Thursday, September 3, 2009

The incredible shrinking surplus

Is China deliberately understating the size of its trade surplus?

CHINA'S current-account surplus is seen by some as the root cause of the financial crisis. The good news is that after widening year after year it is now shrinking much faster than expected. In the first half of this year the surplus narrowed to $130 billion, one-third lower than a year earlier, and barely half its level in the second half of 2008. Not only has China's merchandise trade surplus narrowed, but investment income from China's stash of foreign reserves has also dropped. Arthur Kroeber at Dragonomics, an economic-research firm, predicts that the current-account surplus is likely to drop to 5% of China's GDP this year, down from 11% at its peak in 2007. Belatedly, China seems to be doing its bit to rebalance the world economy.