BEIJING: Growth in China’s manufacturing sector unexpectedly accelerated in August, suggesting the world’s second-largest economy is still expanding at a healthy clip despite rising financing costs and a cooling housing market.
Along with stronger US economic growth reported overnight, China’s official factory readings indicated the global economy remains on solid footing for now, despite concerns that growth may begin to fade in coming months.
China’s resilience so far this year has surprised economists and given an extra boost to a global recovery despite Beijing’s crackdown on riskier types of lending and ever-tougher curbs to get the overheated housing market under control.
The official Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) released on Thursday rose to 51.7 in August from the previous month’s 51.4, confounding economists’ expectations for a marginal decline.
Production, total new orders and business expectations all shifted into higher gear, while a separate industry survey showed activity in the steel sector expanded at the fastest pace since April 2016 thanks to a year-long, government-led construction boom.
In particular, a sharp pick-up in input prices bodes well for resource companies’ earnings and investment in coming months, ANZ said.
“The price-driven recovery will continue at least in the third quarter”, said Raymond Yeung, Greater China chief economist for ANZ in Hong Kong.
“On the demand side, infrastructure spending and fixed asset investment continue to maintain (at decent levels)... I see no reason for a sharp downturn even after the fourth quarter this year.”
The sustained rally in industrial commodities’ prices largely reflects stronger demand for building materials and government efforts to reduce excess capacity by shutting inefficient and heavily polluting mines and mills.
Demand is so robust that futures prices for steel reinforcing bars used in construction have surged 9 per cent this month and more than 50 per cent this year.
Output prices also rose at the fastest pace since December, indicating strong pricing power for producers, which should fatten profit margins and give firms extra breathing room in the country’s fight against a rapid build-up in debt.
“We expect domestic steel production and sales to remain strong in September, with market prices remaining elevated,” the China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing (CFLP) said in survey on the sector.