China’s manufacturing sector contracted for a third consecutive month in September, suggesting that the world’s second-largest economy is not immune to global headwinds, while factory inflation quickened.
Growing signs of a slowdown in China have prompted concerns that the country that has been the motor of global growth in recent years will not be able to provide as much of a counterweight to faltering US and European growth.
The HSBC purchasing managers’ index (PMI), which previews business conditions in a range of industries before official output data, was at 49.9 in September, unchanged from August. The final PMI, released on Friday, was stronger than the flash reading published last week.
“The PMI reinforces our view that the potential slowdown in China’s economy will likely be a gradual,” said Connie Tse, an economist at Forecast in Singapore.
“The trade sector no doubt faces increasing risks, but recent export growth momentum is holding up decently. China is not facing a collapse in global demand yet, as witnessed in 2009.”
The latest reading represents the longest period of contraction since the global financial crisis, when it came in below 50 for eight successive months from August 2008. In PMI releases around the world, the 50-point level typically demarcates expansion from contraction in factory activity.
HSBC believes a PMI reading of as low as 48 in China still points to annual growth of 12-13 per cent in industrial output and a 9 per cent expansion in gross domestic product.
“Although the lagged effects of credit tightening will continue to cool industrial activity in the months ahead, there remains little need to worry about a growth meltdown,” said Qu Hongbin, China economist at HSBC.
Qu expects China’s economic growth to hold up at around 8.5-9 per cent in the coming years, despite the global slowdown.
But analysts at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch said in a report that China faces some systemic risks such as a property-market meltdown, bad debt and capital outflows. The warning triggered some widening China’s sovereign credit default swaps.
Earlier this month the IMF warned that, without action, the debt-mired economies of Europe and the United States could lapse into recession, prompting it to cut its 2011 and 2012 global growth forecast to 4 per cent.
Underscoring the global slowdown, a Japanese PMI survey on Friday showed September marking the first contraction in manufacturing activity in five months, as a bounce following a March earthquake in Asia’s second biggest economy faded. China, which has become a factory to the world, is especially vulnerable to fading demand from the United States and Europe, still its two biggest export markets despite its effort to diversify.
Recent weakness in China’s currency against the dollar, where the offshore yuan is trading at a rare steep discount against the onshore rate, is evidence of overseas investors’ concerns about the outlook, analysts say. ( from The Gulf Today )