There is no arguing with markets when they are being driven by sentiment, either positive or negative. Last week’s news of China’s slower GDP growth gave rise to opposite interpretations in Asia and the West – but news media reported both were seen as firmly positive:
• In Asia, markets “jumped… after news that Q4 economic growth in China had beaten forecasts eased fears of a sharper slowdown there”
• Western markets “rose to a 10-week high…after China’s slowest economic growth in more than 2 years bolstered expectations for easier monetary policy”
News analysts, however, were more cautious, with CBS noting:
“This is the smallest GDP increase in a decade and the consensus opinion is that it indicates China is heading for a soft landing as its economy slows. That would be a reasonable conclusion if there was any chance this number wasn’t a complete fabrication. The actual number is certainly lower, quite possibly by a huge amount”.
The Washington Post added a more detailed warning:
“Real estate accounts for 13 percent of China’s economy, and it has been growing at ~20% a year…The run-up in real estate prices has allowed for massive government spending, as provinces and localities sell land and use land as collateral for large loans, raising the specter of a debt crisis similar to the debt crisis in the United States and Europe.”
Meanwhile petchem markets remained in their recent range. The current optimism in financial markets, even though these also remain range-bound, makes it prudent to restock inventories regularly.
The chart shows how markets have moved since 2009’s rally began, with the recent downturn highlighted in yellow. Product price changes since the 29 April peak, with ICIS pricing comments, are below:
HDPE USA export (purple), down 18%. “Even with higher global prices, US prices were still too high to generate much interest”.
Naphtha Europe (brown dash), down 14%. “Some seasonal restocking, a recent open arbitrage to the US and the current loading of European vessels booked in December for Asia”.
PTA China (red), down 13%. “Transactions were subdued as most market players were away for the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday”.
Brent crude oil (blue dash), down 11%
Benzene NWE (green), down 5%. “Values buoyed by a firming Asian market as well as crude and energy gains”
S&P 500 Index (pink dot), down 4%