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Friday, May 06, 2005

Global: Storm Clouds Gathering?

A number of 'gloomy' articles around in the press at the moment, first the US:

"Data released on Monday showed that manufacturing activity slowed further in April, with the Institute for Supply Management index sliding more steeply than expected from 55.2 to 53.3.
The index has fallen in eight of the nine previous releases and is creeping perilously close to the 50 mark that separates expansion from contraction. Particularly worrying was a sharp fall in the new orders component of the index to 53.7 from 57.1, which may point to weaker production in coming months.

Both the Federal Reserve and private sector economists have long been braced for a slowdown in consumer spending. Even so, evidence of an almost complete stagnation of retail sales in March which rose by just 0.1 per cent, excluding the volatile auto sector came as an unwelcome surprise.

The main concern, however, has been evidence of a slowdown in business investment. This grew by 10.6 per cent last year and was expected to continue to push the economy forward as consumers reined back their spending.

Last week's gross domestic product figures showed the growth in overall business investment slowing to 4.7 per cent in the first quarter, from 14.5 per cent in the previous three months.
Perhaps more worrying, there was evidence in the durable goods orders figures that this weakness is spilling over into the second quarter. Orders for non-defence capital goods components, excluding aircraft a proxy for business investment fell 4.7 per cent in March following a 2.5 per cent decline a month earlier."

Then there is the Eurozone:

"Manufacturing in the eurozone contracted in April for the first time in 20 months, highlighting the scale of the economic slowdown across the region and adding to fears that some member states might even be facing recession, according to a survey on Monday. The fall in the eurozone purchasing managers' index for the second month running, from 50.4 in March to 49.2, is the latest evidence of a significant slowdown in growth in the second quarter of this year, largely as a result of the energy-price shock.

France and Italy experienced a particularly sharp deterioration. Germany had a further weakening in business conditions."

Conditions in Japan are no better, so that leaves us with China propping the whole thing up! (All quotes are from the Financial Times as linked).

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