What's going on?
On Friday, China revealed its economy grew by 6% in the third quarter of this year – lower than economists had predicted, and its weakest growth rate since 1992.
What does this mean?
China’s retail spending and “industrial output” (stuff made in factories) held up last quarter, but “investment spending” appeared to fall short of expectations. When Chinese companies slow down their investments, it usually results in fewer imports, since they need fewer items from abroad. On the one hand, that’s positive for the economic growth China reported because it improves the country’s “trade balance” – the difference between its spend on foreign goods and foreign buyers’ spend on Chinese products. On the other hand, weakening domestic investment is negative for China’s economy at large. Still, the People’s Republic is on track to keep its March promise of growing between 6% and 6.5% this year.
Why should I care?
For you personally: China affects your moolah.
The rate China’s economy grows will affect its demand for products and services from companies around the world. And those companies might be in your investment portfolio – directly if you’re a risk-keen stock-picker, or indirectly if you’ve bought a diversified exchange-traded fund or invested via a robo-advisor. Take Coca-Cola, for example: its investors were thankful Chinese retail spending didn’t fall last quarter, given that the Asia-Pacific region makes up 15% of the company’s revenue. Coke’s Asian earnings grew last quarter (ignoring currency swings) – and that was partly thanks to China.
The bigger picture: Trade agreements are closer.
A resolution to the US-China trade war – in which import taxes on several of one another’s goods are lowered or removed – would be a boost to China’s economy (and America’s too, for that matter). Investors might not be too worried about China’s slowdown for now, then: the country recently agreed an initial limited trade deal with the US – unexpected progress that could hint at a bigger future agreement.