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Chart of the week: China’s smog index heralds weakness

Smog levels in five major Chinese cities climbed along with house prices in early 2017 and late 2018. Now, it's pointing down.

Chart of pollution and house prices in China

Trying to gauge the state of the Chinese economy is often like peering through smog; official statistics are widely deemed unreliable. But smog itself, or rather the absence of it, backs up other recent signs that growth has come off the boil, as Nathaniel Taplin points out in The Wall Street Journal.

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Air pollution correlates best with the "housing-driven heavy industry sector". Pollution levels in five major cities climbed along with the "last two big run-ups" in house prices in early 2017 and late 2018.

Pollution levels are "now trending sharply lower again". The PMI survey tracking construction is down sharply year-on-year, and overall house price growth has eased to an annual pace of 8%, compared with 11% in mid-2019.

Viewpoint

John Mauldin, Mauldin Economics

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