Commodity price plunge may benefit China's slowing economy

GMT 16:33 2014 Tuesday ,28 October

Arab Today, arab today Commodity price plunge may benefit China's slowing economy

China market
Beijing - XINHUA

Price slumps in the global commodity market will likely mean good news for China after the country reported slowing growth for the third quarter.
Continued weaker commodity prices led by crude oil are expected to save the country on enormous import bills, boost trade surplus and provide more leeway for Chinese policy makers to fine-tune the economy.
Crude prices started a downward streak in the beginning of July and have fallen considerably from their previous peak.
Overnight on Monday, light, sweet crude for December delivery dipped below 80 U.S. dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, tumbling from over 107 U.S. dollars on June 20. December Brent crude dropped to less than 86 U.S. dollars on the same day, around 25 percent lower than the peak four months ago.
Other commodities, including iron ore and coal, are no exception, having struggled in losing territory for months.
Liu Jun, researcher with BOC International Futures, attributed the bearish performance to an over-supplied global market, especially due to the unexpected rapid recovery of Libya's oil output.
Libya ramped up its crude output to 810,000 barrels per day in September, increasing nearly fourfold from June, and oil supply from Iraq stayed unaffected by fierce warfare. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) showed no intention of reducing output, as Saudi Arabia fueled up to vie for more market share.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is vigorously exploiting its shale oil, as data from the Energy Information Administration showed output per day grew 14.5 percent year on year in the first three quarters.
Despite the ever-increasing supply, demand growth lagged behind due to a grim global economic outlook, which also weighed down crude prices.
Financial institutions have lowered their price forecasts. Merrill Lynch cut its Brent crude price forecast to 98 U.S. dollars for next year and Goldman Sachs expects the price to fall 15 U.S. dollars to 85 U.S. dollars in the first quarter of 2015.
However, China's appetite for commodities was insatiable amid weakening global demand. Its iron ore imports jumped 16.5 percent year on year to reach 700 million tonnes from January to September, while crude oil imports were up 8.3 percent to 230 million tonnes. Demand for agricultural products and copper also grew rapidly.
China has been one of the top net importers of crude oil and iron ore, which constituted 11.3 percent and 5.4 percent of China's total imports in 2013 respectively, according to Merrill Lynch.
A major consumer of commodities, China will take advantage of the price drop to run its economy at a lower cost with reduced import bills thanks to dropping prices.
If crude oil and iron ore prices stay at current levels for the rest of the year, China could save around 4.5 billion U.S. dollars per month compared to a year ago, which will result in a marked increase in the current account surplus, according to a Merrill Lynch report.
The report said that the trade surplus will also be boosted, which will reduce the need for the government to conduct any large-scale easing, such as universal reserve requirement ratio cuts.
Chinese economists and government officials have ruled out the possibility of comprehensive easing measures and massive stimulus, although the country's economic growth kept softening.
China's economy expanded 7.3 percent from a year ago in the third quarter of this year, marking the slowest quarterly growth since the first quarter of 2009. Still, growth remained within the "reasonable range" set by policymakers, who attached greater importance to quality and reform.
Falling commodity prices will reduce China's inflation in the short term and may exert greater influence in the long run, giving the government more room to carry out targeted easing measures, according to the report.
In addition, less expensive petroleum products will help the country to eliminate "dirty" fuel and curb air pollution, as well as allow the government to cut subsidies on high-priced oil.
In the larger picture, the recent fall in oil prices may ease the pressure on some emerging Asian economies and provide a lift to Asian growth prospects, a research note by Fitch Ratings said. Citigroup said the recent oil plunge may be equal to a 1.1-trillion-U.S.-dollar stimulus to global economies.

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