China's factories, retailers stumble on COVID-19 disruptions
China’s factory and retail sectors faltered in August with output and sales growth hitting one-year lows as fresh coronavirus outbreaks and supply disruptions threatened the country’s impressive economic recovery.
Industrial production rose 5.3% in August from a year earlier, narrowing from an increase of 6.4% in July and marking the weakest pace since July 2020, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed on Wednesday. Output growth missed the 5.8% increase tipped by analysts.
Consumer spending also took a big hit from rising local COVID-19 cases and floods with sales rising only 2.5% in August from a year ago, much lower than the forecast 7.0% rise and the slowest clip since August last year.
“Economic growth slowed in August as consumption was hit by the lingering impact of earlier COVID outbreaks and investment remained weak,” said Louis Kuijs, Head of Asia Economics at Oxford Economics. “Meanwhile, a new outbreak which started a few days ago in Fujian is posing downside risk to our forecast of a pick-up in growth in Q4 after a weak Q3.”
The world’s second-largest economy has made a remarkably strong revival from last year’s coronavirus-led slump, but momentum has slowed over the past few months due to supply chain bottlenecks, semiconductor shortages, curbs on high-polluting industries and a crackdown on property investment.
Looking ahead, analysts at Nomura expect the weakness to broadly extend into September given the new wave of Delta cases in Fujian province and worsening conditions in the property market as authorities get tough on the sector.
In the industrial sector, production curbs hit output of aluminum and steel, while a drastic cut in fuel export quotas hurt China’s crude oil throughput.
Social restrictions due to the COVID-19 Delta variant in several provinces have hit the catering, transportation, accommodation and entertainment industries.
China’s services activity slumped into contraction in August, a private-sector survey showed, as restrictions to curb COVID-19 once again closed shopping malls and many businesses in parts of the country.