China’s factory, retail sectors skid as Covid hits growth
China’s economy lost more steam in November as factory output growth slowed and retail sales extended declines, both missing forecasts and clocking their worst readings since May, hobbled by surging Covid-19 infections and widespread virus curbs.
The data suggested a further deterioration in economic conditions as lockdowns in many cities, a persistent property-sector crunch and weakening global demand pointed to a bumpy road ahead even as Beijing looked to ditch some of the world’s toughest anti-virus restrictions.
Industrial output rose 2.2% in November from a year earlier, missing expectations for a 3.6% gain in a Reuters poll and slowing significantly from the 5.0% growth seen in October, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data showed on Thursday. It marked the slowest growth since May when Shanghai was under lockdown, partly due to disruptions in key manufacturing hubs Guangzhou and Zhengzhou.
Retail sales fell 5.9% amid broad-based weakness in the services sector, also the biggest contraction since May. Analysts had expected the gauge of consumption to shrink 3.7%, accelerating from a 0.5% dip in October.
China’s economy has been depressed by its zero-Covid policy, as tight movement controls hampered consumption and production. Other headwinds the country faces are its property slump, global recession risks and geopolitical uncertainties.
Property investment fell 9.8% year-on-year in January-November, after declining 8.8% in January-October, dragging on the sector’s downturn.
Policymakers have rolled out support for the sector on almost all fronts, including credit lines from banks, bond financing and equity financing, but analysts said such effects have yet to be seen as home sales still remained weak.
Fixed asset investment expanded 5.3% in the first 11 months of the year, versus expectations for a 5.6% rise and growth of 5.8% in January-October.
Hiring remained low among companies wary about their finances. The nationwide jobless rate stayed at 5.7% in November, up from 5.5% in October. Youth unemployment stood at 17.1%, lower than 17.9% in October.
The economy grew just 3% in the first three quarters of this year and is expected to stay around that rate for the full year, well below the official target of “around 5.5%”.
All eyes are on the closed-door annual Central Economic Work Conference, when Chinese leaders gather to set next year’s economic agenda. They will likely map out more stimulus steps, eager to underpin growth and ease disruptions caused by a sudden end to COVID-19 curbs, policy insiders and analysts said.