Profits fell at Chinese industrial companies for the first time in nearly three years last month, in the latest sign of an economic slowdown from weak consumption and flagging infrastructure investment. Chinese policymakers last week announced their intention to enact fresh fiscal and monetary stimulus measures, in a bid to mitigate against a weakening economy and the threat by US president Donald Trump to raise levies on $200bn worth of goods to 25 percent.
The data on Thursday showed industrial profits declined 1.8 percent in November from a year earlier, the first negative reading since December 2015 and a steep fall from 3.6 percent growth in October. Goldman Sachs estimated that profits fell even more sharply on a seasonally adjusted basis, down from 7.2 percent from October. Analysts said the profit slowdown partly reflected businesses pulling back on investment in anticipation of the weaker domestic and external demand.
“We have already witnessed a sharp pullback of upstream manufacturing capex,” wrote Charles Yue Yuan, an economist at China International Capital Corporation. He added that slower credit growth resulting from China’s debt-cutting campaign has caused low inflation, leading to weak nominal profit growth at industrial groups. “This trend (of slow credit growth), if left unadjusted, will probably result in further deterioration of corporate profitability and economic fundamentals,” he wrote.
The release of the official data came as China’s internet regulator announced tighter controls on financial information providers who, the regulator warned, could disrupt market stability by publishing sensitive material. The government has already tightened censorship of negative economic information from news outlets, think-tanks and sellside research analysts. The latest rules from the Cyberspace Administration of China target financial information and database providers, consultancies and stock exchanges.
“Some institutions fail to check information strictly, hype up financial risk, publish sensitive market information, distort financial regulatory policy, and seriously affect economic and financial stability, requiring urgent disciplinary action,” the agency said in a statement. While China’s propaganda authorities have long maintained strict control of print, broadcast and online news media, financial information and database providers have operated in a regulatory grey zone.