China’s exports shrink most in two years, raising risks for global economy

China’s total global exports rose 9.9 percent in 2018, its strongest trade performance in seven years. (AFP)
Updated 14 January 2019
0

China’s exports shrink most in two years, raising risks for global economy

  • China posted its biggest trade surplus with the United States on record in 2018
  • Many US warehouses are already packed to the rafters with Chinese goods that American retailers rushed in ahead of higher tariffs

BEIJING: China’s exports unexpectedly fell the most in two years in December and imports also contracted, pointing to further weakness in the world’s second-largest economy in 2019 and deteriorating global demand.
Adding to policymakers’ worries, data on Monday also showed China posted its biggest trade surplus with the United States on record in 2018, which could prompt President Donald Trump to turn up the heat on Beijing in their cantankerous trade dispute.
Softening demand in China is already being felt around the world, with slowing sales of goods ranging from iPhones to automobiles prompting profit warnings from the likes of Apple and Jaguar Land Rover.
The dismal December trade readings suggest China’s economy may have lost more momentum late in the year than earlier thought, despite a slew of growth boosting measures in recent months ranging from higher infrastructure spending to tax cuts.
Some analysts had already speculated that Beijing may have to speed up and intensify its policy easing and stimulus measures this year after factory activity shrank in December.
Exports in December unexpectedly fell 4.4 percent from a year earlier, with demand in most of its major markets weakening. Imports also saw a shock drop, falling 7.6 percent in their biggest decline since July 2016.
“Export growth dropped more than anticipated as global growth softened and the drag from US tariffs intensified. Import growth also fell sharply in the face of cooling domestic demand. We expect both to remain weak in the coming quarters,” Capital Economics said in a note.
“Meanwhile, with policy easing unlikely to put a floor beneath domestic economic activity until the second half of this year, import growth is likely to remain subdued.”
China’s politically-sensitive surplus with the US rose 17.2 percent to $323.32 billion last year, the highest on record going back to 2006, according to Reuters calculations based on customs data.
That compared with about $275.81 billion in 2017.
China’s large trade surplus with the United States has long been a sore point with Washington, which has demanded Beijing should take steps to reduce it.
Washington imposed import tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese goods last year and has threatened further action if Beijing does not change its practices on issues ranging from industrial subsidies to intellectual property. China has retaliated with tariffs of its own.
However, Beijing’s export data had been surprisingly resilient to tariffs for much of 2018, possibly because companies ramped up shipments before broader and stiffer US duties went into effect.
China’s total global exports rose 9.9 percent in 2018, its strongest trade performance in seven years, while imports increased 15.8 percent last year.
But December’s gloomy data seemed to suggest the US front-loading effect has tapered off, and after several months of falling factory orders a further weakening in China’s exports is widely expected in coming months.
Many US warehouses are already packed to the rafters with Chinese goods that American retailers rushed in ahead of higher tariffs.
China exports to the US declined 3.5 percent in December while its imports from the US were down 35.8 percent for the month.
The higher tariffs China levied on US supplies also hit the country’s overall import growth. For all of 2018, soybean, the second largest imports from the US, fell for the first time since 2011.
Even if Washington and Beijing reach a trade deal in their current round of talks, it would be no panacea for China’s slowing economy, analysts say.
Sources told Reuters last week that Beijing is planning to lower its economic growth target to 6-6.5 percent this year after an expected 6.6 percent in 2018, the slowest pace in 28 years.


Etihad proposes to invest in Jet Airways at 49% discount

Updated 38 min 2 sec ago
0

Etihad proposes to invest in Jet Airways at 49% discount

  • The 25-year-old Indian airline has been roiled by financial difficulties, racking up a pile of dues to pilots, lessors and vendors
  • Jet will not be able to continue funding operations beyond the next week and Etihad is willing to inject $35 million if some conditions are met

Etihad Airways has offered to pick up shares of debt-laden Indian carrier Jet Airways Ltd. at a 49 percent discount and to immediately release $35 million after certain conditions are met, CNBC-TV18 reported on Wednesday.
Shares of Jet Airways, in which Etihad already owns a 24 percent stake, tumbled as much as 7.5 percent to 271.75 rupees ($3.83) in their biggest intraday drop since early December.
The Abu Dhabi carrier has offered 150 rupees for each Jet share, CNBC-TV18 said, citing a letter from Etihad’s CEO.
Tony Douglas has written to the State Bank of India (SBI) , Jet’s biggest lender, on the restructuring plan for the Indian airline, the report added.
The 25-year-old Indian airline has been roiled by financial difficulties, racking up a pile of dues to pilots, lessors and vendors, at a time when intense pricing competition, a weak rupee and rising fuel costs are weighing on the broader airline sector in the country.
Jet will not be able to continue funding operations beyond the next week and Etihad is willing to inject $35 million if some conditions are met, the CNBC-TV18 report cited Douglas as saying in his letter.
Jet and Etihad representatives are due to meet in Mumbai with lenders, led by SBI, on Wednesday to discuss the restructuring proposal that involves Etihad increasing its stake, a source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Etihad wants Jet’s founder and Chairman, 69-year-old Naresh Goyal to step down from the board and his stake to be slashed to 22 percent from 51 percent, according to CNBC-TV18.
Goyal’s penchant for control, according to people who have worked with him, has emerged as a major obstacle as the airline tries to negotiate a rescue deal, Reuters reported last month.
Etihad is also seeking an exemption from the market regulator on preference pricing and open offer guidelines to invest more for the bailout, the report added.
Under India’s capital markets regulations, Etihad is required to make an open offer to shareholders for a majority of the shares once its stake goes past 25 percent, unless it obtains a rare exemption from the market regulator.
India Ministry of Civil Aviation Secretary R N Choubey on Wednesday told reporters that the aviation ministry had not yet received an official request from Jet and Etihad for an exemption from an open offer.
Jet and Etihad were not immediately available for comment.