China country-specific exchange traded funds retreated after Beijing for the first time in over a quarter-century refrained from issuing an economic growth target for 2020.
On Friday, the iShares MSCI China ETF (NASDAQ: MCHI) fell 3.6%, SPDR S&P China ETF (NYSEArca: GXC) declined 3.3% and Xtrackers Harvest CSI 300 China A-Shares ETF (NYSEArca: ASHR) decreased 1.3%.
It is the first time China skipped a formal target since the practice began in 1994, suggesting that Beijing leadership isn’t eager to pump out another stimulus after the economy suffered through its sharpest contraction in four decades, the Wall Street Journal reports.
China showed a 6.1% expansion in gross domestic product last year, its slowest pace in almost three decades. In comparison, China’s economy suffered its first contraction in over four decades, contracting 6.8% in the first quarter year-over-year.
Economists previously projected that China required economic growth of at least 5.5% to meet its target of doubling the economy’s overall size, which now seems out of reach without a broader reframing of the goals.
Nevertheless, Beijing has promised increased government spending to stimulate the economy, following the drag from the new coronavirus and shutdown measures to contain the spread of the outbreak. China’s Finance Ministry said it would target a fiscal budget deficit this year of over 3.6% of the country’s projected GDP, compared to last year’s 2.8% target and above its typical upper limit of 3%.
At China’s annual National People’s Congress, Premier Li Keqiang explained that the decision to scrap an explicit numerical forecast was made “because our country will face some factors that are difficult to predict,” notably the coronavirus and uncertainties around trade. Li added that the lack of a target “will enable all of us to concentrate on ensuring stability…and security.”
Without a large stimulus package, economists believe China’s policymakers will try to improve employment and living conditions for the tens of millions of Chinese workers whom economists calculated have lost jobs during the coronavirus shutdowns.
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