China still on track to hit growth target despite pollution war — state planner

China’s steel output dropped 3.7 percent in September from a record high the previous month as mills reduced production in line with Beijing’s anti-pollution campaign. (Reuters)
Updated 21 October 2017
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China still on track to hit growth target despite pollution war — state planner

BEIJING: China’s economy is on track to meet its official growth target for 2017, the head of the state planning agency said on Saturday, despite a punishing war on pollution which is expected to slash industrial output over the winter months.
China has forced 28 cities in smog-prone northern regions to reduce emissions of airborne particles known as PM2.5 by at least 15 percent from October to March 2017, with some cities expected to cut steel production by as much as 50 percent.
But officials with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said the world’s second-largest economy will remain on track.
“We expect to achieve the full-year growth target of about 6.5 percent,” He Lifeng, chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), told a briefing on the sidelines of China’s Communist Party Congress.
Most economists believe China’s actual growth should easily beat the target. The economy grew 6.8 percent in the third quarter of the year, and 6.9 percent in the first half. Last year’s growth rate of 6.7 percent was a 26-year low.
China’s economy has surprised global markets and investors with robust growth so far this year, driven by a renaissance in its long-ailing “smokestack” industries such as steel and stronger demand from Europe and the United States.
But economists with Societe Generale said in a recent note that the winter output cuts could slash industrial production growth by 0.6-0.8 percentage points and GDP growth by 0.2-0.25 percentage points in the next six months.
Industrial growth slowed to 6.3 percent in the third quarter, from 6.6 percent in the previous period, data showed last week, with the services sector taking up much of the slack.
Prices of commodities like steel, copper and iron ore have turned wildly volatile in China and in global markets recent weeks on fears of possible winter shortages.
China’s steel output dropped 3.7 percent in September from a record high the previous month as mills reduced production in line with Beijing’s campaign, and analysts predict further declines as winter curbs set in.
However, Zhang Yong, vice-chairman of the NDRC, told reporters that the direct impact was likely to be limited.
“Measures to fight pollution don’t have a big impact on economic growth,” he said. “Measures to treat pollution have a positive impact on economic development in the long term.”
The government has been pushing a restructuring program designed to “upgrade” its heavy industrial economy, cut pollution and tackle profit-sapping capacity gluts in sectors like steel and coal.
China says it has cut annual crude steel capacity by as much as 110 million tons over the last five years, with coal capacity slashed by as much as 400 million tons, though some analysts say much of the outdated, inefficient plants are merely being replaced with leaner, cleaner ones.
Ning Jizhe, vice head of the NDRC and also head of China’s National Bureau of Statistics, said the country would continue to crack down on steel overcapacity, prevent obsolete plants from restarting and promote more mergers in the sector.


Walmart, Microsoft team up to take on Amazon

Updated 17 July 2018
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Walmart, Microsoft team up to take on Amazon

  • The move is aimed at helping Walmart compete better against Amazon
  • Walmart is already using Microsoft services for some applications

WASHINGTON: Walmart said Tuesday it was entering into a strategic partnership with Microsoft on “digital transformation” for the onetime retail industry leader.
The move is aimed at helping Walmart compete better against Amazon, which is taking a growing share of retail sales in the United States and globally.
The two firms said the partnership was focused on using artificial intelligence and other technology tools to help manage costs, expand operations and innovate faster.
“Walmart’s commitment to technology is centered around creating incredibly convenient ways for customers to shop and empowering associates to do their best work,” said Walmart chief executive Doug McMillon, Walmart CEO.
Microsoft’s business cloud computing platform known as Azure will help Walmart manage operations ranging from refrigeration and air conditioning to improving its supply chain and transportation.
“The world’s leading companies run on our cloud, and I’m thrilled to partner with Walmart to accelerate their digital transformation with Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft.
Walmart is already using Microsoft services for some applications and will expand that to tap into Microsoft’s machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data platform, according to the statement.
Earlier this month, the research firm eMarketer said Amazon’s surging growth would enable it to capture 49.1 percent of US online retail sales this year, up from 43.5 percent.
Amazon is far ahead of online rivals like eBay, with 6.6 percent of ecommerce, and Apple, at 3.9 percent, according to eMarketer, which estimated Walmart’s share at 3.7 percent.
According to the research, Amazon now controls nearly five of the total US retail market, including online and offline.