September 12, 2018 / 6:51 AM / 2 months ago

China August investment, retail data to highlight soft domestic demand: Reuters poll

BEIJING (Reuters) - China is expected to report investment growth hovered at record lows in August and retail sales were among the weakest since 2003, reinforcing views that domestic demand remains soft and leaving the economy more vulnerable to U.S. trade pressure.

FILE PHOTO: A construction worker walks with an Ofo's shared bike near the China Central Television (CCTV) building (behind) in Beijing's central business district, China August 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

Economists polled by Reuters also forecast industrial growth has flatlined for the third month in a row.

While August headline growth readings are expected to be unchanged from July, that data was generally weak and analysts agree consumption in China is clearly trending lower even as export risks rise.

Automobile sales fell for the second straight month in August as the slowing economy and trade frictions with Washington make consumers more cautious about spending, an industry group said on Tuesday.

While Beijing is accelerating approvals for big-ticket infrastructure projects, analysts warn it will take some time for the benefits to kick in, with economic conditions expected to get worse before they get better.

Fixed-asset investment is expected to have grown 5.5 percent in January-August from the same period a year earlier, unchanged from July’s record low, the poll showed.

Retail sales likely rose 8.8 percent in August on-year, also unchanged from July and among the softest expansions in over 15 years.

China’s industrial sector is also being hemmed in.

Industrial output likely expanded 6.0 percent in August from a year earlier, unchanged from readings in July and June, according to a Reuters poll of 47 economists.

But business surveys show factory orders are cooling as Beijing’s tough pollution curbs continue to take a toll on production and the U.S.-China trade war escalates. Manufacturing activity in the key export province of Guangdong shrank for the first time since March 2016.

Data last week showed China’s export and import growth cooled in August.

The world’s second-largest economy had already been starting to cool before the trade dispute with the U.S. flared, with a multi-year crackdown on financial risks and debt pushing up borrowing costs and making it harder for some companies to secure funding.

The United States and China have activated tariffs on $50 billion of each other’s goods since July and U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened that he is ready to slap tariffs on virtually all Chinese imports into the United States. Another round is expected to be announced at any time.

In addition to ramping up spending, China has rolled out a series of measures to ease strains on its companies, cutting taxes and offering assistance for firms hit by the trade battle.

Last week it said it will increase export tax rebates for 397 items ranging from some steel products to electronic ones.

Authorities have also pumped more funds into the financial system to bring down financing costs lower.

China’s economy is facing increasing risks in the second half of the year and policymakers need to step up efforts to hit key development goals, the head of the state planning agency warned.

Reporting by Stella Qiu and Ryan Woo; Editing by Kim Coghill

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