Last year, China’s economic expansion decelerated to its slowest pace in nearly three decades.
Reuters reporters wrote that “China’s economy cooled in the fourth quarter under pressure from faltering domestic demand and bruising U.S. tariffs, dragging 2018 growth to the lowest level in nearly three decades and pressuring Beijing to roll out more stimulus to avert a sharper slowdown.”
Policymakers have pledged more support this year to reduce the risk of massive job losses, but have ruled out a “flood” of stimulus like that which Beijing has relied on in the past, which quickly juiced growth rates but left a mountain of debt.
“The government has means to support the economy,” Naoto Saito, chief researcher at Daiwa Institute of Research in Tokyo, said. “They can expand infrastructure spending and they can cut banks’ reserve requirement ratio. So we don’t need to worry about capital spending. But the problem lies in consumption. As the U.S. and China clash on many fronts, consumer sentiment appears to have been hurt. Until now, solid wage growth has been supporting consumption but now there appears to be a sense of vague anxiety about the future.”
Fourth-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) grew at the slowest pace since the global financial crisis, easing to 6.4% year-on-year, as expected, from 6.5% in the third quarter, the National Bureau of Statistics said.
That pulled full-year growth down to 6.6%, the slowest annual pace since 1990. GDP in 2017 grew a revised 6.8%.
With support measures expected to take some time to kick in, most analysts believe conditions are likely to get worse before they get better, and see a further slowing to 6.3% this year.
President Donald Trump said that economic indicators meant it was time for China to make a trade deal with the United States.
Despite a raft of policy easing steps so far, December data released along with GDP showed continued weakness across broad areas of the economy at the end of last year.
Factory output picked up unexpectedly to 5.7%, but it was one of the few bright spots, along with a stronger services sector.
While regulators have been fast-tracking construction projects, most of the gain appeared due to higher mining and oil production. Reuters calculations showed average daily steel output hit its lowest level since March as producers cut output amid shrinking profit margins.
Chinese consumers are clearly feeling the pressure.