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How This Book Works

This book is organized into chapters that cover different aspects of the economy; for example, the second chapter covers indicators of national output, and the third chapter indicators of investment. Within each chapter, there are sections devoted to individual indicators. The information on each indicator is organized as follows:

Market sensitivity: Is this a high-sensitivity indicator that always gets the attention of the markets (such as GDP or CPI), a medium-sensitivity indicator in which an unusual movement might spark some trading activity (such as fixed asset investment or retail sales), or a low-sensitivity indicator that does more to inform the market's overall assessment than it does to trigger an immediate response (such as nonperforming loans or yuan deposits in the Hong Kong banking system)?

What is it? This is a brief description of the indicator and what it measures, including the units in which it is published. Being clear about the units in which the data is published is especially important in China, because of the considerable variety of approaches and conventions that often differ from those used in the United States. The main points to watch for are these:

  • Currency: Is the data published in yuan (as with the GDP data) or dollars (as with the trade data)?
  • Units: Is the data published in individual units (as with the wage data), tens of thousands (as with floor space under construction), millions (as with yuan deposits in the Hong Kong banks), or hundreds of millions (as with fixed asset investment)? Tens of thousands (01fig01_cc.jpg, wan) and hundreds of millions (01fig02_cc.jpg, yi) are units peculiar to the Chinese counting system.
  • Period: Does the data cover the current month (as with retail sales) or the year-to-date (as with fixed asset investment)?
  • Real or nominal: Does the data account for changes in prices (as with industrial value added) or not (as with wages)?

Chinese news release on the Internet: Where can you find the Chinese data release on the Internet?

English news release on the Internet: Where can you find the English data release on the Internet?

Release time: When can you expect the publication of the data?

Frequency: Is it a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annual indicator?

Source: Who is producing the data? This could be the NBS, PBOC, CFLP, Hong Kong Monetary Authority, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or someone else.

Revisions: Is the data subject to revisions (as with the GDP data) or not (as with almost everything else)?

Why is it important? Why do the markets care about this indicator, and what does it say about the Chinese economy?

How is the data calculated? Where does the data come from, and how is it put together? Are there any reasons—political or technical—to doubt the accuracy of the data?

Interpreting the data: What does the data release look like, what are the most important takeaways, and how should they be interpreted? If the data is typically published in a table, you can see a copy of it here, with labels indicating the key points, linked to explanatory notes. For tables that are published on a timely basis in English, the English table is shown. For tables that are not published in English, or published in English only after a long delay, you can see a copy of the Chinese table with the main terms translated into English. For some of the larger tables, some of the less relevant data points are left out. For example, in the table of China's imports by product (Table 5.4 in Chapter 5), the table includes imports of crude oil and iron ore, but not imports of pesticides or other smaller components of China's import bill. Data omitted from the original is indicated by an ellipsis in brackets: [...]

Market impact: What impact does this data release typically have on equity, commodity, and currency markets?

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