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A Month in China's Economic Data

Most months in the Chinese economic calendar follow the same pattern of data releases, and a glance at the schedule for a typical month provides a way to highlight the more important data points.

  • 1st: The China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing (CFLP) and HSBC Markit Purchasing Managers Indexes give the markets their first glimpse into the state of the manufacturing sector in the month just past. For some investors who do not follow China closely, this is the data point that is watched.
  • 10th: Customs' import, export, and trade surplus data gives a read on the state of foreign demand for China's products and domestic demand for raw materials. Commodities markets keep a close eye on China's imports of iron ore and crude oil. The trade surplus is a monthly flashpoint for pressure on China's exchange rate regime.
  • 10th–15th: People's Bank of China (PBOC) data shows the strength of loans, deposits, and money supply growth. These are data points that can drive the markets in the short term (through a boost to liquidity) and the long term (through the strong relationship between changes in credit and money supply and growth and inflation).
  • 11th: NBS data on industrial value added, fixed asset investment, and retail sales keep the markets up-to-date on the China growth story. The CPI and producer price index (PPI) data reveal whether inflation is set to spoil the party. The 11th-day data dump is the main event in the monthly calendar. In the mass of data, the two points that get the most attention are industrial value added (a proxy for growth of the whole economy) and CPI (the best measure of overall inflation).
  • 18th: NBS house price data provides a flawed but widely watched read on China's bubbly property sector.

The exceptions to the normal monthly pattern are at the beginning of the year and in months when the quarterly GDP data is published. In the beginning of the year, the NBS delays the publication of data on industrial value added, fixed asset investment, and retail sales for the first two months until March, to smooth out the effect of the Chinese New Year. In months when the GDP data is published, the NBS delays the 11th-of-the-month data release to coincide with it. That normally means publication on around January 20 for the fourth quarter GDP data, and April 15, July 15, and October 15 for the first, second, and third quarter data.

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