China Economic Update, Construction & Lumber Shipments
2017 Q4 highlights and outlook for 2018:
- China’s economy cooled slightly in Q4 2017 as it transitioned to a more sustainable growth trajectory; investment growth slowed in November 2017 under the influence of a cooling property market along with continued weak industrial activity impacted by mandated construction shutdowns in North China intended to improve winter air quality.[i] Analysts’ reports estimated GDP growth in Q4 2017 at 6.6%, below 6.8% logged in Q3 and 6.9% in Q2 but still higher than the annual target of 6.5%.[ii]
- The consensus outlook for China in 2018 is brighter after a difficult 2017. Policy makers in the world’s second largest economy aim to accelerate structural supply-side reforms, continue regulatory upheaval, escalate the war on pollution, further regulate real estate, tinker with state-owned enterprises and maintain trade liberalization by increasing imports, cutting import tariffs on certain products, providing greater opportunities to firms from abroad, granting more power to pilot free trade zones etc.[iii]
- Several Western analysts expressed contrarian views about the 2018 forecast, including concerns about China’s debt mountain and escalating trade disputes with US and Europe. One stated that China is capable of maintaining economic growth for at least one more year while balancing substantial financial risk. He further noted – Beijing “impressively” spent most of 2017 managing financial risks in part by limiting growth in shadow lending, the impacts of which had zero impact on economic growth.[iv]
PMI (Caixin) indexes decreased to 50.9 in November 2017 from 51.2 in October 2017 but both exceeded market consensus (50.6).[v] China Exports rose 12.3% year-on-year to USD 217.37 billion in November 2017 which surpassed market estimation (5% gain); it was the fastest pace of increase in outbound shipments since March 2017.[vi]
China Consumer Price Index (CPI) fluctuated, rising from 101.6 (September 2017) to 101.9 (October 2017) and then decreased slightly to 101.7 (November 2017).[vii] USD/CNY stayed put at 6.61 on both November 1st and December 1st and declined1.5% to 6.51 (January 1st)[viii]; CAD/CNY fluctuated from 5.13 (November 1st) to 5.21 (December 1st) to 5.17 (January 1st)[ix].
Building material indexes
Cement prices moved significantly from RMB 369.17 to RMB 473.33 per metric ton (up 28.21%) over December 2017[x]; steel rebar dropped by 9.94% from RMB 4,776.67 per metric ton on December 1st 2017 to RMB 4,301.88 per metric ton on December 30th 2017[xi]. The China log price index in December 2017 was 1,119.56, an increase of 0.72% over November 2017 and 4.78% above the same period in 2016. Prices grew 3.25% year-on-year[xii].
Chinese Wood Imports[xiii]
From January to November 2017 forestry fixed asset investment totaled RMB 204.1 billion representing 3.2% growth year-on-year. During the same period wood volumes imported via Taicang Port equaled 10.29 million m3 equal to + 27.18% year-on-year; Canadian wood import volumes were 4.18 million m3 rising 10.21% compared to the same period last year. During the first eleven months of 2017 5.43 million m3 of Russian wood was imported through Suifenhe Port, rising 15%. 6.13 million m3 of logs were imported via Lanshang Port, Rizhao, an impressive 19.5% year-on-year rise.
[iii] Li Fang (January 1st, 2018). Economic Watch: What to expect for China’s economy in 2018
[iv] Sidney Leng (January 5th, 2018). A good start but what’s in store for China’s economy in 2018?
[xii] BOABC (December 2017). China Wood and Its Products Market Monthly Report
[xiii] BOABC (October to December 2017). China Wood and Its Products Market Monthly Report