shares and lowered lending rates.
So far though, none of those measures have managed to push the markets back into positive territory and analysts have warned that the more Beijing’s intervention fails to have an impact, the more likely it is that future ones will be shrugged off by investors.
China stock market returns to positive territory after massive losses there earlier in the week rocked markets around the globe.
The Shanghai Composite was up by 0.6% to 2,942.94 points.
The turnaround though does little to make up double-digit percentage losses made so far this week.
Shares elsewhere in Asia also made gains in early trade on the back of a jump on Wall Street on August 26, which saw its biggest rise in 4 years.
In other Asian markets on August 27, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was up by 2.5% at 21,613.48 points; the region’s biggest stock market, Japan’s Nikkei 225, finished trading 1.1% up at 18,574.44, building on strong gains made the previous session; South Korea’s Kospi also notched up gains for a second day. The index closed 0.7% higher at 1,908.0 points.
In Australia, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 wrapped up the day 1.2% higher at 5,238.70 points.
Severe losses on the Chinese market over the past week had sent shockwaves around the globe.
A move by the country’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China, to cut its key lending rate on August 25 initially failed to calm the Chinese market.
Concerns about China’s slowing economic growth have been rising for months with a constant trickle of poor economic data, the latest of which last Friday suggested that factory activity shrank in August at its fastest pace in more than 6 years.
Analysts believe the tentative share market rebound indicates fears over China’s woes may have somewhat eased.
China’s Central Bank has cut the yuan’s rate against the US dollar for a second day.
The move sent fresh shockwaves through Asian markets, but the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) has sought to calm fears, saying it was not the start of a sustained depreciation.
The Chinese yuan fell another 1% on August 12, marking the biggest two-day lowering of its rate against the dollar in more than two decades.
The new rate is meant to boost exports.
Figures released at the weekend showed Chinese exports fell more than 8% in July, adding to concerns the world’s second largest economy is heading for a slowdown.
There were further signs of weakness on August 12, when figures showed industrial production in July rose 6% from the previous year. The rise was smaller than expected and was also below the 6.8% increase seen in June.
Fixed asset investment, a measure of state spending on infrastructure, expanded 11.2% for the first half of the year, also below estimates and at its lowest since December 2000.
However, the action on the yuan has sparked fears of a global and destabilizing “currency war”. There has been criticism from the US, where markets fell sharply overnight.
On August 12, the PBOC fixed the “official midpoint” for the yuan down 1.6% to 6.3306 against the dollar.
The midpoint is a guiding rate, from which trade can rise or fall 2% during the day.
Until August 11, that rate had been determined solely by the PBOC itself. But the rate will now be based on overnight global market developments and how the currency finished the previous trading day.
The bank, which had called Tuesday’s 1.9% cut a “one-off” adjustment, sought to reassure financial markets on Wednesday.
“Looking at the international and domestic economic situation, currently there is no basis for a sustained depreciation trend for the yuan,” it said in a statement.
Chinese shares have recorded their biggest one-day fall for more than eight years following a sell-off towards the end of the trading day.
The Shanghai Composite closed down 8.5% at 3,725.56 after more weak economic data raised concerns about the health of world’s second largest economy.
Profit at China’s industrial companies dropped 0.3% in June from a year ago.
That followed data on July 24 indicating that factory activity in July seen its worse performance for 15 months.
The Shanghai market’s fall was the biggest one-day loss since February 2007.
Photo Getty Images
While there was little to explain why shares were being sold at such a level, analysts said fears that China might hold off from further measures to boost the economy had contributed to concerns among investors.
The stock market has been benefitting from a series of support measures from the government and regulators after it lost a third of its value in the three weeks from mid-June.
Since late June, Chinese authorities have cut interest rates, suspended initial public offerings, eased margin-lending and pushed brokerages to buy stocks, backed by money from the central bank.
Chinese shares had recovered about 15% of their value before today’s plunge – showing some signs of stabilization.
On July 27 stocks fell across the board, including benchmark index heavyweights such as China Unicom, Bank of Communications and PetroChina.
More than 1,500 shares listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen fell by their daily downward limit of 10%.
Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index closed down 3.1% at 24,351.96 – its biggest loss in three weeks.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index fell 1% to 20,350.10, while South Korea’s Kospi index finished 0.4% lower at 2,038.81.
Australian stocks bucked the downward trend, closing up 0.3% at 5,582.40.
China’s economic growth beat expectations in Q2 2015, but it was still the weakest showing since the global financial crisis.
The world’s second largest economy grew 7% from a year ago – matching growth in Q1 2015, which was the lowest since 2009 when it fell to 6.6%.
A weaker property market and factory production have hampered growth.
Meanwhile, Beijing has rolled out a series of stimulus measures amid the slowdown.
The central bank cut interest rates for the fourth time since November last month to boost economic activity.
Economists are, however, continuing to call for more easing despite the better-than-expected numbers as volatility in the stock markets has sparked concerns of financial turmoil in China.
Growth was expected to dip below the 7% mark and come in at 6.9% for Q2 2015.
The mainland’s benchmark index, the Shanghai Composite, had lost almost a third of its value in the three weeks from mid-June.
The positive growth figures failed to excite investors with the index down 2.4% to 3,830.49 points, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was lower by 0.5% to 24,995.95.
On a quarterly basis, China’s economy expanded 1.7% from April to June, compared to the 1.4% revised figure in Q1 2015.
The government has also had to respond to suggestions that the better data may have been “inflated”.
The National Bureau of Statistics said on July 15 that the data reflecting the positive changes in the economy was “hard won”, and accurate.
Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics said that while actual growth is “almost certainly” a percentage point or two slower than the official figures show, it does point to signs of a stabilizing economy.
“More broadly, with the drag from the structural slowdown in property and heavy industry now easing, we think that growth is on track to slow only gradually over the course of the next few years,” he said in a note.
Industrial production and retail sales in June were all above forecasts, while fixed-asset investment, a major driver of the economy, also beat expectations in the period.
China’s growth slowed further in Q1 2015, expanding 7% compared to a year earlier, its slowest pace since the global financial crisis in 2009.
The rate was lower than the 7.3% posted for Q4 2014.
In 2014, China’s economy, which is the world’s second largest, grew at its slowest pace since 1990.
It expanded by 7.4% in 2014, missing its annual growth target of 7.5% for the first time in 15 years.
Despite the slowdown, the Chinese economy was still one of the world’s fasting-growing and analysts have said it was proving to be more resilient than expected.
However, they have also said that slower growth, together with China’s cooling property market – a key economic driver – was likely to mean further easing by its central bank this year, including further rate cuts among other measures.
In February 2015, the People’s Bank of China unexpectedly cut interest rates for the second time since last November.
Interest rate cuts together with injections of liquidity are some of the tools Beijing uses to fine tune its economic growth.
The latest growth numbers were by no means a hard landing – which some had feared – and were in line with the latest government target, analysts said.
In Q1 2009, amid the financial crisis, China’s economy expanded 6.6% from a year earlier.
China also released industrial production (IP) figures on April 15 which fell to 5.9% month-on-month in March, down from forecasts for an expansion of 6.9% and the lowest since 2008.
Analysts said these figures were more glaring than the growth data.
Markets were lacklustre following the numbers however, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index up 0.7% and the benchmark Shanghai Composite flat, up just 0.01% at 4,135.91.
China overtakes the USA as the world’s largest economy, according to figures from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The figures are adjusted for Purchasing Power Parity (PPP).
According to the IMF, the combined purchasing power of China’s citizens now outstrips that of America’s. By the end of 2014, China should make up 16.48& of the world’s purchasing-power adjusted GDP for a total of $17.632 trillion.
The US economy, by contrast, will make up 16.28%, or $17.416 trillion.
China overtakes the USA as the world’s largest economy in 2014
Purchasing power parity seeks to address the fact that while wages tend to be lower in “developing” countries than in mature economies like the US, the price of goods and servicing is also typically much lower.
The Economist’s Big Mac Index, for example, quotes the price of the McDonalds staple in July at $4.80 in the US, but just $2.73 in China.
PPP, therefore, bases economic output on what a country’s citizens can purchase, as opposed to an unadjusted GDP figure using market exchange rate, which is more often quoted.
However, the figure is controversial. It requires the comparison of a huge amount of goods and services, and is therefore a vast statistical undertaking that can only be conducted infrequently with estimates used during intervening periods. The methods used to collect the data have also led to controversy in the past.
When it comes the raw GDP data base on exchange rates, China will eventually also overtake the US if it carries on growing as it has, but that is still likely to take many years.
According to recent figures, China’s exports and imports rebounded in April, helping allay some fears about a slowdown in its economy.
Exports rose 0.9% from a year earlier, after falling for two straight months. Shipments had dropped 6.6% in March and 18.1% in February.
Imports grew 0.8% from a year ago, reversing the 11.3% decline in March.
The data come as China is looking to move its economy away from an export and investment-led growth model to one driven by domestic consumption.
China’s exports and imports rebounded in April, helping allay some fears about a slowdown in its economy
Some analysts said the latest numbers were likely to provide a boost to policymakers, not least because there have been concerns that the world’s second-largest economy may see its growth slow amid the rebalancing efforts.
China’s economy expanded by 7.4% in the first three months of the year, down from 7.7% growth in the previous quarter.
However, a sluggish start for the year is not uncommon for China due to the Lunar New Year holiday when many businesses and factories shut down operations for about two weeks.
For its part, China announced a mini-stimulus in April to help sustain growth.
As part of the stimulus, it said it was extending a tax break for small and medium-sized companies, and ramping up spending on China’s railway infrastructure.
Earlier this year, China launched a free-trade zone in Shanghai.
The zone is widely seen as a test bed for reforms in key areas of the economy, such as the financial and telecom sectors which previously were tightly controlled by the government.
Analysts have said that opening up these areas is key to sustaining China’s long term economic growth.
China’s economy grew by 7.4% in 2014 Q1, better than what many were expecting.
However, it is a slowdown from 7.7% growth in the final quarter of last year.
Other data released with the gross domestic product (GDP) figure showed industrial output rising 8.8% in March from one year ago.
Retail sales for the month of March spiked by 12.2%, underscoring China’s efforts to boost economic growth via domestic consumption.
Last year China set its growth target for 2014 at 7.5%, part of efforts to stabilize the economy after years of fast-paced expansion.
China’s growth data is closely watched around the region. A slowdown could hurt Asian economies especially those which export commodities and industrial components to the world’s second largest economy.
A sluggish start for the year is not uncommon, due to the Lunar New Year holiday when many businesses and factories shut down operations for about two weeks.
China’s economy grew by 7.4 percent in 2014 Q1, better than what many were expecting
But recent data from the manufacturing as well as industrial sectors have been weak, raising fears of a prolonged slowdown.
Amid these concerns, China has recently taken more steps to give a jolt to its economy.
A mini-stimulus measure announced earlier this month will see Beijing extending a tax break for small and medium-sized companies, and ramping up spending on China’s railway infrastructure.
In addition, the mainland also took steps to open up its capital markets by announcing a tie-up with Hong Kong, allowing for cross-border stock investment. The pilot scheme is scheduled to take off in about six months.
And in January, China launched a free-trade zone in Shanghai, seen as a test bed for reforms in key areas of the economy, such as the financial and telecom sectors which previously were tightly controlled by the government.
China also said it will allow foreign firms to make gaming consoles within the free-trade zone and sell them across China – lifting a ban on gaming consoles which had been in place since 2000.
Analysts are hopeful that the Chinese economy has bottomed out, and will perform better later in the year.
China’s trade figures for March had shown a sharp drop in both imports and exports.
Earlier this month the World Bank lowered its growth forecast for the Chinese economy this year to 7.6% for this year from a previous prediction of 7.7%.
Chinese economy’s growth forecast has been slightly cut by the World Bank, citing a “bumpy start to the year”.
The World Bank now expects the Chinese economy to grow by 7.6% in 2014, down from its earlier projection of 7.7%.
A slew of disappointing figures has triggered concerns of a slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy.
However, the World Bank said recent reforms unveiled by China were likely to help it achieve “more sustainable and inclusive” growth in the long term.
The Chinese government set out an ambitious and comprehensive reform agenda in November last year, aimed at overhauling its economy over the next decade.
The World Bank now expects the Chinese economy to grow by 7.6 percent in 2014, down from its earlier projection of 7.7 percent
These include reforming the financial and services sectors as well as the big state-owned enterprises.
“If implemented, the reforms will have a profound impact on China’s land, labor, and capital markets, and enhance the long-term sustainability of its economic growth,” the World Bank said in its latest report.
“Some reforms, including efforts to reduce regulatory and administrative burdens, reform taxation, and make more land available for commercial activities, are also likely to support growth in the short term.”
The World Bank also cut its growth outlook for Thailand.
It predicts that the Thai economy will expand by 3% this year, down from its earlier projection of 4.5% growth.
It said that “implementation delays and political uncertainties have been the major contributor” to the slowdown.
A series of anti-government protests in recent months have stoked fears of political uncertainty in the country and its impact on the Thai economy.
The bank added: “The expiry of the car tax rebate scheme, rising levels of household debt, falling commodity incomes, arrears in government subsidy payments to rice farmers, and crumbling consumer sentiment in the face of political instability all crimped consumption.”
The World Bank said it expected the developing East Asia Pacific region to grow by 7.1% in 2014, slightly lower than its earlier projection of 7.2%.
China’s inflation rate hit a 10-month high in February after Lunar New Year festivities drove up food prices.
Consumer prices rose 3.2% from a year earlier, with food prices up by 6%.
Inflation has been a hot political issue in China. There have been concerns that if consumer prices rise too much, it may prompt Beijing to tighten monetary policies, which in turn may hurt China’s growth.
However, analysts said the latest data was unlikely to prompt any such moves.
They argued that the price growth was driven mainly by the Lunar New Year celebrations, which are traditionally associated with an increase in consumer spending.
“We expect limited market and policy impact as investors and officials understand the Lunar New Year distortions quite well,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts said in a note after the data was released over the weekend.
“Though policymakers should be wary of inflation later this year with economic growth recovery, it’s too early to call for significant monetary tightening at present,” they said.
After years of experiencing a blistering pace of growth, China has seen its economic expansion slow in recent times.
China’s inflation rate hit a 10-month high in February after Lunar New Year festivities drove up food prices
In 2012, China grew at a pace of 7.8%, its weakest performance in 13 years.
Prompted by slowing growth, China has taken various steps over the past months to spur a fresh wave of economic growth.
It cut interest rates twice last year, to bring down the cost of borrowing for consumers and businesses. It also lowered the amount of money that banks need to keep in reserves in an attempt to boost lending in the country.
On the investment front, Beijing approved infrastructure projects worth more than $150 billion.
Some analysts said that if China continues to pursue easy monetary policies, consumer prices may rise further in the latter half of the year.
“If monetary policy remains at the current loose stance, consumer price index in 2013 will likely be much higher than the 3.5% target set in the National People’s Congress,” said Zhang Zhiwei, an economist with Nomura.
China set a target of 3.5% inflation rate for the current year at the National People’s Congress, its annual parliamentary session, last week.
However, in his final appearance at the congress, outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao warned that keeping prices in check will remain a key challenge for the policymakers.
“There are relatively big inflationary pressures this year, mainly because there are pressures on China’s land, labor, agricultural products and services,” Wen Jiabao said.
“And major countries are stepping up loose monetary policy, so we can’t overlook imported inflationary pressures.”
China’s economy has grown at its slowest pace in three years as investment slowed and demand fell in key markets such as the US and Europe.
Gross domestic product rose by 7.6% in the second quarter, compared with the same period a year ago. That is down from 8.1% in the previous three months.
In March, Beijing cut its growth target for the whole of 2012 to 7.5%.
China accounts for about a fifth of the world’s total economic output and any slowdown may hamper a global recovery.
At the same time, many of Asia’s biggest and emerging economies are becoming increasingly reliant on China as a trading partner.
“China has been a big factor for the slowdown in Asia this year,” said Tai Hui from Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore.
He added that if China’s growth does not pick up in the second half of the year then “that’s going to mean a very difficult second half for a lot of the manufacturers in this region”.
China's economy has grown at its slowest pace in three years as investment slowed and demand fell in key markets such as the US and Europe
However, despite Friday’s slower growth figures many analysts tried to allay fears of a so-called hard landing in China’s economy and its subsequent impact on the rest of the world.
“If you get a drop in the growth rate of 1 percentage point per annum, that’s not a lot in terms of the world gross domestic product,” said Edmund Phelps, a professor of political economy at Columbia University and a Nobel prize winner.
He added that China had a lot of ammunition to counter the slowdown, some of which it has already started using because of the patchy recovery in the US, and the ongoing debt and economic issues in the eurozone.
China’s central bank has cut the amount of money banks must keep in reserve in order to boost lending, and it recently cut the cost of borrowing twice in one month.
Earlier this week, Premier Wen Jiabao said that boosting investment would also be crucial for stabilizing growth, fuelling expectation that more state-driven stimulus measures would be on the way.
“Now that China’s growth is slowing, there are calls for yet another stimulus,” said Edward Chancellor, global Strategist at investment management firm GMO.
But analysts warned that China’s growth problems may not be solved by a simple injection of capital and a new round of government spending. Especially as many of today’s issues can be traced back to the way the country tried to kick start growth after the global financial crisis in 2008-2009.
At the time the central government began pumping huge amounts of money into the economy, mainly on infrastructure and construction spending.
This led to excess capacity, a surge in property prices and an increase in consumer costs and inflation.
Faced with these problems and amid fears that the economy may be overheating, policy makers decided to implement measures to curb lending and slow inflation.
Those steps, along with a drop in demand for Chinese goods from key markets such as Europe and the US, have caused the most recent cycle of slowing growth.
In 2011, China’s economy grew by 9.2%, down from 2010’s figure of 10.4% growth.
But while the longer-term trend is of a slowdown, China also released a number of other figures on Friday and they painted a more nuanced and mixed picture of the economy.
According to the official figures, retail sales increased by 13.7% in June, little changed from May’s 13.8% figure.
At the same time, electricity output, an indicator that many analysts use to calculate current business and consumer activity, was also flat in June at 393 billion kilowatt-hours.
Optimists, however, would have been buoyed by news that new bank loans increased to $144.4 billion in June, up from $124.4 billion in May.
The data will do nothing to stop the economic squabbling over whether China is heading for a hard or soft landing.
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