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China factory output, retail sales beat forecasts in boost to recovery prospects

China factory output, retail sales beat forecasts in boost to recovery prospects

 – China‘s industrial output and retail sales grew at a faster-than-expected pace in August, but property investment slumped further and could drag on broader demand even as the recent flurry of support policies showed signs of stabilizing the economy.

Industrial output, released on Friday by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), rose 4.5% in August from a year earlier, accelerating from the 3.7% pace seen in July and came above expectations for a 3.9% increase in a Reuters poll of analysts. The growth marked the quickest pace since April.

Retail sales, a gauge of consumption, also increased at a faster 4.6% pace in August aided by the summer travel season, and was the quickest growth since May. That compared with a 2.5% increase in July, and an expected 3% increase.

The upbeat data suggest that a flurry of recent measures including property support policies to shore up a faltering economic recovery are starting to bear fruit.

Reacting to the data, the Chinese yuan CNY=CFXS touched two-week high against dollar.

Yet, the recovery is far from sure-footed, analysts say.

“Despite signs of stabilization in manufacturing and related investment, the deteriorating property investment will continue to pressure economic growth,” said Gary Ng, Natixis Asia Pacific senior economist.

Friday’s data followed better-than-expected bank lending figures, narrowing in the declines of exports and imports as well as easing deflationary pressure.

The country’s passenger vehicle sales also returned to growth in August from a year earlier, as deeper discounts and tax breaks for environmentally friendly and electric vehicles boosted consumer sentiment.

To sustain the recovery momentum, China‘s central bank said on Thursday it would cut the amount of cash that banks must hold as reserves for the second time this year to boost liquidity. Earlier in the day, the bank also rolled over maturing medium-term policy loans to inject more liquidity into the finiancial system, while keeping the interest rate unchanged.

But analysts say more fiscal and monetary policy steps are needed as an ailing property sector, high youth unemployment, uncertainty around household consumption and rising Sino-US tensions over trade, technology and geopolitics have raised the bar for a durable economic recovery in the near future.

Ng said confidence remains the root of most problems requiring larger “constructive policy and regulatory changes” to boost growth momentum.

The once mighty property sector still remains a drag on the $18 trillion economy, with the country’s largest private developer Country Garden the latest to stumble due to liquidity squeeze.

For August, property investment extended its fall, down 19.1% year-on-year from a 17.8% slump the previous month, according to Reuters calculations based on NBS data.

Moody’s on Thursday cut China‘s crisis-hit property sector’s outlook to negative from stable, expecting contracted sales to fall by about 5% over the next six to 12 months.

Fixed asset investment expanded 3.2% in the first eight months of 2023 from the same period a year earlier, versus expectations for a 3.3% rise. It grew 3.4% in the first seven months.

An uncertain business climate meant companies remained wary about hiring, but the nationwide survey-based jobless rate improved a touch to 5.2% in August, slightly down from 5.3% in July. – Reuters

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A Haunting in Venice is Kenneth Branagh’s 20th film — what do we make of his prodigious output?

A Haunting in Venice is Kenneth Branagh’s 20th film — what do we make of his prodigious output?

IN AN essay on Kenneth Branagh, screenwriter Scott Frank recalls meeting the future star and director of his screenplay Dead Again (1991) and wondering “why the guy would want to direct a loopy, film noir thriller like mine?”

He goes on to say “the answer became abundantly clear: Kenneth Branagh wants to do everything.”

Branagh has not shaken this compulsion. A Haunting in Venice, his 20th film as director, opens in Australia today (It is also showing in the Philippines this week. — Ed.). It is his third appearance as Agatha Christie’s Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot; his first based on a Christie source not previously adapted for film (1969’s Hallowe’en Party); and fifth “loopy” thriller following the Poirots, Dead Again and Sleuth (2007).

It is par for the course for Branagh: dabbling across genres, putting fresh spins on well-worn material, and following in the footsteps of British acting and filmmaking luminaries.

Over his first two decades in film, Branagh’s signature work was Shakespearean, beginning with his 1989 directorial debut, Henry V.

In this respect, he followed in the footsteps of Laurence Olivier, whose directorial debut was his wartime Henry V (1944), and Orson Welles, another wunderkind with Shakespearean credentials.

Olivier and Welles created three Shakespeare films apiece. Branagh has, so far, directed five: Henry V, Much Ado about Nothing (1993), Hamlet (1996), Love’s Labour’s Lost (2000) and As You Like It (2006).

He portrayed Iago in Oliver Parker’s Othello (1995), helmed In The Bleak Midwinter (1995) – the story following a semi-professional troupe staging Hamlet – and starred as the Bard himself in All is True (2018). Even Branagh’s self-aggrandizing autobiography opens each chapter with lines from Shakespeare.

In addition to courting association with Shakespeare, Branagh’s choices cultivated association with his stage and screen precursors. Like Olivier, he has played both Henry V and Hamlet. Branagh even portrayed Olivier in My Week with Marilyn (2012).

In playing Poirot, Branagh followed the footsteps of British acting luminaries such as Albert Finney, Peter Ustinov, and David Suchet.

He positions himself alongside luminaries, casting actors like Derek Jacobi, Paul Scofield, Judi Dench, and John Gielgud in his films.

As the director of the Sir Kenneth Branagh Archive, Mark Thornton Burnett, notes, Branagh “deployed seasoned figures from the Royal Shakespeare Company to authenticate his entry into a sacrosanct arena.”

He canonized himself rather than waiting to be canonized.

It worked. Now an elder statesman, he recited Shakespeare scored to Elgar at the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony and lends gravitas to the films of Christopher Nolan.

To Branagh’s credit, he has parodied his upstart crow status, for instance in his role as Gilderoy Lockhart in the Harry Potter films.

While his Shakespearean films position Branagh as a classicist, his genre-hopping around those films is eclectic. He directed thrillers Dead Again and Sleuth, the dramedy Peter’s Friends (1992), and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994).

My PhD, completed in 2009, considered Branagh’s self-fashioning through Shakespeare, little anticipating in the subsequent 13 years he would direct films as disparate as Marvel’s Thor (2011), the Tom Clancy action movie Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014), Disney’s Cinderella (2015), the intimate All is True, children’s fantasy Artemis Fowl (2020), his Poirot trilogy, and autobiographical Belfast (2021).

From a cynical perspective, Branagh has made overtures to commercial filmmaking. Alternately, as Frank suggested, Branagh really does “want to do everything.”

Branagh genre-hopped even within his Shakespeare films. His dramatic entrance in shadow in Henry V evokes Darth Vader; his arrival on horseback in Much Ado about Nothing summons The Magnificent Seven (2016); the musical numbers in Love’s Labour’s Lost echo classic Hollywood musicals.

Hamlet, in particular, invites association with Hollywood epics. At 242 minutes, it was the longest commercial release since 1963’s Cleopatra, the first 70mm British production since 1970’s Ryan’s Daughter, and shot by Lawrence of Arabia’s focus-puller Alex Thomson.

The film’s palatial wintry setting recalls Doctor Zhivago, as does Julie Christie’s casting as Gertrude. Charlton Heston’s casting evokes his popular biblical epics. Placing Hamlet’s “How all occasions” soliloquy before intermission mirrors Gone with the Wind’s famous pre-intermission speech.

Branagh’s staging of Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” monologue even suggests Taxi Driver, where anti-hero Travis Bickle likewise fantasizes dangerous courses of action before a mirror.

While Branagh’s Shakespearean output links him to high culture, his dabbling across genres and homages to classic films show him to be a pop culture connoisseur.

Branagh is a maximalist whose precursors are, in some respects, Ken Russell and Richard Lester: directors with idiosyncratic and irreverent relationships to British heritage cinema who were unafraid to take creative swings.

Like Branagh, Russell was tongue-in-cheek in grappling with the canon (D.H. Lawrence, Elgar, Mahler, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Byron, and the Shelleys), but far more subversive.

Like Branagh, Lester was an energetic, lively filmmaker who dabbled in Hollywood superhero fare (Superman II and III) and populist classic literature (his Musketeers films and Robin and Marion), but far more counter-cultural.

Joe Wright is arguably Branagh’s contemporary and successor. He too has a penchant for long tracking shots (see Atonement’s Dunkirk sequence and Henry V’s post-Agincourt march); delivers spry, earthy takes on canonical material (Pride and Prejudice); and is unafraid of genre fare (Hanna), postmodern approaches (Anna Karenina), or looking silly (Pan).

Branagh is, ultimately, an important figure who traverses mediums, roles, genres and tastes. Though varying wildly in quality — Rotten Tomato scores for his directorial features range from 8% for Artemis Fowl to 98% for Henry V — his output showcases a quite remarkable straddling of genres and production scales, seemingly hidden in plain sight. — The Conversation via Reuters Connect

Benjamin Kooyman is a Learning Adviser at the Australian National University.

#Haunting #Venice #Kenneth #Branaghs #20th #film #prodigious #output

Manufacturing output climbs to 2-month high

Manufacturing output climbs to 2-month high

MANUFACTURING OUTPUT climbed to a two-month high in July, propelled by higher production of beverages, petroleum, and food products, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported on Thursday.

Preliminary results of the Monthly Integrated Survey of Selected Industries showed factory output, as measured by the volume of production index (VoPI), rose by 5.7% year on year in July. This was higher than the revised 3.4% in June and 3.6% in July last year.

July marked the 13th month of annual VoPI growth.

The 5.7% expansion was the fastest in two months or since 7.1% in May.

On a monthly basis, July’s VoPI grew by 3.8% from June’s revised 2.9% contraction. Adjusting for seasonality factors, manufacturing output increased month on month by 3%, a turnaround from the 2.1% decline in June.

Year to date, factory output rose by 5.2% in the January-to-July period, lower than the 23.9% growth a year ago.

In a statement, the PSA attributed the July uptick in VoPI to faster growth in three industry divisions: beverages (up by 12.6% from -11.4% in June), coke and refined petroleum products (up by 36.2% from 15.9%), and food products (up by 1.2% from -3.1%).

The VoPI growth mirrors the improvement seen in the S&P Global Philippines Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) in July. The Philippines’ PMI reading rose to 51.9 in July from the 11-month low of 50.9 in June. A PMI score above 50 signals an expansion in factory activity.

PSA data showed the capacity utilization rate in July slightly improved to 73.5% from 73.3% in June and the 71.4% rate for July 2022. All 22 sectors averaged higher than the minimum 50% capacity utilization rate for July.

The increase in factory output in July may have been driven by the continued economic growth.

“The increase in economic activity is developing demand for power and transportation. Hence the increased production of coal and fuel… As for beverages, I would attribute it to the economy being a consumer-driven economy,” Peter Lee U, dean of the University of Asia and the Pacific’s School of Economics, said in a phone interview.

He said the manufacturing sector may still grow this year, although a global economic slowdown and elevated inflation may weigh on overall demand. — A.C.Abestano

#Manufacturing #output #climbs #2month #high

Metal output up 8% by value as nickel volumes ramp up

Metal output up 8% by value as nickel volumes ramp up

METALS production rose 8.06% by value in the first half due to a drastic increase in nickel output, which offset a decline in the average price for the ore, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said.

In a report on Monday, it said production was valued at P123.07 billion, up from P113.89 billion a year earlier, with nickel ore and nickel byproducts accounting for 46.57% of the total, generating P57.32 billion.

The average nickel price fell during the six months to $10.98 per pound from $12.95 per pound a year earlier.

“Despite the sluggish nickel price in (the first half of) 2023, nickel ore, together with its nickel products, continued to dominate production,” the MGB said.

Gold accounted for 41.62% by value, generating P51.22 billion. The price of gold rose by $59.48 year on year to $1,933.95 per troy ounce.

Silver, chromite, and iron ore accounted for P1.79 billion, or 1.46% of the total.

By volume, nickel production increased 40% year on year to 16.87 million dry metric tons (DMT).

Gold output rose by 3% to 15,102 kilograms in the first half.

Chromite production increased by 20% to 47,449 DMT.

Copper output rose 6% to 133,072 DMT while iron ore production rose 17% to 56,131 DMT;

Silver production declined 12% to 23,316 kilos during the half.

“Nickel ore production is expected to expand further as the MGB expects four nickel mining projects to commence mining operations between 2023 to 2025,” it added. — Adrian H. Halili

#Metal #output #nickel #volumes #ramp