Asia Pacific region faces commodity price volatility

By Chen Boyuan
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, May 14, 2012
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Asia-Pacific faces another year of slowing growth as demand for its exports falls in developed countries and capital cost rises, according to latest United Nations projections, which nonetheless show optimism as the region will remain the anchor of global economic stability.

Amitava Mukherjee, UNESCAP's senior expert of Macro Economic Policy Development Division.[Chen Boyuan /]

Amitava Mukherjee, UNESCAP's senior expert of Macro Economic Policy Development Division.[Chen Boyuan /]

Commodity price volatility with the long term outlook of an upward trend is another major concern for the region, says the Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2012: Pursing shared prosperity in an era of turbulence and high commodity prices, the flagship publication of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), which is based in Bangkok, Thailand.

The report, released Thursday in Bangkok, projects the region's overall gross domestic product (GDP) growth to slow down to 6.5 percent in 2012 from 7.0 percent one year ago. The 2010 figure was even higher, at 8.9 percent.

Yet according to UNESCAP, the slowdown will help ease inflation in the Asia-Pacific region, which is expected to moderate from 6.1 percent in 2011 to 4.8 percent this year.

As for China, the report predicts China's growth in 2012 to be 8.6 percent, slightly lower than the 8.7-percent predication by Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), but still higher than those by Asian Development Bank (ADB; 8.5 percent), IMF (8.2 percent) and the World Bank (8.2 percent).

Meanwhile, China's the consumer price index (CPI) reported a year-on-year 3.4 percent increase in April, retreating slightly from 3.6 percent one month earlier. The country aims to keep the yearly inflation rate at around 4.0 percent in 2012, according to reports by China's official Xinhua News Agency.

Despite the easing inflation, China still faces a deeply challenging external environment in achieving GDP growth, says the UNESCAP report. The euro zone debt crisis and high-level price fluctuations of oil and other commodities continue to be major obstacles for a smooth economic expansion, said Amitava Mukherjee, UNESCAP's senior expert of Macro Economic Policy Development Division on Thursday in Beijing.

Crude traded in NYMEX closed at US$95.57 per barrel on Friday, the lowest closing price so far this year. Pessimism in the market demand as reflected in the sluggish macroeconomic data of China was mostly believed to have lead to the oil price fall.

On Wednesday, China cut petroleum and diesel prices by 330 yuan (US$52) and 310 yuan (US$49) per ton respectively, a move that the country's top planner, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said will help to ease the pressure on the economy growth and people's livelihood.

Renmin University professor Huang Yanfen said he agreed with the UNESCAP projection that the international oil prices downward trend was merely temporary, amid the euro zone's struggles to recover and as the result of troubles in OPEC nations like Syria, Egypt and Iran.

The fluctuating commodity prices challenge China's urbanization in that new migrants into cities will need housing and other accommodations, and real estate prices are unlikely to fall "back to reasonable levels," Huang said. She said she believed the property bubbles in China "would not burst overnight like the situation in Japan."

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