Davos Veterans Say Stop Worrying About China’s Market Meltdown
by Simon Kennedy – January 17, 2016
A year ago, Premier Li Keqiang told the World Economic Forum that his country could avoid a hard landing. As the Swiss town of Davos prepares for the 2016 edition of the conclave, delegates such as Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Credit Suisse Group AG Chief Executive Officer Tidjane Thiam say he’s still right.
Their stance clashes with the recent sentiment in financial markets, where a sell-off of the yuan and Chinese equities sent shockwaves through commodities markets and helped wipe $5 trillion off stocks worldwide by reviving fears over the global growth outlook.
“Sentiment has likely lurched far too quickly into a bearish posture and over-hyped downside scenarios,” said Tim Adams, the U.S. Treasury’s former point-man on China and now president of the Institute of International Finance. “In the end, China will likely emulate every major economy and muddle through.”
Investors are increasingly concerned about China as a report on Tuesday is poised to show its economy grew last year at the weakest pace since 1990. Further spooking investors is a debt overhang estimated at $28 trillion, currency weakness that risks spurring competitive devaluations elsewhere, and equities’ decline into a bear market.
With China now the world’s No. 2 economy and responsible for about 15 percent of global output, the worry is that its troubles will spread to other nations as it cuts imports of commodities and manufactured goods. A weaker yuan also threatens to deal another disinflationary blow.
Some economists counter that there’s reason for optimism as Chinese consumers are still spending, property prices are stabilizing, demand for exports has picked up and there is plenty of room for fiscal and monetary stimulus if required. Though growth is indeed fading, China is on track to expand 6.5 percent this year, according to the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg.
“There’s always been a gap between what’s happening in the real economy and financial markets,” said Stiglitz, a professor at Columbia University who will be in Davos. “What’s happening in China is a slowdown by all accounts,” he said, “but it’s not a cataclysmic slowdown.”
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