And the Chinese government’s officials are now officially concerned.
According to the FT:
Most analysts … expect growth to drop back … to well below an annualized rate of 8% in the first quarter. Some are even predicting full-year growth as low as 7.5% in 2012. … most economists believe Beijing will be able to engineer a “soft landing” to a lower long-term growth rate above that new level.
How concerned is the Chinese government?
“In terms of the domestic and international situation 2012 will be a year of complexity and challenges so we should be fully prepared,” said spokesman Ma Jiantang (China’s National Bureau of Statistics) in a speech laced with words such as “gloomy”, “complicated” and “severe”.
“The probability and likely effectiveness of a big stimulus is much lower now as the government is still dealing with the hangover from the last round of stimulus,” said Huang Yiping, chief China economist at Barclays Capital. He believes Beijing will be able to achieve just above 8 per cent growth in 2012 but sees risks to that forecast.
“Over-investment is also a major concern and these are all problems that have contributed to collapse in other developing economies in the past.”
The biggest risks to the economy come from the two sectors that have been driving growth in China for the past decade – exports and residential real estate.
Real estate investment directly accounts for about 13 per cent of GDP so a collapse in the sector would have repercussions, not just in China but for commodity-exporting countries that rely on Chinese construction for their own growth.
Exports signaling economic contraction
China’s factory activity fell for a third successive month to 48.8 in January, indicated the HSBC‘s PMI index.
According to Reuters, deteriorating demand from China’s biggest trading partners in the European Union and the United States helped drag growth in the world’s second-biggest economy down to its lowest in 2-1/2 years in the final quarter of 2011.
The third consecutive below-50 reading of the manufacturing PMI suggested that growth is likely to moderate further.