Manufacturing from the U.K. to India showed improvement in December, suggesting production is weathering strains from Europe’s sovereign debt crisis.
Purchasing manager indexes for the U.K., Switzerland, China, India and Australia rose in December, while German unemployment fell more than economists forecast as exports of cars and machinery boomed, reports today showed. U.S. manufacturing growth accelerated more than economists forecast to the fastest pace in six months.
The factory production data indicate some resilience in the industry as European leaders work to flesh out their plan to end the debt turmoil that’s threatening to drag the region back into recession. The International Monetary Fund may cut its 2012 global growth forecast this month after lowering it to 4 percent in September, when it predicted “severe” repercussions if Europe fails to contain its crisis.
“Everyone’s taking comfort from stronger exports to the Far East, but we’re going to see a much weaker first quarter in China,” said Chris Scicluna, head of economic research at Daiwa Capital Markets Europe in London. “It’s a mixed picture. The general trend in the U.S. is one of healing, but it’s hardly a picture of dynamism, and we’re looking at contraction in Europe.”
A manufacturing purchasing managers’ index for India released by HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics today rose to the highest level in six months in December. In China, manufacturing rebounded last month from a contraction in November, while Australian factory production expanded for the first time since June, driven by gains in basic metals, transport and publishing.
Manufacturing in Singapore rose 6.5 percent from a year earlier in the fourth quarter, after climbing a revised 13.4 percent in the previous three months, the Trade Ministry said today.
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 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.
The U.K. reading offers “glimmers of hope,” David Tinsley, an economist at BNP Paribas SA in London, said in an e-mailed statement. “As we enter 2012, hopes that the manufacturing recession will be fairly shallow continue to have credence.”
European stocks rose today, with the Stoxx 600 Index gaining 1.3 percent as of 3:13 p.m. in London. In Germany, where data today showed unemployment fell twice as much as economists forecast last month, the DAX Index advanced 1.6 percent, for its longest winning streak since Nov. 30.
General Electric Co. is targeting more than 10 percent earnings growth at its industrial and finance businesses next year, in part by driving up margins in manufacturing businesses from health-care devices to jet engines and energy equipment. Chief Executive Officer Jeffery Immelt said Dec. 13 GE is prepared for a “tough Europe” though the company will manage strains in part by reducing its footprint there.
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.
Not all regions are showing expansion. Norwegian manufacturing shrank at the fastest pace in two years in December as orders and production stalled, Oslo-based Fokus Bank said today in a statement.
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.
In Germany, the number of people out of work fell a seasonally adjusted 22,000 to 2.89 million, the Nuremberg-based Federal Labor Agency said. Economists forecast a decline of 10,000, the median of 20 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey showed. The adjusted jobless rate dropped to 6.8 percent.
“We’re not growing, but we’re not in a tailspin either,” said Alan Clarke, an economist at Scotia Capital in London, referring to the manufacturing reports. “I don’t think we’re going to be breaking any speed records this year. It’s going to be pretty weak in the first half, but I think we’ll be on an upward sloping trajectory in the second half of the year.”