China exports, imports in deeper contraction as US tariffs bite

China’s domestic demand has remained weak as economic uncertainty weighs on business and consumer confidence and discourages fresh investment. (Reuters)
Updated 14 October 2019

China exports, imports in deeper contraction as US tariffs bite

  • Downbeat data likely to reinforce expectations that Beijing needs to introduce more stimulus measures to avert a sharper economic downturn

BEIJING: China’s exports fell at a faster pace in September while imports contracted for a fifth straight month, pointing to further weakness in the economy and underlining the need for more stimulus as the Sino-US trade war drags on.
The downbeat data is likely to reinforce expectations that Beijing needs to introduce more stimulus measures to avert a sharper economic downturn, despite tentative signs of a thaw in tense trade relations between the world’s top economies.
Following talks last week, US President Donald Trump on Friday outlined the first phase of a deal to end the trade war and suspended a threatened tariff hike set for Oct. 15. But existing tariffs remain in place and officials on both sides said much more work is needed before an accord could be agreed.
September had marked another major escalation in the dispute, with Washington imposing 15 percent tariffs on more than $125 billion in Chinese imports from Sept. 1, and Beijing hitting back with retaliatory levies.
September exports fell 3.2 percent from a year earlier, the biggest fall since February, customs data showed on Monday. Analysts had expected a 3 percent decline in a Reuters poll after August’s 1 percent drop.
“The headline figures suggest that global demand softened last month, adding to the pressure from the US tariffs that went into effect in September,” said analysts at Capital Economics.
Some economists attributed the deterioration in exports to a fading in the so-called “front-loading” effect. Some Chinese firms had rushed to ship goods to the United States ahead of the September deadline, supporting overall July and August export readings.
Total September imports fell 8.5 percent after August’s 5.6 percent decline, the lowest since May. Analysts had expected them to fall by 5.2 percent.
Despite more than a year of growth boosting measures, China’s domestic demand has remained stubbornly weak as economic uncertainty weighs on business and consumer confidence and discourages fresh investment.
China reported a trade surplus of $39.65 billion last month, compared with a $34.84 billion surplus in August. Analysts had forecast $33.3 billion.
Its trade surplus with the United States stood at $25.88 billion in September, narrowing from August’s $26.96 billion.
China’s exports to the United States fell 10.7 percent from a year earlier in dollar terms in January-September, while US imports dropped 26.4 percent during that period, the customs data showed.
Though President Trump had agreed not to proceed with a hike in tariffs set for Tuesday, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Trump had not made a decision about tariffs that were subject to go into effect in December.
Analysts believe China’s economic growth cooled further in the third quarter from a near 30-year low of 6.2 percent hit in April-June, and is threatening to breach the lower end of the government’s full-year target of 6.0-6.5 percent.
Some economists forecast growth could fall into the upper 5 percent range in 2020 due to a combination of cyclical and structural factors.


Investment and energy experts welcome ‘sensible’ Saudi Aramco IPO valuation

Updated 51 min 34 sec ago

Investment and energy experts welcome ‘sensible’ Saudi Aramco IPO valuation

  • Price regarded as a sensible compromise and that it will sell the IPO
  • Experts said the Aramco valuation was justified by the financial metrics

DUBAI: Investment professionals and energy experts delivered a mainly enthusiastic response to the pricing of shares in Saudi Aramco and the overall valuation of the biggest oil company in the world at between $1.6 trillion and $1.7 trillion.

Al Mal Capital, a Dubai-based investment bank, said that it was positive on the Aramco initial public offering (IPO) on that kind of valuation, which it said was justified by the financial metrics.

“We believe Aramco’s IPO is a central pillar of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. In our view, the broader privatization of state assets will likely accelerate the flow of foreign capital into the Kingdom, improve liquidity and transparency as well as continue to help diversify its economy away from its dependency on oil. While many investors were skeptical about the ability of Saudi Arabia to roll out its ambitious agenda, they seem to be right on track.”

Tarek Fadhallah, chief executive officer of Nomura Asset Management in the Middle East, said via Twitter: “My first impression is that the price is a sensible compromise and that it will sell the IPO. Aramco should easily raise the $8.5bn from retail investors but the 29 global coordinators, managers and financial advisers will need to find the other $17 billion. A few billion from China would help.”

Robin Mills, chief executive of the Qamar Energy consultancy, said; “I think it’s a reasonable compromise. The price is well above most independent valuations but well below the aspirational price. It implies dividend yields a bit lower than the super-majors (the independent oil companies), but a similar price earnings ratio (the measure of the share price rated according to profits). Retail and local investors should be sufficient. We’ll have to see about the foreign investors.”

Ellen Wald, energy markets consultant and author of the book Saudi, Inc., said American investor would still be undecided on the IPO. 

“Remember, investors don’t put money in because they think the value is accurate. Smart investors put money in because they think the value will rise. It all depends on whether they see signs the price will rise during their time frame.”

American oil finance expert David Hodson, managing director of BluePearl Management, said: “This valuation seems to be more reasonable based on the fundamentals. Potential investors in Western markets will base their decision on cold hard facts like dividends and growth prospects. From what we now know, Aramco is offering them a compelling investment proposition to consider.”