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News from China
Shanghai’s foreign trade quickens
18th May 2017

 SHANGHAI’S foreign trade growth accelerated in April amid economic indicators revealing a mixed picture in the economy.

Shanghai’s total imports and exports rose 17.8 percent in April from a year ago to 253.2 billion yuan (US$36.8 billion), faster than the 15.2 percent increase in March, the Shanghai Statistics Bureau said yesterday.
Imports growth accelerated to 25 percent but growth in exports slowed to 7.6 percent, the bureau’s data showed.
The imports were lifted by a 65.7 percent jump in imports by state-owned companies, while exports by SOEs fell 11.2 percent year on year.
The bureau also said Shanghai’s Producer Price Index, a gauge of inflation at the factory gate, rose 4.4 percent year on year in April, 0.3 percentage points slower than March.
A lower PPI growth is usually associated with weaker demand from companies.
However, consumer demand grew stronger as the year-on-year increase in retail sales accelerated to 7.9 percent in the first four months of 2017 from the first quarter’s 7.8 percent.
Earlier data showed Shanghai’s industrial production and fixed-asset investment slowed in April while home sales improved and consumer inflation warmed up.
The city’s Consumer Price Index, a main gauge of inflation, rose to 1.6 percent year on year in April from March’s 1.4 percent.
Medical and health care led the price hikes by jumping 8.5 percent, followed by a 2.8 percent increase in house rents and maintenance expenses.
Food prices added 0.2 percent while transport and communications prices fell 0.8 percent.
The Shanghai data echoed the national figures to indicate moderation in economic momentum.
The National Bureau of Statistics said China’s manufacturing activity, foreign trade, industrial production, retail sales and fixed-asset investment growth slowed in April, while consumer inflation heated up to a three-month high.
Economists said China’s economic growth may slow in the second quarter but the official target of 6.5 percent growth will be met this year.
Source: Shanghai Daily, 18, 2017
PBOC’s liquidity boost spurs shares higher
17th May 2017

 CHINA stocks yesterday rose for the fourth straight day as investors were relieved by central bank efforts to boost liquidity in the financial system.

The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.74 percent to 3,112.96 points.
Small caps outperformed the broader market, with the index tracking small and medium-sized companies in Shenzhen advancing 2 percent, posting its best day in nine months.
The gauge tracking ChiNext, China’s Nasdaq-style board of growth enterprises, ended 2.04 percent higher, the largest daily rise recorded this year.
The People’s Bank of China injected a net 170 billion yuan (US$24.7 billion) into money market through open market operations yesterday — the most in nearly four months.
In a rare explanation, the PBOC said the injection is meant to “offset impact from factors including tax payment and maturing open market operations,” indicating Beijing’s intention to maintain stability in the markets amid widespread concerns over policy tightening.
Analysts said it was vital for the Shanghai index to return to the 3,100-point level as it could boost investor confidence.
Shares related to Xiongan New Area, a new economic zone to be built near Beijing, drove the rebound yesterday, with 15 stocks, including Beijing Capital Co and SPIC Shijiazhuang Dongfang Energy Corp, jumping by the daily limit of 10 percent.
Source: Shanghai Daily, May 17, 2017
PBOC forms committee for fintech
16th May 2017

 THE People’s Bank of China said yesterday that it has set up a fintech committee to enhance research, planning and coordination of work on financial technology.

In order to make strategic plans and provide policy guidance on fintech development, the PBOC said it will further study its influence on monetary policy, financial markets, financial stability, payment and clearing.
“Fintech, or technology-driven financial innovation, has both injected vitality into financial development and brought new challenges to financial security,” said the PBOC on its website.
The PBOC will devise a mechanism for fintech innovation to handle ties between security and development and guide the proper use of new financial technology
Source: Shanghai Daily, May 16,2017
Steely drive to trim industrial overcapacity
15th May 2017

 CHINA is determined to gain some ground on its key battlefield — addressing industrial overcapacity.

The phasing out of sub-standard production capacity will continue, especially steel and iron, coal mining and coal-fired power plants, so that the targets set for the year can and will be achieved, said a statement released after a State Council executive meeting last week.
By the end of June, all facilities to produce inferior-quality steel bars will be dismantled across countrywide. All coal mines scheduled to close this year will be so by the end of November, as agreed by the attendees of the meeting.
As excess capacity has weighed on China’s overall economic performance, cutting overcapacity is high on the reform agenda. In 2016, China completed both its annual targets for coal and steel capacity reduction ahead of schedule.
The government work report this year stated China will continue to cut overcapacity in bloated sectors, with targets to slash steel production capacity by around 50 million tons and coal by at least 150 million tons this year.
As of Wednesday, 31.7 million tons of steel and iron capacity and 68.97 million tons of coal capacity had been cut, or 63.4 percent and 46 percent of their annual goals respectively.
While the government scored an initial win, there were a few setbacks and the battle is far from over.
The enthusiasm for the drive is waning with rising demand for steel and coal, difficulty in relocating former employees and digesting the debt, according to Feng Qiaobin with the Chinese Academy of Governance.
China’s steel mills have reported good profits since this year as speculators have splurged on higher prices after the government pledged to increase spending on infrastructure construction.
In addition, bowing to government pressure, some firms could just halt production temporarily to meet their assigned tasks, instead of seriously eliminating capacity. Reports of unofficial production in steel and coal have already emerged due to the recent price rallies.
From glut to dearth, the sharp turn of events saw some economists questioning whether policy-driven capacity reductions, despite the short-term miraculous effects, would work in the long run.
Global ratings agency Fitch said in a recent report that China’s steel and coal capacity cut targets were tough to hit given the incentive for companies to voluntarily close mines and factories has weakened as prices have recovered and profitability has improved.
The government is well aware of the situation and is committed to allowing the market more say, with the responsibilities of the government and the market more clearly defined.
The State Council’s meeting resulted in an agreement to adopt more methods based on market rules and related laws while phasing out outdated capacities. It also decided to eliminate illegal production facilities and prevent those that have been shut down from opening again.
Capacity cuts also mean that less taxes are collected by local authorities — resulting in job losses across the board. Without the intervention of the central authorities, local authorities would be very reluctant to do what is needed, said Feng.
To strike a balance, Feng suggested the market should be responsible for the capacity reductions, while the government should handle the re-employment of redundant workers.
Indeed, the attendees of the State Council meeting stressed that relocating redundant employees was a priority and they would be offered financial support from the government to help them find new employment and guarantee their basic living needs.
In 2016, the central government spent over 30 billion yuan (US$4.4 billion) providing aid to 726,000 employees affected by the downsizing of the steel and coal industries.
China plans to assist 500,000 workers made redundant during its capacity cuts in steel and coal sectors this year. Subsidies will go to employers that re-employ laid-off staff in other posts inside the company, and the government will offer free retraining.
The key of China’s capacity-cut drive is not simply closure of steel plants or coal mines, but lies in the nurturing of new impetus that will lead to the overall restructuring of the economy, said Dong Ximiao, researcher of Renmin University of China.
Source: Shanghai Daily, May 15, 2017

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