Asian Economies Will Provide Strong Support for Commodities

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Reflecting on the growing chatter that a further downturn in the USA and Europe may be the death kiss for the current commodity rally and even turn it into a bear market, I think it is time to remind readers of the factually good outlook for the global economy as a whole. An expected deterioration of Western growth may cut a percentage point from GDP growth rates further East. But that's about it.
According to a Bloomberg report,
The International Monetary Fund forecasts that, despite the slower U.S. growth, the global economy will expand 4.1 percent this year, above the average 3.7 percent over the past quarter century. Emerging markets including China and India aren't only boosting world growth, they're also creating new customers for other Asian exporters.
Sethaput Suthiwart-narueput, a managing director of Thai Siam Commercial Bank Securities told the Bangkok Post on Wednesday that new demand from emerging markets far outstrips new demand from the West and Japan.
Over the past few years, China, India and the Middle East represented 47% of new global demand, while the USs, Europe and Japan comprised 14%.
Not that Japan would fall prey to the financial and economic woes in Europe and the USA. According to Bloomberg,
Exports, which contributed more than half of the economy's expansion last quarter, climbed 8.7 percent from a year earlier after increasing 7.6 percent in January, the Finance Ministry said today in Tokyo. The median estimate of 19 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for a 7.5 percent gain.
Exports in the region grew even stronger, the report said:
Export growth to Asia quickened to 13.9 percent in February from 8.l percent a month earlier, today's report showed. Shipments to China rose 14.9 percent, and sales to Europe gained 7.2 percent. Exports to the U.S., meanwhile, slid 6 percent from a year earlier, a sixth monthly decline.
The Western slowdown is also welcome in China as it helps cooling off the red-hot economy. Xinhuanet reported last Monday,
Declining export growth, notably affected by the U.S. credit crunch, is likely to drag China's GDP growth down to 10.5 percent this year, still above official target of 8 percent, a leading university research paper said on Monday.
China's booming exports are likely to see a sharp decline, which will tame the 11.4 percent GDP growth last year to a slower 10.5 percent in 2008, against the backdrop of the subprime mortgage crisis and calming global economy, according to the research paper released by the Economic Research Institute of Renmin University.
This still leaves China with 10% more demand in everything and so far there are no signs why the Chinese Wirtschaftswunder should abate in 2009.
India will experience roughly a percentage point less GDP growth too, reports The Hindu, citing a report from the Economist Intelligence Unit.
India's economic growth rate is expected to moderate to 7.8 per cent in 2008-09, mainly on account of a global slowdown, says the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), an arm of London-based magazine Economist.
The Indian economy, according to government estimates, is expected to grow at 8.7 per cent during 2007-08.
Despite moderation in growth, India would continue to remain the second-fastest growing economy in Asia, said senior economist and Asia Editor of the EIU Anjalika Bardalai.
The growth will mainly be driven by the services sector with IT and IT enables services (ITeS) playing a major role, she said, adding that "in the coming years, the sector will see a major growth".
As India lacks commodities and energy it can be safely expected that demand will grow accordingly.
Commodity based economies will be among the few winners in 2008. The Canadian Economic Press cites Interfax:
Russia raised its forecasts for economic growth over 2008 to 7.1% from 6.7%, Interfax news agency said on Tuesday citing government officials.
The Asian tigers will see slower growth too, but there is not much to worry about.
Thai economists see 4.5% GDP growth in 2008, off the original 6% target.
Vietnam took back its growth expectations half a percentage point to a range of 8% to 8.5%, reports the Guardian.
Malaysia sees a likewise reduction to GDP growth between 5% and 6%, stemming from the Western slowdown.
All countries listed acknowledge that inflation may dent these projections further. 
Key for me is neverthelesse the hugely growing domestic demand. Just think India, where Tata offers its Nano car for 100,000 or one lakh Rupees. As millions of it will be sold, I would not short metals and oil.
And there is still room to sell billions of air-conditioners, laundry machines, LCD flatscreens, PC's and whatever else you can think of that is a standard in the West but not the East.
Westerners in debt up to their eyeballs will be a less interesting market for Asian companies when they get run over by their domestic clientele that is eager to close the consumerism gap to the West. 
The East-West bifurcation in economic growth is further proof for my view that the center of economic power is acceleratingly shifting to Asia. Wasn't it Beijing where so many Western dignitaries went hat in hand since the beginning of the financial crisis last August?

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