China’s economy shows further weakness as retail sales struggle

Chinese retail sales expanded 7.2 percent last month, well off the 8.4 percent tipped by economists and a big drop from March. (AFP)
Updated 15 May 2019
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China’s economy shows further weakness as retail sales struggle

  • Authorities have been attempting to transition the world’s number two economy from being reliant on state investment and exports to a more stable one
  • The readings fanned speculation that authorities will unveil another round of pump-priming measures

BEIJING: China’s economy showed further signs of weakness in April as the slowest growth in retail sales for 16 years highlighted the task leaders have in ramping up domestic demand at the same time as fighting a painful trade war with the US.
Authorities have for years been attempting to transition the world’s number two economy from being reliant on state investment and exports to a more stable one driven by China’s huge army of consumers, with the tariffs stand-off reinforcing the need for such a change.
But the latest figures on Wednesday show retail sales expanded 7.2 percent last month, well off the 8.4 percent tipped by economists in a Bloomberg News survey and a big drop from March.
The figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) represent the worse pace since 2003, at the height of the SARS crisis.
The bureau also said growth in industrial production slowed sharply to 5.4 percent from, while fixed asset investment in the four months to April rose 6.1 percent. Both missed Bloomberg estimates.
The readings fanned speculation that authorities will unveil another round of pump-priming measures — having wound back on such stimulus in recent weeks following signs of a bounce in the economy — with Shanghai’s composite index jumping more than one percent Wednesday.
Beijing has rolled out huge tax-cuts and other measures this year to ramp up the economy and offset the impact of a trade war that has seen the US impose tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods, causing worries for exporters.
However, while leaders will want to prevent the economy from taking a bad hit, Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics was skeptical about how much they will do.
“With the scale of stimulus likely to remain smaller than in previous downturns, we don’t anticipate a strong recovery,” he said.
On a brighter note, Betty Wang, an economist at ANZ bank, said in a research note that property investment had picked up over the first four months of the year thanks to “a big jump in developers’ funding conditions,” with bank loans, down payments and mortgages all growing at a quicker pace.


British Airways to resume Pakistan flights next week after a decade

Updated 23 May 2019
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British Airways to resume Pakistan flights next week after a decade

  • BA halted service to Pakistan in the wake of the 2008 Marriott Hotel bombing in Islamabad
  • BA will begin the London Heathrow-Islamabad service with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner

ISLAMABAD: British Airways will resume flights to Pakistan next week a decade after it suspended operations following a major hotel bombing, becoming the first Western airline to restart flights to the South Asian country.

BA halted service to Pakistan in the wake of the 2008 Marriott Hotel bombing in the capital Islamabad that took place during a period of devastating Islamist militant violence in Pakistan.

Security has since improved, with militant attacks sharply down in the mainly Muslim country of 208 million people, reviving Pakistan as a destination for tourist and investors.

“The final touches are coming together for the airline’s return ahead of the first flight on Sunday June 2,” British Airways said in a statement. It will launch a three-per-week service to London Heathrow, it said.

“We’re on board,” Pakistani Civil Aviation spokeswoman Farah Hussain said about the flights resumption.

BA, which is owned by Spanish-registered IAG, will begin the London Heathrow-Islamabad service with the airline’s newest long-haul aircraft, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

At present, only loss-making national carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flies directly from Pakistan to Britain, but its ageing fleet of planes is a frequent source of complaints by passengers.

Middle Eastern carriers Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates have a strong presence in Pakistan and have been eating into PIA’s dwindling market share. Turkish Airlines also lays on a regular service to Pakistan.

Islamabad has been running international advertising campaigns to rejuvenate its tourism sector, which was wiped out by Islamist violence that destabilised the country following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States and the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.

“We hope customers in both the UK and Pakistan will enjoy the classically British service we offer, with thoughtful bespoke touches,” Andrew Brem, Chief Commercial Officer at British Airways, said in BA’s statement.

BA said there will be a halal meal option in every cabin and the airline would also ensure sauces in every meal do not contain alcohol or pork.