economywatch.com | January 19, 2016
Chinese officials predict economic turmoil for the global economy. State Councillor Yang Jiechi told G-20 representatives in Beijing that recent volatility and “constant changes and intense transformations” will lead to unprecedented challenges to the world. “It is not possible to completely discard the possibility that an economic crisis could once again take place, and the problem should not be neglected,” he said in the meeting, adding “preventing or reducing negative effects from countries’ domestic policy measures is a pressing task."
A China Problem?
A growing number of analysts are fearful that a new economic downturn may gin, not because of a drag from the United States, but from disappointment in China. Prior to Yang’s comments, data from China’s 2015 two-way trade report showed that the country’s trade had fallen 8 percent on a year-over-year basis to $3.96 trillion, far below the 6 percent growth that the government had hoped for.
That decline in two-way trade also hints that official government statistics on GDP growth in Asia’s largest economy don't deserve the public's trust. This uncertainty, combined with volatility in the Chinese stock market, has left many foreign investors cold. Shanghai’s Composite Index has already lost 18.5 percent year-to-date, and is 44.2 percent off its all-time high set in the middle of June.
At that time, some analysts, particularly in China, were convinced the country could do no wrong, and that the government could intervene if the stock market began to decline. When the bear market came, China did intervene by threatening short sellers with imprisonment, by banning insiders for selling with no regulation or explanation of how the ban could be adhered to or enforced, and most recently by changing how it halts trading in the case of a steep sell-off.
A recent editorial for the Washington Post titled “The China Bubble Pops,” warned that China’s slowdown could foster worldwide deflation, “extending the decline in commodity prices and the weakness of global trade.” The article also warned of high debts, an aging population, and a lack of intellectual property rights or respecting patents, which remain unresolved by officials such as as Jiechi.
Economic Growth in America
It is easy to forget the strong optimism about China’s miraculous growth in 2010, when doom and gloom were the fixation of most Americans who saw falling stock prices, record foreclosure rates, a weak and worsening employment market, and political gridlock causing fiscal stimulus to grind to a halt.
Now the shoe is on the other foot. While Chinese policymakers openly warn of a great crisis, the Federal Reserve has publicly cheered the strength of the U.S. economy. Most recently, the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book report said economic activity increased in nine of the Fed’s 12 districts at a “moderate or modest” pace, with the outlook positive for half of the Fed’s districts.
The improvement in the Main Street economy is not translating into gains for Wall Street, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed last week down 8.2 percent YTD and the S&P 500 closed last week down 8 percent YTD.
Back to January 2016 Archive
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