With the New Year upon us it was refreshing to see some positive data coming out of the world's major economies' manufacturing sectors. It tells us that despite the Euro-zone debt crisis (sovereign and banking) the global real economy has not sputtered into a tailspin.
US manufacturing beat expectations, Swiss manufacturing expanded, and the UK saw a slight contraction in December
From Bloomberg: The U.S. Institute for Supply Management's factory index climbed to a six-month high of 53.9 in December from 52.7 the previous month. The median of 74 estimates in a Bloomberg survey was for an increase to 53.5.
In Europe, a gauge of Swiss manufacturing rose to 50.7 in December from 44.8 in November when adjusted for seasonal swings, Credit Suisse Group AG in Zurich said in an e-mailed statement today. That's the first reading above 50, which divides contraction from expansion, since August. A U.K. index (PMITMUK) rose to 49.6 from a revised 47.7 and a measure of new export orders increased for the first time in five months, led by demand from customers in Germany, Eastern Europe and China.
Europe however continues to drag. As a whole, manufacturing remained weak, showing modest contraction.
Markit Economics said yesterday that its euro-area purchasing managers' survey for December was at 46.9 in December, up from 46.4 in November. Germany, France and Italy, the region's three biggest economies, were among the countries that reported contractions.
While softness in Europe is expected, the positive tone in the US, Switzerland, and UK helped give markets a reason to put fresh money to use buying equities which rallied on the day.
In Asia meanwhile we saw some positive manufacturing data as well.
From Bloomberg: The Purchasing Managers Index in India rose to 54.2, the most in six months, from 51 in November, HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. In China, the index was at 50.3 from 49 in November, the Beijing-based logistics federation said in a statement on Jan. 1.
Another positive release came from the US where the construction sector saw a better than expected gain for November, posting a 1.2% increase. That's the 3rd month out of 4 that construction spending has risen, and can generate some optimism that the US construction and housing sector - so downtrodden following the bursting of the US housing bubble may finally be seeing some life. Recent data on housing starts and home-builder confidence has also been better than expected of late. That should continue to fuel the growth divergence story we have seen in America compared to Europe and Asia.
Combining these fundamental releases we can see some tentative signs of optimism for equities and other risk assets to start January, with more key data to be released in the second half of the week.
We also have to keep our eye on the tensions in the Middle East as Iran and the US continue to posture and escalate their war of words surrounding Iran's war games in the Strait of Hormuz. Oil prices were higher in today's session.