With Russia’s Help, China Becomes Plastics Making Power In Pandemic

After giving up on recycling — American recycling that is — China is still in love with the plastics biz. In fact. their companies are becoming dominant in all things plastic, one of the most important supply chains in the world.

In other words, it will be yet another segment in global business that the world will need Chinese companies to get supply.

The pandemic has helped the petrochemicals industry make up for losses in oil and gas demand. Plastics are tied to the fossil fuels industry. Stay-at-home orders throughout the U.S. and Europe has led to more take-out food orders and a lot of that is being placed in plastic containers.

I’d like to highlight one thing though: China’s Sinopec is the behemoth in this space, and although you can buy into Sinopec on the U.S. stock market, if the incoming Biden Administration makes good on a Trump order to delist Chinese companies that are not compliant with the financial audit rules under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, then Sinopec will probably leave the NYSE.

According to industry consultant Wood Mackenzie, petrochemicals will account for more than a third of global oil demand growth to 2030 and nearly half through 2050.

The growth in both plastics consumption and production is mostly coming from Asia where economies are catching up with the western levels of plastics consumption, and becoming a source for plastics exports to the U.S. and Europe.

Within Asia of course, China is the powerhouse. Last year Exxon Mobil XOM -4.8% began constructing its $10 billion petrochemical complex in Huizhou, China.

Russia Joins China, Wants To Be ‘Indispensible’

Russia’s petrochemical giant Sibur is also locked into China, mainly through a Sinopec partnership. The two companies began work on one of the world’s largest polymer plants for plastics making last August, spending $11 billion on the Amur Gas Chemical Complex in Russia.

The two sides are intimately connected in the global plastics biz.

“Amur is a milestone in the cooperation between Sinopec and Sibur,” Zhang Yuzhuo, chairman of Sinopec, says in a press statement, calling it a “model for Sino-Russian energy cooperation.”

The entire industry, while not exactly the sexy and green industry the Davos crowd is promoting heavily in the Western world, is seen by China and still-emerging markets like Russia — as a development tool for regions far away from the big city hubs of Moscow or Shanghai. This is as much about job creation as it is pumping out plastic molds and the ethylene needed to make it.

Russia recently introduced negative excise tax on LPG and ethane used in petrochemicals which was a meaty financial bone thrown to Sinopec and Sibur’s Amur project, among others in the Russian far east. 

The Sibur Russia angle has gained momentum recently due to the ramp up in production from the new ZapSib Siberian facility last year. They make polyethylene and 500 thousand tons of polypropylene there; all must-have ingredients for plastics manufacturers.

Their relationship with Chinese investors, buyers and counterparties was one of the main reasons to even build that manufacturing plant in the first place, and is something the Moscow market likes to give as one of the best reasons to be bullish about a rumored initial public offering for Sibur.

Sibur has said in press statements that they expect “another jump in scale” of plastics chemicals output with the addition of the Sinopec project, Amur.

“Sibur has long built relationships with Chinese clients, partners, and investors and Sinopec has been our strategic partner since 2013,” says Dmitry Konov, Chairman of the Management Board for Sibur. Konov told Reuters recently that there was no timeline for any IPO in the Moscow Exchange. Moscow was home to one of the top four largest IPOs last year, shipping firm Sovcomflot.

Konov said their logistical advantages in the far east, near China, and competitive pricing for its polymers means they will “scale up these relationships to further expand the delivery of high-quality petrochemicals from Siberia to China.”

VTB Capital, a Russian investment bank, says those projects would allow Russia to become one of the world’s top four producers of ethylene by 2030. Russia wants to position itself as the indispensable partner to China in this space, much in the way that China has positioned itself as the key source for numerous key inputs, whether its cobalt used in electric vehicle car batteries, or solar panels now expected to criss-cross the U.S. in the Biden Administration.

Due to the pandemic, China has been focused on industries of the future alongside those needed to get itself, and its trading partners, out of the pandemic rut — those polypropylene Olive Garden to go containers might not come from China, but the plastics that made it sure might.

China remains the place for growth in this space, too. Plastics-use patterns and penetration are rising. Figure the Asians are a good 10 to 20 years behind the U.S. in terms of plastics use. They’re gaining fast.

China As Plastics Demand Driver

Plastics aren’t made from tree bark, that’s for sure. It comes from fossil fuels and non-organic chemical compounds that make the stuff designed to last hundreds of years.

And China now accounts for roughly 40% of the demand for the chemicals used in making it, an increase of just 20% in 2005. 

China’s ethylene demand grew by 8.6% between 2014-17 while global demand grew by only half that. 

Looking out five years, Deutsche Bank industry analysts said in a November 25 report that China will account for over half of global consumption growth for ethylene (to which Sibur and Russia are happy as their go-to for now). 

China has 50% self-sufficiency in ethylene and derivative products – the domestic desire to expand capacities and increase self-sufficiency remains high. Russia is a solution. But Sinopec will invest domestically, as will the big Western multinationals who are frowned upon doing similar work back home. Exxon is case in point.

China was a relatively late entrant to the global petrochemical industry, but that does not mean much. They ramp up, and rev up fast due to state subsidies and state-owned companies’ ability to obtain raw materials and pass them along downstream for pennies on the dollar. These are loss leaders, but China doesn’t care about that stuff. They are looking to produce plastics for the locals, and for the export markets, especially U.S. and Europe, which are increasingly disinterested in anything fossil fuels related, at least on paper. 

In the 1990s, the Chinese petrochemical industry was significantly smaller than the U.S. In 1995, China’s ethylene capacity totaled 3% of global capacity. In comparison, Japan had 9% of global ethylene capacity and Korea had 5% of global capacity. Ethylene is naturally occurring.

During the 2000s, China’s petrochemical industry grew substantially driven by government support and strong demand from government-directed infrastructure spending, a burgeoning middle class with rising disposable incomes, expanding residential construction and exports of course.

Between 2004 and 2012, China’s ethylene capacity — the flammable gas used to make ethanol for cars, fruit ripeners, and — more importantly, plastics — doubled to 11 million tons per year. Within 25 years, China’s capacity has moved from 3% of global to 16% of global. Who thinks they’re going to slow that down? Need plastic? China will have it. For now, Russia has the chemicals. China might just gain on that next. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn

Kenneth Rapoza

Kenneth Rapoza

I’ve spent 20 years as a reporter for the best in the business, including as a Brazil-based staffer for WSJ. Since 2011, I focus on business and investing in the big emerging markets exclusively for Forbes. My work has appeared in The Boston Globe, The Nation, Salon and USA Today. Occasional BBC guest. Former holder of the FINRA Series 7 and 66. Doesn’t follow the herd.

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China Stocks Face Increased Scrutiny After TAL Education And Luckin Coffee Reveal Inflated Sales

Staff wear protective masks at a Luckin Coffee shop

Chinese companies seeking financing in the U.S. are coming up against increased scrutiny after accounting scandals emerged from two high-profile firms, casting doubts over plans for new listings and other financing plans.

TAL Education, a New York-listed education firm run by Chinese billionaire Zhang Bangxin, revealed on Tuesday that an employee is suspected of conspiring with outside vendors to inflate sales. The news sent shares of TAL down almost 9% as of Thursday, wiping out $878 million from Zhang’s fortune.

TAL said the employee in question was taken into police custody, and the affected business unit, called Light Class, accounted for 3% to 4% of its annual revenue.

The announcement came less than a week after Luckin Coffee, a Xiamen-based chain that once positioned itself as a challenger to Starbucks, admitted that more than $300 million of last year’s sales had been fabricated. Analysts say the scandals will undermine investors’ confidence in Chinese firms, adding to the challenges of raising capital in an already difficult market.

“There is no denying that investors are now doubting Chinese companies, especially those touting high growth and new business models,” says Zhu Ning, deputy dean at Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Data provider Dealogic says there are currently 15 Chinese companies planning to each raise between $10 million to $125 million in the U.S.

Zhu says it’s likely that regulatory scrutiny will step up, and the new listings might not reach their desired valuations or attract much interest from institutional investors. He says the risk extends to all forms of financing including issuing debt, meaning companies will need to offer higher returns to appeal to potential lenders.

Luckin’s market cap, which had been as high as $10 billion in early March, had fallen to $1.1 billion before the company’s shares were suspended from trading on April 6. The Nasdaq is seeking additional information from Luckin.

Brock Silvers, managing director of Hong Kong-based Adamas Asset Management, points to wider accounting problems in China, where the COVID-19 pandemic has taken such a heavy toll on so much of the economy.

“It is extremely unlikely that Luckin and TAL are the only two fish in the sea,” he wrote in an emailed note. “The underlying problem is that in recent years China investment has outstripped China profitability. That creates massive pressure, both corporate and personal, to produce unachievable results.”

Another Chinese company was defending itself against similar allegations of false accounting on Wednesday. Shares of Nasdaq-listed video streaming site iQiyi initially dropped 4.6% but recovered loss the following day after it was accused by Wolfpack Research of inflating 2019 results and user numbers. iQiyi denied the allegations, saying the report contains “numerous errors, unsubstantiated statements and misleading conclusions and interpretations.”

Still, lawmakers in the U.S. are likely to seize on recent accounting scandals, and there will be renewed pressure for tighter oversight of China-based auditing firms, says Drew Bernstein, co-chairman of New York-based accounting firm MarcumBP. Citing national security reasons, Beijing has long resisted inspections of the China-based offices of the Big Four accounting firms by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), which oversees accounting professionals who provide audit reports of U.S.-traded public companies.

To push for compliance, lawmakers from both parties introduced last June a bill to force U.S.-listed Chinese companies to submit audit reports to U.S. regulators, or face delisting. In response to the Luckin scandal, China’s securities regulator, the China Securities Regulatory Commission, says it condemns this behavior and would crack down on securities fraud in line with international laws.

“While delisting of Chinese stocks remains as a “nuclear option,” I see that as a low probability,” Bernstein says. “If we see cross-border cooperation emerge among regulators, that would be a very positive outcome from this.”

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I am a Beijing-based writer covering China’s technology sector. I contribute to Forbes, and previously I freelanced for SCMP and Nikkei. Prior to Beijing, I spent six months as an intern at TIME magazine’s Hong Kong office. I am a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University. Email: ywywyuewang@gmail.com Twitter: @yueyueyuewang

Source: China Stocks Face Increased Scrutiny After TAL Education And Luckin Coffee Reveal Inflated Sales

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Stock Markets Failed To Rally On China Trade Deal, Here’s Why

Topline: Although the U.S. and China have finally agreed on an initial deal that’s expected to defuse the 19-month-long trade war and result in a rollback of both existing and scheduled tariffs, the stock market didn’t surge on the news. Instead, markets ended the day largely flat: The S&P 500 finished the day up by less than 0.008%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.012%.

Here’s why stocks didn’t make headway on Friday’s trade news, according to market experts:

  • The market may have already priced in expectations for an agreement prior to Friday: “Stocks already ran up 7% in just the past two months alone on the belief that a deal would be signed,” notes Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer at Independent Advisor Alliance.
  • Some experts remain wary: “The devil remains in the details,” points out Bankrate senior economic analyst Mark Hamrick. “We await further word on purported aspects of the agreement including purchases of U.S. farm goods, intellectual property protections, technology transfers and access to China’s financial sector.”
  • “Investors are right to be skeptical,” says Joseph Brusuelas, RSM chief economist. “There’s a limited framework to the deal, since both sides just wanted to agree and avoid the looming tariff deadline on December 15th.”
  • “Contrary to what many believed—and were told in news stories—there is no immediate tariff relief, just an agreement to eventually rollback tariffs later as phase two negotiations progress,” Zaccarelli points out.
  • “I’m still suspicious of a major rollback on existing tariffs,” Nicholas Sargen, economic consultant at Fort Washington Investment Advisors, similarly argues. “Don’t rule out a selective rollback, since Trump needs to maintain bargaining power—he has to keep his powder dry.”
                                   
                                   

Crucial quote: “Is this deal enough to give the US economy an added lift? I doubt it because to get that added lift we need businesses to ramp up capital spending—and they’re going to stay on the sidelines until there’s greater clarity and less uncertainty,” Sargen says. “If trade uncertainty was behind us, we’d have gotten a bigger pop in the market.”

What to watch for: “Both sides need to figure out translation and legal framework first—and if they don’t come to an agreement on that this deal could fall apart very quickly,” Brusuelas says. “We’ll have to see if it survives the weekend and into next week.”

Key background: Officials from both sides have been working tirelessly to hammer out a deal ahead of the looming December 15 tariff deadline. Reports came in on Thursday that negotiators had agreed to terms, and President Trump signed off on them later in the day. Wall Street cheered the good news, sending the stock market to new record highs, though the market’s reaction was notably more tempered on Friday, despite further confirmations that an agreement had been reached.

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I am a New York—based reporter for Forbes, covering breaking news—with a focus on financial topics. Previously, I’ve reported at Money Magazine, The Villager NYC, and The East Hampton Star. I graduated from the University of St Andrews in 2018, majoring in International Relations and Modern History. Follow me on Twitter @skleb1234 or email me at sklebnikov@forbes.com

Source: Stock Markets Failed To Rally On China Trade Deal, Here’s Why

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Hodges Funds’ Eric Marshall discusses opportunities in the stock market amid the US-China trade war with L Catterton Managing Partner Michael J. Farello and Yahoo Finance’s Adam Shapiro, Scott Gamm and Julie Hyman. Subscribe to Yahoo Finance: https://yhoo.it/2fGu5Bb About Yahoo Finance: At Yahoo Finance, you get free stock quotes, up-to-date news, portfolio management resources, international market data, social interaction and mortgage rates that help you manage your financial life. Connect with Yahoo Finance: Get the latest news: https://yhoo.it/2fGu5Bb Find Yahoo Finance on Facebook: http://bit.ly/2A9u5Zq Follow Yahoo Finance on Twitter: http://bit.ly/2LMgloP Follow Yahoo Finance on Instagram: http://bit.ly/2LOpNYz

China’s Richest 2019: King Of Beverages Zong Qinghou Aims To Revitalize Wahaha

When Zong Qinghou travels abroad, he likes to visit local supermarkets. The 74-year-old founder of China’s largest privately held beverage company Hangzhou Wahaha Group isn’t shopping for himself, but doing a little firsthand market research. For example, when Zong visited Singapore in October, he bought boxes of fruit-flavored beer. Staff back in China then study these samples to see if they could be imported into China, or adapted to local tastes.

“Every new product can be used as a reference,” says Zong in an exclusive interview with Forbes Asia on the sidelines of the Forbes Global CEO conference last month in Singapore. Zong, who is chairman of Wahaha, is now under pressure to come up with fresh product ideas to rekindle consumer interest in his company, that he’s spent more than three decades running.

Today In: Asia

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The tycoon, who was China’s richest man in 2010, 2012 and 2013, saw Wahaha’s sales slide from 78 billion yuan ($11 billion) in 2013 to 46 billion yuan in 2017 before rebounding slightly to 47 billion yuan last year. His ownership of the company still gives him a fortune of $8.2 billion, but he is no longer No. 1, ranking instead as China’s 31st richest person.

One of the main reasons for the decline, say analysts, is that Wahaha hasn’t kept pace with changing consumer tastes in China. Unlike their parents’ generation who grew up drinking Wahaha’s cheap but tasty products such as bottled water and milk drinks costing less than 2 yuan, shoppers today want to spend more for something innovative and new. “Wahaha is still very price-focused, and hasn’t captured the trading-up trend as well as it could have,” says Mark Tanner, founder of Shanghai-based consultancy China Skinny.

A Chinese worker checks bottles of Wahaha purified water on the assembly line at a factory in... [+] Yichang city, central China's Hubei province.

Aly Song/Reuters/Newscom

Zong is unfazed. He vows to lift sales by at least 50% next year, to 70 billion yuan. While he concedes that Wahaha’s products was once perceived as cheap and old-fashioned, he says he’s working to modernize his products. The company, whose name is meant to mimic the sound of a child’s laugh, has recently started a major upgrade. Packaging has gotten a makeover to use brighter and more stylish colors, while ingredients like nuts and quinoa have been added to new yogurt lines to appeal to healthier lifestyles. Wahaha has also expanded into nutritional tablets and meal replacement biscuits, which Zong says are in line with dieting trends. He also plans to increase the current number of 6,000 distributors to 10,000 by year end, to ensure better distribution to every corner of China.

Yet perhaps the most notable change is Zong’s willingness to experiment with social media and e-commerce. In 2014, he famously pronounced at a conference that e-commerce was disrupting China’s “real economy.” The company as a result did not have much of an online presence, even as e-commerce exploded across China. “I don’t think traditional sales channels will change much,” Zong says. “People need to enjoy life, and to enjoy life, they need to go outside instead of staying at home hooked on their smartphones.”

Zong, in fact, still expects most sales to take place in traditional brick-and-mortar stores. That said, Wahaha has started to experiment with digital marketing for its products. A series of videos on the popular app TikTok app shows users posting 15-second clips of themselves pronouncing Wahaha in various humorous ways. The clips have been viewed almost one million times.

Some analysts hope Wahaha can do more of such efforts. Jason Yu, a Shanghai-based general manager at research firm Kantar Worldpanel says, “It is very hard to get consumer attention today, and if you want to do that, you have to engage and interact with them nonstop.”

For example, Wahaha’s competitor in bottled water, Nongfu Spring, has gained market share in part because of innovative advertising. One was a campaign where each bottle of Nongfu Spring water gave the buyer the right to cast one vote online for their favorite candidate in a popular TV talent competition show. Nongfu Spring was number one in China’s bottled water market in 2018, with an 11% share versus Wahaha’s 4% share, according to Euromonitor.

Zong’s ambitions, however, reach beyond China. He wants to start producing and selling Wahaha-branded yogurt and milk beverages overseas, after noticing that some Wahaha products are being exported by third-party traders. In the last few years, Zong has visited Southeast Asia, and identified Indonesia and Vietnam as two locations for factories to produce for local markets. Zong says, however, he wants to find the right local partner first before he moves forward with any overseas expansion.

China, he says, will always be Wahaha’s biggest market. Consumption will continue to grow, he says, as the middle class expands and spends on everything from education to travel. “If we can firmly establish ourselves in this market of 1.4 billion people, we can grow very big,” he says.

Don’t discount Zong. He has overcome many challenges in his long career. The entrepreneur didn’t venture into business until 1987, when he was already in his 40s. He started by selling snacks out of a canteen inside a local school in his native Hangzhou, then start producing and distributing milk. In 1988, Zong launched a nutritional drink for children, which became a national hit. Three years later, he acquired a state-owned factory, with sales reaching 400 million yuan the following year.

One of his biggest challenges was a tumultuous partnership started in 1996 with France’s food and beverage giant Danone. After initial success, the two had a falling out, and Zong eventually agreed in 2009 to buy out Danone’s 51% stake in their various ventures for an undisclosed price, although one media outlet put it at roughly $380 million. “Only cooperation based on mutual benefits and mutual respect can last,” he says of the former partnership.

Then in September 2013, he faced another challenge when he was attacked by a knife-wielding man, disgruntled after Zong turned him down for a job. The attacker managed to cut the tendons and muscle on two of Zong’s fingers, but he was back at work just a few days later.

Another big challenge is succession. Zong’s management style is famously budget-conscious and detail-oriented. He often eats at the company canteen with staff, and is known to fly economy class. He personally approves the purchase of all new company cars.

Naturally, Zong has long been looking at his only child, daughter Kelly Zong, to replace him. She’s had plenty of experience, working at Wahaha since 2004. Now 37, the younger Zong has also tried her hand at entrepreneurship, launching a juice brand, KellyOne, three years ago. In 2017, she attempted to acquire the Hong Kong-listed candy firm China Candy, but was unable to acquire 50% of the company’s voting rights. Kelly said in a social media post at the time that the unsuccessful bid had been a “positive and constructive exploration.”

Kelly Zong Fuli, daughter of Wahaha Groups Chairman Zong Qinghou.

Imagine China/Newscom

Zong says he will hand over the reins to Kelly if she wants them. If not, he will groom professional management. “A lot of young people have studied abroad and have a broader vision, and they may not want to manage their parent’s business,” he says. “My daughter is overseeing some factories. Does she want to take on more? That I don’t know.” His move to do digital marketing, led by younger talent, was seen as a positive step towards a new generation having a greater role in the company.

Zong says there is still time to find good professional managers if Kelly wants to follow her own path. He says Wahaha is considering several for future leadership, without going into detail. He is also not ruling out an IPO, a move that would be a major move for the company down the path of diversifying management.

Whatever path he takes, Zong is clearly thinking about laying the foundations of sustainable success for Wahaha.

This story is part of Forbes’ coverage of China’s Richest 2019. See the full list here

I am a Beijing-based writer covering China’s technology sector. I contribute to Forbes, and previously I freelanced for SCMP and Nikkei. Prior to Beijing, I spent six months as an intern at TIME magazine’s Hong Kong office. I am a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University. Email: ywywyuewang@gmail.com Twitter: @yueyueyuewang

Source: China’s Richest 2019: King Of Beverages Zong Qinghou Aims To Revitalize Wahaha

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Zong Qinghou is the founder and chairman of Hangzhou Wahaha Group which is the leading beverage company in China. Zong was listed as China’s richest man in 2012. As an NPC deputy, Zong has submitted one motion and 12 suggestions this year. He said deputies have the responsibility to represent the ordinary people. CCTVNEWS reporter Su Yuting spoke with Zong to hear his opinion on China’s economic development. Subscribe us on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/CCTVNEWS… Download for IOS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/cctvn… Download for Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/de… Follow us on: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cctvnewschina Twitter: https://twitter.com/CCTVNEWS Google+: https://plus.google.com/+CCTVNEWSbeijing Tumblr: http://cctvnews.tumblr.com/ Weibo: http://weibo.com/cctvnewsbeijing

China Growth Nowhere Near Official Estimates, Says Morningstar

China’s third quarter growth rate has fallen to 6%, says Beijing. No it hasn’t. It’s more like 3%, says Morningstar’s China economics team led by Preston Caldwell in a report dated October 29.

While Donald Trump and his economic advisor Larry Kudlow try to convince Wall Street today that trade talks are going well and the two sides will still ink their so-called Phase 1 mini-deal this year, investors are noticing something awry in China. Companies are sourcing product elsewhere in modest, yet increasing numbers. China’s usual high fixed asset investment numbers are falling. Economic policy makers could be afraid of debt burdens and don’t want to overstimulate the economy. Growth is slowing. Industrial production is contracting.

To make matters worse, the full brunt of tariffs hasn’t quite been felt fully by China. The average incremental tariff rate increased to about 12% in the third quarter from about 9% in the second quarter. If Phase 1 talks result in no signed agreement anytime soon, Morningstar predicts it would send the average U.S. tariff rate on Chinese imports to over 20% by the first quarter of 2020.

The dollar/yuan exchange rate has helped offset some of the tariff costs. The yuan has weakened by about 5% since the end of the first quarter. For exporters, China is still cheap.

Today In: Money

The bulk of the third quarter decline was due to the consumer durables index component of the Morningstar proxy for measuring GDP. It contracted 4.1% from 3.8% growth in the second quarter. Morningstar analysts believe there is a chance that the locals may be temporarily pulling back on spending in anticipation for new government subsidies. Still, slowing durables consumption matches the trend in place since early 2017. And stimulus has been trickling in since.

Two of the other Morningstar proxy components that brought them to the 3% figure also saw a marked decline in the third quarter. Their power proxy index is now in line with the other index components after being a positive growth outlier for about two years.

But it appears the real drag that brought Morningstar’s number down to 3% is industrial production. Industrial profits are down 5.3% year over year versus August’s contraction of 2%.

“Neither a surprise nor a market mover,” says Brendan Ahern, CIO of KraneShares in New York. “U.S. tariffs are still exacting their toll on export-focused manufacturers.”

The industrial sector slowdown might also be understated, especially if China is over-estimating inflation, Morningstar report authors warned.

Meanwhile, China’s dependence on credit to sustain economic growth has so far thwarted Xi Jinping’s attempts to convince the provincial governments to deleverage. Debt growth remains above nominal GDP growth rates.

“We’re not surprised that China’s economy has failed to recover, given that credit growth stalled after a slight rebound in the first quarter,” Morningstar analysts wrote.

China-bound investors will be watching for solid Singles Day sales on November 11. If they disappoint, emerging market funds who are mostly overweight China could finally start shifting positions.

China’s A-shares have been outperforming the MSCI Emerging Markets Index all year. Only Russia, as measured by the VanEck Russia (RSX) exchange traded fund, is beating the CSI-300, an index tracking mainland China equities listed on Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges.

Official consumer spending showed a mixed picture in the third quarter. Nominal retail sales grew 7.8% year over year in September versus a high of 9.8% growth back in June. Real retail sales fell only 30 basis points from August.

China’s National Bureau of Statistics’ household survey data suggests that most of the spending went towards education, entertainment, and “miscellaneous services.”

Morningstar said that their own sampling of alternative consumer sales data such as box office revenue, telecom revenue, and air passenger volume suggests tepid consumer services growth. China’s number crunchers are more upbeat on that and Morningstar’s team is not, which brings their forecast so much lower than official figures.

E-commerce giant Alibaba – the company behind Singles Day – announced this week that Taylor Swift will be performing at the Mercedes Benz Arena in Shanghai where the shopping spree will have their telethon-like tally of sales. If Swift can hype Singles Day shoppers to spend, the China consumer bull narrative will remain in tact. If she fails, and Singles Day ends up being mediocre, all bets are on for more stimulus in the months ahead out of Beijing.

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Spent 20 years as a reporter for the best in the business, including as a Brazil-based staffer for WSJ. Since 2011, I focus on business and investing in the big emerging markets exclusively for Forbes. My work has appeared in The Boston Globe, The Nation, Salon and USA Today. Occasional BBC guest. Former holder of the FINRA Series 7 and 66. Doesn’t follow the herd.

Source: China Growth Nowhere Near Official Estimates, Says Morningstar

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China released third-quarter GDP figures on Friday showing the economy grew 6.0% from a year ago — the lowest in at least 27-1/2 years, according to Reuters records. CNBC’s Eunice Yoon reports.
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