The HSBC/Markit manufacturing index for China fell to 47.6 in August, the lowest since the onset of Great Recession in late 2008. Inventories are rising. The index for new export orders fell to the lowest since March 2009. “Beijing must step up policy easing to stabilise growth,” said Hongbin Qu from HSBC.
China’s official PMI manufacturing index – weighted to big companies – also fell through the contraction line of 50, though services are holding up better.
Evidence of a hard landing over the summer is becoming clearer. Rail volumes fell 8.2pc in July from a year before. The Japanese group Komatsu said its exports of hydraulic excavators to China – a proxy gauge for Chinese construction – fell 48pc in August from a year before.
The twin effect of China’s downturn and Europe’s double-dip recession has turned into a full-blown shock for much of Asia. Hong Kong and Singapore both contracted in the second quarter and are probably in technical recession.
South Korea’s exports fell 6.2pc in August, with car sales down 18.2pc. India’s exports fell 14.8pc in July, an extra blow as it grapples with its own post-boom hangover. “The coming days ahead are tough,” said Indian commerce secretary S R Rao.
Stephen Jen from SLJ Macro Patrners said we are starting to see Phase III of the global crisis as “the eye of the storm moves East”, with China and emerging markets succumbing at last to the effects of debt leverage.
Mr Jen said markets have already discounted any likely trouble in Europe and America, but have yet to “price” the mounting risks in Asia correctly. “There seems to be a big gap between the prevalent view on China, and what is likely to happen: the sanguine consensus view that China can do no wrong will likely be proven to be incorrect,” he said.
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