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--U.S. Inflation Impact to Be Felt Just Before December FOMC
BEIJING (MNI) - China's latest environmental protection campaign, which
started in April, has shut down thousands of factories and by official measures
has made the air more breathable. The impact may reach beyond the border and
influence a critical interest rate decisions by the U.S. Federal Reserve.
While the possibility of a rate hike by the Fed in December already exceeds
90%, as indicated by 30-Day Fed Funds Futures, U.S. continues to come in below
expectations, clouding the outlook for further Fed hikes. But U.S. price
pressures could well pick up in the coming months, as China's stricter
environmental measures have boosted prices for a number global commodities and
downstream products, argued economics team led by Lu Zhengwei at the securities
arm of state-owned Industrial Bank of China.
Two major pollution-curbing policy decisions by China, one in November of
2015 and another in April this year, have led to gains in commodity prices, as
indicated by the widely followed CRB Commodities Index, the brokerage said. The
effects of the environmental campaign that started in April will take about
eight months to be reflected in the U.S. Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE)
price index, the Fed's preferred inflation gauge, which Industrial Securities
said lagged the U.S. CPI by three months.
For instance, iron ore prices rose after China began to stamp out the
country's inefficient "hole-in-the-ground" smelters in April. The capacity of
such largely unregulated operators was estimated to total 100 million tons, or
more than a tenth of the country's total crude steel output. As many of these
low-cost producers relied on melting scrap metal, shuttering them caused steel
shortages and shifted demand to output from cleaner plants that use
higher-quality imported iron ore. Imports of foreign ore by China in the first
nine months were up 7% y/y.
Coal and other base metals saw similar gains as the clean-up campaign and
President Xi Jinping's supply-side reforms curbed industries from aluminum
smelters to starch plants, ultimately leading to higher prices and profits for
producers. As China is by far the world's biggest commodity user, producers in
other countries also had to accept higher prices for their raw material imports.
Furthermore, as China remains the world's biggest exporter, higher costs of
its finished and semi-finished goods will be passed onto importers, goods
finishers and eventually consumers, with variable time lags, Industrial
Combining the time lags in the production chain from upstream raw materials
to end-user consumers, members of the U.S. Federal Open Market Committee will
likely be presented with an uptick in inflation by the time they meet next
month, Industrial Securities argued.
That impact may be felt beyond this year, as it is looking more likely that
goods manufactured by China and shipped to the rest of the world will bear
higher production costs.
During the Chinese Communist Party's 19th Congress this month, Xi exhorted
the country's political elite to "win the war on defending a blue sky," leaving
little doubt that the move toward tougher environmental regulations will be
sustained for years to come.
In the first three quarters this year, environmental supervisors were
dispatched by the central government to 31 provincial regions around the country
to check on companies that failed environmental standards. As many as 1,200
companies around Beijing alone have been ordered to halt or restrict their
operations this year. Fines and detainments were publicized to show the
determination of authorities.
Environmental Protection Minister Li Ganjie said during the CCP Congress
that the central government is in the process of codifying environmental audits
into permanent law, replacing the current ad-hoc administrative measures.
Given China's stronger-than-expected growth this year, Xi and his deputies
may have been increasingly convinced that his reform push won't lead to a
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