China's energy numbers for May are out. As economic performance indicators, power consumption statistics in China are often preferred over GDP.
On the demand side, 386.5 tWh was consumed in May, representing around 21% of the year to date. This is a little lower than expected and represents a 10.8% increase on the previous May, as opposed to a 12% increase for the first five months of the year.
However, power consumption analysis has its drawbacks. Average temperatures were little cooler this year, energy efficiency is progressing, and there’s always the fluctuation of large engineering projects.
Some other metrics to look at include: the Baltic Dry Index, which rose by 25% from 3360 to 4200 in May 2010; and by 13% at the lower level of 1310 to 1485 in May 2011. Chibor (possibly compared with M2), certain capital goods imports like machine tools, lubricants, and so on.
Obscuring the picture would be subsidized industries like alternative energy equipment and rail; industries in which there is a national strategic interest such as grain and education; and, of course, anything related to real estate.
The bottom line is that China is too large, complex and poorly documented for any single number is going to give you a clear picture.