Weakness in China's imports could be bad news for the rest of the
world, particularly for major commodity exporters such as Australia.
HSBC estimates China will overtake the United States to become the
world's biggest importer this year.
Bank loans in China are expected to see a typical seasonal surge in
January as banks get fresh lending quotas at this time every year,
underlining relatively stable credit demand from the real economy.
Many economists expect a soft slowdown in China's economy in 2014 as
policymakers try to embrace slower but better-quality growth to cut
reliance on investment and pursue sustainable development.
"Given the stable economic situation last year and increasing
expectations over pushing forward reform, economic growth is facing
increasing pressure in short-term," said Xie Yaxuan, an economist
with China Merchant Securities in a note.
Fears of a sharper-than-expected loss of momentum in China were
believed to be one contributing factor in a fierce global financial
market selloff in January, with emerging markets hit particularly
The median forecast of 19 economists polled by Reuters showed export
growth likely slipped to 2.0 percent year-on-year from 4.3 percent
in December, while import growth eased to 3.0 percent from 8.3
Analysts said the reported export data was distorted by the Lunar
New Year holiday, during which time most factories shut for extended
breaks, and last year's high base, which was inflated by speculative
trade activities disguised as exports.
"Caution must be taken when interpreting the numbers as seasonal
volatility in the run-up to Chinese New Year is likely to have
distorted the headline figures," analysts at Capital Economics said
in a note to client.
Even if China's economic growth sinks to a 24-year low of 7.4
percent this year, it will still grow nearly three times as fast as
the U.S. economy, and will therefore add twice as much demand to the
world economy compared to the United States, HSBC economist Frederic
Neumann said in a note earlier this month.
"A wobble on the mainland would shake things up elsewhere," he said.
[to top of second column]
January new yuan loans are forecast to have surged to 1.1 trillion
yuan ($181.42 billion), more than double December's figure and on
par with 1.07 trillion yuan in the same time in 2012.
The broad M2 money supply is likely to have grown 13.2 percent in
January, easing slightly from 13.6 percent in December, according to
State media have reported that China's top four state banks speeded
up new lending in January, handing over 430 billion yuan in the
first 26 days of the month, up 10 percent over the same period a
New loans in the first quarter on an average account for a third of
the full-year total over the past decade.
The central bank warned in the middle of last month that loans have
grown rapidly in January and commercial banks should set a
reasonable pace on lending.
"The robust pace of bank lending suggests that demand from the real
economy remains resilient, underscoring our view that January's
seemingly weak data should be taken with a pinch of salt," UBS
analysts said in a note.
Meanwhile, annual consumer inflation is expected to edge down to 2.3
percent in January versus December's 2.5 percent on declining pork
prices and warmer weather.
Producer prices are forecast to have fallen for a 23rd month, with
the producer price index to drop to 1.7 percent in January from a
Retail sales, industrial output and investment data will not be
published for January. The statistics bureau will release combined
data for January and February next month to help smooth out
distortions from the Lunar New year holidays.
($1 = 6.0634 Chinese yuan)
(Reporting By Xiaoyi Shao and Jonathan
Standing; editing by Kim Coghill)
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