Chinese authorities’ efforts to revive their country’s slowing economy have been “ineffective,” and it needs to do more, J.P. Morgan Private Bank’s head of investment strategy for Asia said Monday.
“I still think they need to do more. I don’t think they’ve done enough yet. So far the measures they’ve taken have been fairly, fairly ineffective, they haven’t really produced the rebound in economic growth, and they haven’t really produced the rebound in confidence either,” J.P. Morgan’s Alex Wolf told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
In recent years, China has engaged in extensive stimulus to keep its economy churning, Wolf said. But now, high debt levels and a change in the political landscape are pressuring Beijing to take smaller steps, he added.
China’s banks extended a record 12.65 trillion yuan ($1.88 trillion) in loans in 2016 as the government encouraged credit-fueled stimulus to meet its economic growth target. The credit explosion stoked worries about financial risks from a rapid build-up in debt, which authorities have pledged to contain.
On top of that, Wolf added: “I also think the political will has changed with the current government, they don’t have the same policy reaction I think, that they had in the past. So we’re probably going to see more incrementalism.”
China’s official government figures said the country’s economy slowed last year to 6.6 percent — the lowest expansion rate in 28 years. Economic growth in China could stay weak in the first half of 2019 given both external and domestic challenges, Citi economists wrote in a Thursday note.
In addition, a private survey on China’s manufacturing sector showed on Friday that factory activity contracted more-than-expected in January. The Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) came in at 48.3 in January — the second-consecutive month of contraction and the lowest reading since 2016.
Although Chinese stocks may look like attractive buys because they have fallen well off their highs, Wolf warned that investors should still be wary because there could be value traps.
Wolf said there will need to be a catalyst to drive Chinese markets higher given the country’s declining growth, slowing inflation, and weak profits — especially in the industrial sector.
“We have to see some catalyst, I think, primarily from, either resolution on trade talks or from Beijing in terms of a clear policy stimulus response that would improve confidence levels especially amongst domestic investors,” Wolf said.
— CNBC’s Yen Nee Lee contributed to this report.