KINGSTON, NY, 21 October 2015—The numbers are in. The markets don’t like them and the Street doesn’t believe them. For the past week, global equity markets traded in a narrow range waiting with great anticipation for Gross Domestic Product numbers from China, the world’s second largest economy.
Barely beating economists’ estimates for a 6.8 percent increase, China’s National Bureau of Statistics announced Monday that GDP growth for the third quarter ending in September from a year earlier registered a 6.9 percent gain. Down from 7 percent in the first and second quarters, it was the worst GDP reading since the first quarter of 2009, when the world economy was in the depths of the Great Recession.
Yet, even the tepid numbers were met with market disbelief.
Swords Into Plowshares... Best Price: $1.32 Buy New $15.99 (as of 09:20 EDT - Details) “China’s Better-Than-Expected GDP Prompts Skepticism From Economists,” headlined the Wall Street Journal following Beijing’s announcement. “Within minutes of China’s publishing its rosier than-expected numbers, a wave of skepticism emanated from economists over the accuracy of the official 6.9% third-quarter growth figure,” was the lead paragraph.
With imports and exports sharply down, factories facing 43 consecutive months of falling prices, investments declining and inventory of unsold homes skyrocketing, the Chinese government maintained that service sector growth and consumer consumption accounted for the rise in GDP.
However, from all angles the numbers did not square.
The Financial Times doubted how the service sector could account for the reported growth since it was financial services that was the biggest contributor to services growth in the first half of the year when the stock market was booming. “It is somewhat puzzling how the service sector maintained strong growth in the third quarter,” wrote Zhu Haibin, chief China economist at JPMorgan. “The recent stock market correction should have led to service sector deceleration,” he maintained. Against the State: An ... Best Price: $5.49 Buy New $9.95 (as of 09:05 EDT - Details)
Commodity markets slumped on the mediocre GDP report with fears that China, the world’s leading consumer of raw materials, would continue to weaken despite massive government stimulus measures currently being implemented. Thus, nations that export heavily into China are either in recession, or will sink into one as demand for their products from the Chinese – be they raw materials or finished goods – continues to decline.
Trend Forecast: Current events form future trends. For example, Japan just reported another trade deficit. Despite forecasts for a gain in exports, they grew at the slowest pace in more than a year in September, while exports to China fell 3.5 percent. “China-bound exports fell for a second straight month in terms of value and volume, that weighed on exports,” a finance ministry official said. “We must pay the utmost attention to China.”
Indeed, from the bottom of the food chain to the top of the retail market, from Yum Brands to Burberry, the more the Chinese economy slows down, the greater the economic pain. Yes, “we must pay the utmost attention to China.” But with Zero Interest Rate and quantitative easing policies having failed to generate sustained economic growth among developed nations, the oncoming global recession is much bigger than China.