China Beige Book Shows Slowdown, Opposite Official Data
China’s economy slowed this quarter as growth in manufacturing and transportation weakened in contrast with official signs of an expansion pickup, a private survey showed.
Increases in business-investment and real estate revenue also slowed, while service industries picked up and employees became tougher to find, the survey from New York-based China Beige Book International said yesterday. The report is based on responses from 2,000 people from Aug. 12 to Sept. 4 as well as 32 in-depth interviews conducted later in September.
The quarterly report, which began last year and is modeled on the U.S. Federal Reserve’s Beige Book business survey, diverges from government figures showing faster factory-output gains in July and August that have spurred analysts from Citigroup Inc. to Deutsche Bank AG to raise expansion estimates. Nomura Holdings Inc. is among banks skeptical that any rebound will be sustained next year.
The results “show the conventional wisdom of a renewed, strong economic expansion in China to be seriously flawed,” China Beige Book President Leland Miller and Craig Charney, research and polling director, said in a statement.
The data “reveal weakening gains in profits, revenues, wages, employment and prices, all showing slipping growth on-quarter -- no disaster, but certainly not the powerful expansion suggested by the consensus narrative.”
The report, like the Fed’s version, doesn’t give estimates of gross domestic product growth or other indicators beyond the survey results. The economy expanded 7.5 percent in the April-June period from a year earlier, slowing for a second quarter, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics. The government has since introduced measures including faster railway spending and tax cuts to aid expansion.
Jim Chanos, the founder of Kynikos Associates Ltd., said he’s maintaining short bets on China’s banks and that the nation will have a “credit event” in five years as the country fails to keep the same pace of loan growth.
“My caution is related to the credit-driven model,” Chanos, who correctly bet in 2001 on the collapse of Enron Corp., said yesterday on a panel moderated by Tom Keene at the Bloomberg Markets 50 Summit in New York.
China’s leadership is “deliberately” slowing the economy and is capable of putting the housing market and lending under control, O’Neill, a Bloomberg View columnist, said on the panel. “They are not shy or scared about meeting the scale of some of the challenges.”
The first China Beige Book, from the second quarter of 2012, said the economy was picking up, a few months ahead of official data indicating a rebound. This year’s second-quarter report showed expansion slowing across the country and a decline in companies taking out loans.
The latest survey said 47 percent of manufacturers reported revenue gains, down 6 percentage points from the second-quarter survey. Growth in export orders was “stable” for the U.S. and Europe and “off a bit” in Asia and developing nations outside of Asia.
In transportation, including shippers, 51 percent of respondents said revenue rose, down 18 percentage points. Fifty-three percent of a broader sample of businesses said investment rose, a 4-point decline. Service revenue rose for 57 percent of respondents, up 3 points.
The survey said bank-loan gains ebbed and borrowing costs declined while companies used non-bank channels more often. Forty-six percent of bankers said loans rose, down 14 percentage points from the prior survey, and there was a 20-point drop in the share expecting credit availability to ease in six months. The mean interest rate on all new loans fell 47 basis points to 6.63 percent, China Beige Book said.
So-called shadow lenders’ share of financing rose to 29 percent of loans in the third quarter, up 5 percentage points, the survey said.
Not all the China data showing a rebound have come from government sources. A report Sept. 23 from HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics showed manufacturing strengthened more than estimated this month, mirroring an August increase in a similar government-produced index.
Singapore Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said in a speech today that while he doesn’t see a “hard landing” for China, a growth rate of less than 6.5 percent would have “major implications for the rest of the world, and especially for Asia.”
Paul Gruenwald, Standard & Poor’s chief Asia-Pacific economist, said in a report today that China’s growth may range from 7 percent to 7.5 percent during this year and beyond, a level that will become the “new normal.”
China’s statistics-bureau chief, Ma Jiantang, said earlier this month that the agency has “zero tolerance” for falsified data after it publicized cases of manipulated local numbers and the customs bureau cracked down on fraudulent export invoices. Li Keqiang, who became premier this year, said in 2007 that GDP figures were “man-made” and “for reference only,” according to a WikiLeaks cable.
Elsewhere in the world today, the Reserve Bank of Australia said banks must maintain loan standards as households take on more investment risk, according to the central bank’s semiannual financial stability review. New Zealand’s trade deficit widened to NZ$1.19 billion ($980 million) in August, the biggest shortfall since 2008, a report showed.
In the U.S., purchases of new homes probably rose in August from July, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. Orders for durable goods probably fell a second month in August, another survey showed.
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