Why the Chinese Economic Slowdown Matters

Chinese Economy to See Black Swan Type EventUnderstanding the economic slowdown in the Chinese economy is very important because not only does it impact American companies doing business there, but what happens in the Chinese economy—now the second-largest economy in the world—affects the global economy.

While media outlets tell us the Chinese economy will grow by about seven percent this year (30% below the 10% the economy has been growing annually over the past few years), the statistics I see point to much slower growth.

In February, manufacturing activity in the Chinese economy contracted and hit an eight-month low. The final readings on the HSBC Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for February showed manufacturing output and new orders declined for the first time since July of 2013. (Source: Markit, March 3, 2014.)

And there are other troubles. The shadow banking sector in the Chinese economy shows signs of deep stress, but we don’t know how much money is really on the line here. China keeps much of its real economic news to itself, but we do hear how firms that are involved in the sector are defaulting on their payments.

And the Chinese currency, the yuan, keeps declining in value compared to other major world currencies. The Wisdom Tree Chinese Yuan Strategy (NYSEArca/CYB) is an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that tracks the performance of Chinese money market instruments and the yuan compared to the U.S. dollar. Look at the chart below:

WisdomTree Dreyfus chinese Yuan fund ChartChart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Since the beginning of February, the Chinese yuan and Chinese money market instruments have been showing signs of severe stress, largely unnoticed by mainstream media and economists.

There is no doubt in my mind that a slowdown is happening in the Chinese economy.

Dear reader, as you know, the Chinese economy has become a major story over the past few decades. A large number of U.S.-based companies have stretched their hands to get market share in China, including Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE/WMT), YUM! Brands, Inc. (NYSE/YUM), and Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE/CAT). How will the stocks of these companies fair if their corporate earnings get hit by a slowdown in the Chinese economy? Not well.