December 3, 2020

Surveys Point to Slowdowns in Euro Zone and China

LONDON — While most investor attention was focused on a meeting of European leaders attempting to resolve the Greek debt crisis, survey data released Thursday suggested a backdrop of stagnating economic activity in the euro zone and softening output in China.

The composite euro zone purchasing managers’ indexes, known as P.M.I.s and complied by Markit, showed growth in the euro area’s manufacturing and service sectors stalled in July, with the composite index showing its lowest reading in 23 months.

In China, a closely watched survey of purchasing managers produced the lowest level in 28 months, according to HSBC, which published the index.

That suggested that a series of regulatory and policy measures is having the desired effect of cooling the red-hot Chinese economy.

The euro zone composite P.M.I. fell to 50.8 in July from 53.3 in June, Markit said. The consensus forecast among economists had been for a more modest decline to 52.6. The drop in the P.M.I.s was broad, with the services index slowing to 51.4 from 53.7 and manufacturing falling to 50.4 from 52.

The indexes provide a fairly good indication of where quarterly economic growth rates are heading, according to analysts.

Nick Kounis, head of economic research at ABN Amro in Amsterdam, said higher oil prices, budget cuts and the global economic slowdown having been dragging on growth in Europe.

“More recently,” he added, “it’s possible that business confidence also took a blow because of the escalating sovereign debt crisis.”

He said the P.M.I.’s current levels were consistent with a slowdown in euro area growth in the third quarter to flat or up just 0.1 percent from the previous quarter. The region posted a preliminary growth rate during the second quarter of 0.2 percent after a gain of 0.8 percent in the first three months.

“The slowdown in euro zone G.D.P. growth to near-stagnation levels is another warning shot to Europe’s leaders about the high stakes at today’s summit,” Mr. Kounis said. “It might not take too much of a shock to push the economy into recession from these levels.”

The releases of both sets of data came before European leaders reached an agreement Thursday in Brussels on new aid for Greece.

In China, the vast manufacturing sector appears to have contracted in July for the first time in a year, according to the closely watched HSBC survey.

The initial results of the poll of purchasing managers produced a reading of 48.9 in July, the lowest level in 28 months and down from 50.1 in June. The final reading will be released Aug. 1.

Readings below 50 represent contraction, so the slide below that level indicated that manufacturers had seen business slow markedly over the past few months, based on a combination of feeble global demand and tighter conditions at home.

For the past year and a half, Chinese policy makers have used a wide variety of tools to rein in booming growth and limit the rising prices that have accompanied it. Formerly free-flowing bank loans have become harder to obtain, for example, as banks were instructed to lend less.

Those measures have slowed the economy, but at a gradual pace that leaves room for still more tightening by Beijing in the coming months, most analysts say.

A P.M.I. reading of below 50 does not imply a “hard landing” for China, said Qu Hongbin, chief China economist at HSBC.

Industrial growth is likely to continue to decelerate in the coming months as tightening measures filter through, Mr. Qu said, but “resilient consumer spending and continued investment in ongoing mass infrastructure projects should support a G.D.P. growth rate of almost 9 percent for the rest of this year.”

The International Monetary Fund echoed that sentiment in its latest assessment of the Chinese economy, published Thursday, noting that “China’s near-term growth prospects continue to be vigorous and are increasingly self-sustained, underpinned by structural adjustment.”

“Wage and employment increases have fueled consumption, the expansion in infrastructure and real estate construction has driven investment upward, and net exports are once again contributing positively to economic growth,” the fund said.

The I.M.F. projects 9.6 percent economic growth for China this year, and 9.5 percent expansion for 2012, in line with many other forecasts. That is down from 10.3 percent last year, but well above what developed nations like the United States are managing.

But an aging population and gradually shrinking labor force risks fanning inflation in the longer term, the I.M.F. said, while low interest rates and a lack of places for savers to invest their cash mean there is a lingering risk of bubbles in the already hot property sector.

Those factors could lead to potential “significant risks” to financial and macroeconomic stability in China, the fund said, and it urged Beijing to address the challenges by raising interest rates further and allowing the renminbi to strengthen.

Beijing has so far relied heavily on so-called reserve requirement ratios for lenders as a policy tool. Successive increases in the ratio since early last year have gradually restricted the amount of money banks have been able to lend. Interest rate increases came into the policy mix relatively late: The central bank began nudging rates up again in October 2010.

Bettina Wassener reported from Hong Kong.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=203c39b99e0bd3b161f1914cb3746c55

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