Trade Wars or Not, China’s Economy Is Slowing

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China is already feeling some of the trade tension bite, on top of other economic pressures in the world’s most populous nation. While that may not be a surprise on its own, manufacturing activity grew at a slower pace in China during the month of June. As well as U.S. trade pressure from the Trump agenda, China also is feeling the effects of tighter government regulation on lending as an effort to curb rising debt levels. China’s National Statistics Bureau released its purchasing managers index, and the report was down to 51.5 in June.

May’s figure was 51.9, and Reuters had called for a 51.6 reading in June’s estimate from economists. Readings above 50 are meant to represent growth. Exports, new orders and manufacturing all were lower in June.

What makes the Chinese agency report interesting is that some of the slowing in China is even ahead of the actual on-again, off-again trade war. In some cases, these actual tariffs may take months before they are truly felt. And some of the tariffs may not even come to pass if reciprocity can be achieved.

China’s exports have been soft in the measurement of China’s broader economy. The manufacturing industry still supports millions of jobs in China. And manufacturing has contributed less to China’s growth than when compared to years past.

Some of the slowing numbers, even without a trade war in the mix, are expected to continue in China in 2018. International agencies have lowered forecasts on China’s growth. Still, the industrial profits rose, according to the NSB report earlier this week, as the agency said:

In the first five months of 2018, the profits made by industrial enterprises above the designated size achieved 2,729.83 billion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 16.5 percent, and the growth rate increased by 1.5 percentage points from the first four months.

Investors might not be surprised that China’s growth engine may not be as endless as it has seemed. The iShares China Large-Cap ETF (NYSE: FXI), the largest and most liquid exchange traded fund tracking China’s stocks, closed up 1.4% at $42.97, but that is after a sharp drop in recent days. This ETF was up at $48 earlier in June, and it reached $54 during the early 2018 overenthusiasm in the stock market.