x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Fears for China ease with latest growth data

China's growth slowed to 7.4 per cent in the third quarter from a year earlier, a better than expected result that helped to ease fears about the world's second largest economy.

But uncertainties remain for businesses with links to nation ahead of key congress meeting. Lam Yik Fei / Bloomberg
But uncertainties remain for businesses with links to nation ahead of key congress meeting. Lam Yik Fei / Bloomberg

China's growth slowed to 7.4 per cent in the third quarter from a year earlier, a better than expected result that helped to ease fears about the world's second largest economy.

Nonetheless, it was the seventh consecutive quarter of slowing annual expansion.

In a boost for the economy, investment, retail sales and industrial output picked up at the end of the quarter.

The data, released yesterday by the National Bureau of Statistics, will be greeted with cautious relief by the GCC, a big supplier of oil and other goods to the Asian tiger.

"Those fearing a hard landing will be able to sleep a little better tonight, but those positioned for a clear recovery might be disappointed," Alistair Thornton, the senior China economist at IHS Global Insight, wrote in a client note. "The picture is one of emerging stabilisation, not the return of unbridled optimism."

Even if China's economy does manage to gain momentum, any increase is unlikely to be robust enough to avoid the country recording the lowest annual growth since 1999.

Slowing investment and household spending in China and the collapse of demand in the euro zone, a major market for its goods, has undermined the economy's engine this year.

Annual GDP growth in the first nine months of the year reached 7.7 per cent, marginally lower than 7.8 per cent in the first half of the year. But the statistics bureau maintained yesterday China would either meet or beat the government's target of 7.5 per cent growth for the year.

Many businesses in the GCC have been closely monitoring China's slowdown this year. About half of the GCC's trade is with Asia, with China now Dubai's second biggest trading partner for non-oil goods. But as China's commodity-guzzling engine has started to splutter, the threat of softening demand for oil and other GCC goods has risen.

Prices of Brent crude held steady above US$113 per barrel in the wake of China's latest data. The S&P GSCI Index of 24 raw materials rose 0.1 per cent.

Uncertainties, however, remain for businesses with links to China.

"I don't have confidence (in the outlook)," said Eric Fu, the general manager of China National Building Materials Group in the UAE. "It is still not clear what will happen with the most important event this year - the Communist Party Congress at the end of the year."

The congress starting on November 8 is slated to bring in a once-in-a-decade change in leadership in China and raises the possibility of changes to economic policies.

Attention will also turn to whether the extent of China's slowdown is serious enough to warrant a fresh stimulus to bolster the economy.

The government has already approved $157 billion (Dh576.66bn) of spending on infrastructure projects and cut interest rates twice this year in an effort to revive the economy.

"The data was broadly in line with expectations but if we are seeing signs of stabilisation, some people might be concerned it might remove the need for stimulus," said Tim Fox, the chief economist of Emirates NBD.

 

tarnold@thenational.ae