Retail sales rose just 2.5% in August from a year earlier, China’s National Bureau of Statistics reported today. The estimate from economists surveyed by Bloomberg was for 7% year over year growth. Retail sales grew at an 8.5% pace in July.
Industrial production was up 5.3% year, down from a 6.4% rate in July.
Fixed asset investment grew by 8.9% in the first eight months of the year from the same period in 2020. Economists were looking for 9% growth. Construction investment contracted by 3.2% in the first eight months of 2021 from that period in 2020 as the government tightened controls on risky money accounts used to finance property development.
The slowdown comes from a combination of tighter Pandemic restrictions to fight repeated outbreaks of the Delta variant in China, government restrictions on property development and developers that have pushed companies like Evergrande Group into deep financial distress, and an expanding crackdown on sectors ranging from e-commerce, to online gaming to Macao gambling. Shares of Macao casino operators are deep in the red today after the government announced plans to increase regulation of gambling on the island. Shares of Sands China (SCHYY), for example, are down 25.42% as of 1:30 p.m. New York time.
The question now for investors is whether the slowdown in China’s economy will spread to the global economy and whether global supply chain problems in sectors such as auto production, where a global chip shortage has damped production, will feed back to China to further slow that country’s economy.