BEIJING, Sept 15 — China’s factory and retail sectors faltered in August with output and sales growth hitting one-year lows as fresh coronavirus outbreaks and supply disruptions threatened the country’s impressive economic recovery.
Industrial production rose 5.3 per cent in August from a year earlier, narrowing from an increase of 6.4 per cent in July and marking the weakest pace since July 2020, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed today. Output growth missed the 5.8 per cent increase tipped by analysts.
Consumer spending also took a big hit from rising local Covid-19 cases and floods with sales rising only 2.5 per cent in August from a year ago, much lower than the forecast 7.0 per cent rise and the slowest clip since August last year.
“Recent economic data reflected the overall demand is still weak in the economy, vulnerable to sporadic Covid-19 outbreaks, but some sectors have been overheated, judging from the persistently high commodity prices,” said Nie Wen, Shanghai-based economist at Hwabao Trust.
“Policymakers will face a dilemma in terms of how to respond to a situation like this.”
Supply chain bottlenecks, semiconductor shortages, curbs on high-polluting industries and the crackdown on the property sector have disrupted activity in the world’s second-biggest economy.
China’s vehicle sales slid in July for a third consecutive month, partly driven by the global auto chip shortages.
Some steel producers in China’s Jiangsu, Fujian and Yunnan provinces were told by the government to cut production as the country aims to curb industrial pollution.
The Chinese economy made a remarkably strong revival from last year’s coronavirus-led slump, but momentum has slowed over the past few months, raising expectations that policymakers may need to roll out more support to help a struggling economy.
Social restrictions due to the Covid-19 Delta variant in several provinces have hit the catering, transportation, accommodation and entertainment industries.
China’s services activity slumped into contraction in August, a private-sector survey showed, as restrictions to curb Covid-19 once again closed shopping malls and many businesses in parts of the country.
KFC operator Yum China Holdings Inc said yesterday its adjusted operating profit would take a 50 per cent to 60 per cent hit in the third quarter as the spread of the Delta variant in China closed restaurant and “sharply reduced sales”.
“We had been expecting services activity to rebound strongly in September as the virus situation was back under control,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, Senior China Economist at Capital Economics. However, he added fresh outbreaks in the southern Fujian province may hold back the recovery.
Focus shifts to property
China’s property investment in August rose 0.3 per cent from a year ago, the slowest pace in 18 months, while growth in new home prices eased an eight-month low, as an official crackdown on speculative purchases hit demand.
Evans-Pritchard said while near-term virus-linked disruptions should prove temporary, the property sector curbs and slowing exports could weigh on longer-term growth.
Fixed asset investment grew 8.9 per cent in January-August from the same period a year ago, compared with a 9.0 per cent rise tipped by a Reuters poll and a 10.3 per cent increase in January-July.
Analysts are expecting China to quicken spending on infrastructure projects later this year. — Reuters