China consumer

Over many years, China has gained acclaim as the world’s manufacturing powerhouse. But today, innovation is flourishing in the world’s most populous nation, which is rapidly becoming a trendsetter with the potential to disrupt business models globally.

On a recent research trip to China, we were struck by the huge enthusiasm for locally developed smartphones and the entrepreneurial spirit sweeping the country. Indeed, the number of patents filed by Chinese residents has surged in recent years, both locally and abroad, to exceed the world’s largest developed economies. Read more

By Sammy Suzuki, AllianceBernstein

China’s millennials are better educated and more affluent than their elders. They also have a serious case of travel fever. Their favored destinations, and shopping habits abroad, could have far-reaching implications for a wide range of global companies.

China’s millennials make up a large and growing slice of the country’s most affluent citizens. It’s estimated that there are around 300m of these young consumers born between the early 1980s and 2000. They’re the first generation in the history of the People’s Republic to be raised amid relative prosperity and social stability and are the beneficiaries of the country’s roughly five-fold increase in education spending over the past decade. Read more

Russia’s economy is heading for a deep recession this year. Brazil is stagnating and China’s dynamism is dissipating, helping to depress the prices of commodities that many developing countries produce. But in spite of such afflictions, analysts caution against thinking that a multi-year consumer bonanza in emerging markets (EM) is running out of steam.

The “biggest growth opportunity in the history of capitalism”, as McKinsey called EM consumer spending in a 2012 report, may suffer setbacks in some key markets this year, but overall the narrative is set to flourish as disinflation triggers interest rate cuts and low oil prices put more money into EM consumers’ pockets, analysts said. Read more

By Robert Moffatt, Neuberger Berman

Throughout much of the world, auto market prospects appear sluggish. In the US, auto sales are moving back to normalised replacement demand levels, implying slowing growth. In Europe, sales are being held back by a choppy economic recovery. China, in our view, presents a different story. Despite near-term concerns about the country’s slowing GDP growth and slipping consumer confidence, we are bullish on the long-term growth prospects of Chinese autos.

The Chinese auto market went through a rapid growth spurt from 2005-2010, growing nearly six-fold in six years, from 2.5m units in 2004 to 13.75m units in 2010. This unprecedented 35 per cent compounded annual growth rate has since slowed to roughly 9 per cent, but with nearly 18m cars sold in 2013, China has displaced both the U.S. and Western Europe as the world’s largest auto market (see chart below). Read more

By Derek Scissors, American Enterprise Institute

“In 2014, faced with the complicated and volatile international environment and the heavy tasks to maintain the domestic development, reform and stability, the Central Party Committee . . . seized the momentum of development, fully deepened the reform and opening up, focused on the innovation of macro control, tapped into the vitality of the market and fostered the driving force of innovation.”

That is the start to today’s National Bureau of Statistics’ (NBS) press release on the economy, a reminder that Chinese statistics are published at the pleasure of the Communist Party. Read more

China’s “big four” state banks are losing share in the country’s fast-growing retail banking market as customers embrace a more sophisticated array of products and swell a burgeoning fashion for digital banking, according to a survey of savers conducted by McKinsey, the consultancy.

The main beneficiary from the slide of the “big four” – the Agricultural Bank of China, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the Bank of China and the China Construction Bank – have been the joint-stock commercial banks, which include institutions such as China Merchants Bank, China Everbright Bank and CITIC Bank. Read more

By Andy Rothman, Matthews Asia

After two decades of 10 per cent GDP growth, followed by average growth of over 8 per cent, conventional wisdom is that China is on the verge of collapse. But that wisdom is based largely on many misunderstandings.

Let’s start with the consensus that China’s residential property market is about to replicate the U.S. housing crisis. But China has avoided most of the U.S. traps. For example, homeowner leverage is far lower in China than it was in the U.S. during the run-up to the crisis. By 2006, the National Association of Realtors reported that the median cash down payment for first-time homebuyers in the U.S. was only 2 per cent of the purchase price. In China, the minimum down payment is 30 per cent. Read more

By Hayden Briscoe, Shamaila Khan and Jenny Zeng, AllianceBernstein

Based on insights from our team’s recent trip to China, we noted that the country is likely headed for a long economic landing. What does that mean for its infrastructure and commodity sectors? Read more

The US travel industry is rolling out the red carpet to attract a most sought-after commodity – the Chinese tourist.

Some 114m Chinese are expected to travel abroad this year, according to the China National Tourism Administration, making it by far the world’s largest source of outbound tourists and one that is expected to continue growing as the country’s middle class expands. Read more

By Andy Rothman, Matthews Asia

China’s housing market is one of the most important parts of its economy, and also one of the most misunderstood. This sector is important because residential real estate together with construction last year accounted directly for about 10 per cent of GDP, 18 per cent of fixed-asset investment, 10 per cent of urban employment and more than 15 per cent of bank loans. It is also misunderstood because few observers appear to grasp the structure of China’s residential market. Read more

China stepped up its efforts on Tuesday to transform doomsday scenarios for its domestic property market into merely another round of déjà vu. The central bank reinforced efforts to boost mortgage lending by banks, building on the small but significant turnaround that beyondbrics noted in mid-September.

The new policies allow buyers who already own one home but have paid off their mortgage to be considered as first-time buyers, thus qualifying for a mortgage downpayment of 30 per cent of the cost of the loan. Previously, they would have been considered as second home buyers and had to pay a downpayment of at least 60 per cent. Read more

By Eswar Prasad, Karim Foda, and Abhinav Rangarajan

China is making steady progress on its path to making the renminbi an international currency, as the FT writes in a Special Report, The Future of the Renminbi, published today.

See here for an Interactive graphic that traces the renminbi’s progress since 2000.

China continues to gradually open up its capital account, make offshore renminbi liquidity more easily available, and sign up more renminbi trading centers (London and Frankfurt most recently). To become a reserve currency, China also needs to let the renminbi’s value be market-determined rather than being tightly managed relative to the US dollar.

On March 16th of this year, China took another step towards freeing up its currency. The daily trading band around the renminbi’s central value relative to the U.S. dollar was widened from 1 percent to 2 per cent in either direction. The reasonable expectation had been that this would lead to faster appreciation of the currency and more volatility. Instead, the opposite happened. Was the shift to a wider trading band just a head fake? Read more

By Tassos Stassopoulos, Alliance Bernstein

Rapidly ageing societies in developing countries represent important markets for consumer companies. However, it should be understood that vast cohorts of elderly people heading into the sunny uplands of their lives does not necessarily imply a bright future for investors.

It’s easy to overlook the ageing trend in emerging markets. Countries like India and China are home to the world’s youngest populations in terms of size. Yet as birth rates decline and healthcare improves, older people will constitute a growing percentage of the population. In the top 12 emerging markets, the over-65 demographic is growing at an annual rate of approximately 3.7 per cent (see chart) — nearly double the rate in developed countries. Read more

A huge bonfire of the brands awaits auto manufacturers in China as some 90m car owners prepare to disregard loyalty when they chose their next model.

A survey of some 2,400 car owners conducted by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found an itch to switch brands among 83 per cent of respondents who drove domestic Chinese brand cars. Of these, only 30 per cent said they would drive another domestic brand as their next car, while a full 40 per cent said they planned to plump for a Volkswagen.

The findings suggest that the next big trend for auto manufacturers in the Chinese market – which has expanded tenfold since 2000 to register annual sales of around 20m units – may not be so much concerned with chasing growth as with inculcating brand loyalty. Read more

Wealth is not necessarily translating into health for China’s growing cohort of millionaires, many of whom complain of eating disorders, too much alcohol and an average of just 6.2 hours of sleep a night (see chart).

Fast living is blamed for a variety of ailments, with around a third of millionaires (those with a personal wealth of Rmb10m or US$1.6m, £1m) suffering from insomnia, headaches, fatigue and memory loss while smaller proportions endure hair loss, immune problems, numb limbs and smokers’ coughs, according to a survey by Hurun Research Institute released on Friday.

Such conditions underpin a burgeoning demand among wealthy Chinese for products, treatments and lifestyle choices that are thought to confer health. “There is a clear trend among the Chinese millionaire class towards exercise, eating more carefully and generally taking better care of their bodies,” said Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman of the Hurun Report. Read more

“When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time”, US Army officer and Vietnam veteran Creighton Abrams once said.

In his new book, The Rise of the New East, Ben Simpfendorfer does just that. His elephant is “The East”, the group of almost 50 emerging markets ranging from Turkey to China that is home to well over half of the world population.

Simpfendorfer gives his topic a thorough treatment. While his insights seem logical and intuitive, taken together they give an impressive oversight of into key trends shaping the region. beyondbrics noted five insights that particularly stood out. Read more

By Andy Rothman, Matthews International Capital Management

Statistics announced on Wednesday do much to challenge the view that sub-par Chinese consumer spending is to blame for the sluggish rebalancing of the world’s second largest economy away from an over-reliance on investment. For too long this opinion has obscured the crucial truth that China is actually host to the world’s best consumer story.

Real retail sales rose 10.7 per cent in June and 10.8 per cent in the first half of this year, compared to the year earlier period. The strong momentum of this spending springs from solid foundations, with real urban household disposable income rising 7.1 per cent, up from 6.5 per cent a year ago. Read more

By Qu Hongbin, Co-Head of Asian Economic Research, HSBC

For many, China’s growth model, which has delivered average annual GDP growth of 10 per cent over the past three decades, simply looks wrong: a national savings rate of around 50 per cent is unheard of in a large, modern economy.

A typical diagnosis states that China invests too much and consumes too little. The prescription is “rebalancing” – moving the economy away from investment towards consumption-led growth. However, a consumption-led growth model has little in theory or evidence to support it. Read more

By Tassos Stassopoulos, AllianceBernstein

Consumer dynamics in emerging markets are often misunderstood. Although the rise of the middle classes is a defining characteristic of a vibrant, developing economy, the working classes will be the real engines of consumer growth in developing countries.

In other words, the middle classes tell you what has happened. But looking ahead, the fastest growth will be driven by the masses of lower income workers as they improve their lot to join the ranks of the middle class. Read more

A Chinese manufacturer and direct seller of health, cleaning and beauty products with Malaysian roots may not be the most obvious cross-border investor in the South African wine industry. But Guangdong-based Perfect China is selling volumes of classic wine with a French heritage produced in South Africa’s vineyards. It is one more sign of the potential for Asian investors with an innovative eye for Africa. Read more