© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Workers wearing face masks following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak load steel products for export to a cargo ship at a port in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, China May 27, 2020. China Daily via REUTERS
BEIJING (Reuters) – Earnings at China’s industrial firms grew at a slower pace in April, with high commodity prices and weaker performance in the consumer goods sector limiting overall profitability from manufacturing. Profits at China’s industrial firms rose 57% year-on-year in April to 768.63 billion yuan ($120.22 billion), down from year-on-year growth of 92.3% in March, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed on Thursday. For the January-April period, industrial firms’ profits grew 106% from the same period a year earlier to 2.59 trillion yuan. “The improvement of corporate performance is still uneven,” an NBS official said in a statement accompanying the data. “The profitability of some consumer goods industries has not yet recovered to pre-epidemic levels; coupled with the high prices of bulk commodities, this has increased the pressure on the production and operation of midstream and downstream industries.” China’s economy posted record growth in the first quarter as it emerged from the pandemic slump although analysts expect the brisk expansion to moderate later this year. Officials warn the foundations for economic recovery are not yet secure amid emerging problems, including pressures on firms caused by higher raw material costs as international commodity prices rise. From the start of the year through mid-May, prices for China’s steel rebar, hot-rolled steel coil and – vital for the construction of machinery, buildings, appliances and vehicles – surged more than 30%. Exports accelerated in April, as a brisk U.S. recovery and stalled factory production in virus-hit countries including India boosted overseas orders from China. However, growth in factory activity and output slowed in April, with companies facing challenges such as chip and container shortages, problems in international logistics and rising freight rates. Liabilities at industrial firms increased 8.6% year-on-year at end-April, down from 9.0% growth as of end-March.
The industrial profit data covers large firms with annual revenues of over 20 million yuan from their main operations. ($1 = 6.3936 renminbi)
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