Chief economist update: The grass is paler on the China side

Just as expected, the Fed's 31 July-1 August meeting was a non-event - keeping the fed funds rate unchanged at 1.75%-20% - but it did give the US central bank a platform to gloat about the US economy.

"Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in June indicates that the labor market has continued to strengthen and that economic activity has been rising at a strong rate."

It has every reason to because it's presiding over an economy that has growth an annualised rate of 4.1% in the second quarter - the fastest pace in four years - with an unemployment rate of 4% - near 18-year lows and inflation that's inches away from target - core PCE price inflation was at 1.9% in June.

The US economy has withstood the tariff levied by China on US$34 billion of US imports in retaliation to America's imposition of the same amount on July 6. The Trump administration is reportedly preparing tariffs on US$200 billion on imports from China.

The latest China manufacturing PMI surveys - which track the sector most affected by the trade stoush - are already showing signs of buckling.

China's official manufacturing PMI - which surveys large companies and state-owned enterprises - fell to a reading of 51.2 in July (the second consecutive month of decline and the weakest reading since February this year). According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) this is due to intensifying trade tensions, weaker domestic demand and adverse weather.

While the latest reading indicates that the manufacturing sector remains in expansion (and could bounce as the weather improves and weak domestic demand stoke by Beijing's switch to a more accommodative fiscal policy), the details of the report are less encouraging: Output fell to 53 in July from 53.6 in June, new orders declined to 52.3 from 53.2) and new export orders fell deeper into contraction territory 49.8 from 49.8 in June.

The Caixin China General Manufacturing PMI - which surveys small and medium-sized companies - painted the same fading picture of the sector. The index decreased to an eight-month low reading of 50.8 in July from 51 in the previous month, "with output and new business both expanding at softer rates" and "new export orders fell at the steepest pace for 25 months."

Commenting on the results, Dr. Zhengsheng Zhong, director of macroeconomic analysis at CEBM Group, said that: "In general, the survey signaled a weakening manufacturing trend as a grim export market dragged on the sector's performance."

Ben Ong is the Director of Economics and Investments at Rainmaker Group. He previously worked as a fund manager, economist, asset allocation strategist, portfolio analyst and stock market analyst. Check out his economics analysis here.

Read more: USFedAmericaBeijingCaixin China General Manufacturing PMICEBM GroupDirector of Macroeconomic AnalysisDr. Zhengsheng ZhongFederal Open Market CommitteeInformationNational Bureau of StatisticsTrump
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