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Low prices weigh hard on economic statistics

The outlook for China's economy for 2014 has yet to turn optimistic, as prices for large commodities stay sluggish.

Dragged down by export figures from February, Chinese imported iron ore prices showed the biggest daily slump in four years on Monday. Prices for iron ore shipped to Tianjin fell 8.3 percent to $104.70 per metric ton.

The coal market also is stagnant. The benchmark Bohai-rim Steam Coal Price Index dropped 10 yuan per metric ton on Wednesday compared with the previous reporting period, signaling a ninth consecutive week of decline-down 14.74 percent from Dec 25 of last year.




Low prices weigh hard on economic statistics




Low prices weigh hard on economic statistics


The producer price index deflation rate fell to a 15-month low of 2 percent in February down 1.6 percent from January. As a result, broad-based weakness has been seen in mining and raw materials price movements.

"Under mining, the overcapacity in sectors such as steel and coal saw prices decline further. Meanwhile, falling global commodity prices have also contributed to the weakness in prices," said Jian Chang, chief China economist at Barclays.

The demand for copper remains weak in China, with futures traded in Shanghai dropping 0.49 percent on Thursday amid slower industrial growth data released on Thursday.

As China, the world's largest user of copper, reduces its demand, the S&P GSCI index of raw materials fell 1.9 percent this week. It is set for its steepest slump since the start of the year. Copper reached a 44-month low at the London Metal Exchange as a result.

Yang Maijun, director of the Shanghai Futures Exchange, said copper's price drop was the combined result of bleak macroeconomic numbers in February.

China's likely first onshore corporate bond default, which hit the market recently, also has drained people's confidence.

Shanghai Chaori Solar Energy Science & Technology Co announced on March 4 that it would not be able to make an interest payment of 89.8 million yuan, due this Friday, on a five-year 1 billion yuan bond issued two years ago. It had managed to secure only 4 million yuan so far for the payment.

With increasing recognition among policymakers that China needs a default, and given its potentially limited impact, a last-minute bailout in this case looks unlikely, according to Chang of Barclays.

"We note that default risks are seen in energy and resource sectors and other industries facing overcapacity, including shipbuilding, steel, cement, flat glass, electrolytic aluminum, solar, wind power equipment, the property sector and local-government financing vehicles," she added.

Fitch Ratings, a global debt watcher, also expects a reduction in onshore lenders' and investors' risk appetites, which could pressure more frail companies' liquidity, especially in sectors challenged by cyclical downturns and persistent capacity surpluses.

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