Marketmind: China’s Q4 data dump

Workers work at a construction site in Beijing

By Jamie McGeever

(Reuters) – A look at the day ahead in Asian markets from Jamie McGeever.

A batch of top-tier economic data from China, including fourth quarter GDP growth, will grab the spotlight in Asia on Tuesday, and the numbers are not expected to be pretty.

This does not necessarily mean investor sentiment and risky assets will automatically weaken – investors may consider these figures to be backward-looking, or bet that they will spur growth-friendly stimulus and policies from Beijing.

Either way, it does look like Q4 GDP, as well as December retail sales, investment and industrial production data will confirm the world’s second-largest economy ended last year on an extremely weak footing.

To varying degrees, all are expected to be softer than the previous measures. GDP is expected to contract 0.8% from Q3, giving annual growth of just 1.8% in the October-December period. Retail sales are expected to have fallen 8.6%.


Economists polled by Reuters reckon China’s economy grew 2.8% last year overall, and will rebound to 4.9% this year.

The transition away from the stringent zero-COVID policy of the last couple of years will be rocky in the near term as infections surge. Authorities said on Saturday nearly 60,000 people with COVID died in hospitals between Dec. 8 and Jan. 12.

Analysts at UBS have tried to quantify the impact China’s reopening has had on markets as investors price in the coming recovery. They reckon it accounts for about half of the 70% of the recent market rally that can be attributed to macro factors.

In other words, it is about 50% to 70% priced in already, they estimate.

House price data on Monday showed the sector continued to weaken into December as new COVID-19 outbreaks hit demand. New home prices fell month-on-month for a fifth month in a row, and year-on-year prices fell for an eighth straight month.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the yuan on Monday posted its biggest fall since late November. Perhaps it was due a breather, having rallied nearly 10% in the three months from early November to a seven-month high.

Meanwhile, the saga at embattled Chinese property developer Evergrande took another twist on Monday when it was confirmed that its auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers had resigned over matters related to the 2021 fiscal year.

Three key developments that could provide more direction to markets on Tuesday:

– China GDP (Q4), retail sales, industrial output, investment (December)

– World Economic Forum (Davos, Switzerland)

– Fed’s Williams speaks

(Reporting by Jamie McGeever in Orlando, Fla.; Editing by Josie Kao)