China stocks fell on Thursday after data showed the country’s economic growth slowed slightly in the third quarter and property sales fell for the first time in over 2-1/2 years, highlighting the risk of a further cooldown. The Chinese yuan also eased against the US dollar.
While the dip in GDP growth to 6.8% from 6.9% in the second quarter was in line with economists’ forecasts, some investors had bet on a stronger reading after comments by central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan at the weekend.
Zhou had said growth may hit 7% in the second half of this year.
The blue-chip CSI300 index fell 0.3% to 3,930.93 points by the end of the morning session, while the Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.4% to 3,369.75.
While China’s full-year 2017 growth should easily beat the government’s target of around 6.5%, economists believe it will lose momentum next year as property cooling measures and a crackdown on riskier types of lending start to bite.
Most sectors fell on Thursday, with the property subindex dropping 0.4%, and infrastructure stocks falling 0.8%.
Other data earlier in the day showed property sales dropped in September for the first time since March 2015 and housing starts slowed sharply. Though property investment picked up, analysts noted it often lags sales trends.
In a speech to the 19th Communist Party Congress on Wednesday, Xi reiterated the government’s stance that “houses are built to be inhabited, not for speculation”, reinforcing views that authorities’ efforts to reduce speculation will continue.
Capital Economics predicted in a note that “a less supportive fiscal policy stance and slower credit growth should result in a slowdown over the coming months.”
Much of the focus of China’s twice-a-decade congress is on whether Xi he will use his clout to push ahead with more extensive but potentially risky economic and financial market reforms.
Other data on Thursday showed China’s industrial output rise a stronger-than-expected 6.6% in September, while retail sales also outperformed.
In a speech to the 19th Communist Party Congress on Wednesday, Xi reiterated the government’s stance that “houses are built to be inhabited, not for speculation”, reinforcing views that authorities’ efforts to reduce speculation will continue
In the wake of the growth data, China’s yuan eased against the US dollar, while strong corporate demand for the greenback piled additional pressure on the Chinese currency.
Prior to market open, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) lowered its midpoint for the third straight day to 6.6093 per dollar.
Thursday’s official guidance rate was 102 pips or 0.15 percent weaker than the previous fix of 6.5991 on Wednesday. Traders said Thursday’s official guidance largely matched their forecasts.
Nie Wen, an economist at Hwabao Trust in Shanghai, said a strengthening yuan had some negative impact on exports in the third quarter. And he expected more two-way volatility in the yuan this year, with the currency trading in a 6.5 to 6.7 per dollar range.
The market has speculated about a possible widening in the yuan trading band after the congress. However, the PBOC’s Zhou said on Thursday that it was not a key issue at the moment and the width of the current yuan exchange rate band rarely constrains supply and demand.
Separately, the PBOC reported that it had purchased a net 0.9 billion yuan ($135.78 million) worth of foreign exchange in September, according to Reuters calculations based on official data released on Thursday morning, snapping 22 straight months of net sales.