China’s economy to shrink for the first time since 1976

China may now be on course for its first quarterly contraction since 1976, with Goldman Sachs predicting a 9% plunge in first-quarter economic activity.

Is China a safe-haven? Stocks in the country where the coronavirus originated have dodged the worst of the falls on Western indexes. The Shanghai Composite index is down by less than 10% since the start of the year, compared with 29%-33% losses in the US and Europe.

China is gradually getting back to work but with tough restrictions, say Ryan McMorrow and Qianer Liu in the Financial Times. Employees often have their temperatures taken multiple times per day and most companies are only allowing about half of their workers back into the office. Compulsory face mask wearing remains common.“Halting the world’s second-largest economy has proved easier than restarting it,” writes Keither Bradsher in The New York Times.

Most factories have reopened but are operating at two-thirds of their capacity, while tens of millions of workers remain in quarantine or stuck in other towns. Early data hints at the severe impact of the country’s “vast containment efforts”. Industrial production, retail sales and investment all dropped by double-digits during the first two months of 2020 compared with a year before. 

China may now be on course for its first quarterly contraction since 1976. This week Goldman Sachs predicted a 9% plunge in first-quarter economic activity in the wake of the shutdown.

“Investors seem to be betting that the crisis in China is mostly over,” says Jacky Wong in The Wall Street Journal. The “relative isolation” of the country’s financial system has also insulated its stocks from the global sell-off; just 2.1% of equities are in foreign hands. 

Yet that optimism appears misplaced. The disease may yet flare up again as restrictions are relaxed. As the world’s largest exporter China cannot dodge the incoming global demand hit as other countries bring in lockdowns, nor supply chain disruptions coming from abroad. China may have contained the epidemic for now, but “the economic consequences will... continue to widen”.

Recommended

The coronavirus is scary – but it's irrelevant to your investments
Investment strategy

The coronavirus is scary – but it's irrelevant to your investments

The spread of the coronavirus is causing alarm around the world. And, while it could be a serious short-term threat to human health, it’s not somethin…
24 Jan 2020
China’s bulls stampede as recovery gathers strength
China stockmarkets

China’s bulls stampede as recovery gathers strength

China's benchmark CSI 300 stockmarket index has gained 12% so far this year and is up by 32% since 23 March as the country's industrial and consumer r…
21 Sep 2020
China adds shine to base metals
Industrial metals

China adds shine to base metals

Metals prices have rallied hard after China's government unveiling plans for new infrastructure building, including railways, power lines and electric…
28 Aug 2020
Equity investors ignore US-China split at their peril
Stockmarkets

Equity investors ignore US-China split at their peril

Washington and Beijing’s troubled relationship has taken a turn for the worse recently, but markets have become strangely blasé about the situation.
21 Aug 2020

Most Popular

The rising dollar is proving bad news for most other assets – will it last?
Investment strategy

The rising dollar is proving bad news for most other assets – will it last?

Precious metals, stocks and pretty much every other asset has taken a tumble as the US dollar strengthens. Dominic Frisby looks at how long this trend…
23 Sep 2020
Oil producers are back at their Covid-19 lows – is it time to buy?
Oil

Oil producers are back at their Covid-19 lows – is it time to buy?

With demand for oil hammered by Covid-19 and talk of “peak oil demand”, there are lots of good reasons to be bearish on oil producers. So, asks John S…
22 Sep 2020
Why you should stuff your end-of-pandemic portfolio with Chinese stocks
China stockmarkets

Why you should stuff your end-of-pandemic portfolio with Chinese stocks

For an end-of-pandemic portfolio, you need assets that can cope with today’s volatility. And that, says Merryn Somerset Webb, means Chinese stocks.
14 Sep 2020