Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mining stocks and China's hard landing

A quick update on some comments I made about China's economy in June: China and the miners - place your bets.
It was a time when the argument over China's faltering economy was finely balanced: would growth rates dip and quickly recover (soft landing) or could China be on the cusp of something more serious?  I suggested that buying mining shares rather than China funds - like Glencore and Anglo Pacific - was a good way to go if you were feeling bullish.

Events since, including lower than expected industrial output, export and inward investment numbers, have pushed the debate decisively in the direction of the China bears.

So have mining stocks declined?  Not really.  Glencore and BHP are up 20% and 15% respectively since my article at the end of June.  Anglo American is down but there are special factors including a disputed copper mine in Chile. Anglo Pacific is up 8%.  Iron ore, coal, oil and copper prices are all up sharply.

So in the short term it looks like the correlation between poor Chinese economic data and mining assets doesn't hold.  However stock markets are forward looking and much of the China bad news had been factored in by the time of my article.

The latest rises represent bounces from previous setbacks not renewed optimism.  The bounce has been attributed to a belief that the Chinese government will ease policy to keep growth rates up and especially sanction another slew of infrastructure projects which are resource intensive.  Another factor is a growing belief that the ECB is prepared to act decisively to head-off the crisis in the Eurozone probably by buying Spanish and Italian sovereign debt.

Where now?  In the medium term it's hard to be wildly optimistic about the Euro situation whatever the ECB does.  As for the bigger question of how long can China keep growing at 8% plus it seems that the authorities will pull all the levers necessary even if that means maintaining the economy's hideous imbalances in particular the bias towards wasteful investment (nearly 50% of GDP) in property and infrastructure.

Meanwhile the big miners are scaling back on some of their expansion plans to reduce the threat of oversupply.  Share price meltdown averted?  For now maybe although it doesn't feel like the right time to pile into resource stocks particularly after recent gains.

From our website:  A guide to Spain's autonomo system

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