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China’s Real Estate Free Fall May Not Bode Well For Commodities

June 21st, 2010 Michael McDonough

China’s plummeting real estate transactions could spell trouble for domestic steel and cement industries.  The average number of real estate transaction in China’s 15 largest cities fell 75% on an annual basis according to the most weekly June release according to Goldman Sachs.  On a ytd basis transactions have declined -29%.  The Chinese government has been attempting to cool the overheating sector, in the face of mounting inflation and a more hawkish tone on monetary policy.  According to the China Daily, quoted by Bloomberg, “Apart from one villa development, no residential project obtained a sales license last week and no new residential buildings were put on the market over the weekend.”  One of the primary reasons for the decline is more stringent government policy making it more difficult to receive a second mortgage, coupled with concerns over future policies that have buyers taking a wait and see approach.  The government relied on the domestic economy, including the real estate sector to strengthen growth during the global financial crisis. 

One potentially significant international implication of a slowdown in the Chinese real estate sector is that the country’s construction industry consumes half of the nation’s steel and 36% of its aluminum.  China’s insatiable demand for natural resources has been a major crutch for the commodities industry as demand from the remainder of the world remains tepid at best.  For example in 2009 China consumed 65% of the world’s iron ore exports.  Therefore, any slowdown in Chinese demand for natural resources could have an adverse impact on the commodities sector, and continue to depress shipping companies still at the mercy of China’s whim.  To get a visual on just how significant Chinese demand for natural resources has been please see this piece from Bloomberg’s Interactive Insight team: http://bit.ly/bnCYQz

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