China leading indicator rises the most in 14 mths: Conference Board

Updated: 2010-06-16 09:54
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A leading indicator for China jumped by the most in 14 months, adding to signs that the world's third-biggest economy is maintaining momentum as Europe's debt crisis threatens to undermine the global recovery.

The measure gained 1.7 percent to 147.1 in April, compared with a revised 1.2 percent increase in March, The Conference Board said on its website Tuesday.

"China is performing among the best of any economy around the world," Bill Adams, resident economist for the New York- based research organization, said in Beijing on Tuesday.

The nation's expansion could be capped by weakness in exports in coming months and a government crackdown to cool property prices, which rose at a near-record pace in May. The banking regulator warned Tuesday of growing risks of non- performing loans, especially in real estate, after unprecedented credit growth under the nation's stimulus program.

Events in Europe are underscoring China's importance as a driver of world growth. Moody's Investors Service cut Greece's debt rating to junk on Monday. The Reserve Bank of Australia said that the European crisis will inevitably weigh "somewhat" on global growth prospects, according to minutes of a June 1 meeting released Tuesday.

In Shanghai, the stock exchange was closed for a public holiday. The benchmark index has tumbled almost 22 percent this year on concern that the government may wind back stimulus measures too aggressively.

Surging exports

China's May data released last week highlighted strength in the economy, with exports surging from year-earlier levels and industrial production and retail sales climbing. Inflation jumped to the highest in 19 months and property prices rose 12.4 percent from a year earlier.

The increase in the indicator was the biggest since February 2009, Adams said in an e-mail Tuesday. At the same time, he highlighted a weakening in export orders over most of the past six months and a decline in consumer expectations in April, factors that may help to cool growth.

New construction work, the key factor pushing up the indicator in April, may not continue to grow so quickly, and, excluding real estate, "there is no strong basis for assuming accelerating growth" in China, he said.

Officials may introduce a trial real-estate tax after already tightening sales rules for developers, raising some down payment requirements and restricting loans for multiple-home buyers, according to Chinese media.

China Vanke

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Sales by China Vanke Co, the nation's biggest publicly traded property developer, dropped 20 percent in May from a year ago, and Guangzhou R&F Properties Co's contracted sales last month shrank 48 percent on year, according to the developers' stock exchange filings.

Besides industry-specific measures, the government on May 2 raised banks' reserve requirements for the third time this year to contain overheating risks after first-quarter economic growth of 11.9 percent, the fastest pace in almost three years.

Adams' view Tuesday was similar to last month, when he said that the "front-loading" of real-estate projects ahead of government controls probably helped to boost the leading indicator.