BESIDES being dirty and dangerous, making steel in China has been a good way to burn through money over the past few years. But in recent months, the fires from the country’s blast-furnaces have started to emit the warm glow of profits. Steel prices have risen by nearly 50% this year. Production, which fell in 2015 for the first time in decades, is also up. Smelters are set for a strong recovery after losing $10bn last year. And it is not just the steelmakers who will be pleased. Asia’s central bankers can also take some comfort in the rising prices: they suggest that the threat of deflation might be receding.
Once seen in Asia as a peculiarly Japanese phenomenon, deflation spread throughout the region’s factories in the past half-decade. The prices that consumers see in shops have on the whole continued to increase, albeit more gently than before. But the prices that companies charge for goods as they leave their factories’ gates have dipped lower and lower. Virtually all big Asian economies, including South Korea, India, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand, have experienced prolonged bouts of falling producer…Continue reading