China October data seen offering more signs of stability, room for reforms

November 3, 2016 4:51 AM EDT

Workers build a wooden scaffolding outside the headquarters of the Bank of China in Beijing, China, November 2, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter


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BEIJING (Reuters) - A flurry of data from China in the coming weeks is expected to reinforce views that the world's second-largest economy is stabilizing, despite stubbornly weak exports and worries that a property boom is peaking.

Signs of steady expansion would give room to policymakers to focus on reforms and risk control as China faces a growing debt pile and increasingly inefficient credit-fueled growth.

China has reported steady 6.7 percent economic growth for the last three quarters, and looks set to hit Beijing's full-year target of 6.5 to 7 percent, fueled by strong infrastructure spending, record bank lending and a red-hot property market.

However, unbalanced growth and debt risks have stoked internal debate over potentially lowering the target for 2017, especially as global demand remains weak and private firms have been reluctant to invest, leaving growth reliant on government spending and state-owned firms.

Vice finance minister Zhu Guangyao said this week that China's debt is under control, but warned that challenges remain, while the IMF said in August that the country's debt load is unsustainable.

Analysts are expecting new property curbs to have an impact on economic growth, but the impact may not show up in October.

"The new measures target property sales, so the impact on real estate investment will take time to show up," said Bank of Communications economist Liu Xuezhi in Shanghai.

"We still forecast property investment grew in October with relatively strong growth in property-related consumption."

Nomura economists said in a note this week that "a cooling property market should weigh on property investment and in turn, on the real economy, in the coming months. We maintain our real GDP growth forecast of 6.4 percent year-on-year in Q4."

HIGHER PRICES

Inflation is expected to hit a six-month high in October, while factory prices likely rose again after turning positive in September after almost five years of deflation, according to economists polled by Reuters.

Higher prices for raw materials have helped boost industrial profits over the last two months, prompting factories to boost output. Factory activity increased at the fastest pace in over two years in October, China's official purchasing manager survey showed on Tuesday.

Consumer inflation likely picked up to 2.1 percent from a year earlier, which would be the fastest pace since April. Inflation in recent months has been driven by higher costs for health care and other services.

Producer price inflation is expected to have risen to 0.8 percent, up from 0.1 percent in September.

The October data deluge will kick off with foreign exchange reserves on Monday, followed by trade and inflation on Nov. 8 and 9, respectively.

Despite signs the economy is on steadier footing, economists expect forex reserves dipped again to $3.14 trillion in October after dropping to the lowest since 2011 in September, suggesting continued capital outflows as the yuan currency plumbs six-year lows.

The yuan fell over 1.5 percent against the firming dollar in October alone and forex strategists in a separate Reuters poll predicted it will weaken nearly 2 percent more in the next 12 months.

October exports likely fell 6 percent from a year earlier, an improvement from a 10 percent drop in September but pointing to still sluggish global demand. Imports may have dropped 1 percent, after falling 1.9 percent in September.

China's trade surplus is forecast to have expanded to $51.70 billion in October, versus September's $41.99 billion.

Industrial output, investment and retail sales data will be released on Nov. 14, while loan and money data will be released Nov. 10-15.

Growth in industrial output is expected to remain little changed in October, with only a slight uptick from September's 6.1 percent, while retail sales and investment growth were likely mostly stable.

Fixed asset investment growth for Jan-Oct is expected to remain at 8.2 percent´╝îbuoyed by the government's spending spree but still around the weakest pace since December 1999.

Investors will be looking for signs of a further recovery in private sector investment, which grew 4.5 percent in September after hitting record lows earlier in the year. Factory surveys this week hinted that conditions may be improving for small and mid-sized firms.

Retail sales growth was likely unchanged from 10.7 percent in October.

New yuan loans may have fallen back to 700 billion yuan after strong mortgage-led growth over the last few months, while the growth of outstanding loans was likely unchanged at 13 percent. New loans totaled 1.22 trillion yuan in September.

The increase in the M2 money supply likely moderated slightly, with analysts expecting an increase of 11.4 percent from September's 11.5 percent.

(Reporting by Elias Glenn and Shaloo Shrivastava; Editing by Kim Coghill)



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