Apple and Caterpillar comments are not good signs on China
Apple earnings for the previous fiscal quarter were as expected with no hiccups, but the outlook for the current fiscal quarter was more uncertain with a potential revenue hit of $4-8bn from Chinese lockdowns impacting supply and potentially also demand in its Chinese market which generated around $18bn in revenue for the previous quarter.
Caterpillar, the world’s largest maker of construction equipment, delivered strong Q1 results beating on both the top and bottom line, but the company is still not providing any guidance which is a legacy from the pandemic, but also something it plans for change going forward. However, in its earnings call with analysts the company said Chinese construction activity weakened in Q1 and that China demand is slightly lower than in 2019.
A louder echo of Caterpillar’s concerns in China was seen in an article in the FT in which private equity firm PAG founder Weijian Shan said that China’s zero-covid policy has resulted in a deep economic crisis saying it is in its worst shape over the past 30 years saying sentiment on Chinese equities is very weak. In the interview he says that China in 2022 feels a bit like Europe and the US in 2008. The chart below showing market to total assets of large banks in the US and China has long been one of our favourite charts to point out the weakening credit cycle in China. Chinese banks continue to extend a lot of credit (increasing assets), but market values continue to grow at a slower pace indicating that investors are worried about credit quality.