JP Morgan soothes fears of busted flush in China

JP Morgan soothes fears of busted flush in China

The level of debt in the Chinese economy is perfectly sustainable and not a portent for an economic collapse, according to Karen Ward, chief market strategist for the UK and Europe at JP Morgan Asset Management.

Ms Ward replaced former BBC economics editor Stephanie Flanders in the role at JP Morgan last year.

Investors such as Neil Woodford have expressed concern about the outlook for Chinese economy. Mr Woodford said the credit bubble in China is unlike any that has been seen before in terms of scale, and that when it bursts it will have a major impact on the global economy.

He said the reason shares in mining sector of the FTSE 100 performed well in 2017 was due to the market expecting the Chinese economy to continue to perform well. In his outlook for 2018 he said he expects the “bubble” that has developed in certain UK shares as a result of this optimism will burst soon.

But Ms Ward said that while debt levels in China are high, they are not a concern.

“From a debt perspective, debt in China is on a par with that of the US and Italy and below that of Japan.

"Now, remember that China is still at a very early stage of development. Only 56 per cent of its population lives in urban areas, compared to more than 80 per cent in the US and UK.

"Its potential growth rate should therefore be considerably higher than the developed world during this period of economic convergence.

"Put differently, would you lend an equivalent mortgage to a young graduate with a hot career ahead or someone nearing the end of their career?”

She added that Chinese debt is largely held within the country, rather than being sourced from international markets.

This means, Ward said, that there is unlikely to be a flight of capital from the country, even if there is market volatility, and that should serve to prevent a crash.

Ms Ward added that Chinese policy makers have introduced measures in recent months to curb credit growth in the economy.

She said even with the introduction of those measures the economy is likely to grow by 6 per cent in 2017.

Ben Yearsley, director at Shore Wealth, said eight of the top ten funds across all IA sectors in the 2017 calendar year were either Asia or Chinese specific funds, indicating the popularity of the asset class with investors in 2017.

David Scott, an adviser with the firm of Andrews Gynne in Leeds, added the Chinese economy can thrive because hundreds of millions of its workers have become as productive as those in the developed world, but consume far less.

This is because production is China is much cheaper, so more is produced than is needed in that country, so goods are exported to developed countries at a price cheaper than they can be manufactured in the developed market, that pushes the price of goods downwards, creating deflation.