Unfortunately, we start this roundup as we did the last – with more economic bad news. Exports dropped 2.8 percent and imports declined 21 percent in China on annualized basis in December. Also, China reported the first slowdown in growth of its foreign reserves since 1998, although reserves still rose by $45 billion in the fourth quarter of last year to about $1.95 trillion. Debate is also now swirling about rate of China’s economic growth for 2009, and even the central bank governor now is publicly setting expectations that the target rate of 8 percent may not be achievable.
This is the first blog entry of what I hope to be regular updates from the financial sector and related areas across the East Asia and Pacific region. So, let’s see how the New Year began in Asia.
Unfortunately, the bad news keeps coming on the economies in the region in terms of exports and industrial output. Exports and industrial production fell 6.2 percent in Malaysia in November and exports from Thailand fell 18 percent in November. Surveys of consumer confidence, business sentiment, and manufacturers across the region have all shown significant declines.
In my last post, I discussed how emerging Asia is getting hit by the financial storm and the early signs of stress in the financial systems across the region. The intensity of this storm appears to be getting worse, but governments across East Asia are taking a wide range of measures to bolster their financial systems.
BusinessWeek reports that an annual study by one of Europe's top business schools indicates that Asian economies are overtaking the U.S. and Northern Europe to become the most competitive in the world.
The New York Times reports that some aid has begun flowing into Myanmar, but it looks like the mobilization for major relief operations is still underway and not clearly defined.
I see there has been some blog chatter about the World Bank's position on Thailand's rice exports. Let me take the chance here to set the record straight: Thailand is a great international trading partner, it's commited to maintaining its rice exports, and we support this action. This is very important at this time of food price hikes and it's the responsible thing to do.