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Dave Cohen

Dave Cohen

Dave Cohen writes the blog Decline Of The Empire. His commentaries cover a wide variety of subjects, including the American economy & macro-economics, the oil…

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Signs that China is Heading for a Crash

There is something perversely satisfying in watching humans screw up on a massive scale, and especially so when you've seen it coming for years now. China's time has come. They're going down.  Late last week there was a "surprise" interest rate cut to spur borrowing and growth. And then today we found out that China’s Import Growth Misses Estimates for June.

China’s imports rose less than anticipated in June, pushing the trade surplus to a three-year high and adding pressure on the government to support demand as the global economy slows.

Inbound shipments increased 6.3 percent from a year earlier, the customs bureau said in a statement today in Beijing, compared with the 11 percent median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of 32 economists. Export growth slowed to 11.3 percent and the trade surplus rose to $31.7 billion.

It is hard to believe official growth numbers emanating from China, but if we can believe their customs data, oil imports have slowed dramatically.

BEIJING, July 10 (Reuters) - China's crude imports plunged in June to their lowest daily rate since December, coming off a record high in May, customs data showed, as refiners cut imports amid slowing oil demand in the world's second-largest oil consumer and crude buyer.

Demand growth in China is one of the biggest drivers of global crude markets. However, in April, oil demand in China posted its first yearly fall in at least three years and edged up just 0.8 percent in May as economic growth slowed.

"The high crude imports in May didn't match the actual demand from refineries, resulting in high inventories. Refiners have to cut imports from June," said a Beijing-based oil analyst.

"Commercially, refiners have no motivation to import more crude as they are cutting crude runs. Strategically, we have not seen any new state storage put into operation recently. So I don't think crude imports will rebound quickly."

Crude imports in June were 5.29 million barrels per day (bpd), up 10.3 percent from a year earlier, customs data showed.

June imports were 12 percent, or around 710,000 bpd, lower than the record 6.0 million bpd imports in May.

For the first half of this year, crude imports rose 11 percent on the year to 5.62 million bpd, the data showed.

New City in China
A brand new city in China. Nice! The only problem is that nobody lives there.

So now we can add crude oil imports to the data which indicates that coal is piling up at Chinese import terminals. Energy consumption always provides a good proxy for real (inflation-adjusted) economic growth. (That rule applies to the United States, too.) The clincher is that China is cutting fuel prices to spur demand.

BEIJING, July 10 (Reuters) - China, the world's second-largest user of fuel, will cut retail prices by around 5 percent from Wednesday, its third reduction in just over two months and a move that leaves refiners in the red but may lure consumers back to the pumps.

Oil demand in China, which still makes up nearly half of the incremental global total, posted its first yearly fall in at least three years in April and edged up just 0.8 percent in May as economic growth slowed.

With effect from Wednesday, the ceiling for gasoline retail prices will be lowered by 420 yuan ($65.9) a tonne and diesel price by 400 yuan, the National Development and Reform Commission said.

The latest cut would bring the reductions to a combined 13 to 14 percent since early May, which came off record highs of about $1.22 per litre for diesel and $1.17 for gasoline.

"Let's hope for the demand to come back after this cut, so that our tanks won't be that full," said an official with a state refiner.


But industry officials were reluctant to predict that the cheaper fuel would spur an immediate rebound in consumption.

"There are few signs yet of a real power shortage this summer, the logistics sector is lackluster...It could mean the real economy is weaker than we thought?" said a fuel marketing official with top refiner Sinopec Corp.

Could this mean China's real economy is weaker than we thought? I don't know. Does a bear shit in the woods? Is the Pope Catholic?

Fortune's Gordon Chang has been predicting China's crash for over a decade now, so he is particularly pleased to see his prediction finally borne out.

For global crash watchers, China is the last piece of the puzzle. Once the biggest Asian Tiger goes down, that's all she wrote. It looks like that time has come.

By. Dave Cohen

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Leave a comment
  • Philip Andrews on July 13 2012 said:
    This sounds like the kind of article that doomsayers write. Sensationalists, journos abnd scandalmongers.

    A + B + C = a crash. Therefore will it happen... As soon as a writer introduces; 'Does a bear shit in the woods? Is the Pope Catholic?' into his/her arguement I know they have mistaken informed writing for 'talk show' analysis, and I move on.

    Even the vaunted Stratfor, whom I respect greatly, don't really get to grips with China. China is on a scale all by herself at 1.6 billion. 'Normal' rules simply don't seem to apply.

    But US commentators tend to love to see China as a threat that must either go down economically by the rules of the Western liberal free market, or be squashed militarily by 'another' version of 'shock and awe'. They tend to be so paranoid about China 'stealing' the 'hegemonic limelight of Manifest Destiny' from them trhat they go all blathery rather than acknowleging the Chinese reality and adjusting to it.

    China and her 1.6 billion are here to stay, barring some unimaginable calamity, and she may yet challenge and change the rules of economics as presentlyt understood in the West. One has to be a little more far sighted than the present author to understand and accept this possibility.

    For a really well informed reading of China, I'd suggest going to James Kynge, and others like him.

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