Don’t depend on China to pull the world economy out of the hole its now in, or to help the shy recovery in 2010.
As strong as China’s current rebound and stimulus spending is, that task is simply too large.
But we can continue to count on China helping Australia and most of Asia which have benefitted so far this year, even moribund Japan.
But for those US and European businesses and economists slathering and raising forecasts for Chinese economic growth next year, the prospects look guarded.
We should see more of the same as we have seen this year growth of 7.7% for the first nine months, with growth hitting an annual 8.9% in the September quarter. No inflation fears (but could return in 2010), strong investment, industrial production (13.9% for September, which is starting to get too high for comfort).
So China’s 2009 growth is locked in, but now 2010 looks like producing an increase with a Reuters poll forecasting 9% growth through the year.
The State Council indicated a possible change in strategy on Wednesday when it said that China’s policy should focus both on controlling inflationary expectations and securing stable growth, the first time it had mentioned inflation since the crisis began.
“The policy focus of the next few months is to balance the need to maintain stable and relatively fast growth, the need to adjust the economic structure and the need to better manage inflationary expectations.”
The statement has restarted speculation that the government could begin to restrict credit to banks or appreciate the currency in order to limit inflationary pressures. That’s why the biggest bit of economic news in the next few months will be confirmation of the loan growth target for 2010. This year’s target of five trillion Yuan has already been well and truly surpassed since earlier in the year.
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But ING raised its 2010 forecast to 11.0% from 9.8%; Macquarie to 10.3% from 8.9%; and Deutsche Bank to 9.0% from 8.3%.
The official 8% rate will again be a target, and the first half of next year will see much stronger growth figures (and for other major measures) simply because the first six months of this year was so flat, especially the March quarter.
The interesting impact of China was on Japan’s exports.
Japanese exports to China were down an annual 14% in September, almost half the near 27% annual fall in August, which is a positive sign for Japan and another sign of the impact China is having on the region.
Overall Japanese exports were down 30.7% in September, compared to an annual rate of 36% in August. In value they eased 0.8% in September from August, but by volume, they were up an encouraging 2%-3% from August. Imports fell 36.9%, which reflects lower prices and the impact of the higher yen to an extent.
Japanese exports to the US and Europe were still down by 34% and 35% respectively in September, so the improvement in shipments to China (especially cars, audio and computer parts), stood out.
But China’s exports were still down 15.2 % in September (which was better than the 21% forecast), but imports were only down 3.5% (a 15% fall was forecast) and its clear from the make up that Asia was the fastest growing destination.
But it is hard to Chinese exports going positive in a meaningful way (they will in the first three quarters of next year simply on the basis of being compared with weak figures in 2009. But unless the US and Europe can find a way to get their economies growing more quickly (and that’s impossible), there won’t be a stunning surge in Chinese shipments to the rest of the world in 2010.
And that holds out the prospects that the Chinese Government might have to maintain an accommodating monetary and fiscal policy well into 2010, perhaps for the best part of another year.
For growth in the first nine months of the year of 7.7%, investment accounted for 7.3 percentage points and consumption 0.4 percentage points. The decline in net exports lopped off 3.6 percentage points. That’s a big drag and tells us to cover for slow improvement in exports, investment and or consumption will have to run harder next year if growth is to meet expectations above 9%
What also has to be remembered is that by keeping the Yuan effectively pegged to the US dollar for over a year, the country has effectively devalued against the greenback, the Australian dollar, the euro and the Yen: in some cases the effective devaluations have been of the order of 15%-30%.
It is a classic, old fashioned, Western way of getting out of deep economic hole, and one that the Americans now seem to be allowing to happen to their economy and the greenback.