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Cooling Indicators - Global Economics Weekly

Cooling Indicators...

Global Economics Weekly Brief


For over a year now we’ve been spoiled by seemingly ever-improving UK economic data. That cannot last forever, so a slight cooling of some indicators, such as a slowdown in the growth of manufacturing and even house prices isn’t surprising and shouldn’t cause concern.
The economy for now remains in rude health. The impact on the future is steady growth not boom and bust - read history and then plan for the future!

Moderation. UK house prices grew by 10.6%y/y in June according to Nationwide. This is slower than May's 11.8%y/y increase and brings the average price of a property up to £189k. With survey data from the RICS showing a modest softening in activity, we should expect to see house price growth continue to moderate. But slower price growth is a healthy development if eventually it gives incomes a chance to play catch-up with the price of a house. Watch prices very closely and let's hope there is no more `boom and bust` and very silly borrowing!

Building-up. It’s not just on prices that the housing market recovery is making its presence felt. Bank lending is on the up, too. There were 76,000 mortgages approved in June, making it the busiest month since November 2007. Approvals were also 10% higher in the first 6 months of this year than the same period in 2013. And it isn't just about more people buying houses. The average amount borrowed has also risen and is now pushing £165k, compared with £156k a year ago. Steady borrowing is the key at the right rates and not silly lending by bankers!

Still solid. UK manufacturing output slowed to 55.4 in July, according to the Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), down from a lofty 57.2 in June. But the reading remains strong and well above both the 50-mark signalling expansion and the series average of 51.5. Firms reported that incoming orders remained strong from both foreign as well as domestic clients. However, they also fired a warning flare that both their costs and prices are rising. Excellent news for the UK!

On the rebound. The US economy grew at an annualised rate of 4.0% in Q2, the fastest pace since mid-2012. Much of that strength was a rebound from a weather-affected Q1 during which, revised data show, output contracted by 2.1%. So far, growth in this recovery has averaged 2.1%. That’s pretty poor by US standards and is one reason why the Fed is in no hurry to raise interest rates. Is the US economy in decline?

Good but not great. The US economy added 209k jobs in July, which was a big step down from 298k in June, but bang in line with the average over the past 12 months. The two stand-out sectors were professional & business services and manufacturing, adding 47k and 28k jobs, respectively. Even so, the unemployment rate actually ticked up, from 6.1% to 6.2%. This is because there weren't quite enough new jobs to match the increase in the size of the workforce. Average earnings grew by 2% over the year to July, which is in line with the rate we've seen over the past three years. More challenges ahead!

Space to grow. The Federal Open Market Committee – the US equivalent of the Monetary Policy Committee – said that the economy has made sufficient progress to allow it to continue slowing the pace of its asset purchase programme, which should now end later this year. But it reckons there remains considerable slack in the labour market and it sees no signs of inflation expectations picking up. For these reasons it reiterated that the Fed Funds rate will remain where it is for a considerable time yet. Keep a very close eye on the US economy!

A slow build. The Fed also noted that recovery in the housing market remains slow. On the face of it, that’s hard to square with prices rising at more than 9%y/y, according to Case Shiller. However, there are clear signs that house price inflation, which was running at close on 14% at the turn of the year, is moderating. It is the volume of building activity, still only three-quarters of its level before the mid-2000s madness broke, that concerns the Fed. Is the borrowing sensible and at a interest rate people can afford?

Under pressure. Inflation in the eurozone fell to just 0.4%y/y in July from 0.5%y/y the previous month. Meanwhile core inflation (which excludes fuel and food) remains close to the lowest reading in the 17 year history of the series. The figures heighten concerns that the single-currency area is headed into deflation (falling prices) territory. That will increase the pressure on the European Central Bank to announce policy measures to address the risk of outright deflation taking hold. The Euro zone is in deep trouble!

Steady. Asian manufacturing PMIs suggest growth remains steady rather than spectacular by the region’s standards. China’s PMI moved to the highest level since January 2013 but it’s barely above its long-run average. South Korea’s remains below the 50-mark and, with weak export orders, it suggests global trade remains sluggish. Meanwhile Japan’s consumption tax rise in April appears to have damaged business confidence. Its PMI has struggled since the spring and is currently just above 50. The best news is in India, where the country’s manufacturing sector is picking up speed at last. To ensure growth remains steady, the region’s manufacturers will hoping the US economy keeps growing at a decent rate. Global trade is very sluggish and will remain so for the remainder of 2014!

--- --- ---
Written and submitted by:

Dr Colin Thompson
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Cooling Indicators - Global Economics Weekly


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