Lending Association

Stronger than expected Chinese Industrial Production & Retail Sales surprise

If anything, China’s economy struggled to maintain momentum in January-February, despite a return to consumer price inflation (not deflation), stronger imports and exports and rises in new urban investment and industrial production.

But on the negative side of the economic balance sheet, retail sales growth slowed when it should have been stronger because of the Lunar New Year festival in mid February, unemployment worsened and although investment grew faster than expected, property activities were again very weak.

The weak property data came after Friday’s bigger than forecast 1.4% slide in new home prices in February which was the biggest fall for a year.

Yes, industrial output grew an annual 7.0% in the January-February period, up slightly from the 6.8% rate in December and better than forecasts for a rise of 5%.

It was in fact the fastest expansion in industrial output in almost two years, boosted by robust activities in manufacturing and utilities, while mining continued to rise, though at a slower pace as coal mining encountered safety problems.

Retail sales rose 5.5% in the first two months of the year, slowing from a 7.4% increase in December. Analysts had expected retail sales growth of 5.2%.

While it was the 13th consecutive monthly rise in retail trade, the latest figure was the softest since last September.

China’s urban unemployment rate increased to 5.3% in February 2024 from 5.2% in the previous month, after registering the lowest level since November 2021 in December 2023 of 5.1%.
It was the highest jobless rate since last July. The jobless rate in 31 large cities and towns was 5.1%.

And the black hole that is property showed little improvement, though investment levels losses slowed compared with December’s slump

China’s new home sales by value and floor area tumbled in the first two months of the year as the prolonged real-estate slump shows little sign of improvement and responding to the weak government stimulus attempts.

New home sales by value dropped 32.7% in the January to February period, worsening from the 6.0% decline a year earlier, the National Bureau of Statistics said Monday.

New home sales by floor area fell 24.8% in the first two months of the year, compared with an 8.2% decline in the year-ago period, the statistics bureau said.

Property investment fell 9.0% in the period, improving from a 9.6% drop a year earlier and a 24% slump in December.

New construction starts by property developers dropped 29.7%, compared with a 20.4% fall a year ago and a near 12% drop in December, 2023.

The latest drop is the key figure in the data because it shows how little demand and how little new funding is available for developers – both broke and solvent.

And that was supported by the 24.1% plunge in funds raised by China’s property developers in January and February from a year earlier, a steeper fall than the 17.77% drop in December last year.