World Economy

China Growth at 24-Year Low

China Growth at 24-Year LowChina Growth at 24-Year Low

China's annual GDP growth slowed to its weakest rate in more than two decades in 2014, according to an AFP survey, projecting further deceleration in the world's second-largest economy this year.

The median forecast in a poll of 15 economists saw the Asian giant's gross domestic product (GDP) expanding 7.3 percent last year, down from 7.7 percent in 2013.

That would be the worst full-year result since the 3.8 percent recorded in 1990 – the year after the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) releases the official GDP figures for the fourth quarter and the whole of 2014 on Tuesday.

For this year, the economists see growth slowing further to a median 7.0 percent, as Chinese leaders proclaim a "new normal" of slower expansion and emphasize economic reforms.

"China may introduce many restructuring and reform measures this year and this may have some negative impact on economic growth," ANZ economist Liu Li-Gang told AFP.

He said that they might include changes to state-owned enterprises, financial reforms such as interest rate liberalization and looser restrictions on private banks.

Different Problems

China, a main driver of global growth, was beset last year by problems ranging from weakness in manufacturing and trade to financial worries over rising debt levels and falling real estate prices, which have sent shock waves through the key property sector.

For October to December 2014, the survey saw GDP as having risen a median 7.2 percent year-on-year.

That would be marginally weaker than the third quarter's 7.3 percent, and the worst quarterly result since the first three months of 2009, when growth logged a 6.6 percent expansion during the global financial crisis.

"China has entered a new normal of economic growth," Li Baodong, a vice foreign minister, told reporters on Friday, repeating a newly favored phrase of the country's leaders.

"That is to say we are going through structural adjustment and the structural adjustment is progressing steadily."

Purveyors of high-quality consumer goods such as neighbours Japan and South Korea, as well as Europe and the United States, could stand to benefit from the remodeling of the economy.

Data from China this week showed that the nation’s foreign-exchange reserves, the world’s largest stockpile, fell to $3.84 trillion in December from $3.89 trillion in September.

Home Prices Fall

New-home prices fell in fewer Chinese cities last month as some areas benefited from a recovery in housing sales after the government eased property curbs and cut interest rates for the first time since 2012, Bloomberg said.

Prices dropped from a month earlier in 65 of the 70 cities tracked by the government, the National Bureau of Statistics said in a statement Sunday. That compares with declines in 67 cities in November.

Housing sales rebounded in major cities last month after the central bank in November trimmed borrowing costs and eased curbs on an industry that had become a drag on the nation’s slowing economy, unleashing demand from homebuyers. If the momentum is maintained, nationwide home sales may see the first annual increase in 12 months in January, signaling the bottom of the market, according to Barclays Plc.

Treasury Holdings Decline

China’s holdings of US government debt declined in November for a third straight month, reaching the lowest level since January 2013, as Japan’s jumped to a record.

China, the largest foreign holder of Treasuries, had $1.25 trillion as of November, $2.3 billion less than a month earlier, according to Treasury Department data released Friday in Washington. Japan, the second biggest, moved to within $8.9 billion of China’s lead, increasing its ownership by $19.1 billion to $1.24 trillion.

The two countries account for about two-fifths of all foreign ownership of Treasuries, which gained $53.5 billion in November to $6.11 trillion, the figures showed. Of that total, $4.13 trillion were government holdings.