China growth beats forecasts in face of US trade row, financial risk

About 20 percent of China’s exports have been ferried to the US for the past decade, according to Moody’s Investors Services. (AFP)
Updated 17 April 2018
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China growth beats forecasts in face of US trade row, financial risk

  • Fears of a China-US trade war have been simmering in recent weeks, with Washington and Beijing exchanging threats of tit-for-tat levies on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of goods
  • For the past decade, about 20 percent of China’s exports have been ferried to the US, according to Moody’s Investors Services

BEIJING: China’s economy grew more than expected in the first quarter as it withstood headwinds from Beijing’s fight against financial risk and pollution, and trade tensions with the US.
While acknowledging the potential negative impact of a US trade war officials on Tuesday warned the country faced greater downside risk at home, citing the need for reforms.
The world’s number two economy expanded 6.8 percent in January-March, better than the 6.7 percent tipped in an AFP survey of economists and the same as the previous three months.
It is also much better than the annual rate of around 6.5 percent targeted by the government.
Growth remained resilient even as Beijing kicked its war on smog into a high gear during the winter months by cutting production for many steel smelters, mills and factories.
“The national economy maintained the momentum of steady and sound development,” said Xing Zhihong, a spokesman for the National Statistics Bureau. “The economic performance continued to improve and the economy was off to a good start.”
Fears of a China-US trade war have been simmering in recent weeks, with Washington and Beijing exchanging threats of tit-for-tat levies on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of goods.
US President Donald Trump has issued the warnings as part of his “America First” protectionist agenda that has focused on what he calls unfair practices by China that are killing American jobs.
Last week his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping sounded a conciliatory note, promising to reduce tariffs on cars and open up the economy further.
For the past decade, about 20 percent of China’s exports have been ferried to the US, according to Moody’s Investors Services, which forecasts a material macroeconomic impact if Trump makes good on his threats with the consequences vibrating beyond China’s end exporters and deep into the economy.
While a tariffs spat with Trump has yet to make a significant impact, Commerzbank economist Hao Zhou warned “the overall growth is still under pressure.”
“The trade tensions are likely to persist over the foreseeable future, clouding the trade and growth outlook.”
Xing at the statistics bureau acknowledged the cloud of “international economic uncertainties” but said “China-US trade frictions do not pose a problem for China’s economy.”
Instead, he pointed to domestic risks to growth.
“The problems of unbalanced and inadequate development in China are acute and the tasks for reform and development are daunting,” he said.
After years of breakneck growth driven by exports and debt-fueled investment, authorities are increasingly worried about a possible credit crisis and are stepping up their battle against financial risk.
And the forecast-beating growth will give policymakers room to push through measures to battle those hazards and also address pollution.
Last week, the central bank released data showing total financing grew at 10.5 percent in March, the slowest pace on record, according to China-focused economist Andrew Polk.
“We think a further (economic) slowdown is on the cards before the end of the year,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics, pointing to the drags “from tighter fiscal policy and slower credit creation” that will weigh on activity.
But China is counting on its 1.4 billion consumers to pick up the slack.
Retail sales grew 9.8 percent in the first quarter on-year, beating forecasts of 9.7 percent in a Bloomberg News survey.
Output at China’s factories and workshops expanded 6.8 percent for the first quarter, matching the expansion seen during the same period last year, but below the 6.9 percent forecast by Bloomberg News. Industrial production grew six percent in March.


Saudi Aramco boss reveals gas and LNG ambitions amid petchems push

Updated 22 January 2019
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Saudi Aramco boss reveals gas and LNG ambitions amid petchems push

  • Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser: We are in discussions in different countries with a lot of partners. We are reviewing these opportunities to make final decisions in terms of investment
  • Amin Nasser: A lot of it is in partnerships with leading companies around the world and it is either in gas investment, LNG investment or both

London: Saudi Aramco is eyeing gas and LNG acquisitions as it also prepares for the potential purchase of the Kingdom’s biggest chemical maker, CEO Amin Nasser revealed on Tuesday.

He made the disclosure in an interview with Bloomberg TV on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“We are in discussions in different countries currently with a lot of partners. We are reviewing these opportunities to make final decisions in terms of investment,” Nasser said.

“A lot of it is in partnerships with leading companies around the world and it is either in gas investment, LNG investment or both.”

Aramco has also been in discussions with a credit rating agency ahead of a planned bond sale.

It comes ahead of the potential purchase of Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC), the Kingdom’s biggest chemical maker and a key part of Aramco’s ambitions to grow its global petrochemicals business.

“We will decide soon how much we would like to take from the bond market. Definitely it is going to be an international bond. We are currently in discussion with regard to how much and where,” Nasser said.

He said that the purchase price for SABIC was still under discussion.

“We are in discussion currently with the Public Investment Fund about acquisition of 70 percent of the share of SABIC. We are in discussion with regard to the price at this stage,” he said.

Earlier this month Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said Aramco would issue bonds in the second quarter of 2019.

Aramco’s planned acquisition of SABIC is expected to involve buying all or nearly all of the 70 percent stake in the chemicals company held by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the Kingdom’s principal sovereign wealth fund.

Nasser said that there was no plan to acquire the 30 percent of the company that is currently publicly traded in Saudi Arabia.