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Chinese policy-makers vow commitment to growth as pressure on economy mounts – The Globe and Mail

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Renewed COVID-19 lockdowns are weighing heavily on China’s business activity, consumer confidence and financial markets.ALY SONG/Reuters

Chinese policy-makers pledged on Wednesday that growth was still a priority and they would press on with reforms, helping further boost stock markets buoyed by hopes that Beijing will ease off on its strict COVID-19 measures.

The policy-makers’ comments came in an apparent bid to soothe fears that ideology could take precedence as Xi Jinping began a new leadership term and strict COVID curbs exact a growing toll on the world’s second-largest economy.

Even though case numbers are rising and disruptive lockdowns continue with no clear exit strategy in sight, investors latched on to hope that China may ease its strict COVID policy in the coming months.

“We believe China could soon fine-tune its COVID restrictions, with a more targeted approach, less restrictive quarantine guidance and the more balanced assessment of the virus,” Morgan Stanley analysts said in a note.

China and Hong Kong stocks ended higher for a second session on Wednesday, and U.S.-listed Chinese stocks rose in premarket trading.

On the ground, however, there were no signs of an ease up. Renewed COVID lockdowns are weighing heavily on China’s business activity and consumer confidence.

In the latest fallout, electric vehicle maker NIO said it suspended production in the eastern city of Hefei amid rising COVID-19 cases and Yum China, operator of the KFC and Pizza Hut chains, said it was temporarily closing or reducing services at over 1,000 of its restaurants in China.

Luxury goods companies Estee Lauder Cos Inc and Canada Goose Holdings Inc also cut their full-year forecasts, blaming a hit from persistent COVID-19-related lockdowns and store closures in China.

Xi secured a third term as general secretary at the ruling Communist Party’s twice-a-decade congress last month, when he urged the party to brace for hardship and strengthen national security, and renewed his support for the zero-COVID policy, despite the fragile economy.

In pre-recorded interviews for the Global Financial Leaders’ Investment Summit in Hong Kong, senior officials from China’s central bank, securities and banking regulators assured their audience via a video link that China would keep its currency and property markets stable, and remained committed to a pro-growth economic strategy.

“International investors should read more carefully about the work report that President Xi delivered” at the congress, said Fang Xinghai, vice chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC).

“There, he re-emphasized the centrality of economic growth in the entire work of the Party and the country, and that’s very significant,” showing China is fully focused on growth, he said.

Fang also criticized international media coverage, saying that a lot of reports “really don’t understand China very well” and had a short-term focus.

As foreign funds head for the exits, Chinese investors have been snapping up cheapened shares of mainland firms, betting that outside views of China have been excessively negative.

Yi Gang, governor of the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), said China will continue to deregulate its markets.

“Reform and open-door policy will continue,” Yi said.

Apparently seeking to ease worries over the impact of COVID lockdowns and a property market crisis, Yi said “the Chinese economy has remained broadly on track despite some challenges and downward pressure.”

“I expect China’s potential growth rate to remain in a reasonable range,” Yi said, citing the country’s “super large” market, a rising middle-class, technological innovation and a high-quality infrastructure network.

Separately, in a book entitled “A Supplementary Reading of the 20th Communist Party Congress Report” and cited in local media on Wednesday, Yi said China is in a position to maintain “normal” monetary policy and “positive” interest rates.

Global interest rate hikes have pressured yuan assets, and it is impossible for China to keep cutting interest rates in the long run, Wang Jun, director at China Chief Economist Forum, told Reuters.

While other countries have been tightening policy to battle rising prices, China has implemented an accommodative monetary policy to shore up sputtering growth, raising concerns about capital flight. The yuan has weakened roughly 13 per cent against the dollar this year.

But Yi said the yuan has appreciated against other major currencies, “maintaining its purchasing power and keeping its value stable.”

Noting China’s property crisis, and the sector’s links to other many other industries, Yi said, “We hope‌‌ the housing market‌‌ can achieve a soft landing‌‌.”

With China’s zero-COVID policy expected to remain in place through at least the winter, or longer, its near-term growth outlook is bleak.

Fears of renewed disruptions to global supply chains are resurfacing.

On Wednesday, a Chinese industrial park that hosts an iPhone factory belonging to Foxconn announced a fresh lockdown.

“We expect Beijing to maintain its zero-Covid strategy at least until March 2023,” according to Nomura.

After surprisingly high gross domestic product growth of 3.9 per cent in the third quarter, Nomura expects growth to drop again, with zero or even negative sequential growth from the previous quarter.

“We maintain our GDP growth forecast of 2.8 per cent year-on-year for the fourth quarter with a corresponding sequential growth forecast at 0.0 per cent.”

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Here is Trump economy: Slower growth, higher prices and a bigger national debt

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If Donald Trump is re-elected president of the United States in November, Americans can expect higher inflation, slower economic growth and a larger national debt, according to economists.

Trump’s economic agenda for a second term in office includes raising tariffs on imports, cutting taxes and deporting millions of undocumented migrants.

“Inflation will be the main impact” of a second Trump presidency, Bernard Yaros, lead US economist at Oxford Economics, told Al Jazeera.

“That’s ultimately the biggest risk. If Trump is president, tariffs are going up for sure. The question is how high do they go and how widespread are they,” Yaros said.

Trump has proposed imposing a 10 percent across-the-board tariff on all imported goods and levies of 60 percent or higher on Chinese imports.

During Trump’s first term in office from 2017 to 2021, his administration introduced tariff increases that at their peak affected about 10 percent of imports, mostly goods from China, Moody’s Analytics said in a report released in June.

Those levies nonetheless inflicted “measurable economic damage”, particularly to the agriculture, manufacturing and transportation sectors, according to the report.

“A tariff increase covering nearly all goods imports, as Trump recently proposed, goes far beyond any previous action,” Moody’s Analytics said in its report.

Businesses typically pass higher tariffs on to their customers, raising prices for consumers. They could also affect businesses’ decisions about how and where to invest.

“There are three main tenets of Trump’s campaign, and they all point in the same inflationary direction,” Matt Colyar, assistant director at Moody’s Analytics, told Al Jazeera.

“We didn’t even think of including retaliatory tariffs in our modelling because who knows how widespread and what form the tit-for-tat model could involve,” Colyar added.

‘Recession becomes a serious threat’

When the US opened its borders after the COVID-19 pandemic, the inflow of immigrants helped to ease labour shortages in a range of industries such as construction, manufacturing, leisure and hospitality.

The recovery of the labour market in turn helped to bring down inflation from its mid-2022 peak of 9.1 percent.

Trump has not only proposed the mass deportation of 15 million to 20 million undocumented migrants but also restricting the inflow of visa-holding migrant workers too.

That, along with a wave of retiring Baby Boomers – an estimated 10,000 of whom are exiting the workforce every day – would put pressure on wages as it did during the pandemic, a trend that only recently started to ease.

“We can assume he will throw enough sand into the gears of the immigration process so you have meaningfully less immigration, which is inflationary,” Yaros said.

Since labour costs and inflation are two important measures that the US Federal Reserve weighs when setting its benchmark interest rate, the central bank could announce further rate hikes, or at least wait longer to cut rates.

That would make recession a “serious threat once again”, according to Moody’s.

Adding to those inflationary concerns are Trump’s proposals to extend his 2017 tax cuts and further lower the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 20 percent.

While Trump’s proposed tariff hikes would offset some lost revenue, they would not make up the shortfall entirely.

According to Moody’s, the US government would generate $1.7 trillion in revenue from Trump’s tariffs while his tax cuts would cost $3.4 trillion.

Yaros said government spending is also likely to rise as Republicans seek bigger defence budgets and Democrats push for greater social expenditures, further stoking inflation.

If President Joe Biden is re-elected, economists expect no philosophical change in his approach to import taxes. They think he will continue to use targeted tariff increases, much like the recently announced 100 percent tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles and solar panels, to help US companies compete with government-supported Chinese firms.

With Trump’s tax cuts set to expire in 2025, a second Biden term would see some of those cuts extended, but not all, Colyar said. Primarily, the tax cuts to higher earners like those making more than $400,000 a year would expire.

Although Biden has said he would hike corporate taxes from 21 percent to 28 percent, given the divided Congress, it is unlikely he would be able to push that through.

The contrasting economic visions of the two presidential candidates have created unwelcome uncertainty for businesses, Colyar said.

“Firms and investors are having a hard time staying on top of [their plans] given the two different ways the US elections could go,” Colyar said.

“In my entire tenure, geopolitical risk has never been such an important consideration as it is today,” he added.

 

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Economy

China Stainless Steel Mogul Fights to Avoid a Second Collapse

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Chinese metal tycoon Dai Guofang’s first steel empire was brought down by a government campaign to rein in market exuberance, tax evasion accusations and a spell behind bars. Two decades on, he’s once again fighting for survival.

A one-time scrap-metal collector, he built and rebuilt a fortune as China boomed. Now with the economy cooling, Dai faces a debt crisis that threatens the future of one of the world’s top stainless steel producers, Jiangsu Delong Nickel Industry Co., along with plants held by his wife and son. Its demise would send ripples through the country’s vast manufacturing sector and the embattled global nickel market.

 

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Why Trump’s re-election could hit Europe’s economy by at least €150 billion

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A Trump victory could trigger a 1% GDP hit to the eurozone economy, with Germany, Italy, and Finland most affected. Renewed NATO demands and potential cessation of US aid to Ukraine could further strain Europe.

The potential re-election of Donald Trump as US President poses a significant threat to the eurozone economy, with economists warning of a possible €150 billion hit, equivalent to about 1% of the region’s gross domestic product. This impact stems from anticipated negative trade repercussions and increased defence expenditures.

The recent attack in Butler, Pennsylvania, where former President Trump sustained an ear injury, has boosted his re-election odds. Prediction markets now place Trump’s chances of winning at 71%, a significant rise from earlier figures, while his opponent, Joe Biden, has experienced a sharp decline, with his chances dropping to 18% from a peak of 45% just two months ago.

Rising trade uncertainty and economic impact from tariffs

Economists James Moberly and Sven Jari Stehn from Goldman Sachs have raised alarms over the looming uncertainty in global trade policies, drawing parallels to the volatility experienced in 2018 and 2019. They argue that Trump’s aggressive trade stance could reignite these uncertainties.

“Trump has pledged to impose an across-the-board 10% tariff on all US imports including from Europe,” Goldman Sachs outlined in a recent note.

The economists predict that the surge in trade policy uncertainty, which previously reduced Euro area industrial production by 2% in 2018-19, could now result in a 1% decline in Euro area gross domestic product.

Germany to bear the brunt, followed by Italy

Germany, Europe’s industrial powerhouse, is expected to bear the brunt of this impact.

“We estimate that the negative effects of trade policy uncertainty are larger in Germany than elsewhere in the Euro area, reflecting its greater openness and reliance on industrial activity,” Goldman Sachs explained.

The report highlighted that Germany’s industrial sector is more vulnerable to trade disruptions compared to other major Eurozone economies such as France.

After Germany, Italy and Finland are projected to be the second and third most affected countries respectively, due to the relatively higher weight of manufacturing activity in their economies.

According to a Eurostat study published in February 2024, Germany (€157.7 billion), Italy (€67.3 billion), and Ireland (€51.6 billion) were the three largest European Union exporters to the United States in 2023.

Germany also maintained the largest trade surplus (€85.8 billion), followed by Italy (€42.1 billion).

Defence, security pressures and financial condition shifts

A Trump victory would also be likely to bring renewed defence and security pressures to Europe. Trump has consistently pushed for NATO members to meet their 2% GDP defence spending commitments. Currently, EU members spend about 1.75% of GDP on defence, necessitating an increase of 0.25% to meet the target.

Moreover, Trump has indicated that he might cease US military aid to Ukraine, compelling European nations to step in. The US currently allocates approximately €40bn annually (or 0.25% of EU GDP) for Ukrainian support. Consequently, meeting NATO’s 2% GDP defence spending requirement and offsetting the potential reduction in US military aid could cost the EU an additional 0.5% of GDP per year.

Additional economic shocks from Trump’s potential re-election include heightened US foreign demand due to tax cuts and the risk of tighter financial conditions driven by a stronger dollar.

However, Goldman Sachs believes that the benefits from a looser US fiscal policy would be marginal for the European economy, with by a mere 0.1% boost in economic activity.

“A Trump victory in the November election would likely come with significant financial market shifts,” Goldman Sachs wrote.

Reflecting on the aftermath of the 2016 election, long-term yields surged, equity prices soared, and the dollar appreciated significantly. Despite these movements, the Euro area Financial Conditions Index (FCI) only experienced a slight tightening, as a weaker euro counterbalanced higher interest rates and wider sovereign spreads.

In conclusion, Trump’s potential re-election could have far-reaching economic implications for Europe, exacerbating trade uncertainties and imposing new financial and defence burdens on the continent.

 

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