HomeContributorsFundamental AnalysisIs China on Path for Longer Economic Stagnation?

Is China on Path for Longer Economic Stagnation?

Released yesterday, the latest CPI data showed that the headline inflation in the US ticked higher from 3 to 3.2%. That was slightly lower than the 3.3% penciled in by analysts, core inflation eased to 4.7% in July from 4.8% expected by analysts and printed a month earlier.

But the rising energy and crop prices threaten to heat things up in the coming months and inflation’s downward trajectory could rapidly be spoiled. That’s certainly why an increasing number of investors and the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) Mary Daly warned that this was ‘not a data point that says victory is ours’.

And indeed, looking into details, the fact that the 20% fall in gasoline prices is what explains the decline in headline number is concerning. The barrel of US crude bounced lower yesterday after a 27% rally since the end of June, and the latest OPEC data indicated that we would see a sharp supply deficit of more than 2mbpd this quarter as Saudi cuts output to push prices higher. And this gap could further widen as global demand continues growing and shift to alternative energy sources is nowhere fast enough to reverse that upside pressure.

On the other hand, we also know that the rising energy prices fuel inflation expectations and further rate hikes expectations around the world. And that means that oil bears are certainly waiting in ambush to start trading the recession narrative and sell the top. The $85pb could be the level that could trigger that downside correction despite the evidence of tightening supply and increasing gap between rising demand and falling supply.

Today, eyes will be on the July PPI figures before the weekly closing bell, where core PPI is seen further easing, but headline PPI may have ticked higher to 0.7% on monthly basis, probably on higher energy, crop and food prices.

In the market

Yesterday’s slightly softer-than-expected inflation numbers and the initial jobless claims which printed almost 250K new applications last week – the highest in a month – sent the probability of a September pause to above 90%, though the US 2-year yield advanced past the 4.85% level, and the longer-terms yields rose with a weak 30-year bond action, which saw the highest yield since 2011.

Major stock indices stagnated. The S&P500 was up by only 0.03% yesterday while Nasdaq 100 closed 0.18% higher, as Walt Disney rallied as much as 5% even though Disney+ missed subscription estimates and said that it will increase the price of the streaming service. Disney is considering a crackdown on password sharing, which, combined with higher prices could lead to a Netflix-like profit jump further down the road.

In the FX

The USD index consolidates above the 50 and 100-DMAs and just below a long-term ascending channel base. The EURUSD sees support at the 50-DMA, near the 1.0960 level, and could benefit from further weakness in the US dollar to attempt another rise above the 1.10 mark.

European nat gas futures fell 7% yesterday after a 28% spiked on Wednesday on concerns that strikes at major export facilities in Australia could lead to a 10% decline in global LNG exports. Yet, the European inventories are about 88% full on average and the industrial demand remains weak due to tightening financial conditions imposed by the European Central Bank (ECB) hikes. Therefore this week’s massive move seems to be mostly overdone, and we shall see some more downside correction.

Chinese property market is boiling

The property crisis in China is being fueled by a potential default of Country Garden, which is one of the biggest property companies in China and which recently announced that it may have lost up to $7.6bn in the first half of the year as home sales slumped and the government stimulus measures didn’t bring buyers back to the market. Equities in China slumped further today, as property crisis is not benign. In fact, China’s local governments have plenty of debt, and their major source of income is… land and property sales. Consequently, the property crisis explodes local governments’ debt to income ratios- And the debt burden prevents China from rolling out stimulus measures that they would’ve otherwise, because the government doesn’t want to further blast the debt levels.

Shattered investor and consumer confidence, shrinking demographics, property crisis and deflation hints that the Chinese economy could be on path for a longer period of economic stagnation. We could therefore see rapid pullback in investor optimism regarding stimulus measures and their effectiveness. Hang Seng’s tech index fell to the lowest levels in two weeks yesterday, as all members fell except for Alibaba which jumped after beating revenue estimates last quarter.

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