The Looming China Crisis Is About to Hit
On Friday, economic statistics out of China confirmed my bearishness of the past 12 months. Here is what we heard:
July export growth was close to zero. Outbound shipments increased only 1% year-over-year versus a 11.3% rise in June. These numbers suggest a screeching slowdown in exports.
Industrial output rose the least since the crisis in 2009 in spite of the government's new investment projects.
China's economy has now decelerated for seven consecutive quarters (21 months). That's almost two years. The rebound after the 2009 crisis, fueled by massive money injections, has fizzled.
As a result of these numbers, some previous China bulls now say China's government has to relax monetary policy quickly in order to avoid a "hard landing."
Until now the bulls refused to even consider a weaker economy, or at minimum stated there would be a "soft landing." My reply was, only if "soft" means in quicksand and mud.
There is nothing that lower interest rates or a drop in bank reserve requirements in China can do to boost orders from Europe. The huge export slowdown is a killer for an economy that's export driven. Lower interest rates won't increase European demand for Chinese products. Europe is now on its way to a deep recession, or worse.
During China's great growth period over the past decade, it was cheap labor and large foreign investments that allowed the government to undertake huge infrastructure projects. But the consumer was totally neglected. In fact, growth was financed by sacrificing the individual. Interest rates on savings were very low, benefiting party officials and well-connected firms who took this cheap money for speculation.
Now China wants to boost consumer demand because demand from abroad is declining. But the consumer is still very poor, and the speculators are going bankrupt. CEOs of large companies that can't repay the debt are fleeing, disappearing overnight.
Most firms probably speculated with their operating cash in real estate or the stock market to boost earnings. Instead of profits, they now have huge losses. They will go to bankruptcy heaven. China's biggest ship-building firm lent billions of its operating cash to the private financing market. But those borrowers can't repay the loans. So the firm is now in dire trouble.