China, domestic GDP and RBA rates decision provide plenty of drivers

In Australia this week, the economic diary is replete, starting with the last of the components of second-quarter GDP growth, which the Australian Bureau of Statistics releases on Wednesday.Australian markets are set for relative calm after the upheaval of the past two weeks, with a steady flow of high-level economic data, including June-quarter gross domestic product, providing the focus for local investors.

Current futures pricing points to a positive opening for the local equity market, although analysts have urged caution as they look to Chinese stock trading and further signs that the economic slowdown there is sharper than forecast.

The market volatility of the past two weeks was driven by heavy falls on the Chinese bourses, and broader concerns about the world’s second-biggest economy.

Further monetary easing by the People’s Bank of China amid the tumult underlined Beijing’s determination to guide the economy’s transition from export-led to consumer-driven growth, although market gyrations are proving harder to control.

Doubts about China have also forced several further downgrades of the global economic outlook.

Moody’s Investors Service on Friday cut its 2016 growth forecast for the G20 economies to 2.8 per cent from 3.1 per cent less than two weeks ago. China’s growth is forecast at 6.3 per cent in 2016, down from 6.5 per cent previously.

US investment bank Citi also trimmed its projections for world growth, from 3.3 per cent to to 3.1 per cent. Chinese data suggest sharper slowdown

Recent Chinese data, including credit expansion and fixed-asset investment, suggest a sharper slowdown this quarter than Moody’s previously judged, while Citi said its deteriorating outlook reflected “significant” downgrades for China, the eurozone, Japan and other major economies.

The news flow from China is light this week, with a series of purchasing managers indices (PMI) the main data to look to for any signs of faltering demand.

“[It’s] a relatively quiet week by volume of releases from China, but expect strong focus on the official PMIs for August on Tuesday for further confirmation of any further decline in manufacturing,” National Australia Bank wrote at the weekend.

“The services PMI has also shown greater resilience to date, so any decline would be significant,” he said.

In the US, meanwhile, employment and manufacturing data should confirm the health of the country’s economic recovery as Wall Street traders return to work from the northern hemisphere’s summer break. The mood on the US economy at the weekend’s Jackson Hole, Wyoming, economic symposium has been upbeat, although the US Federal Reserve and other policymakers say they are closely watching events in China.

In Australia, the economic diary is replete, starting with the last of the components of second-quarter GDP growth, which the Australian Bureau of Statistics releases on Wednesday.

These so-called “partials” include company operating profits and inventories on Monday and net exports on Tuesday. The Reserve Bank of Australia board also meets on Tuesday, but no one expects it to change the cash rate from the current 2 per cent. Wide spectrum of forecasts

Exports, meanwhile, are expected to have put a 0.3 percentage point drag on GDP, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists, while profits are seen down 1.8 per cent quarter-on-quarter. Inventories are forecast to have grown 0.2 per cent in the quarter.

All this, added to recent national accounts data, should leave GDP growth at 0.4 per cent for the quarter, which translates to 2.2 per cent for the year, according to the Bloomberg survey. This compares with 0.9 per cent and 2.3 per cent in the first quarter.

However, the spectrum of forecasts is wide, ranging from almost no quarterly growth to 0.6 per cent or more.

UBS economist George Tharenou is among the bears, predicting a quarter-on-quarter increase of 0.2 per cent.

“First-quarter real GDP surprised on the upside, but was boosted by a partly weather-related surge in exports and a large contribution from inventories, amid flat domestic demand,” he said.

“Looking ahead, second-quarter data suggest some payback, as exports retraced, inventories should drag and capex remains recessionary.”

Capital Economics’ Paul Dales is more optimistic, seeing a 0.7 per cent rise, “which would be a further sign that Australia is coping well with the end of its mining boom and the collapse in commodity prices”.

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