China delays release of GDP and other economic data

BEIJING (AP) — China, the world’s second-largest economy, announced Monday without explanation that it would indefinitely delay the release of economic data that had been scheduled for Tuesday morning, including closely watched figures on economic growth. from July to September, which was expected to show continued lackluster performance.

The delay by China’s National Bureau of Statistics comes as the country’s ruling elite has been meeting in Beijing for a week. national congress twice a decade of the Communist Party. The authorities have taken elaborate measures to avoid disruptions during the meeting, from halting nearly all travel to Beijing to requiring frequent Covid-19 testing across virtually the entire country.

Large countries rarely postpone the release of a single economic stat for fear of damaging financial confidence, let alone the wide range of market-moving data that China’s National Bureau of Statistics has now delayed. In addition to deferring the release of third-quarter gross domestic product data, the government agency also postponed the release of September data for retail sales, industrial production, fixed asset investment and other categories.

“I have not come across a situation before where a whole series of statistical reports have been postponed, in almost half a century of publishing monitoring data, even in times of pestilence and conflict,” said George Magnus, former chief economist. . from UBS who is now an associate at the China Center at Oxford University.

Zhao Chenxin, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission, struck an optimistic tone about China’s economy during a Monday morning press conference at the party congress media center.

“Judging from the current situation, the economy recovered significantly in the third quarter; from a global perspective, China’s economic performance remains outstanding,” he said.

After the close of trading on Chinese stock exchanges on Monday afternoon, the National Bureau of Statistics canceled its quarterly news conference, which was scheduled for Tuesday morning, and updated its online data release schedule. to display many categories as “delayed”.

Another agency, the General Administration of Customs, separately failed last Friday to meet its own previously issued schedule for publishing export and import statistics for September. Release of those numbers has also been delayed indefinitely.

The delays come as Chinese officials have been trying to refute mounting criticism from foreign economists and multinational corporations that China now puts politics and ideology before economic performance. Mr. Zhao said Monday morning that due to the government’s pandemic policies and emphasis on economic development, “China’s economic stabilization and improvement will be further consolidated.”

Western economists had been predicting that China would announce on Tuesday morning that the economy grew just over 3 percent in the third quarter compared to the same period a year earlier. That would be better than growing only 0.4 percent in the second quarter, when a two-month pandemic lockdown in Shanghai severely depressed output in many industries.

But it would still be well below Beijing’s target, set last March, of growth this year at “around 5.5 percent.”

As China has grown to become the world’s largest manufacturer and a major trading power, and home to some of the world’s largest banks, it has repeatedly struggled with how its Communist Party-dominated political structure communicates. with the financial markets.

For example, China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China, announced almost without explanation in August 2015 that it was devalue the country’s currency, the renminbi, by nearly 2 percent. The move was conceived as a technical measure related to the incorporation of the renminbi into the reserve currency system of the International Monetary Fund.

But the sudden move contributed significantly to a panic in financial markets in China and abroad that lasted into the following winter, driving down share prices in China and causing investors to flee the country hundreds of billions. of dollars.

li you contributed research.

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