Yesterday morning the Chicago PMI Data came in quite weak with a reading of 52.7 versus and expectation of 56.7. The Chicago PMI surveys purchasing managers in Chicago on business conditions, from employment to production and prices. This data serves as a leading indication of the economic health of business in the Chicago area.
This weak data set the table for the Chinese PMI release this morning, which also missed expectations of a 52.1 reading, coming in with a reading of 50.4. Since the United States and China are the world's two largest economies, the fact that both of these readings have declined in the past month is helping fuel the risk-aversion trade that has overtaken the markets in the month of May. A reading greater than 50 for both the Chicago and Chinese PMI data shows economic expansion; a reading below 50 shifts the market's focus to economic contraction.
Almost lost in all of the market movement that we have seen in the past 24 hours was the fact that the Irish held a national referendum last night to decide on stricter budget rules. Irish citizens voted 60% in favour of continuing with the tighter budget rules. It is a positive for the European Union that a country is going to stay the course and attempt to return to economic prosperity. Greece and France have both been kicking the can about walking away from these austerity measures, which has fuelled the majority of the economic uncertainty that we have seen in the past year.
The Unemployment Rate in Europe met expectations with a reading of 11% this morning. This is the highest level of unemployment in the European Union since data has been collected (since 1995). Unfortunately, many of the PIIGS countries that have had difficulties continue on that negative trend. Greece's Unemployment Rate dropped to 21.7% from 15.2% at the same time last year. Spain's also increased to 24.3% from 24.1% last month.