What Next for Chinese Growth, Currency and Equities?

A weaker currency would lift Chinese inflation and might replace credit growth as the main policy tool to support economic growth

Francisco Torralba, Ph.D. 24 August, 2016 | 12:46PM
Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

The July 14 batch of official data suggests the economy is growing at a stable pace around 6.7% a year. Alternative estimates put China’s growth one to three percentage points lower than the official figure, but at least confirm that growth has remained stable.

Relative to the first quarter, in the three months to the end of June industry picked up some momentum, whereas construction and service industries eased slightly. Within services, however, finance was the only sub-sector with declining output in Q2, relative to a year ago. The decline in stock market turnover, after the 2015 market crash, has probably reduced trading. Transport, retail, hospitality and real estate services all saw improved momentum.

What Should Investors Expect?

Since worries about the growth outlook have waned, government bond issuance and public spending are likely to slow down. When they do, headline growth will fall, and market volatility will return.

At present Chinese markets are relatively calm. The renminbi weakened 1% against the dollar after the Brexit vote, but on trade-weighted terms the currency has been stable. The offshore spread of the renminbi is narrow, consistent with small capital outflows and no expectation of immediate depreciation.

The People’s Bank of China is likely to intervene in the event of pressures against the currency, but the recent history is not reassuring. Despite the central bank’s commitment in December 2015 to keep the renminbi “relatively stable,” its value has declined 2.8% since then. Investors, however, appear today more comfortable with a depreciating renminbi than a few months ago.

In late 2015 and early 2016, a falling exchange rate was cause for much concern, whereas the yuan’s weakness since March – a 3.3% decline – has not been associated with market turmoil. If that decoupling persists, the People’s Bank of China might be more willing to allow the renminbi to depreciate.

That would be welcome news, since a weaker currency would lift Chinese inflation and might replace credit growth as the main policy tool to support growth. The stock market was less shaken than elsewhere by the late-June volatility. Besides Brexit, China’s equities ignored the June 14 decision by MSCI to deny Chinese A-shares entry into its market indexes. Speculative trading is much less prevalent than during the 2015 bubble, and appears less vulnerable to switches in sentiment.

The information contained within is for educational and informational purposes ONLY. It is not intended nor should it be considered an invitation or inducement to buy or sell a security or securities noted within nor should it be viewed as a communication intended to persuade or incite you to buy or sell security or securities noted within. Any commentary provided is the opinion of the author and should not be considered a personalised recommendation. The information contained within should not be a person's sole basis for making an investment decision. Please contact your financial professional before making an investment decision.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

About Author

Francisco Torralba, Ph.D.  Francisco Torralba is an Economist for Morningstar Investment Management.