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News from China
Chinese economy off to good start in Q1
14th April 2017

 CHINA’S economy was off to a good start in the first quarter of this year with recovering economic vitality and market expectations, the top economic planner said yesterday.

 
“Following a positive trend in the second half of last year, the Chinese economy maintained stable yet progressive momentum,” said Yan Pengcheng, spokesman for the National Development and Reform Commission, citing latest indicators.
 
China’s electricity use, an important indicator of economic activity, rose 6.9 percent in the first quarter of the year to 1.45 trillion kilowatt-hours, he revealed at a press conference.
 
Yan especially noted that high-tech industries saw rapid rises in power use, with information transmission, computer services and software sectors recording 13.3 percent growth in energy consumption.
 
Meanwhile, China’s railway freight volume climbed 15.3 percent in the first three months, and the manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index came in at 51.8 in March, staying above 51 for a sixth consecutive month, according to Yan.
 
China’s economic growth for the first quarter is set to be released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Monday, which is likely to be around 6.8 percent.
 
The government trimmed its 2017 growth target to around 6.5 percent, the lowest in a quarter of a century.
 
Despite optimism on first-quarter growth, Yan said the stability and sustainability of the momentum remains to be observed as China’s economic development is still restrained by a few external and internal factors and the issue of structural imbalance.
 
He drew particular attention to the influence of commodity prices in the international market on China’s domestic prices.
 
The country’s consumer inflation grew mildly in the first quarter on the back of a firming economy, fresh data from the statistics bureau showed. But the Producer Price Index, measuring cost of goods at the factory gate, jumped 7.4 percent year on year.
 
Yan said the strong PPI growth was mostly driven by the carry-over effect of last year’s price changes and a rise in factory-gate prices in several industries such as coal and steel.
 
He expected PPI growth to peak in the first quarter as China’s aggregate demand will level off in the following quarters, given the country’s stable economic performance.
 
But future changes in commodity prices in the international market will add uncertainty to the domestic PPI trend, he said, citing recent oil price upswings due to conflicts in the Middle East.
 
Yan said the NDRC will next push the drafting of detailed plans for building the Xiongan New Area, which was brought into the public spotlight after the government announced earlier this month that it will create a brand new economic zone.
 
The blueprint will highlight both “international standards” and “Chinese characteristics,” drawing talent from home and abroad and international experience to build the area, he said.
 
On April 1, China unveiled plans to create the Xiongan New Area, about 100 kilometers southwest of Beijing.
 
The new area spans the counties of Xiongxian, Rongcheng and Anxin in Hebei Province, and is home to Baiyangdian, a major wetland in north China.
 
The new area will initially cover around 100 square kilometers and expand to 2,000 square kilometers in the long term.
 
Besides plans for the initial zone and the overall development of the Xiongan New Area, a specific plan for pollution control and environmental protection of Baiyangdian will be drafted as part of the blueprint, Yan said.
 
The NDRC promised to provide policy and funding support for the new area’s major projects in transport, ecology, water conservation, energy and public services.
 
Nationwide, the NDRC approved 56 fixed-asset investment projects with total investment of 240.9 billion yuan (US$35 billion) in the first quarter, mainly covering water conservation, energy and transport sectors.
Source: Shanghai Daily, April 14, 2017
Shanghai is biggest global trading city
13th April 2017

 SHANGHAI has emerged as the world’s largest international trading city due to the government’s measures to encourage and upgrade trade, government officials said yesterday.

 
Imports and exports through the city’s ports totaled 6.88 trillion yuan (US$998 billion) last year, accounting for 28.3 percent of national value and 3 percent of global trade, Shanghai Commission of Commerce said yesterday.
 
Shanghai has overtaken Hong Kong and Singapore to be the largest international trading city, according to the commission.
 
Shanghai did so by cutting red tape, encouraging cross-border e-commerce platforms and supporting development of local brands, said Shen Weihua, a deputy director of the commission.
 
He said Shanghai’s foreign trade is set to grow 20 percent in the first quarter of this year to around 750 billion yuan.
 
The creation of a pilot zone for cross-border e-commerce platforms has helped trade become more efficient and cut costs through faster customs clearance and foreign exchange payments.
 
Trade conducted in the pilot program in 2016 rose six times from a year ago to nearly 2.5 billion yuan, official data showed.
 
The commission said more efforts will be done to improve Shanghai as a global trade center. The tasks include improving quality of exports and imports as well as innovation in trade and service trading.
Source: Shanghai Daily, April 13, 2017
China’s auto sales climb 7% in Q1
12th April 2017

 CHINA’S auto sales grew 7 percent in the first quarter, the country’s automaker association said yesterday, with the strongest January-March period since 2014 setting up the world’s largest auto market for a better-than-expected year.

 
Many in the industry had feared that sales would be weak in the first three months after the government rolled back a tax cut on small-engine cars on January 1, contributing to expectations for a slowdown in 2017 sales.
 
But first-quarter growth outpaced the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers’ prediction in January that auto sales would grow 5 percent in 2017, and the market is expected to improve further as the year progresses.
 
“Our current attitude should be cautiously optimistic, as in reality we still feel there is pressure,” said Xu Haidong, a CAAM spokesman, explaining why it was not adjusting the 5 percent forecast.
 
“This is because of policy changes, as well as related economic trends and other reasons.”
 
Vehicle sales rose 4 percent year on year in March to 2.5 million vehicles, CAAM said in Beijing.
 
The purchase tax for cars with engines of 1.6-liter capacity or below climbed to 7.5 percent this year from 5 percent in 2016 after the government stepped in to stimulate slumping sales. The tax will rise to the normal 10 percent rate next year.
 
“We’ve always planned for the fact that (in) the first quarter there would be payback from the pull forward of sales into the fourth quarter” before the incentive was reduced, Mark Fields, chief executive of Ford Motor Co, said in Shanghai on Saturday ahead of the CAAM figures.
 
“We expect the second, third and fourth quarter to show improvement.”
 
Ford predicts that China’s overall auto sales will be flat or down slightly this year, Fields said. The US automaker is due to report its March China sales today.
 
General Motors Co said last week its China sales in the first quarter fell 5.2 percent year on year, with the automaker citing the impact of the tax cut reduction.
 
Automakers with a steady stream of new models, particularly in the hot-selling sport-utility vehicle segment like Japan’s Honda Motor Co, continue to lead the market. Honda said its sales grew 16.6 percent in the first quarter.
 
Source: Shanghai Daily, April 12, 2016
CBRC to tighten banking supervision
11th April 2017

 CHINA’S banking regulator will tighten supervision on a wide range of banking operations from granting credit to Internet finance, signaling strong rules will be issued to curb systematic financial risks to the sector.

 
The China Banking Regulatory Commission released a guideline yesterday, asking banking institutions to prevent risks in 10 key areas, including beefing up risk management over credit, curbing excessive credit in the property sector, controlling investment in bond products, and cleaning the fraudulent online peer-to-peer lending business.
 
“Risk prevention should be put higher on the agenda,” the CBRC said. “We should keep watch and resolve those highlighted risks to avoid any appearance of systematic risks.”
 
The regulator also warned that institutions that breach the law will be punished.
 
The guideline came after 17 institutions, including Xinda Asset Management Co, Ping An Bank, China Merchants Bank and Bank of Communications, faced fines and were warned for indulging in irregular arbitrage, illegal transactions and improper fees or charges.
 
It was the first guidance filed after Guo Shuqing, former head of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, took the helm of the banking watchdog.
Source: Shanghai Daily, April 11, 2017

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