No one has denied that China was overdue for a credit shakeout due to the Chinese government’s desire to stem excess credit growth as the economy rebalances. The question has always been about how much of a shakeout Chinese policy makers are willing to accept and how destabilizing the shakeout would get regarding economic growth and employment. We seem to be reaching another level in terms of jitters with bank runs and commodities sector bankruptcies. Some thoughts below
US data have been better
European periphery market access continues to improve
Dollar weakness may be China-related
Gold continues to get safe haven bid
China’s slowing more likely to be abrupt
Ukraine has become a military issue; contagion will increase
A full-blown emerging markets crisis is now likely
I had four big topics in today’s links: Japan, China, Ukraine and Spain. I want to concentrate here on the two Asian countries over the European ones. The wage issue in Japan is an important one because it informs the policy choices in the US and Europe. And the Chinese slowdown is having a big impact on commodity markets, softening growth prospects in emerging markets and commodity exporters.
We are seeing broad improvements across global commodity markets. To be sure, commodity valuations are still at depressed levels relative to the past decade, but after a prolonged decline, broad indices seem to have stabilized.
Today’s links carry a widely-diverging set of opinions about the moral issues surrounding the situation in Ukraine. But since this is a finance site, I want to discuss the economic issues. I continue to believe the Ukrainian situation will have only a modest impact on the global economy unless war breaks out. Moreover, Europe’s trade linkages to Russia make sanctions a trickier subject for Europe than the US. Expect to see diverging views within NATO and no meaningful economic penalty as a result.
Steel, iron ore futures in China tanked on bloated (all-time high) inventories and apparent lending curbs by Chinese banks.
Given the difficulty in obtaining reliable data out of China, what other evidence do we have that the nation’s economy is actually slowing? Here are four signs that seem to support the “slowdown” thesis.
Themes for today:
Commodities: soybean prices could fall due to increased supply. This would be troublesome for Argentina.
Emerging markets: Of the fragile five, India is looking better, Brazil is still a big concern.
Developed Markets: House price inflation makes France, the UK, Australia and Canada vulnerable to real economy shocks.
US: Consumers are only supporting 1-2% growth. Q1 will be weak. Inventory builds are still the big story.
On Friday, I wrote about the slowdown in China, the bear market in commodities, and the volatility in emerging markets as being all interrelated. Of course, there is more to the selloff in emerging markets than just the slowdown in China and commodity prices. Much of the problem is political and has to do with macro imbalances in particular markets. But the perceived tightening in the US and now the UK has also brought a new risk-off source of volatility as well.
I am less and less concerned about the eurozone periphery over the medium term because recovery in Europe looks poised to last. On the other hand, the slowdown in China could have wide-ranging consequences, particularly for countries dependent on commodities for growth. The currencies of commodity producers are declining, making interest rate policy trickier as their economies slow.
In yesterday’s commentary, I wrote that China was attempting to rebalance its economy, which ultimately means a slowdown in its use of commodities. This has hit the commodities currencies particularly hard, with the Australian Dollar down over 16%. Commodity producers are going to be the biggest losers from a Chinese rebalancing. And the question then is what happens to their economies. Let’s look at Australia
Some of the largest natural resource exporters with floating exchange rates have seen their currencies come under significant pressure over the past year.