This is the summary for this month’s Global Manufacturing Economic Update:
As we begin 2014, the global economy appears poised to grow stronger than it did last year. For only the second time since we have prepared this report, all top 10 markets for U.S.-manufactured goods were expanding, with Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) readings greater than 50. (The other time was last October) As recently as September, just six of these nations were growing. Such progress suggests that weaknesses experienced over the summer months have begun to dissipate, and indeed, we have seen stabilization in both China and Europe since then.
The U.S. manufacturing sector has also begun to pick up, with sales and production accelerating from the third quarter forward. Moreover, the budget deal passed in December and negotiated by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) hopefully will avoid a potential government shutdown until the fall of 2015—something that has helped ease some anxieties in the business community. Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has said that the improved outlook in the United States will allow the fund to revise its global growth prospects. In contrast, the IMF had downgraded its estimates for worldwide growth in the midst of October’s budget impasse. At that time, it predicted 3.6 percent growth in world output for 2014, down from 3.8 percent in its summer forecast. The IMF will release its next World Economic Outlook by the end of January.
Despite progress on the international economic front, exports of U.S.-manufactured goods have continued to grow very slowly. Through the first 11 months of 2013, manufactured goods exports have risen just 2.0 percent relative to the same time frame in 2012. This represents a deceleration from the 5.7 percent annual pace for 2012 and the roughly 15 percent required to meet President Obama’s National Export Initiative goals. Goods exports to Europe fell from 2012 to 2013, and we saw some easing in many other key markets as well. One of the brighter spots was goods exports to China, even as we continue to have a large trade deficit with that country.
We hope the better global growth will yield improvements for U.S.-manufactured exports in 2014. Many markets ended the year with manufacturing activity on a positive note. The Markit Eurozone Manufacturing PMI rose from 51.6 in November to 52.7 in December, expanding for the sixth consecutive month and reaching a level not seen since May 2011. While growth in Europe still has much room for improvement, it is clear that its emergence from the continent’s deep two-year recession has had a positive impact on overall sentiment. Likewise, manufacturing activity was generally higher in Asia and the emerging markets, even as the pace of growth in many of these economies eased a bit in December. For instance, the HSBC China Manufacturing PMI decreased from 50.8 to 50.5, but more importantly, activity has now risen modestly in the country for five straight months.
Our two largest trading partners have also made progress in recent months. While the RBC Canadian Manufacturing PMI fell from 55.3 to 53.5, manufacturers in Canada have reported steady improvements in activity since contracting briefly in March. Similar to the United States, the Canadian economy has picked up, with real GDP rising from 1.6 percent at the annual rate in the second quarter to 2.7 percent in the third quarter. Manufacturing capacity utilization rose to 80.5 percent in the third quarter, which was better than the 79.9 percent rate in the second quarter (but still below the 81.7 percent rate one year ago). Meanwhile, manufacturing activity in Mexico has risen for the fifth straight month, with stronger sales and production in December. Nonetheless, Mexican growth continues to climb quite slowly, with real GDP up just 1.6 percent in the second quarter and 1.3 percent in the third quarter.
Legislatively, House and Senate trade champions moved forward this week on new trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation, while trade negotiations in the Asia-Pacific region and with Europe continue to move forward.
Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.