The transfer of power in China from the outgoing regime led by Hu Jintao to the incoming leadership of Xi Jinping has occurred without a hitch. This is a mark of increased political maturity in China.
In fact, the handover has been described by Citigroup economists as the first complete and orderly transition of power in the 91-year history of the Chinese Communist party.
During President Hu’s decade, China’s real GDP per capita rose at 9.9 per cent per annum. China accounted for 24 per cent of the entire growth in the global economy, and Chinese annual consumption of many basic commodities now stands at about half of the world total. Perhaps the most important question in the world economy today is whether China’s economic miracle can continue in the decade of Xi Jinping. The IMF forecasts shown in the graph above suggest that the miracle will persist, but many western economists disagree. Read more
It is often claimed by economists that the central banks have run out ammunition to boost economic activity, but they certainly have not lost the ability to have an impact asset prices. Since the latest round of quantitative easing was signalled back in June (see this blog), global equity prices have risen by 14.5 per cent, and commodity prices are up by 15.4 per cent, despite the fact that economic activity data have shown no improvement whatever over this period.
Clearly, these impressive moves in asset prices have been triggered by a sharp decline in the disaster premia that were priced into markets only three months ago. Mario Draghi and Ben Bernanke have, in a sense, purchased global put options on risk assets, and have offered them without charge to the investing community.
By doing the market’s hedging for it, the central bankers have certainly had an impact. Confidence, while not fully restored, is much improved, which is exactly what was intended. But there is no sign yet from hard data that the downward slide in global GDP growth has been reversed. Until that happens, the market rally will remain on insecure foundations. Read more
Three large downside risks continue to undermine confidence in global asset markets: the eurozone crisis, fading growth in the US and a possible hard landing in China. Of these, the last is the hardest to read, because of doubts about the accuracy of economic data and the impenetrability of the true intentions of policy makers (at least to this outside observer). Nevertheless, investors are forced to come to a view on inflexions in the Chinese cycle, because global markets have become extremely sensitive to them.
The Chinese data for economic activity which were published last week seem consistent with a softish landing rather than anything worse. While there is no definitive evidence yet of a turning point in the cycle, downward momentum has abated. The authorities are once again relying on investment spending to dig the economy out of a hole. This should work in the period immediately ahead, but the longer term consequences could be less benign. Read more
With the Chinese economy seemingly in the midst of a fairly soft landing, global investors have not been paying much attention to China in recent months. However, all that will change as a result of the extremely weak Chinese activity data for April which were published last week. Asian equities and commodity prices have already fallen this quarter, and that will turn into a global problem if the April activity data are a harbinger of things to come.
The April data have not only shaken investors out of their earlier complacency, they have clearly affected policy makers too. The cut of 50 basis points in the banks’ reserve requirement ratio announced on Saturday suggests that the urgent need for a policy injection is at last being recognised. The question now is whether Chinese policy makers, in sharp contrast to their normally sure-footed behaviour, have left it too late to stem the downward momentum in the economy, and especially in the property sector. Read more
Global equities and other risk assets ended last week near to their high water marks for the year. Once again, markets have reacted favourably to the most important indicators for global activity, all of which have been published in the past week.
There have been some signs that higher oil prices have dampened consumer spending in the US, and the global industrial sector has given further evidence of reaching its peak growth rate. But so far any slowdown has been very minor, and not enough to persuade markets that this is anything more than a temporary correction.
In my regular weekly round-up this week, I will comment on the implications of recent data for the major economies. Read more
Normally, I write a summary of the week’s major economic events on a Sunday morning. This week I am going to leave the heart-rending events in Japan to be covered by the news teams, and instead focus on two other developments which have important ramifications for the global economy – the slowdown in China, which is becoming increasingly accepted by a previously sceptical economics profession; and the moderately promising deal on sovereign debt which was announced by EU leaders in the early hours of Saturday morning. Read more
China’s GDP growth made news this week because, on the official figures, China overtook Japan to become the second largest economy in the world in 2010. But actually, on a different way of calculating the data, this was very old news. Using purchasing power parity, China not only overtook Japan way back in 2001, but it is also quite close to overtaking the US as the biggest economy in the world – if, indeed, it has not done so already.
GDP statistics measure the amount of value added or income in the economy, measured in domestic currencies, over a given period of time. But it is more difficult to compare the GDP in one economy (China) with that in another economy (Japan), because we need to use an exchange rate which translates yuan into yen or vice versa. This is not as straightforward as it may seem. Read more
This week in global macro, the emerging markets reminded us that they are, well, emerging markets. The Egyptian crisis may have moved towards resolution, but there are risks of contagion elsewhere in the region. India continues to be the worst performing stock market of the year, and China is slowing under the weight of tightening monetary policy.
Developed equity markets continue to out-perform, although headline inflation is rising, notably in the UK. Although many people are claiming that the Bank of England is losing credibility, that is not yet showing in the gilt market. In the US, there were some signs of greater hawkishness from certain members of the FOMC, but none where it really counts – which is in the minds of Ben Bernanke and his senior lieutenants. The US equity market ended the week at its highest level since June 2008. Read more
China’s economic data for December, released on Thursday, clearly suggest that the authorities have not yet succeeded in slowing the economy enough to bring inflation pressures under control. Read more
This is the second in a series of weekend comments on what I have learned in the past 7 days about the global economy and financial markets. This week, there has been a notable rise in inflation concerns as higher food and energy prices start to impact consumer prices. There have been signs that European governments are discussing a more comprehensive package to address the sovereign debt crisis. And China has continued down the path of gradual monetary tightening. Next week, Mr Hu visits Washington, Ecofin meets to discuss sovereign debt, and China publishes its macro data for December. Read more