Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Revised 2011 China GDP Numbers Indicate Big Slowdown

There are two pieces of data I saw today, easily lost in the fine print, that I found particularly revealing. First, the NBS disclosed that real estate investment accounted for 13% of China’s GDP in 2011 (compared to Stephen Roach’s estimate of 10%), and grew at a rate of 27.9%. However, I noticed something that I admit I missed before, in my earlier calculations — that this is a nominal rate (not adjusted for inflation) whereas the GDP growth rate figures are real (they take inflation into account). The real (and therefore comparable) rate of expansion for real estate investment in 2011 was 20.0%.

So I went back and re-ran the numbers, using these more accurate figures. Given GDP growth of 9.2% (a higher starting point than I used in my initial calculations), a real growth rate of 20.0% for real estate implies a real growth rate of 7.6% for the rest of the economy. If, in 2012, real estate construction were merely to level off at zero growth, and the rest of the economy was unaffected, that would bring overall GDP down from 9.2% to 6.6%. That’s higher than the number I initially came up with, but still well into “hard landing” territory. The fall-off of 2.6% is also closer to the 3.0% drop I initially calculated than the 1% decline predicted by Stephen Roach. I errored in my back-of-the-envelope exercise, but my point remains a valid one. Keep in mind, these calculations assume no impact on dependent industries like steel and cement, no impact on the financial system, and no correlation to related risks in the Chinese economy _Patrick Chovanec
More from Chovanec at the BBC, with video

Patrick Chovanec

I suspect that Chovanec is being generous to the Chinese economy, given what we have already seen recently, of the decline in both the steel and cement industries coming hard on the heels of the real estate decline. Here is the view of a Chinese steel plant:
Notice the similarity of the empty car park above, to the many expensive -- but already crumbling -- Chinese ghost properties spread across the celestial kingdom.

In the near future, we will look at the compulsive dynamics of why regional Chinese governments continue to press ahead, building shoddy but exorbitant ghost properties, against all economic logic.

No comments: