Annual profits at China’s industrial companies rose 24% in August, accelerating from the previous month in an indication that economic growth remains strong even as signs emerge of fading momentum following a robust first half.
The upbeat earnings are another sweetener for authorities ahead of the crucial 19th Communist Party congress next month as Beijing focuses on stripping out financial risks after years of debt-fueled growth.
Profits in August jumped 24% to 672 billion yuan (US$101.21 billion), the biggest percentage jump since the January-Feb period, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on Wednesday. Annual profit growth was 16.5% in July.
For the first eight months of this year, firms notched up profits of 4.92 trillion yuan, an increase of 21.6% from the same period last year, picking up slightly from the 21.2% annual growth in the January-July period.
The robust industrial earnings growth in August was driven by higher prices, particularly in sectors such as oil, steel and electronics, He Ping of the National Bureau of Statistics said in a statement accompanying the data.
He estimated that surging prices contributed nearly one third of the new profits in August.
That was backed by data showing China’s producer price inflation accelerated more than expected to a four-month high in August, fueled by strong gains in raw materials prices and pointing to strong, sustained growth for both factory profits and the economy.
Industrial sector earnings have enjoyed a spurt from a year-long, government-led construction boom, which has fueled demand and prices for building materials.
China’s push to cut excess capacity in heavy industries and its war on pollution has also appeared to intensify a short-term supply shortage and higher prices.
A raft of August data back analysts’ expectations for the economy to slow over the coming months, as efforts by policymakers to clamp down on debt risks and defuse property market bubbles have raised financing costs and generally tightened monetary conditions
The earnings data by sector, however, highlights the uneven nature of profit growth.
Mining industry profits soared 5.9 times from a year earlier while manufacturing profits rose 18.6%. Sectors such as electricity, gas and water production, however, saw their profits plunge 22.6%.
Profits at China’s state-owned industrial firms were up 46.3%, at 1.08 trillion yuan, for January-August, compared with a 44.2% rise in the first seven months. But earnings for all SOEs for August alone were only up 4.3% on-year, Reuters’ calculations show.
A raft of August data back analysts’ expectations for the economy to slow over the coming months, as efforts by policymakers to clamp down on debt risks and defuse property market bubbles have raised financing costs and generally tightened monetary conditions.
Still, after a robust first-half, growth is expected to easily meet the government’s 6.5% target for this year in a welcome sign for Beijing ahead of a congress which will see a key leadership reshuffle and the setting of policy priorities for the next five years.
S&P Global Ratings downgraded China’s long-term sovereign credit rating last Thursday, citing increasing risks from its rapid build-up of debt.
Chinese industrial firms’ liabilities at the end of August were 6.4% higher than at the same point last year, at 60.9 trillion yuan.
The data encompasses large companies with annual revenue of more than 20 million yuan from their main operations.