Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Economic Optimism Train Rolls On!

The headline news today is China’s 11.9 annualized GDP growth, which combined with 2.4% inflation rate is either miraculous or very suspicious. You can find evidence either way, I suspect: China’s raising prices on gas by 5% (and so isn’t worried about commodity-induced inflation?) but then there’s this:
The statistics bureau said that investment in property leapt 35.1 percent in the first quarter from the period a year earlier, the fastest growth rate in more than two years. And on Wednesday, the government said housing prices rose 11.7 percent in March alone, the fastest increase ever recorded.

Separately, the State Council said Thursday that it had raised the minimum down payment required for some house purchases, in another effort to curb real estate speculation.

The council said it would require a 30 percent down payment on first homes larger than 90 square meters, or about 1,000 square feet, and 50 percent on second homes.

And this (from Guardian):

And lending by Chinese banks fell 43% in the first quarter from a year earlier as the government tightened credit controls while trying to wind down its stimulus.

Obviously does nothing to puncture the idea of a real-estate bubble in China. In fact, it’s a bit odd: housing prices are up, gas prices are up—where’s the downward pressure on prices coming from?

You shouldn’t be suspicious of the news out of Europe: Greece is talking to the IMF, an ECB president is talking about sovereign debt crisis, and Portugal, apparently, is the next domino to fall.

And U.S.-related news looks bad also: foreclosures are the highest they’ve been since 2005 and weekly unemployment claims increased.

All in all, I’d say the news leans bad, but you’ve got the right to disagree.

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