Business / Economy

Low private investment, high debt weigh down growth

By Duan Ting (China Daily) Updated: 2016-07-30 09:46

Beginning with the second quarter of the year, China will be in the do-or-die battle of its economic transition, according to Hong Kong-based researchers.

The country's transition will undergo its most difficult stage, although it will probably maintain around 6 percent growth in GDP in the second half of the year, according to economists and financial analysts recently surveyed by China Daily.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the economy saw year-on-year growth of 6.7 percent in the second quarter, slightly above market expectations. The second quarter's growth rate was the same as in the previous quarter.

The growth was powered by retail sales, industrial output and new loans directed to fixed-asset investment.

But several things are at the center of concern, said Sun Mingchun, senior partner and chief economist of China Broad Capital Co Ltd, including an excess of industrial capacity, a large total social financing and a high leverage ratio, meaning a high level of debt.

Private investment was 15.9 trillion yuan ($2.39 trillion) in the first half of 2016. Its annualized growth rate fell from 3.9 percent in the first five months to 2.8 percent in the first half of the year, which means there was quite a dip in June alone.

Private companies are not seeing encouraging returns from their investments in most industries. And they probably still will not see a good profit in the next two to three years, Sun said.

By contrast, the State sector investment rose an impressive 23.5 percent in the first half of the year, concentrating mostly on infrastructure development in the less-developed areas.

But so much investment is still not as powerful a driver of growth as consumer spending, especially that on services, said Fielding Chen, Asia economist for Bloomberg Intelligence. If investment sees a further decline in the second half of the year, which he expects, the economy's growth engine will remain weak.

According to Cui Li, managing director and director of macroeconomic research at CCB International, the economy will be in its difficult period because it is facing an "unprecedented balancing risk", including "weaker-than-ever global demand, need for a sharper-than-expected capacity cut for the industry, and a round of bond defaults that weigh on investor sentiment."

Ding Shuang, head of China research at Standard Chartered Plc, said that although the hard landing scenario is less likely to happen, the mainland economic situation will remain complex, with questions about how to deal with its mounting debt and avoid the threat of capital outflow.

Ding expects that in the coming months of the year, China's fiscal policy will keep expanding while its monetary policy will be neutral. Cutting the reserve requirement ratio for banks may be the best way to enlarge the credit supply. But before the RRR is cut, the government may use reverse repos and lower interest rates on the medium-term lending facility.

Debt is a particularly ugly spot, the researchers said. As measured by Fitch Ratings Inc's Adjusted Measure of Total Social Financing, credit to companies, local governments and households rose as much as 15 percent in 2015 in the Chinese mainland, more than double its GDP growth.

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