Fitch cuts China’s outlook to ‘Negative’ on risks from debt, weak growth

Fitch cuts China’s outlook to ‘Negative’ on risks from debt, weak growth



Fitch Ratings downgraded China’s credit rating outlook on Wednesday, citing concerns over growing public debt and slowing growth in the world’s second-largest economy.

Fitch downgraded the country’s credit rating outlook to “Negative” from “Stable,” although it still affirmed China’s rating at A+.

“The Outlook revision reflects increasing risks to China’s public finance outlook as the country contends with more uncertain economic prospects amid a transition away from property-reliant growth to what the government views as a more sustainable growth model,” the ratings agency said in a note.

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Fitch expects China’s gross domestic product to fall to 4.5% in 2024 from 5.2% in 2023, missing government forecasts of 5% amid persistent weakness in the property market and weak consumer spending.

While the headwinds are expected to be somewhat offset by increased fiscal stimulus, this also presents a higher outlook for debt.

Fitch said it expected government debt to rise to 61.3% of GDP in 2024 from 56.1% in 2023- underpinned chiefly by increased fiscal support from Beijing to shore up economic growth.

China’s deflationary trend also remained a concern, Fitch said, with sustained deflation presenting more risks to the country’s GDP. Inflation data for March is due on Thursday and is expected to provide more cues on deflation.

The ratings agency still affirmed China’s credit rating at A+ on the prospect of relatively stronger growth in China when compared to its peers. Diversity in the country’s economy and its importance in global trade are still expected to elicit some growth.

Concerns over slowing economic growth in China have grown in recent months, especially as a post-COVID rebound failed to materialize in 2023. A sustained downturn in the country’s key property market- which accounts for a quarter of GDP- has also dented China’s outlook, especially amid a wave of major defaults in the sector.

Moody’s (NYSE:MCO) had in December also downgraded its China outlook to Negative.

Chinese finance ministry responds to Fitch downgrade

Local media reports showed that China’s Finance Ministry lamented Fitch’s outlook downgrade, while also criticizing the rating agency’s system for missing some positive effects of fiscal policy.

The Finance Ministry said its efforts to defuse high debt levels was progressing in an orderly manner, and that overall risk was still controllable.

Chinese officials also reported a decline in the scale of hidden debt and the number of Local Government Financing Vehicles.

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