Chinese trade balance rose 8 per cent in August from 2012, up to $28.5bn from $17.8bn in July. The improvement was due to higher than expected exports, as demand picked up in Asia and parts of the developed world.

But trade data can be very volatile. Looking at a rolling 12 months, the growth in trade surplus is slowing. And although you would expect China to run a trade surplus with most, if not all, trading partners – China is the world’s biggest exporter, after all – there are some strange statistical puzzles in the data. Chart of the week takes a closer look. Read more

Turkish house prices are on a seemingly endless rise. The latest figure, for May 2013, shows an increase of 12.2 per cent annually.

Turkey is used to double digit house price growth rates. Since the Central Bank of Turkey started producing its house price index in 2010, growth rates have almost always been in double digits, and rising. But economic growth has slowed from 8 per cent plus to around 2 per cent. Chart of the week takes a look at what is driving the market. Read more

Yum Brands may be the leading company in the Chinese fast food market with over 5700 outlets, but recently it has seen a sharp decline in sales in the country.

Although Yum has suffered from headline-grabbing food scares (bird flu and banned antibiotics), are there bigger structural shifts afoot in Chinese fast food? Chart of the week takes a look. Read more

What’s in a star anyway? China’s economy hotel chains are booming, gaining ground at the expense of star-rated hotels.

They are pushing out 2- and 3-star hotels; but at the top of the market 5-star properties are still growing fast, creating a polarised market. Chart of the week takes a look at the numbers, which show a sector undergoing dramatic shifts. Read more

Malaysia’s ruling Barisan Nasional (national front) coalition that was returned to power in this month’s election faces some serious economic problems, notably the country’s poor export performance.

Exports have shrunk in the last two months in response to weakening global demand that has also hit other Asian exporters. But unlike its rivals, Malaysia faces a more deep-rooted export challenge – a serious decline in the export role of its manufacturers that has been partly masked by increases in commodity exports. Chart of the week takes a look. Read more

If a mark of being a developed country is innovation, then look out: China is certainly throwing ideas about.

The number of patent applications from China has overtaken those from the US, a remarkable catch-up over the last few years. But does this mean China will soon be exporting ideas in the way it has exported manufactured goods? Chart of the week takes a look. Read more

Several reasons have been given for Brazil’s economic slowdown: a self-inflicted sudden stop caused by capital controls; currency appreciation, making exports more expensive; and falling demand for commodities, especially from China.

But if Brazil really wants to hold onto its position as a leading emerging market, it must address structural problems, starting with infrastructure and education. And as Chart of the Week shows, it has a lot of ground to make up. Read more

an investor looking at stock prices at a securities brokerage in ShanghaiChinese equities are in the doldrums. Both the Shenzhen composite and the Shanghai composite indices touched their lowest level in over three years this week, marking a loss for both indices of around 10 per cent since the start of the year.

But not all Chinese stocks are falling. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng China Enterprises Index, composed of mainland companies, is up by around 6 per cent. So stock selection matters. Chart of the week takes a look. Read more

Brazil is a commodity exporter – and even more so than official statistics suggest. The share of its exports taken by what are classified by the government as primary goods was just below 30 per cent for most of the past two decades, rising to nearly half of all exports in the last five years.

But if we include items such as raw and refined sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, crude soybean oil, cocoa butter and other products that have a level of processing but are closely derived from commodities dug up or harvested in the country, the proportion rises to different levels. Chart of the week takes a look. Read more

Thailand’s economy grew at a 3 per cent year on year in the third quarter, a slight decrease from Q2 but in line with analysts’ expectations.

But as data released on Monday show, the pattern of the previous four quarters is now entrenched – Thai GDP is being dragged down by its poor export performance. Chart of the week takes a closer look. Read more

Partial results from Ukraine’s parliamentary election on Sunday suggest a narrow victory for the governing party of Viktor Yanukovich, president since 2010.

It is still too early to say whether Yanukovich’s Party of Regions will be able to build a working majority, and at what political cost. But the election looks unlikely to make it any easier for Yanukovich to tackle his country’s pressing economic problems. Read more

In Europe and the US, they are often called “squeezed” or “worried”. In developing markets, they are “booming”, “growing” and, of course, “emerging”.

The middle classes are changing consumption habits around the world. Chart of the week takes a look at some key emerging markets and the level of middle class spending. Read more

Kolkata: still waiting for FDI

Foreign direct investment in India almost doubled in the fiscal year ending March 2012, reaching over $36bn.

But the flows are very unevenly divided between India’s regions. Despite persistent government efforts – both at the national and local level – over the past decade, eastern India has made little progress in winning foreign investment. The south and west get the money – just as they did 12 years ago. Chart of the week looks at the details. Read more

The rise of emerging markets has been accompanied by rapid growth in their capital markets. But some markets have emerged more quickly than others. Chart of the week  looks at which markets have grown most quickly, and in which areas. Read more

Last week’s brief cooling in commodities prices seems to be over already, with basic goods prices including Brent oil on the rise again, renewing worries of rising inflation pressure in emerging markets. Emerging Asia – where Chinese inflation surprised on the upside on Wednesday – is particularly at risk, amid concern that inflation could undermine the region’s potential for growth.

Our chart this week (after the break) shows changes in headline inflation in emerging Asia from 2009 to February 2011, and the contribution to overall inflation from food and energy prices. Read more

Manufacturers around the world are enjoying a recovery of their order books but they also face rising input costs. And while developed and emerging markets all suffer from input inflation, emerging countries are more exposed given the greater importance of price as a factor in manufacturing competitiveness – already undermined in many EMs by strengthening currencies.

Our chart this week shows the results of a Markit survey on input prices among purchasing executives of manufacturing companies in selected economies. Read more

Short-term, Japan’s key position in the global manufacturing supply chain is under threat from the disastrous earthquake. Longer-term, the challenge comes from rising competition from east Asia’s emerging economies.

The chart of this week (below the break) shows the importance and the growth of the export of components in East Asia. Japan is the second largest exporter of intermediate goods in east Asia after China – and it is still the first for the export of precision machineries components. But with the value of its exports rising much more slowly than in the rest of the region, Japan is losing export share. Read more

Sales of beauty and personal care products in emerging markets are booming. In India, China and Brazil, they are set to rise at an average rate of 10 to 13 per cent a year between 2000 and 2015, compared to a mere 2 per cent for the US, according to Euromonitor.

Over the next four years, the three countries’ share of global sales will rise from a twelfth to a quarter – while that of the US will fall from a fifth to a ninth. The boom has created big opportunities for multinationals in recent years. But now they face competition from local brands. Read more

Wage inflation in China has raised questions over the country’s future as the preferred outsourcing destination for multinationals in search of cheap labour.

Reliable numbers are hard to get. But a US Bureau of Labor Statistics report published on Friday shows that between 2002 and 2008, real hourly wages in China’s manufacturing sector doubled, while they rose by barely 20 per cent in the US. Nevertheless, despite the increase, wages in Chinese manufacturing in 2008 were still only about 4 per cent of those in the U.S. Read more

Japan’s nuclear crisis has left many countries reviewing their plans to build reactors. Emerging countries generally depend less on nuclear power than developed ones – but their capacity has often been rising more quickly, with big plans for more.

Our chart this week (after the break) shows the role of nuclear power in selected emerging markets. Countries to the right of the chart are more dependent on nuclear energy; those nearer the top have been expanding their nuclear capacity more quickly. Read more