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我在中國經濟之狀況篇  -- 開欄文一文說

到了九月底和今年年底,再做個檢驗印證。或許可以看出誰有認知偏差;誰的資料不夠周全;誰的分析解讀功力鴉鴉烏。

我從10月初起就不時搜尋關於中國經濟在第三季表現的報導;一直都沒有看到昨天在【保釣論壇】上看到承渝兄分享的《前三季度中國經濟持續恢復,轉貼於此(請見本欄第二篇文章)

以我對經濟的粗淺了解,該文第一和第六兩項指標顯示中國經濟朝正向發展第二到第五項有「玩弄數字」來報喜不報憂之嫌。兩項則影響不大。總之,以區區淺見,中國經濟還沒有完全走出「疲軟」陰影;相關部門仍需加把勁,提出更有效、更有力道的振興政策和方案

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本城市多年前就轉載過兩、三篇這位皮瑟克先生的大作。就我所知,此君唱衰中國至少十多年了;從下文用字遣詞看,他仍然樂此不疲。從而,我高度懷疑他論述的「客觀度」。面對中國「第三季GDP增長」數字,他拿「房市困境」來做對比。我不是「中國觀察家」,自然沒有功力提出事實或數據來反駁。但是,我認為郭德門先生《中國經濟並無財政危機 》一文的「可信度」遠遠超過下文。

不過,皮瑟克先生用了相當多文字評論「第三季中國經濟報表」作者有「玩弄數據」之嫌。這一點倒是跟我在開欄文中所表達的「直覺」相同。


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中國第三季GDP增長與房市困境 -- William Pesek
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China’s GDP surprise can’t mask property mess

Third quarter GDP jump beat market projections but statistical fudging isn’t fooling anyone about the depths of China’s property woes

WILLIAM PESEK, 10/20/23

China’s upward gross domestic product (GDP) surprise may offer more fodder to anthropologists than economists.

One of the key consumption strengths was spending on alcohol and restaurants – and at a moment when many mainlanders could be excused for looking to drown their sorrows over distressed property markets.

Yet a strong dose of sobriety is also in order amid excitement that GDP jumped 4.9% in the three months ended September year on year.

Solid retail sales aside, the data show that efforts by President Xi Jinping’s team to fight deflation and stabilize the property sector have yet to gain firm traction.

It hardly helps that economists like Louis Kuijs of S&P Global Ratings flag government data revisions and price adjustments that might have skewed third-quarter numbers higher. Questions surround, for example, how Beijing statisticians accounted for weak industrial sector prices as part of producer price index calculations.

In addition, China reported its largest-ever reduction in the value of monthly exports, a tweak that could mask weakness in trade amid softening global demand. That statistical tweak means activity is being measured from a lower base, making annualized comparisons appear more robust.

As investors wonder about cooked books, whether inadvertent or not, the details of China’s latest GDP data hint at Xi’s government having more work to do to enliven GDP in the short run. And the capital outflows afflicting mainland assets spotlight the need to repair the property sector, which in good times can drive as much as 30% of GDP.

The intensifying drag in real estate — and related default dramas — has economists buzzing about “Japanization” risks in Asia’s biggest economy. In the first nine months of 2023, property investment declined 9.1% year on year. The contraction is accelerating despite moves in September to cut down payment requirements on property purchases in China’s largest cities.

Declines in China’s new home prices accelerated in September. In 70 cities measured, prices — excluding state-subsidized housing — fell 0.3% from August.

“Property indicators remained very weak in September, with no signs of bottoming out,” says Louise Loo, China economist at Oxford Economics.

S&P’s credit analysts write in a new report that they expect “that the low number of construction starts, an inventory overhang in lower-tier cities, and ever-tightening escrow restrictions will keep property sales depressed.”

This week, property developer Country Garden Holdings offered a grim reminder of things to come amid chatter it might have defaulted on dollar bonds for the first time. As such, “most of the economic downside can be traced back to contractionary property investment,” says economist Carlos Casanova at Union Bancaire Privée. 

Two years after China Evergrande Group defaulted, the giant developer is still struggling to restructure tens of billions of dollars of offshore debt. Broader concerns that developers lack the cash to complete properties is a major drag on household and business confidence.

That has economists figuring more fiscal and monetary stimulus is on the way. Even though China’s third quarter numbers topped expectations, the economy is “not out of the woods by any means,” says economist Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management.

“This growth suggests a modest improvement in the Chinese economy,” Innes says. “However, there are ongoing calls for increased policy support to maintain consistent growth, as there are concerns about the sustainability of the recovery.”

Even so, “the improvement in third quarter economic data makes it less likely for the government to launch stimulus in the fourth quarter, as the growth target of five percent is set to be achieved,” says economist Zhang Zhiwei at Pinpoint Asset Management.

Analyst Harry Murphy Cruise at Moody’s Analytics adds that the “economic recovery is still in its infancy. Direct support for households could be the aspirin needed to shake the property hangover, but such support looks increasingly unlikely.”

At least statistically, the odds of China making this year’s 5% growth target are increasing. This week, UBS raised its mainland growth forecast to 5.2% from an earlier 4.8%. JPMorgan increased its projection to 5.2% from 5%.

Yet real-estate market headwinds have UBS economists penciling in just 4.4% in 2024. And the risk of a Japan-like deflationary funk could make these numbers look overly optimistic.

Since July, when consumer prices went negative for the first time since 2021, investors have been bracing for further price declines. More recent data only increased the sense of alarm over the knock-on effects on business and household confidence.

 “September’s inflation data remind us that despite some firming in activity indicators recently, China’s economic recovery remains challenged,” says economist Robert Carnell at ING Bank.

That could mean additional liquidity from the People’s Bank of China and scattered fiscal blasts from local governments. The key, though, is for Xi’s team to create a stabler and more productive property sector to improve the quality of national growth and reduce the frequency of boom/bust cycles.

Economist Larry Hu at Macquarie Group agrees that “property is the main concern.” Citigroup economist Xiangrong Yu notes that “policy efforts may be stepped up moving forward, especially for early next year, with focus on old-village redevelopment, local debt resolution, fiscal expansion.”

The problem, says Thomas Helbling, deputy director of the International Monetary Fund’s Asia-Pacific unit, is that “at the moment, the economy is very investment-heavy.”

In a recent report on China, the IMF cited the property crisis along with falling global demand as the biggest headwinds zooming China’s way. Yet so is a growth model that encourages unproductive borrowing.

Beijing, Helbling says, must level the playing field for private businesses to compete with state-owned enterprises. It must also build a strong social safety net to encourage consumption and increase investments in education and technology to boost productivity, he says. Pension reforms are also crucial to dealing with China’s fast-aging population.

“If you do those reforms there is an upside to growth,” Helbling said.

Urgent action is needed to steady the property sector to increase broader confidence, says economist Betty Wang at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group. “If more home buyers cease payment, the spreading trend will not only threaten the health of the financial system but also create social issues amid the current economic downturn,” Wang says.

Catherine Yeung, investment director at Fidelity International, speaks for many when she tells Bloomberg that “when it comes to property, it’s about renewing confidence on the ground.”

China’s property troubles are also a clear and present danger to the wider Asian region. “The emerging-market rating outlook is balanced, but the slump in China’s property market and higher global bond yields are key downside risks,” says analyst Ed Parker at Fitch Ratings.

Parker notes that the “slowdown in China’s property sector and downside risks to its GDP growth add to risks facing EM economies given the impact on global trade, commodity prices and financial market conditions.

“Moreover, a sudden stop in Chinese bank lending has reduced a critical source of financing for many EMs, while China’s different views from other creditors on debt restructuring is delaying reaching agreements.”

None of this is happening in a vacuum. As US government bond yields hit 17-year highs, Chinese developers are increasingly finding themselves in harm’s way. As is the broader Asia region.

Fitch estimates that the emerging market median general government interest-revenue ratio will increase to 9.5% in 2023 and 10.3% in 2024, from 8.3% in 2022. “Higher-for-longer US bond yields pose a risk of a greater and more persistent increase in funding costs,” Parkers says. “Higher interest payments are adding to pressures on budget balances.”

The risk going forward, Parker says, is that “an adverse move in the difference between the real interest rate and real growth rate means that governments will need to tighten fiscal policy to run smaller primary deficits in order to stabilize government debt/GDP, other things equal.”

This will be as big a challenge for China as anywhere, no matter how close it gets to 5% — whether for real or just statistically. The shaky property sector will be at the center of it all, ensuring brisk business for watering holes throughout the world’s second-biggest economy.

Follow William Pesek on X, formerly Twitter, at @WilliamPesek


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前三季度中國經濟持續恢復 -- 經濟觀察報
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前三季度中國經濟持續恢復

經濟觀察報  2023-10-18

經濟觀察網訊 據國新辦網站消息,1018日,國務院新聞辦就2023年前三季度國民經濟運行情況召開新聞發佈會。 在回答評價三季度GDP增速時,國家統計局副局長盛來運表示,今年是我們國家遭遇三年疫情衝擊經濟恢復的第一年。 從前三季度數據運行情況來看,國民經濟頂住了來自國外的風險挑戰和國內多重因素交織疊加帶來的下行壓力,總體上持續恢復向好 尤其是從三季度的情況來看,經濟恢復向好總體回升的態勢更趨明顯,多個領域、多項指標都出現了一些積極變化。 這些變化主要體現在以下幾個方面:

一、是增長持續恢復向好 前三季度國內生產總值(GDP)同比增長5.2%,其中三季度增長4.9%,比二季度同比增速回落,主要是因為去年對比基數抬升的原因。 去年二季度是我們國家疫情衝擊比較嚴重的一個季度,當季GDP同比增速只有0.4%,但是去年三季度的經濟增速已經回升到3.9% 所以今年三季度,如果扣除基數的影響,兩年平均增長增速是4.4%,比二季度加快了1.1個百分點。 所以我們看經濟回升,除了看同比增速變化以外,還要看環比 從環比增速來講,今年三季度增長1.3%,比二季度加快0.8個百分點,增長持續恢復向好 這個增速無論是同比增速還是前三季度的累計增速,在國際主要經濟體中都是名列前茅,這是一個積極變化。 

二、是就業形勢好轉 前三季度平均全國城鎮調查失業率是5.3%,比去年同期回落0.3個百分點,而且逐月好轉。 三季度平均調查失業率是5.2%9月份的調查失業率是5.0% 就業形勢好轉是經濟恢復向好的一個非常重要的指標,一個積極變化。 

三、是物價運行總體平穩。 9月份,居民消費價格指數環比上漲0.2%,同比持平,前三季度平均同比上漲0.4% 工業品出廠價格PPI連續三個月降幅收窄9月份同比下降2.5%,比6月份最低點收窄了近3個百分點,這說明國內總的需求穩中向好。 

四、是外貿好於預期。 海關總署已經發佈了前三季度的外貿數據,前三季度進出口總額同比下降了0.2%,基本上與去年同期持平。 今年世界經濟波動下行,外需總體收縮,再加上我們前幾年外貿一直保持較高增長,基數較高,原來曾擔心今年外貿下滑較多,但是從實際運行情況來看,三季度降幅明顯收窄,好於預期,這為經濟的穩定恢復提供了重要支撐。

五、是市場活力增強。 剛才發佈的無論是社會消費品零售總額數據還是服務消費數據,今年三季度都在轉好。 剛剛過去的中秋、國慶假期,無論是出行人數、旅遊消費還是住宿、餐飲收入數據,都保持了強勁增長勢頭,這說明中國經濟市場的活躍度提升,而且也彰顯了市場消費的潛力和活力。

六、是企業預期改善。 國家統計局前段時間發佈了全國採購經理指數PMI9月份是50.2%,在前幾個月採購經理指數PMI持續收縮的情況下,又回到景氣區間,這預示著實體經濟的景氣度改善。

七、是農業形勢較好。 夏糧產量雖然遭遇不利的自然條件影響,略有減產,但是秋糧的生產形勢比較好,播種面積略有擴大,而且北方雨水增多,總體有利於秋糧的生產。 初步預計,今年的糧食產量可能再創歷史新高。 畜牧業穩定增長,農產品供應充裕,為經濟持續穩定恢復打下了非常好的基礎。

八、是高品質發展紮實推進。 經濟發展品質提升。 從創新角度來講,高技術產業投資較快增長,前三季度高技術產業投資增長11.4%,這意味著高技術製造業發展回升勢頭較好。 大家熟知的中國綠色發展產業,尤其是新能源汽車、鋰電池、光伏電池新三樣繼續保持較快增長勢頭。「新三樣」的出口,前三季度海關發佈數據增長41.7%,增長速度較高。 另外是居民收入,無論是城鎮居民收入還是農村居民收入都穩定增長,全國居民收入前三季度同比實際增長5.9%,高於GDP增長。 企業利潤增長改善,1-8月份規模以上工業企業利潤累計增長是負的,但是降幅比1-7月份收窄3.8個百分點,而且8月份當月工業企業營收轉正,企業利潤當月增長17.2%

以上八個方面的積極變化,充分說明前三季度中國經濟持續恢復向好,也彰顯了中國經濟巨大韌性、潛力和活力,這說明黨中央宏觀經濟政策是有力有效的。 當然也要清醒地看到,經濟領域出現的這些積極變化有些還是初步的,有些積極變化的可持續性還需要繼續觀察。 經濟運行中外部環境和內部需求不足的矛盾還沒有根本緩解,經濟穩定回升的基礎還需要繼續鞏固。 下一階段,還是要狠抓政策落實,進一步夯實經濟回升基礎。


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