Chinese Manufacturers May Face 'Blue Christmas'

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China's manufacturing sector grew to a four-moth high in October, a level suggesting the world's second largest economy is in expansion mode. The official Purchasing Manager's Index rose to 50.2 last month versus 49.8 in September; a number above 50 indicates expansion.

"Good news slightly up several tenths to a little above 50 for a world that is hypersensitive to each little twitter in these numbers," says Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi. "But it is hard to interpret. China has already achieved the economies of scale to supply lower-cost goods to the rest of the world."

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Miller Tabak's Peter Boockvar writes, "While in line with expectations at 50.2, the Shanghai index breathed a sigh of relief that it went back above 50, and that was the catalyst for the 1.7% rally. New orders also rose back above 50 and employment was up a touch."

While China's economy is seeing some improvement, in the overall picture it has contracted for nearly the past two years and is on track to register GDP below 8% — and likely the slowest growth in a decade.

"A reduced drag from industry destocking and signs of selective raw materials restocking suggests industrial activity and growth momentum are likely to improve further in Q4," Barclays analysts write in a daily note. "This is likely to be moderate, rather than sharp, in our view. We think the government will maintain the current level of monetary and fiscal support to ensure the growth recovery is sustained."

China's central bank pumped an additional $60 billion into its economy this week to support infrastructure investment. That was the largest weekly injection ever made the by the People's Bank of China.

Says China expert Gordon Chang, "The PMIs for October definitely show an improvement, no question about it. We are seeing the beginning of China's version of a dead-cat bounce. We have to remember the economy is still ailing. The National Bureau of Statistics is trying to convince us there is 7.4% growth. Yet the producer price index fell 3.6% in September, signaling deflation.

"It may be possible to have a robust expansion and deflation in another galaxy, but not in ours. And in September the production of electricity grew by just 1.5%. Because electricity production historically outpaces the growth of GDP, it's evident the economy is growing at about zero. So a pickup from zero does not a prosperous economy make."

"Until Sandy, the only strong major export market for China was the United States," continues Chang "The storm will negatively affect Christmas here, and that means China will be affected, too. It could be a blue, blue, blue Christmas in China."

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But Rupkey has a more optimistic outlook for China's economy. "GDP is likely to run near 9% now instead of full out at mid-10 percent," he says. "Whether this is good or bad is hard to know. Could be bad news for those countries that have supplied raw materials like copper to China, but for developed countries it could be good news in that it would be harder to stoke the fires of commodity based inflation.

"This new normal for somewhat slower China growth will make it harder for China to employ increasing numbers of workers from rural areas. Their move from less-developed to developed is going to take longer without the assist from demand from the U.S. and Europe."

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