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China's shift toward consumers a drag for commodities - RBA
November 16, 2015 / 9:34 PM / 2 years ago

China's shift toward consumers a drag for commodities - RBA

SYDNEY, Nov 17 (Reuters) - China’s slow shift toward consumer-led growth and away from an investment-heavy economy means there is little scope for a resurgence in global commodity prices, a top Australian central banker said on Tuesday.

Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Assistant Governor Christopher Kent said there had been a noticeable slowdown in Chinese industrial output led in part by a pullback in the housing market.

“(Home) sales and prices have recovered a bit since the start of this year, but there is little sign to date of a sustained improvement in construction activity,” Kent told a UBS Australasia conference.

China is Australia’s largest single export market, and the slowdown there has weighed heavily on prices for its major commodity exports such as iron ore and coal.

“The changing nature of China’s development implies that the potential for commodity prices to rise from here is somewhat limited,” said Kent, who heads the RBA’s economics department.

The RBA has a team of economists covering China both in Sydney and Beijing.

Kent said there were also reasons to be optimistic on the longer-term outlook for China. The service sector remained resilient, growth in new jobs was supporting consumer demand and the process of urbanisation had some way to run yet, he said.

Beijing has responded to the slowdown by easing monetary policy and funding extra investment projects.

“They have scope to provide further support if needed, although they may be reticent to do too much if that compromises longer-term goals, such as placing the financial system on a more sustainable footing,” said Kent.

The shift in demand towards services and agricultural products within China and the Asian region more broadly also offered opportunities for Australian exporters, he added. (Reporting by Wayne Cole; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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