A few thoughts by UBS’ Magnusson on the Chinese imploding miracle. Via Macro business.
One way or another, China is going to rebalance. The question is whether it occurs in an orderly fashion with the investment side of the economy slowing to a rate less than the growth in GDP, but still growing. Or whether it happens in the context of a sharp decline in investment, with more alarming economic and political consequences that will cut across the economy.
After two decades of unparalleled economic success, we believe China now needs a reform programme on a scale similar to that adopted 30 years ago. Without it, a heavily investment-centric and credit-intensive economic model could soon become unstable, and later stall in a middle income trap. There’s only so much labour transfer from rural areas to urban factories. There’s a limit to how high the investment share of GDP can go. Rapid population ageing is chipping away at Chinese growth. The exceptional impact of accession to the WTO a decade ago is fading. And the significant, direct role of the government, state banks and SOEs in the economy as agents of economic policy, and owners and providers of heavy investment and infrastructure may no longer be appropriate as the economy becomes richer, more complex, and in need of greater competition and innovation.
The “risk on/risk off” barometer moved back in the direction of “risk off” during April, as U.S. 10-year Treasury securities turned in the best investment gains (in U.S. dollar terms) during the month. The 2.8% jump in the value of the Treasury securities came despite the almost universal perspective on the part of professional investors that the 30-year bull market for bonds is finally sputtering to a halt and that eventually interest rates will begin to climb. Investors displayed a clear bias in favor of assets that not only generated income but also offered them security – in other words, bonds of various kinds were the only major asset classes to end the month in the black.