More bad news for China's stagflating economy: according to an industry group, China automobile sales dropped for the second month in a row in May, pointing to slowing demand after Beijing stopped offering incentives and introduced new limits on car purchases earlier this year. "Vehicle sales in China shed 13.95 percent on-month to 1.19 million last month, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said. It was a 29.74 percent increase compared to the same month last year. Auto output fell 14.36 percent from a month earlier to about 1.31 million units in May. The industry group attributed the continued decline in May sales to the end of the tax breaks and incentive policies in the country. The Chinese government ended tax breaks for purchases of small cars at the end of 2010 and reimposed a 10 percent tax at the beginning of this year. The tax breaks, introduced in 2009 to buoy domestic demand amid the economic slowdown, had boosted China's auto market and helped it overtake the United States as the world's largest in 2009 and 2010." This is yet another piece of bad news for GM, for whom China has recently become the dominant market (even as it stuff US dealers with record amount of inventory), and since the company has been unable to take advantage of the supply disruptions that have crippled Japanese car makers, expect to see GM stock take its current post-IPO low stock price even lower. "Wang Qingtao, analyst at China's Sealand Securities Co., expected the downward trend in the Chinese auto industry would likely continue for a while, saying "the market fundamentals are not likely to change drastically." And in the meantime, Goldman now anticipates China's May inflation to hit 5.5% Y/Y, the highest such increase in years, and the Stagflationary economy continues overheating, this time due to surging food prices as a result of the record drought previously discussed.
China is scheduled to release May economic data from June 10 onwards (Exhibit 1 has the preliminary release schedule). Here are our estimates and thoughts on these upcoming releases:
CPI inflation to rebound amid higher food prices
Food prices have been getting higher in recent weeks as a result of the continued rise in meat (especially pork) prices and the drought in Southern China which pushed up vegetable and seafood prices. We expect non-food CPI inflation to remain subdued amid the slow money and activity growth over the past several months. While commodities such as coal and cement saw higher domestic prices in recent weeks, the impact on PPI inflation will likely lag and show up more visibly in the June PPI data.
We expect May yoy CPI inflation to rise to 5.5%, up from 5.3% in April. This would imply a mom growth of around 5.7% mom s.a. ann., up from 3.5% mom s.a. ann. in April. We expect CPI: food inflation to rise to 12.1% yoy, up from 11.5% yoy in April. Non-food CPI inflation is likely to inch down slightly to 2.6% yoy from 2.7% yoy in April.
PPI inflation is likely to moderate to 6.4% yoy in May, down from 6.8% yoy in April. This implies a sequential growth of 0.1% mom s.a. ann.
Industrial activity growth to rebound
The official and HSBC PMI indices both suggested a stabilization of industrial activities in May (the official readings both went down but after adjusting for seasonality both went up). We believe the driver of the rebound (from a very low level in April) probably came from the supply side as supposed to demand side. Anecdotal evidence suggests there were much fewer cases of power cuts throughout May compared with April and supply-chain disruptions because of the Japan earthquake have been disappearing quickly as well. On the other hand, we do not see any major rebound on the demand side as there has been continued domestic policy tightening which restricts domestic demand growth and was the main driver of the significant slowdown in activity growth since the start of the year including April and further evidence of softening external demand growth, especially in the US.
Specifically, we expect May industrial production (IP) growth to rise to 13.9% yoy, up from 13.4% yoy in April. This would imply a sequential growth of 7.1% mom s.a. ann., up from the -7.7% mom s.a. ann. growth in April.
We expect fixed asset investment (FAI) growth to soften to 25.3% yoy in January-May from 25.4% yoy in January-April. The implied May FAI growth is 25.1% yoy, down from 26.1% yoy in April.
We expect May retail sales growth to rise to 17.3% yoy, up from 17.1% yoy in April amid higher consumer price inflation.
Export growth to moderate
We expect May export growth to moderate to 20.0% yoy, down from 29.9% yoy in April. This would imply a mom s.a. ann. growth of around 25.5% in May, down from 26.9% in April. While this is still a high level of growth, it is significantly lower than the 40%+ average sequential growth over the previous 6 months.
Meanwhile, we expect May import growth to rise to 26.0% yoy, up from 21.8% yoy in April. This would imply a sequential growth of around -1.2% mom s.a. ann. in May, up from -25.0% mom s.a. ann. in April.
The implied trade surplus is US$16.6 billion, up from US$11.4 billion in April.
Broad money supply growth to remain low
Our channel checks with commercial banks suggest there have been continued restrictions on credit expansion and probably stricter than they were in April. We view this as the most important biding constraint on credit growth as loan demand remains beyond the comfort level of the government.
We expect the amount of CNY loans made in May to fall to around Rmb600 billion, from Rmb739.6 billion in April. The yoy growth of CNY loans should likely fall to 17.1%, down from 17.5% in April. The implied sequential growth is 17.0% mom s.a. ann., up from to the
10.6% mom s.a. ann. in April.
We believe yoy M2 growth is likely to fall to 15.0% yoy, down from 15.3% yoy in April. Sequential growth should rise to 13.1% mom s.a. ann., up from 3.6% mom s.a. ann. in April.