China’s Premier Li Keqiang recently said that the government will not ‘defend to the death’ its goal of 7.0% economic growth this year. According to our China Momentum Indicator, it has already lost the battle.
Contrary to the picture painted by the official statistics, we believe that China’s economic growth rate has more than halved since the beginning of early last year, from just over 6% to less than 3%. Indeed, our preferred measure of economic activity — our China Momentum Indicator (CMI) — slipped 0.2 percentage points to 2.8% in September.
Looking at the individual components of our CMI, rail freight volumes reached a six-and-a-half year low, while electricity production also fell — down 3.1% in the twelve-months to September. The third and final component, growth in bank lending, has been broadly stable at around 15% per annum over the past four years.
In response, the PBoC has eased policy on no fewer than six occasions in the past twelve months. We see further substantial cuts in China’s policy rates of interest over the next year, not least because in real terms they remain stubbornly high.
As benchmark interest rates continue to fall in China, capital outflows are likely to rise, putting further downward pressure on the currency. Back in August, the RMB was allowed to fall by 3.0% against the USD in the space of a week – the biggest one-week move in 20 years.
Last Friday’s appreciation aside, we view further devaluations as more or less inevitable. Accordingly, we see the RMB falling at a pace of 2.0% to 3.0% a quarter over the next two years as China attempts to export some of its pain.