This is not the first time that China has once again dominated the news this week.
The release of new economic data provided a temperature check of the world’s second-largest economy, while dubious COVID-19 death rates focused attention on Beijing’s reputation for secrecy and narrative control at all costs.
Elsewhere, Asia’s youngest nation went to the polls and Japan experienced a rare display of rising inflation after decades of sluggish economic growth.
These are the numbers to know to stay on top of this week’s economic and business news.
The first-quarter performance beat most forecasters’ predictions but reflected only a fraction of the effect of lockdowns imposed on Chinese cities, including the financial capital of Shanghai, since late March.
Even without factoring in the economically crippling lockdowns, economic data hinted at storm clouds on the horizon: Retail sales, a key indicator of economic health, fell 3.5 percent in March compared to the same period last year. last year.
Analysts expect much worse to come as Chinese President Xi Jinping signals his intention to take a zero-tolerance approach to the virus long after the rest of the world has moved on from the pandemic.
The IMF and banks including UBS, Bank of America and Barclays this week lowered their growth forecasts for China in 2022.
Nomura’s especially dovish forecast, 3.9 percent, would mark China’s slowest growth rate since 1990, apart from 2020, when the pandemic derailed the global economy.
The number of COVID-19 deaths China has reported from coronavirus outbreaks since the beginning of March.
To say that the figure has raised its eyebrows would be an understatement.
With some 550,000 cases reported so far, most of them in Shanghai, the official death toll flies in the face of all international experience with the virus.
By comparison, South Korea, with a higher vaccination rate, reported a fatality rate of about 0.12 percent during its most recent wave.
Applying the same ratio to China would translate to about 660 deaths.
Some health experts quoted in international media have attributed the discrepancy to Chinese authorities’ long-standing practice of focusing on underlying causes of death, such as cancer and heart disease.
Others question whether Beijing is intentionally distorting face to save face after spending so much political capital claiming its response to the pandemic has been superior to that of the West.
The part of the votes obtained by the independence leader and Nobel laureate José Ramos-Horta in the presidential elections of East Timor.
Ramos-Horta, who previously served as president of the young nation from 2007 to 2012, earned a landslide against incumbent Francisco “Lu Olo” Guterres after a Monday runoff.
Ramos-Horta, who has pledged to reduce poverty, faces the challenge of diversifying the Southeast Asian country’s economy away from oil and gas, which has accounted for more than 90 percent of government revenue in recent years.
The president-elect has said he expects East Timor, which gained independence from Indonesia in 2022, to become the 11th member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations this year.
The amount by which Japan’s consumer prices increased year over year in March.
The core consumer price index (CPI), which excludes volatile fresh food prices but does cover fuel, rose 0.6 percent in February, the fastest rise in more than two years.
Unlike other countries that are raising interest rates to rein in runaway inflation, Japan has grappled for decades with opposing problems of stagnation and deflation, and its central bank has vowed to maintain stimulus measures to boost growth.
While high inflation erodes people’s purchasing power, a moderate amount is considered a healthy sign of rising demand and economic growth.
For years, the world’s third-largest economy has tried in vain to hit a 2 percent inflation target with rock-bottom interest rates and fiscal stimulus ranging from tax cuts to cash handouts.
The spiraling commodity prices due to the war in Ukraine and the weakening of the yen are finally causing prices to rise significantly.
But that could be a double-edged sword.
While Japan’s inflation remains modest by international standards, a significant spike could prove politically dangerous in a country accustomed to decades of stagnant prices and poor wage growth.
In a sign of the general public’s concern about the cost of living, Japanese households predicted inflation to hit 6.4 percent next year in a BOJ survey earlier this month, Bloomberg reported. That was the highest reading since 2008.