Manufacturers in Asia say the epidemic-driven trade boom is fading

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(Bloomberg) – Clothing companies and gadget makers across Asia are among the first to see the first signs of rising inflation from their global customers.

Bumper exports from Asia, especially China, were a major factor in the recovery of the global economy from the epidemic. Recent reports suggest that China’s aggressive Kovid lockdown and supply blockades linked to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine are fading. Good stock inventory has been another headwind.

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Producers say unpleasant demand is shifting from purchasing goods to purchasing services at the same time to curb rising interest rates and inflationary considerations.

One of the first producers to see signs of change is Lever Style, a global brand of apparel listed in Hong Kong. According to executive chairman Stanley Sejeto, while overall demand is strong, delivery orders look weak in the final quarter.

“I see that growth will slow down in the big time in a few more months,” he said. “We get a few months and quarter orders before actually shipping and we see that people are becoming very restless when it comes to buying inventory and placing orders.”

While some spending changes reflect the normalization of habits, some also reflect the softening of demand underlying inflation and rising interest rates – conditions that are bound to influence spending decisions, Seto said. Fading government stimulus and volatile financial markets are also having an impact, he added.

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“A perfect storm is coming,” he said. “I see that all macroeconomic conditions are working against the consumer.”

The slowdown has not yet reached the stage of trade recession. Both analysts and manufacturers say the underlying demand is strong and consumers have money to spend. In the United States, for example, household spending continued to rise until at least April. Shanghai is easing its lockdown, which is expected to ease pressure on the country’s exporters.

Nevertheless, the overall downshift is significant. The World Trade Organization lowered its forecast for growth in merchandise trade from 4.7% to 3% in April. According to closely monitored PMI data, Asia’s manufacturing sector contracted in April for the first time since June 2020.

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Bloomberg Trade Tracker shows the latest evidence of a softening in shipments: Throughput, one of the busiest ports in the world, hit another in April. Nine out of 10 tracker indicators across shipping, sentiment and exports are below the long-term average. Tenth – Combined with Korean exports – only looks good on paper because there were two extra working days in this period compared to last year.

“The outlook has become quite challenging this year and for at least the next,” said Priyanka Kishore of Oxford Economics. “Even before the war started, we were talking about a transition from goods to services,” he said.

Steve Chuang, whose Hong Kong-based company manufactures products such as power systems for camper vans and other recreational vehicles, saw his order book hit records in 2020 and 2021 as people were forced to vacation near their homes.

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This is changing now, says Chuang, founder and CEO of Provista Group. The firm’s wide range of offers includes automobile electronics and energy saving energy products, and its largest markets are the United States and Europe.

“You can feel inflation. Our ability to spend in key markets is becoming softer, ”said Chuang. “Trade will continue to grow, but not in the last two years.”

Even generally trusted American consumers are showing signs of lagging behind. Retail giant Walmart Inc. And Target Corp. Large stocks have suffered losses this month as general commodity sales weakened on their earnings report.

The picture could be even worse: Goldman Sachs models show that trade in Asia will slow further in the coming months. HSBC economists say the region’s trade growth is showing the first crack, while Nomura’s top Asia export index fell the most since the first half of May 2020.

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What Bloomberg Economics Says

“Asia’s supply chains will continue to be disrupted by two blows from China – a reduction in production and supply costs (due to demand shocks) and an increase in supply constraints and supply times (due to supply shocks).”

-Chang Shu, Chief Asia Economist

Click here for the full report

It is clear that consumers are becoming more cautious about their costs, says Christopher Tisse, chief executive officer of Musical Electronics Ltd.

“We’ve seen the coolness of orders since March,” Tse said. Although sales of its healthcare-related products have been suspended, demand for items such as high-power speaker systems is low.

“Inflation is affecting, interest rates are rising,” Tse said. “Buyers are very cautious these days.”

© 2022 Bloomberg LP



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