Blame Japan, blame the weather, or blame higher oil prices but it appears the bond market nailed it again (yields peaking in April) - the past few months have seen a significant slowdown in economic activity. As the world's largest exporter, [Jan 6, 2010: China Passes Germany as the World's Largest Merchandise Exporter] China's monthly data is watched closely as a gauge of demand; May's data for the EU and U.S. were the weakest since November 2009. On the positive side, Chinese imports were strong, potentially signaling their economy is not weakening as quickly as feared of late. But much of that import strength came via coal and oil, as the country deals with energy shortages.
- China posted a smaller-than-expected trade surplus in May of $13.1 billion because of soaring imports and weaker global demand growth, giving mixed signals about how the economy fared when some of its best export customers faltered.
- China's sales to the United States and the European Union slumped to their weakest since late 2009, excluding Lunar New Year holidays, underlining the view that the world economy is stumbling.
- Still, as an engine of growth, import figures suggested China's economy is expanding at a healthy, if not stellar, pace. Crude imports stayed at elevated levels and coal volumes rose by more than a fifth from both April and a year earlier. The overall strength in imports suggests that China's domestic demand has not slowed as much as the market may have feared, said Wang Tao, an economist with UBS in Beijing.
- With inflation running above its comfort zone, Beijing has taken steps to cool the economy. Economists are monitoring the economy to see whether those inflation-fighting efforts can thread the needle -- cool overheating areas such as property without smothering overall demand.
- Exports to the United States rose by a modest 7.2 percent from a year ago, well off the 25 percent growth pace in April. For the European Union, exports rose 13.2 percent, less than half the rate recorded in April.
- Chinese factory activity expanded in May at the slowest pace in at least nine months, two purchasing managers' indexes showed earlier this month.
- May coal arrivals rose 20.7 percent from the month before, evidence of China's huge power demand. Power shortages have constrained growth, and utilities stepped up coal orders to prepare for summer demand.