Trade war is upon us
The threat of an all-out trade war will continue to dominate the headlines before the US implements $34 billion of tariffs on Chinese goods on 6 July. China has vowed to retaliate on an equal scale and intensity. The stakes are high but so are the hopes that the two countries will come to terms in averting the war in a last-minute deal.
Meanwhile, the tensions will weigh on trade from the rest of Asia. Korea’s trade data for June will be a testimony of this. The 4.8% year-on-year fall in Korean exports in the first 20 days of June was alarming, a sign of already weakening export momentum. The weak trade sentiment is further reflected in the Korean won as Asia’s worst currency with 4.1% month-to-date depreciation.
Korean export growth in June
ING forecast: down from 13.5% in May
Currency weakness is inflationary
Inflation data crowds the calendar next week as Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand report CPI for June. The usual focus here is on Indonesia and the Philippines, Asia’s high inflation economies.
We anticipate some inflation relief in Indonesia, with our forecast slowdown below 3% year on year for the first time in two years on the lower transport component. The risk to this view stems from the seasonal food price spike during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. In the Philippines, 4.6% YoY inflation in May was the highest since 2011. We expect a further rise to 4.7% in June.
Inflation in other reporting countries is benign so far. But the risk of trade-related currency weakness fuelling inflation in the future is on the rise. The Asian central banks will have a challenging time in striking a growth-inflation balance in the event of an all-out trade war.