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Much has been discussed about China's soft or hard landing. Here are some facts about China's economy and the outlook for 2012:|
1. GDP Growth - Tapering off ever so gently
GDP growth came in at 8.9% y/y in Q4, or 9.2% for the year. This is below the 10-year average of about 9.4%, but within the achievable and sustainable rate of around 8 or 9 percent a year. GDP growth will probably slow a little further before consolidating later in the year, with 2012 growth likely around 8.5%
2. Inflation - As expected, inflation is down ...
Down yes, but not out. Most of the indicators that predict inflation in China have tracked downwards, and so too has headline inflation, but core inflation remains above the 10 year average, and this is the number one reason why we are seeing a controlled and purposeful constraining of the Chinese economy by authorities. Inflation remains a barrier to stimulus for now.
3. International Trade - Exports higher, check; imports higher, check.
The full year trade numbers showed exports and imports reaching all time highs, but a great fact is that imports grew faster, both proportionally and in absolute terms, than exports - rebalancing much? Anyway, the dip in the surplus was a drag on yoy GDP growth, and the rise in imports is a very positive trend for those who supply the Chinese industrial and construction growth engine.
4. Retail Sales - Stronger for longer
On a closely related note, retail sales growth came in very strong (even after factoring in seasonal effects), with the long-phase amplitude showing steady momentum. This is a positive signal on the rebalancing/domestic driven growth front, and this area will likely gain more if growth slows further as the Chinese authorities have signaled that any fiscal stimulus is likely to have due emphasis on the consumer, as opposed to being investment-centric.
5. Industrial production - chugging along
Meanwhile, one of China's key sources of growth; its industrial engine, continues to chug along. The PMI did dip below 50, but historical patterns show that 40 is the new 50 for China PMI (i.e. the PMI has to drop to around 40 before y/y industrial production growth turns negative), what's more, the recent HSBC flash PMI showed resilience in new orders, and the PMI about flat, if not slightly positive.
6. Property - A controlled landing for now
Property prices have been broadly falling for the past few months, driven by aggressive moves from the Chinese authorities to clampdown on speculation and promote housing affordability - which goes hand in glove with the ambitious social housing program that promises 10s of millions of new housing units built over the next couple of years. The base case would be more price drops, but no free-fall; in real terms prices have already come-off a lot. At some point prices will likely stabilize when the authorities ease-off a bit and as demand returns.