Submitted by Raúl Ilargi Meijer – The Automatic Earth
Looking through a bunch of numbers and graphs dealing with China recently, it occurred to us that perhaps we, and most others with us, may need to recalibrate our focus on what to emphasize amongst everything we read and hear, if we’re looking to interpret what’s happening in and with the country’s economy.
It was only fair -perhaps even inevitable- that oil would be the first major commodity to dive off a cliff, because oil drives the entire global economy, both as a source of fuel -energy- and as raw material. Oil makes the world go round.
But still, the price of oil was merely a lagging indicator of underlying trends and events. Oil prices didn‘t start their plunge until sometime in 2014. On June 19, 2014, Brent was $115. Less than seven months later, on January 9, it was $50.
Severe as that was, China’s troubles started much earlier. Which lends credence to the idea that it was those troubles that brought down the price of oil in the first place, and people were slow to catch up. And it’s only now other commodities are plummeting that they, albeit very reluctantly, start to see a shimmer of ‘the light’.
Here are Brent oil prices (WTI follows the trend closely):
They happen to coincide quite strongly with the fall in Chinese imports, which perhaps makes it tempting to correlate the two one-on-one:
But this correlation doesn’t hold up. And that we can see when we look at a number everyone seems to largely overlook, at their own peril, producer prices:
About which Bloomberg had this to say:
China’s consumer inflation waned in October while factory-gate deflation extended a record streak of negative readings [..] The producer-price index fell 5.9%, its 44th straight monthly decline. [..] Overseas shipments dropped 6.9% in October in dollar terms while weaker demandfor coal, iron and other commodities from declining heavy industries helped push imports down 18.8%, leaving a record trade surplus of $61.6 billion.