China's hot economy is coming off the boil. The third-quarter annual GDP growth figure is the lowest since 2003. Export orders have fallen and Stephen Green of Standard Chartered thinks export growth could slide to zero or even turn negative next year. But the slowdown isn't just about China's failure to decouple from the world economy. The housing market has turned, which has caused steel prices to fall as construction dwindles. September's industrial production growth was the lowest in six years, while consumers have become more cautious, too; car and clothing sales are all down.
China has been the main driver of growth in demand for commodities over the past few years. Throw in the downturn in the West and global growth could reach just 1.8% next year, the worst slump since the early 1980s, reckons Deutsche Bank. So "risks are still pointed to the downside for commodities", which measured by the CRB index are at a four-year low, said Morgan Stanley's Richard Berner. Goldman Sachs thinks supply may now outstrip demand in the metals complex and has slashed its forecast for the average copper price next year to $3,800 a tonne (it is now at around $4,200).
What next for oil?
Demand destruction also remains a key theme in the oil market. With demand in the US, the top consumer, down around 9% from a year ago, black gold has fallen under $70 a barrel for the first time in fourteen months. Can Opec stem the tide? A production cut of 1m-2m barrels is already factored in, reckons Lex in the FT, while in any case the cartel members often have trouble agreeing on cuts as oil prices fall, given that the price at which the various members can balance their budgets differs. Only a fall below $50 would be a truly strong incentive to co-operate, reckons Fransico Blanch of Merrill Lynch.
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