China’s exports surged by 16.9% in May from a year ago, two times faster than analysts expected. Pictured here on June 15, 2022, are workers in Jiangsu province making stuffed toy bears for export.
Si Wei | Visual China Group | Getty Images
BEIJING — Chinese businesses ranging from services to manufacturing reported a slowdown in the second quarter from the first, reflecting the prolonged impact of Covid controls.
That’s according to the US-based China Beige Book, which claims to have conducted more than 4,300 interviews in China in late April and the month ended June 15.
“While most high-profile lockdowns were relaxed in May, June data do not show the powerhouse bounce-back most expected,” according to a report released Tuesday. The analysis found few signs that government stimulus was having much of an effect yet.
Shanghai, China’s largest city by gross domestic product, was locked down in April and May. Beijing and other parts of the country also imposed some level of Covid controls to contain mainland China’s worst outbreak of the virus since the pandemic’s initial shock in early 2020.
In late May, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang held an unprecedentedly massive videoconference in which he called on officials to “work hard” — for growth in the second quarter and a drop in unemployment.
Between the first and second quarters, hiring declined across all manufacturing sectors except for food and beverage processing, according to the China Beige Book report.
The employment situation likely won’t start to improve until China stimulates its economy more in the fall, China Beige Book Managing Director Shehzad H. Qazi said Wednesday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia.”
So far, there’s been little sign that the stimulus has kicked in, especially in infrastructure, said Qazi who is based in New York.
“Transportation, construction companies aren’t telling you they’re getting new projects,” he said. “They’re telling you they’ve slowed down investment, their new projects have actually slowed down.”
Inventories surge, orders drop
Unsold goods piled up, except in cars. Orders for domestic consumption and overseas export mostly fell in the second quarter from the first. Orders for textiles and chemical processing were among the hardest-hit.
The only standout domestically was IT and consumer electronics, which saw orders rise during that time. Orders for export grew in three of seven manufacturing categories: electronics, automotive and food and beverage processing.
“Weak domestic orders and expanding inventories indicate the presumed second-half improvement will be unpleasantly modest,” the report said.
The authors noted that the service sector saw the greatest reversal. After accelerating in growth in the first quarter, services businesses saw revenue, sales volumes, capex and profits drop in the second quarter.
Across China, only the property sector and the manufacturing hub of Guangdong saw any year-on-year improvement, the China Beige Book said.
Official second-quarter gross domestic product figures are due out July 15. GDP grew by 4.8% in the first quarter from a year ago.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Qazi referred to new projects for construction companies. An earlier version misstated his quote.