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Coronavirus The economic cost is rising in China and beyond

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The human cost of the coronavirus outbreak is climbing across China and beyond. The economic cost is also mounting, mainly, but not only, in China.

That damage is, for the most part, not due to the virus itself so much as efforts to prevent it spreading.

There are strict restrictions on moving out of Wuhan, where the outbreak began, a city with a population of 11 million.

The lockdown, also now extended to other parts of Hubei province, prevents business-related travel as well as the movement of goods and workers.

Fear of the virus also means many people will choose to avoid activities they think might expose them to the risk of infection.

So restaurants, cinemas, transport providers, hotels and shops are all quickly feeling the impact.

And the timing of the health crisis, during the lunar New Year break, means those industries have been particularly exposed to commercial losses.

The New Year holiday was extended for a few days by the national Chinese authorities and there have been longer extensions imposed by some provincial authorities, delaying the return to work for some businesses even longer.

Any delay resuming production and selling goods is likely to lead to cash-flow problems, especially for smaller operations.

Many companies will have to continue paying bills, including employees’ pay.

And for manufacturers selling goods abroad, there may be some issues with buyers becoming more reluctant to buy from China.

Herbert Wun, who owns Wing Sang Electrical, which makes products such as hair-straighteners and blow-dryers in Guangdong province, told BBC News, many companies would not have much slack to take this kind of impact, coming, as it did, on top of the US-China trade war.

And the epidemic “will add to the pressure on customers trying to shift their supply chain away from China”.

The impact is not confined to China.

International retailers have closed operations in China – the furniture seller Ikea and the coffee shop chain Starbucks, for example.

Several overseas airlines have stopped flights to China and international hotel chains have been offering refunds.

And beyond that, there is growing concern about integrated international supply chains.

China has a much bigger role in these networks than it did at the time of the last major health problem that emerged from the country – the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) virus 17 years ago.

Hyundai, of South Korea, has suspended its car production because of problems with the supply of parts from its operation in China – an early warning sign of possible extensive disruption ahead.

China is an important supplier for the global motor industry and the electronics sector.

Many mobile phones and computers are made in China or at least have components manufactured there.

Financial markets have also felt the effect of the health crisis.

Stock markets around the world are lower than they were two weeks ago. China’s market fell 8% on the first day of trading after the holiday.

There has been a particularly marked impact on the prices of industrial commodities, as China is such an important buyer.

Crude oil hit its lowest level in more than a year.

It has dropped by about 15% in the past two weeks, reflecting declining demand from China – underlined by reports the country’s leading refiner, Sinopec, is cutting back.

A group of oil exporting nations is considering production cuts in an effort to reverse the price fall.

Copper is also cheaper – by about 13% over the past two weeks.

It is an important material for the construction industry, which is also sure to be affected in China.

Many of the suppliers of these commodities are emerging and developing economies.

It is early days to attempt to quantify the likely economic effects.

Much will depend on how well the Chinese authorities are able to contain the virus.

But some forecasters have made rather tentative efforts to put some numbers on the impact.

One example is the consultancy Oxford Economics which predicts the Chinese economy will grow less than 4% in the first quarter of 2020 from a year earlier.

For the full year, the forecast is average growth of 5.6%.

For both figures, the previous, pre-virus forecast was 6%.

It also expects the global economy to grow slightly less – by 0.2 percentage points – than it would have done otherwise.

But Oxford Economic says this is all based on an assumption the “worst case scenario” will be avoided. So there is a risk of the economic damage turning out to be more severe.

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Euro-Zone Economy Grew Less Than Estimated in Second Quarter – BNN Bloomberg

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(Bloomberg) — Sign up for the New Economy Daily newsletter, follow us @economics and subscribe to our podcast.

The euro-area economy grew slightly less than initially estimated in the second quarter as signs continue to emerge that momentum is unraveling.

Output rose 0.6% from the previous three months between April and June, compared with a preliminary reading of 0.7%, Eurostat said Wednesday. Employment, meanwhile, climbed 0.3% during that period.

While the data still suggest Europe’s economy was on a relatively firm footing coming into the summer, analysts worry that energy shortages will drive record inflation higher still, tipping the continent into a recession. A downturn lasting two quarters is now more likely than not, according to a Bloomberg survey, which puts the probability at 60%.

Inflation is expected to average almost 8% in 2022 — about four times the European Central Bank’s goal. Officials have stressed the importance of reacting forcefully to prevent expectations of higher inflation from becoming entrenched, though some economists question how far interest rates can be lifted if there’s a recession.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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B.C.’s export economy continues to cash in on its Cascadian connections – Business in Vancouver

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It is well known that the United States is British Columbia’s largest export market and number one international commercial partner.

Even if the specific details of export magnitudes are not widely known, most people recognize that being physically adjacent to the world’s largest economy means B.C.’s trade will invariably be tilted to the south. A common language, similar business and legal environments, and previous trade agreements further augment this powerful cross-border trade orientation.

In a typical year, B.C. sends about half of its merchandise exports stateside. In 2021, the share was even higher: 55 per cent. China, a distant second, accounts for 15 to 16 per cent of the province’s international merchandise exports, followed by Japan at around 10 per cent.

Less well known is that the distribution of B.C.’s exports within the U.S. is similarly shaped by geography and the size of the various state economies. In particular, the three West Coast states – Washington, Oregon, and California – collectively absorb 45 to 46 per cent of the province’s U.S.-bound merchandise exports. We estimate that, if services are included, these three states buy more than half of everything the province sells to the giant American market.

When it comes to cross-border trade, geography and size matter – a lot. The I-5 highway, connecting coastal cities from San Diego through California to Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, with arteries extending into northern B.C., has long supported economic activity along the west coast of North America. It has also enabled steady trade growth. The built-up networks of railways, pipelines, electricity transmission lines and seaports and airports – and the sharing of a common time zone – all serve to reinforce the pattern and depth of commerce along the west coast.

Underscoring the point that geography matters, last year B.C. exported $9 billion in goods to next-door Washington state, equal to 30 per cent of U.S.-bound merchandise exports. In fact, exports to Washington state match the value of B.C.’s exports to China, the world’s second largest economy.

The size of the individual state economies is also a key factor shaping cross-border trade. California is the largest economy in the U.S., and one of the biggest in the world. So, it’s not surprising that California ranks as B.C.’s second largest individual state export market, taking nearly 12 per cent of our U.S.-bound goods.

Broadening the picture to include services, California stands out even more, given that it boasts world-class advanced technology and film and entertainment industries. California is also important as a source of international visitors to B.C. When service exports are included, our research suggests that California accounts for about one-fifth of the value of British Columbia’s U.S.- bound exports.

California is unique among the province’s trading partners in that service exports exceed merchandise exports in dollar terms. B.C.’s exports of film and television productions have increased sharply and are now close to $2.5 billion annually; the bulk of this involves business done with California. Also, California accounts for a disproportionate share of B.C.’s exports of scientific, technical and professional services and of technology-based services, and the state is also a leading supplier of international tourists to the province. In total, once tourism activity fully resumes, we project that B.C.’s service exports to California will soon exceed $6 billion, almost twice the value of our merchandise exports to the Golden State.  

In sum, international goods exports to B.C.’s three neighbouring coastal states amounted to almost $14 billion in 2021. With some educated guesswork, and assuming tourism fully recovers, service exports to these three states should soon reach $12 billion annually. Thus, the combined value of goods and services sold to California, Oregon and Washington amounts to almost $26 billion, equal to 55 per cent of B.C.’s total goods and services exports to the United States.    

An updated and more complete look at the direction of provincial exports and the role of the three coastal states in B.C.’s global trade underscores the significance of the “Cascadia” region in shaping the province’s economy. When services are counted, this dynamic U.S. region purchases an eye-popping 30 to 33 per cent of B.C.’s international exports.  And these are not stagnant markets; all three states have diverse, growing economies. This means there is scope to further deepen B.C.’s already substantial commercial ties with our West Coast neighbours.

Jock Finlayson is the Business Council of British Columbia’s senior adviser; Ken Peacock is the council’s senior vice-president and chief economist.

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Chipmakers Are Flashing More Warnings on the Global Economy – BNN Bloomberg

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(Bloomberg) — Mounting concern over semiconductor demand is sending shudders through North Asia’s high-tech exporters, which historically serve as a bellwether for the international economy.

South Korean behemoths Samsung Electronics Co. and SK Hynix Inc. have signaled plans to dial back investment outlays, while across the East China Sea, the world’s biggest contract chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. indicated a similar expectation.

Fading tech demand highlights a darkening picture as Russia’s war on Ukraine and rising interest rates damp activity. The following charts look at the chip industry and its implications for the world economy.

In recent weeks, major chip manufacturers Micron Technology Inc. Nvidia Corp., Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. have warned of weaker export orders. 

Gartner Inc. predicts an abrupt end to one of the industry’s biggest boom cycles. The research firm slashed its outlook for revenue growth to just 7.4% in 2022, down from 14% seen three months earlier. Gartner then sees it falling 2.5% in 2023.

Memory chips are among the most vulnerable segments in the $500 billion semiconductor market to global economic performance, and Samsung and SK Hyinx’ sales of dynamic random access memory, or DRAM, a chip that holds bits of data, are central to Korean trade.

Next year, demand for DRAM is likely to rise 8.3%, the weakest bit growth on record, says tech researcher TrendForce Corp., which sees supply climbing 14.1%. Bit growth refers to the amount of memory produced and serves as a key barometer for global market demand.

South Korea’s exports are bolstered when demand outpaces supply in bit growth. But with supply likely to expand at almost twice the pace of demand next year, exports may be headed for a major downturn.

Signs are rising that trade is already starting to deteriorate. Korea’s technology exports slipped in July for the first time in more than two years, with memory chips leading the falls. Semiconductor inventories piled up in June at the fastest pace in more than six years.

Among potential victims will be Samsung, the world’s biggest memory-chip producer and a linchpin of Korea’s trade-reliant economy.

Samsung recorded rapid sales growth when demand was strong relative to supply. As the chip outlook turns gloomy, shares of Samsung have been declining this year, with occasional rebounds on better-than-expected profits.

Samsung and SK Hynix control roughly two thirds of the global memory market, meaning they have the power to narrow the gap between supply and demand. 

Memory is loosely tied to other types of semiconductors, built by firms such as TSMC that produces chips in iPhones, and Nvidia, whose graphics cards are used in everything from games to crypto mining and artificial intelligence. 

The Philadelphia Semiconductor Index, which includes these firms, has ebbed and flowed together with memory demand in recent years.

Korean exports have long correlated with global trade, meaning their decline will add to signs of trouble for a world economy facing headwinds from geopolitical risks to higher borrowing costs.

Micron Technology, the world’s third-largest memory maker, last week issued a warning about deteriorating demand, triggering a selloff in global chip stocks.

Korea’s stock market has been among leading indicators of the country’s trade performance, with investors dumping shares well before exports slump.

“The trend is important for Asia as its economic cycle is very dependent on tech exports,” said Alicia Garcia Herrero, chief economist for Asia Pacific at Natixis SA. “Fewer new orders and the large inventory pile-up mean Asia’s tech sector will see a long destocking cycle and a shrinking profit margin.”

The International Monetary Fund last month downgraded its global growth forecast and said 2023 may be tougher than this year. 

Deutsche Bank AG sees a U.S. recession starting in mid-2023 and Wells Fargo & Co. expects one in early 2023. A Bloomberg Economics model sees a 100% probability of a US recession within the next 24 months.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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