Here is the summary for this month’s Global Manufacturing Economic Update:
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) slightly downgraded its global outlook earlier this week, with Asia, Europe and South America growing slower than expected three months ago. The IMF now expects world output to expand 3.3 percent and 3.8 percent in 2014 and 2015, respectively, down from 3.4 percent and 4.0 percent as estimated in its July report. One notable exception to this downward trend was the United States, with the IMF raising its 2014 forecast from 1.7 percent to 2.2 percent real GDP growth. This reflects recent strength in the U.S. economy, particularly when compared to other nations. To be fair, the IMF had more optimistic expectations for growth coming into this year, projecting 2.8 percent growth in 2014 in its January report. After disappointing growth in the first quarter, however, it lowered its outlook projections, much like everyone else.
One of the bigger challenges remains Europe. The Markit Eurozone Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) continued to decelerate in September, with activity just shy of being stagnant. New orders contracted for the first time since June 2013, when the Eurozone was emerging from its deep two-year recession. Indeed, the fear is that Europe will once again sink back into recession, with contracting levels of activity seen in four nations in September: Austria, France, Germany and Greece. Of particular note on this list was Germany, the largest economy in Europe. Real GDP was unchanged in the second quarter, down from 0.2 percent growth in the first quarter. Meanwhile, both industrial production and retail sales were higher in August. We will get new production data next week, and it is expected to be softer. For its part, the European Central Bank kept its monetary policies unchanged, but there is an expectation of further stimulus in the coming months.
Meanwhile, Brazil, Russia, India and China also continue to experience softness. Brazil shifted into its fifth contraction so far this year, but investors are cautiously optimistic about the upcoming runoff election between incumbent President Dilma Rousseff and Aécio Neves, who is favored by business leaders. Russia, India and China are growing, but just barely. China’s manufacturing sector has shown signs of stabilization, but stronger growth remains elusive. A number of key economic indicators in China have continued to decelerate this year, including industrial production, and it is likely that real GDP will decline from 7.5 percent growth in the second quarter to 7.3 percent in the third quarter. India’s PMI figure in September was at its lowest point this year, and Russian exports continue to fall. Nonetheless, it was not all bad news in the emerging markets. For instance, Indonesia, Turkey and Vietnam had their paces of new orders shift from negative to positive for the month, which bodes well for them.
The U.S. trade deficit narrowed marginally in August, although export growth remains sluggish so far this year. Looking at the top 10 markets for U.S.-manufactured goods, four countries (Brazil, Germany, Hong Kong and South Korea) experienced contracting levels of activity in September, which hampers our ability to sell products there. In addition, Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom also had marginally deteriorated demand and output in September, even as each continues to grow modestly. In contrast, manufacturing activity in Mexico and the Netherlands accelerated slightly in September.
U.S. trade negotiations in the Asia Pacific are moving forward with major meetings in Australia and China later this month and next. United States–European Union negotiations face increased controversy and new leadership at the EU Commission and Parliament. And, with the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement facing a continued stalemate, there are efforts to move the information technology talks to a conclusion and engage in the detailed environmental goods talks. The U.S. Export-Import Bank was granted a nine-month extension, but manufacturers remain highly concerned that continued uncertainty will put U.S. exporters at a disadvantage in global markets. Efforts continue to move forward on a host of trade legislation, including Trade Promotion Authority, the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill, customs reauthorization and the Generalized System of Preferences.
Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.