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We have written a good deal recently about the likely impact of the sudden explosion of U.S. soybean exports on third quarter GDP growth.
Today is all about beans. Specifically, soybeans, and more specifically, just how many of them were exported in August. This really matters, because if soybean exports in August and September remained close to their hugely elevated July level, the surge in exports relative to the second quarter will contribute about one percentage point to headline GDP growth.
Surging soybean exports contributed 0.9 percentage points, gross, to third quarter GDP growth, though the BEA said that this was "mostly" offset by falling inventories of wholesale non-durable goods.
Today's September international trade report will be the third to be distorted by hugely elevated soybean exports. The surge began in July, when soybean exports jumped by $3.6B--that's a 220% month-to-month increase--to $5.2B.
Whatever number the BEA publishes this morning for first quarter GDP growth -- we expect zero -- you probably should add about one percentage point to correct for the persistent seasonal adjustment problem which has plagued the data for many years. Reported first quarter growth has been weaker than the average for the preceding three quarters in 21 of the 31 years since 1985 -- and in eight of the past 10 years.
Two entirely separate factors point to significant upside risk to the first estimate of third quarter GDP growth, due today. First, we think it likely that farm inventories will not fall far enough to offset the unprecedented surge in exports of soybeans, which will add some 0.9 percentage points to headline GDP growth.
We are struggling to make sense of the third quarter GDP numbers. The reality is that the massive surge in soybean exports--which we estimate contributed 0.9 percentage points, gross, to GDP growth--mostly came from falling inventory, because the soybean harvest mostly takes place in Q4.
The first point to make about today's Q1 GDP growth number is that whatever the BEA publishes, you probably should add 0.9 percentage points.
This is the last Monitor before we head to the beach, so we want to offer a few thoughts on the upcoming data and the FOMC meeting while we're out. First, a warning about the second quarter GDP number. We think that the data released so far are consistent with growth at about 3%.
Today's December international trade numbers could easily signal a substantial upward revision to fourth quarter GDP growth. When the GDP data were compiled, the December trade numbers were not available so the BEA had to make assumptions for the missing numbers, as usual.
Your correspondent is headed to the beach for the next couple of weeks, with publication resuming on Tuesday, September 4.
Recent Mexican data have been upbeat, supporting our view that a gradual recovery is underway. In the key auto sector, for example, production increased 11.4% year-over-year in November, while exports rose 5.8% year-over-year in October.
Brazil's retail sales improved at the start of the second quarter, increasing 0.5% month-to-month in April, partially reversing the 0.9% contraction in March. But the details were less upbeat than the headline.
Economic data are telling a story of a strengthening recovery, but downbeat investor sentiment points to a more difficult environment. The headline ZEW expectations index fell to a ten-month low of 12.1 in September, from 25.0 in August. This takes sentiment back to levels not seen before QE was announced, highlighting the increasing worry that deflation risks and low growth in China will derail the recovery. We don't agree, but we can't be sure the ECB thinks the same, and risks of additional stimulus this year have increased.
Banxico's Quarterly Inflation Report--QIR--for Q2 2017, published this week, confirmed that the central bank has become more upbeat about the economic recovery and the outlook for inflation. Banxico believes that the balance of risks to inflation and growth are neutral.
The E.C.'s Economic Sentiment Indicator for the U.K., released yesterday, painted an upbeat picture of the economy's recent performance. The ESI picked up to 109.4 in February from 107.1 in January; its average level since 1990 is 100. February's reading was the highest since December 2015, and it slightly exceeded the E.U.'s average of 108.9.
The PMI survey yesterday painted a more upbeat picture on the Eurozone economy than we expected. The composite index rose to 54.1 in June from 53.6 in May, taking the quarterly average to its highest level since Q2 2011.
Freya Beamish produces the Asia service at Pantheon. She has several years of experience in covering the global economy, with a particular focus on China, Japan and Korea. Previously, she worked at Lombard Street Research (now TS Lombard), where she delivered research on Asia and the Global economy for over five years, latterly as the manager of the Macroeconomics group.
Andres Abadia on Mexico GDP Growth
Samuel Tombs on U.K. Retail Sales
Chair Yellen remains as committed as ever to the idea that the tightening labor market will eventually push up inflation, but the unexpectedly weak core CPI readings for the past four months have complicated the picture in the near-term.
The remarkably strong existing home sales numbers in recent months, relative to the pending home sales index, are hard to explain. In January, total sales reached 5.69M, some 6% higher than the 5.35M implied by December's pending sales index. The gap between the series has widened in recent months, as our first chart shows, and we think the odds now favor a correction in today's February report.
The information available to date--which is still very incomplete--suggests that new housing construction will decline in the third quarter. This would be the second straight decline, following the 6.1% drop in Q2. We aren't expecting such a large fall in the third quarter, but it is nonetheless curious that housing investment--construction, in other words--is falling at a time when new home sales have risen sharply.
The federal debt ceiling was re-imposed last week, with no fanfare, and no reaction in the markets. All eyes were focussed instead on the Fed's rate hike and Chair Yellen's press conference.
The Brazilian BRL has remained relatively stable year-to-date, following a strong rebound in January. But downward pressures have re-emerged over the last two months, as shown in our first chart.
The headlines of China's August activity data are missing the real story in recent months.
The huge rebound in September's ISM non- manufacturing survey, reported yesterday, strongly supports our view that the August drop was more noise than signal.
In recent years only one event has made a material difference to the growth path of the U.S. economy, namely, the plunge in oil prices which began in the summer of 2014. The ensuing collapse in capital spending in the mining sector and everything connected to it, pulled GDP growth down from 2½% in both 2014 and 2015 to just 1.6% in 2016.
At the time of writing, Mr. Trump reportedly is finalising plans to impose tariffs of up to 25% on a further $200B of imports from China.
As far as we can tell, most forecasters expect the impact of fiscal stimulus this year to be gradual, with perhaps most of the boost to growth coming next year. At this point, with no concrete proposals either from the new administration or Congress, anything can happen, and we can't rule out the idea of a slow roll-out of tax cuts and spending increases.
If we're right in our view that the strength of the dollar has been a major factor depressing the rate of growth of nominal retail sales, the weakening of the currency since January should soon be reflected in stronger-looking numbers. In real terms--which is what matters for GDP and, ultimately, the lab or market--nothing will change, but perceptions are important and markets have not looked kindly on the dollar-depressed sales data.
China and the U.S. are officially to restart trade talks, according to China's Ministry of Commerce, after previous negotiations stalled in June.
On the face of it, trade negotiations have deteriorated in the last week.
China reportedly has offered President Trump a $200B reduction in its annual trade surplus with the U.S., engineered by increasing imports of American products, among other steps.
Headline GDP growth in Korea was revised down, to a seasonally-adjusted 0.6% quarter-on-quarter in Q2, from 0.7% in the preliminary report.
Back on May 14, we argued--see here--that the stars were aligned to generate very strong second quarter GDP growth, perhaps even reaching 5%.
In the wake of the ADP report released Wednesday, we moved up our payroll forecast to 150K from 100K, but we've now taken a closer look at the post-Florence path of jobless claims.
China hit back against the Trump-administration tariffs yesterday, targeting Mr. Trump's electorate.
Yesterday's relatively good news--we discuss the implications of the August trade data below--will be followed by rather more mixed reports today. We hope to see a partial rebound, at least, in the September Chicago PMI, but we fully expect soft August consumer spending data.
We're expecting a 175K increase in December payrolls today. Our forecast has been nudged down from 190K in the wake of the ADP employment report, which was slightly weaker than we expected.
Revisions to the first quarter productivity numbers, due today, likely will be trivial, given the minimal 0.1 percentage point downward revision to GDP growth reported last week.
Inventories subtracted 1.3 percentage points from headline GDP growth in the second quarter and were by far the biggest constraint on the economy. This was the fifth straight drag from inventories, but it was more than twice the average hit over the previous year.
The Big Picture on Sino - U.S. Trade Wars...The Immediate Threat and the Medium-Term Risks
The obvious answer to the question posed in our title is that it's far too early to tell what will happen to first quarter growth. More than half the quarter hasn't even happened yet, and data for January are still extremely patchy, with no official reports on retail sales, industrial production, housing, capex, inventories or international trade yet available. For what it's worth, the Atlanta Fed's GDPNow model signals growth of 3.4%, though we note that it substantially overstated the first estimate of growth in the fourth quarter.
Over the past six months, payroll growth has averaged exactly 150K. Over the previous six months, the average increase was 230K. And in the six months to August 2015--a fairer comparison, because the fourth quarter numbers enjoy very favorable seasonals, flattering the data--payroll growth averaged 197K.
The wide spread in first quarter GDP growth "trackers"--which at this point are more model and assumption than actual data--is indicative of the uncertainty surrounding the international trade and inventory components.
We were nervous ahead of the GDP numbers on Friday, wondering if our forecast of a 1.5 percentage point hit from foreign trade was too aggressive. In the event, though, the trade hit was a huge 1.7pp, so domestic demand rose at a 3.5% pace.
August's 14-year high in the ISM manufacturing index, reported yesterday, clearly is a noteworthy event from a numerology perspective, but we doubt it marks the start of a renewed upward trend.
Last week's advance PMI data suggest that economic activity in the Eurozone was stable at the beginning of Q2. The composite EZ PMI fell trivially to 53.0 in April, from 53.1 in March, because a dip in manufacturing offset a small rise in the services index.
The core economic narrative in U.S. markets right now seems to run something like this: The pace of growth slowed in Q1, depressing the rate of payroll growth in the spring. As a result, the headline plunge in the unemployment rate is unlikely to persist and, even if it does, the wage pressures aren't a threat to the inflation outlook.
Last week's preliminary estimate of Q1 GDP has extinguished any lingering chance that the MPC might raise interest rates at its next meeting on May 10.
Three of today's economic reports, all for December, could move the needle on fourth quarter GDP growth. Ahead of the data, we're looking for growth of 1.8%, a bit below the consensus, 2.2%, and significantly weaker than the Atlanta Fed's GDPNow model, which projects 2.8%.
If we had known back in June 2014 that oil prices would drop to about $30, the collapse in capital spending in the oil sector would not have been a surprise. Spending on well-drilling, which accounts for about three quarters of oil capex, has dropped in line with the fall in prices, after a short lag, as our first chart shows. We think spending on equipment has tracked the fall in oil prices, too.
We didn't believe the first estimate of Q1 GDP growth, 0.7%, and we won't believe today's second estimate, either. The data are riddled with distortions, most notably the long-standing problem of residual seasonality, which depressed the number by about one percentage point.
The third estimate of first quarter GDP growth, due today, will not be the final word on the subject. Indeed, there never will be a final word, because the numbers are revised indefinitely into the future.
Brazil's industrial production surprised to the downside in August, suggesting that manufacturing is struggling to gather momentum over the second half of the year.
We expect to learn today that the economy expanded at a 1.7% rate in the fourth quarter. At least, that's our forecast, based on incomplete data, and revisions over time could easily push growth significantly away from this estimate. The inherent unreliability of the GDP numbers, which can be revised forever--literally--explains why the Fed puts so much more emphasis on the labor market data, which are volatile month-to-month but more trustworthy over longer periods and subject to much smaller revisions.
It seems pretty clear from press reports that the White House budget, which reportedly will be released March 14, will propose substantial increases in defense spending, deep cuts to discretionary non- defense spending, and no substantive changes to entitlement programs. None of this will come as a surprise.
The headline durable goods orders number for October, due today, likely will be depressed by falling aircraft orders, both civilian and military. Boeing reported orders for 55 civilian aircraft in September, compared to only three in August, but a hefty adverse swing in the seasonal factor will translate that into a small seasonally adjusted decline.
Last week's news that the composite PMI collapsed to 47.7 in July--its lowest level since April 2009--from 52.4 in June is the first clear indication that the U.K. is heading for a recession.
Economic data released yesterday underscored that Brazil emerged from recession in the first quarter, but further rate cuts are needed. Indeed, the monthly economic activity index--the IBC-Br--fell 0.4% monthto- month in March, though this followed a strong 1.4% gain in February.
Yesterday's data presented Eurozone investors with an unfamiliar sight; a big downside surprise in the survey data.
The knee-jerk reaction of the stock market to the unexpectedly high hourly earnings growth number for January was predicated on two connected ideas.
Fed Chair Yellen said nothing very new in the core of her Monetary Policy Testimony yesterday, repeating her view that rates likely will have to rise this year but policy will remain accommodative, and that the labor market is less tight than the headline unemployment rate suggests. The upturn in wage growth remains "tentative", in her view, making the next two payroll reports before the September FOMC meeting key to whether the Fed moves then.
October's Markit/CIPS manufacturing survey indicates that producers are not shying away from passing on to their customers the higher costs stemming from sterling's depreciation.
EZ survey data were solid in the fourth quarter, pointing to robust GDP growth, but numbers from the real economy have so far not lived up to the rosy expectations. Data yesterday showed that industrial production fell 0.7% month-to-month in November, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 1.1% from a revised 2.0% in October. Italian data today likely will force marginal revisions to the headline next month, but they are unlikely to change the big picture.
The headline 0.9% month-to-month increase in German factory orders--a 1.9% increase year-over-year-- is not enough to change the picture of an overall sluggish first quarter.
Advance data indicate that Q1 annualized GDP growth in the U.S. was a trivial 0.2%. And in the U.K., annualized growth is estimated to have slowed to 1.2%, from 2.4% in Q4.
Monthly manufacturing and retail sales data point to upside risk to the consensus expectation of 0.4% quarter-on-quarter in Q1 Eurozone real GDP growth. Advance country data indicate that industrial production was unchanged month-to-month in March, equivalent to a 0.9% increase quarter-on-quarter.
The Chancellor kept his word and made only trivial policy changes in the Spring Statement, but he hinted at higher spending plans in the Autumn Budget.
Real GDP in the Eurozone rose 0.4% quarter-on-quarter in Q1, in line with the consensus, but slightly below our expectation for a 0.5% increase. We don't get much detail from the country-specific advance estimates but all evidence indicates that the technical hit from net trade was much larger than we expected.
Eurozone GDP data last Friday suggest the cyclical recovery continued at the end of last year. Real GDP in euro area rose 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in Q4, the same as in Q3, lifted by growth in all the major economies. This was in line with the consensus forecast, but noticeably higher than implied by monthly industrial production and retail sales data.
Mr. Draghi was in a slightly more bullish mood yesterday, noting that the significant easing of financial conditions in recent months and improving sentiment show that monetary policy "has worked". Economic risks are tilted to the downside, according to the president, but they have also "diminished".
Yesterday's German industrial production data were poor, but better than we expected. Output fell 0.5% month-to-month in February, pushing annual growth down to 1.3% from a revised 1.8% in January. In addition, net revisions to the month-to-month data were a hefty -1.0%, but this is not enough to change the story of a Q1 rebound in industrial production.
Chile's Imacec index confirmed that economic growth is slowing. The Imacec, a monthly proxy for GDP, fell 1.1 month-to-month in October, pushing the year-over-year rate down to -0.4% from an already soft 1.4% in September. This marks the first annual contraction since October 2009, underscoring Chile's fragility. Mining activity plunged 7.1% year-over-year in October, while the non-mining sector rose just 0.3%, supported by services.
Yesterday's final PMI data added to the evidence that the EZ economy was firing on all cylinders at the end of last year. The composite PMI in the euro area rose to an 11-year high of 58.5 in December, from 57.5 in November, in line with the initial estimate.
German inflation surged in December, pointing to an upside surprise in today's advance EZ report. The headline inflation rate rose to a three-year high of 1.7% year-over-year in December, from 0.8% in November. This was the biggest increase in the year- over-year rate since 1993.
Markets cheered soaring business surveys in the Eurozone earlier this week, and recent consumer sentiment data also have been cause for celebration. The advance GfK consumer confidence index in Germany rose to a record high of 10.4 in June, from 10.2 in May.
London has been the U.K.'s growth star for the last two decades. Between 1997 and 2014, yearover-year growth in nominal Gross Value Added averaged 5.4% in London, greatly exceeding the 4% rate across the rest of the country. Surveys since the referendum, however, indicate that the capital is at the sharp end of the post-referendum downturn.
Chief U.K. Economist Samuel Tombs on U.K. Q3 Preliminary GDP data
Last week's news that output per hour jumped by 0.9% quarter-on-quarter in Q3--the biggest rise since Q2 2011--has fanned hopes that the underlying trend finally is improving.
German industrial production data were presented by Bloomberg News as signs that the recovery is "gathering momentum", but it is slightly premature to make that call. Narrow money growth is currently sending a strong signal of higher GDP growth this year in the euro area, but the message from the manufacturing sector is still one of stabilisation rather than acceleration.
The least-bad way to forecast the ADP employment number is to look at the official private payroll number for the previous month. ADP's methodology generates employment numbers from a model incorporating lagged data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as well as information from companies which use ADP for payroll processing.
Household sentiment in Mexico continues to improve, consistent with tailwinds from low inflation, accommodative monetary policy, and the improving labor market. The consumers confidence index rose to 94.7 in June from 92.0 in May, with four of the five components improving, especially big-ticket purchasing expectations and expectations for the economy.
In recent Monitors, we have highlighted the upturn in Q4 survey data pointing to a strong end of the year for the EZ economy. This story has not changed, but yesterday's money supply data tell a story of downside risks.
In recent Monitors--see here and here--we have made a case for decent growth in the EZ's largest economies in the second half of the year, though we remain confident that full-year growth will be a good deal slower, about 2.0%, than the 2.5% in 2017.
Economic sentiment in the Eurozone's largest economy stayed solid at the start of the fourth quarter, despite subdued manufacturing and poor investor sentiment. The headline IFO business climate index fell slightly to 108.2 in October from 108.5 in September, due to a fall in the current assessment index. The expectations index rose, though, to 103.8 from 103.5 last month pointing to a resilient outlook for businesses and solid GDP growth in coming quarters.
Mexico's data over the last few weeks have confirmed our view that private consumption remains the key driver of the current economic cycle. Solid economic fundamentals, thanks to stimulative monetary policy and structural reforms, have supported the domestic economy in recent quarters. Falling inflation has also been a key driver, slowing to 2.5% by mid-September, a record low, from an average of 4% during 2014.
Taken at face value, the preliminary estimate of Q2 GDP suggests that the economic recovery weathered Brexit risk well. But growth received support from some unsustainable sources, and also probably was boosted by a calendar quirk. Meanwhile, with few firms or consumers expecting a vote for Brexit prior to the referendum, Q2's brisk growth tells us little about how well the economy will cope in the current climate of heightened uncertainty.
Economic data in Mexico continue to come in strong.
Consumer sentiment data yesterday from the major economies were mixed, signalling that support to Eurozone GDP growth from surging German household consumption is waning. The key "business outlook" index--which correlates best with spending--plunged to a 30-month low in October, while the advance GfK sentiment index dipped to 9.4 in November from 9.6 in October. We see little signs in retail sales data of slowing momentum, and also think consumers' spending rebounded in Q3. But our first chart shows that the fall in the GfK index implies clear downside risks in coming quarters.
In yesterday's Monitor, we suggested that China's monetary policy stance is now easing.
Household sentiment in France continues to improve, consistent with tailwinds from low energy prices and accommodative monetary policy. INSEE's measure of consumer confidence rose to 94 in April, up from 93 in March, the highest since November 2010.
Upbeat PMIs, the MPC's abandonment of its easing bias and the High Court ruling that only a parliamentary vote--and not the Prime Minister--can trigger Article 50, all helped sterling to make up some lost ground last week.
Early results suggest that Mr. Macron has comfortably beat Marine Le Pen to become French president, defying a leak of emails and other documents from his En Marche campaign over the weekend. The final results won't be published until Monday morning, but the initial estimate indicates that Mr. Macron will edge Ms. Le Pen by 65.1% to 34.9%.
April's production data, released today, look set to indicate that the industrial sector's recession--its third in the last eight years--deepened in the second quarter. We think the consensus expectation that industrial production held steady in April is too upbeat. We look for a 0.3% month-to-month drop.
Mexico's economy is not accelerating, but it is holding up well in extremely difficult circumstances for EM. Growth is reasonably healthy, inflation is under control and the labor market is resilient. In short, Mexico is a success story, given the backdrop of plunging oil prices. The contrast with the disaster in Brazil is stark. Last week's survey and hard data continued to tell an upbeat story on Mexico's economy. The IMEF manufacturing index, Mexico's PMI, rose to 52.1 in November up from 51.6 in October, lifted mainly by gains in the employment and deliveries indexes.
Mexico's latest hard data suggest things might not be as bad as we feared. Retail sales and manufacturing output were relatively strong at the end of last year, the Q4 preliminary GDP report was mostly upbeat, and the labor market was firing on all cylinders.
Investors have treated the upbeat message of the Markit/CIPS PMIs this week with caution and continue to think that the chance that the MPC will raise interest rates this year is remote. Overnight index swap rates currently are pricing-in just a one-in-four chance of a 25 basis point increase in Bank Rate in 2017.
The Brazilian industrial sector started this year on a very downbeat note, despite a 2% month-to-month jump in output. The underlying trend in activity is still very weak. Production fell 5.2% year-over-year.
The sell-off in bonds and equities continued yesterday, but the reaction bears no resemblance, so far, to the sovereign debt crises in 2012 and 2010. The first evidence from sentiment data in July also points to surprising stability. The headline Sentix index rose to 18.5, up slightly from 17.1 in June, but the expectations index fell marginally, to 22.3 from 22.5.
A core element of our relatively upbeat macro view before the implementation of fiscal stimulus under the new administration is that the ending of the drag from falling capex in the oil sector will have quite wide, positive implications for growth. The recovery in direct oil sector spending is clear enough; it will just track the rising rig count, as usual.
Trade data yesterday added to the downbeat impression of the German economy, following poor manufacturing data earlier in the week. Exports plunged 5.2% month-to-month in August--the second biggest monthly fall ever--pushing the year-over-year rate down to 4.4%, from a revised 6.3% in July. Surging growth in the past six months, and base effects pointed to a big fall in August, but we didn't expect a collapse.
Final Q2 GDP data yesterday indicate the euro area economy was stronger than initially estimated in the first half of the year. Real GDP rose 0.4% quarter-on-quarter in Q2, slightly higher than the initial estimate of 0.3, following an upwardly revised 0.5% increase in Q1. Upward revisions to GDP in Italy were the key driver of the more upbeat growth picture. The revisions mean that annualised Eurozone growth is now estimated at 1.8% in the first six months of the year, up from the previous 1.4%, consistent with the bullish message from real M1 growth and the composite PMI.
The run of consensus-beating activity measures and the pickup in leading indicators of inflation have led markets to doubt that the MPC really will follow up August's package of stimulus measures with another Bank Rate cut this year.
As it became clear that Donald Trump would beat Hillary Clinton to win the U.S. presidency, EM currencies came under severe pressure, fearing his economic and immigration policies. Some of the initial pressure is easing as markets digest the news and following Mr. Trump's conciliatory tone in his victory speech. But the proposals have been made and the MXN and other key LatAm assets likely will remain very stressed in the near term.
Friday's industrial production data capped another dreadful week for German manufacturing. Output fell 1.1% month-to-month in September, pushing the year-over-year rate lower to 0.2%, from a revised 2.9% in August. The 0.6% upward revision of the previous month's data makes the data slightly less awful than the headline, but the details showed weakness across all core sectors. The underlying trend in production is stable at about 1.2% year-over-year, but downbeat new orders suggest it will weaken in the fourth quarter.
The combination of upbeat survey data and solid consumer spending numbers indicate that the German economy is in good shape. But manufacturing data continue to disappoint; factory orders fell 0.9% month-to-month in February, equivalent to a 1.3% decline year-over-year.
The price of Brent oil has fallen sharply to $40 per barrel from about $50 just a month ago, and speculation is mounting that it could plunge to $20 soon. But CPI inflation should still pick up over coming months, provided oil prices remain above $30. And the absence of "second-round" effects of lower oil prices this year should reassure the Monetary Policy Committee that lower oil prices won't bear down on inflation over the medium-term.
We expected a consensus-beating ADP employment number for February, but the 298K leap was much better than our forecast, 210K. The error now becomes an input into our payroll model, shifting our estimate for tomorrow's official number to 250K; our initial forecast was 210K.
LatAm assets have done well in recent weeks on the back of upbeat investor risk sentiment, low volatility in developed markets and a relatively benign USD. A less confrontational approach from the U.S. administration to trade policy has helped too.
This weekend will bring closure to an extraordinary presidential election campaign in France. The polls correctly predicted the first result, and assuming they are right in the second round too, Mr. Macron will comfortably beat Ms. Le Pen.
Yesterday's second estimate of Q4 Eurozone GDP confirmed the upbeat story from the advance report, despite the dip in headline growth.
Upbeat survey data, a competitive MXN, and the strong U.S. manufacturing sector indicate that Mexican industry should be rebounding.
This week's economic activity data for Brazil have been upbeat, indicating that the economy is recovering after a recession in the first half of 2014, but at a very gradual pace.
Last week's hard data in Colombia were upbeat, confirming that economic growth accelerated in the first half. Retail sales rose 5.9% year-over-year in May, overshooting consensus.
Brazil's consumer spending data yesterday appeared downbeat. Retail sales fell 2.1% month-to-month in December, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 4.9%, from -3.8% in November. This is a poor looking headline, but volatility is normal in these data at this time of the year, and the underlying trend is improving.
Yesterday's second EZ Q2 GDP report was slightly more upbeat than the advance estimate.
Yesterday's Mexican industrial data painted a downbeat picture of the sector at the end of last year, and highlighted the downside risks facing the economy in the first half of this year. Industrial output fell 0.1% month-to-month and was flat year over-year in December, with weakness in all sectors except manufacturing. Overall, industrial activity expanded by only 0.2% year-over-year in the fourth quarter, the slowest pace since late 2013.
Long-standing readers will know that we have been downbeat on the potential for net external trade to boost the economy following sterling's 2016 depreciation.
In her inaugural Monitor, our Chief Asia Economist Freya Beamish plots three scenarios for the Chinese economy. The best-case scenario is that China makes a smooth transition to consumer-led growth.
Wednesday's Mexican industrial production report was upbeat for manufacturing, but it revealed that the oil and public construction sectors remain under severe strain.
The Eurozone labour market is slowly healing following two severe recessions since 2008. Unemployment fell to a two-year low of 10.3% in January, and yesterday's quarterly labour force survey was upbeat. Fourth quarter employment rose 1.2% year-over-year, up from 1.1% in Q3, pushing total EZ employment to a new post-crisis high of 152 million.
Eurozone GDP data on Friday were better than we expected, but were still soft compared to upbeat market expectations. Real GDP rose 0.3% quarter-onquarter in the third quarter, down slightly from 0.4% in Q2, and lower than the consensus forecast for another 0.4% gain. These data are not a blank check for ECB doves, but they probably are enough to push through further easing in December. This looks odd given growth in the last four quarters of an annualised 1.6%--the strongest since 2011--and probably slightly above the long-run growth rate.
Polls suggest that Ivan Duque has comfortably beat Gustavo Petro to become Colombia's president.
Colombian activity data released this last week were upbeat, better than we expected, showing a significant pickup in manufacturing output and improving retail sales. Retail sales rose 3.1% year- over-year, after a modest 1.0% increase in June.
Brazil's economy surprised to the upside in early Q3, despite downbeat data released in recent days.
The Caixin manufacturing PMI rebounded to 51.1 in July from 50.4 in June, soundly beating the consensus for no change. The PMIs are seasonally adjusted but the data are much less volatile on our adjustment model. On our adjustment, the headline has averaged 50.9 so far this year, modestly higher than in the second half of last year.
Investors have endured a severe test of their resolve in the last few months. Global equity markets have sunk more than 10%, eclipsing the previous low in September, and credit spreads have widened. The bears have predictably pounced and, as if the torrid price action hasn't been enough, media headlines have been littered with advice to "sell everything" and warnings of a 75% fall in U.S. and global equities. When "price is news" we recognise that views from well-meaning economists--often using lagging and revised economic data to describe the world--are of little value.
Upbeat survey data and relatively resilient consumer spending numbers indicate that the Mexican economy is in good shape, despite a marginal slowdown in most of Q2.
We are sticking to our view that the Eurozone's trade surplus will fall in the next six months, despite yesterday's upbeat report. The seasonally adjusted trade surplus leapt to a record high of €25.0B in September from revised €21.0B in August, lifted by an increase in exports and a decline in imports.
This week's labour market, inflation and retail sales data--the last before the MPC meets on May 10--will have a major bearing on the Committee's decision.
Friday's Brazil industrial production data were surprisingly upbeat. Output rose 0.1% month-to-month in July, slightly better than the consensus forecast for no change. July's modest gain was the fifth consecutive increase, confirming that industrial output in Brazil is stabilizing, and it paints a less grim picture of GDP growth at the start of Q3.
Another day, another downbeat survey. The British Chamber of Commerce's comprehensive and long-running Quarterly Economic Survey was published yesterday, and it added to evidence of a Q1 slowdown.
Base effects were the key driver of yesterday's upbeat industrial production headline in Italy.
Demand in the German manufacturing sector stumbled at the end of Q4. Factory orders fell 0.7% month-to-month in December, but the details of the report were slightly more upbeat than the headline. The main hit came from a 2.5% fall in domestic orders, chiefly as a result of weakness in the intermediate goods sector.
The relatively upbeat message from a plethora of Eurozone data this week remains firmly sidelined by chaos in equity and credit markets. EZ Equities struggled towards the end of last year in the aftermath of the disappointing ECB stimulus package, and now, renewed weakness in oil prices and further Chinese currency devaluation have added pressure, by refocusing attention on already weak areas in the global economy.
German Q4 GDP data this week will give little comfort to investors searching for signs of a resilient economy in the face of increased market volatility. The consensus expects unchanged GDP growth of 0.3% quarter-on-quarter, consistent with solid and stable survey data. But downbeat industrial production and retail sales data point to notable downside risk.
Yesterday's FOMC statement was a bit more upbeat on growth than we expected, with Janet Yellen's final missive describing everything -- economic growth, employment, household spending, and business investment -- as "solid".
This is the final report before your Eurozone correspondent dials down for the summer, and heads for the beach. Advance Q2 GDP data next week is the key release while we are away, with the latest Bloomberg consensus--published July 20th--looking for a 0.4% increase quarter-on-quarter. Everything we look at suggests the consensus is right on this one, with risks tilted to the upside due to strong net exports in Germany.
Today's March retail sales report will likely disappoint, despite the already- downbeat consensus forecast of a 0.7% month-to-month fall. We think sales fell 1.2%, equivalent to a 1.3% increase year-over-year, due mostly to the bigger-than-expected 2.3% plunge in German sales, reported too late to be incorporated in the Bloomberg consensus.
Markets reacted strongly to yesterday's consensus-beating data, with the ISM manufacturing survey drawing most of the attention as the industrial recession thesis took another body blow. But we are more interested in the strong construction spending data for January, which set the first quarter off on a very strong note.
Yesterday's final February PMI data were slightly stronger than expected, due to upbeat services data. The composite PMI in the Eurozone fell to 53.0, a bit above the initial 52.7 estimate, from 53.6 in January. The PMI likely will dip slightly in Q1 on average, compared to Q4, but it continues to indicate stable GDP growth of about 0.3%-to-0.4% quarter-on-quarter.
Strong real M1 growth suggests the cyclical recovery is in good shape. But recent economic data indicate GDP growth slowed in Q4, and survey evidence deteriorated in January. This slightly downbeat message, however, is a far cry from the horror story told by financial markets. The recent collapse in stock-to-bond returns extends the decline which began in Q2 last year, signalling the Eurozone is on the brink of recession.
Economic survey data have been upbeat recently, but key Eurozone data releases yesterday suggest the ECB will be under pressure to increase monetary policy stimulus further this month. The advance inflation estimate showed that the euro area slipped back into deflation in September, as inflation fell to -0.1% year-over- year, from +0.1% in August. The fall was mainly due to a 8.9% collapse in energy prices, though, and we are very confident the relapse is temporary.
Today's trade figures likely will continue to show that the benefits from sterling's depreciation are being outweighed by the costs. Exports still are barely growing, but consumers are about to endure a substantial import price shock. The monthly trade deficit has been extremely volatile over the last year, generating a series of excessively upbeat or gloomy headlines. The truth is that the deficit has been on a slightly deteriorating trend, as our first chart shows. We think the trade deficit likely narrowed to £3.8B in December, from £4.2B in November, bringing it closer to its rolling 12-month average of £3.0B.
Yesterday's manufacturing data in France were in stark contrast to last week's upbeat German numbers.
The ECB atoned for its "mistake" in December yesterday by delivering a new easing package that significantly beat markets' expectations. The central bank cut its main refi and marginal lending facility rates by 0.05 percentage points, to 0.00% and 0.25% respectively.
Yesterday's industrial production data in Germany were downbeat. Output fell 1.3% month-to-month in March, pushing the year-over-over rate down to 0.3%, from 2.0% in February. Production was held back by weakness in manufacturing and a plunge in construction, Meanwhile, energy output rebounded slightly following last month's fall. Over Q1 as a whole, though, the industrial sector performed strongly.
French industrial production data surprised to the upside yesterday. Output rose 0.1% month-to-month in September, a solid gain following an upwardly-revised 1.7% rise in August, and also higher than the consensus, forecast for a 0.4% fall. The details, however, were less upbeat than the headline. Transport equipment fell, as expected, following production being pushed forward ahead of the Summer holidays. But this story was overshadowed by a 22.5% month-to-month jump in oil refining-- included in manufacturing--as refineries resumed full production following maintenance over the summer.
Industrial production and trade data on Friday ended last week on a downbeat note, amid otherwise solid economic reports. In Germany, industrial output fell 0.3% month-to-month in November, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 0.1% from a revised 0.4% in October. The details, however, were better than the headline. Production was hit by a 3.3% plunge in capital goods output, offsetting gains in all other key sectors, and net revisions added 0.3% to the October data.
The French industrial sector ended last year on an upbeat note, but the underlying trend in activity is still weak. Industrial production rose 1.5% month-to-month in December, equivalent to a 0.1% fall year-over-year.
Yesterday's economic data in Germany were stellar, but base effects mean that the story for Q4 as a whole is less upbeat.
Investors and market observers of a relatively bearish persuasion argued over the weekend that the details of the October employment report were less encouraging than the headline, principally because the household survey showed that all the job growth, net, was among older workers, defined as people aged 55-plus. This, they argue, suggests that most of the increased demand for labor was concentrated in low-paid service sector jobs, where older workers are concentrated, perhaps reflecting retail hiring ahead of the holidays. Such a wave of hiring is unlikely to be repeated over the next few months, so payroll growth won't be sustained at its October pace.
An upbeat third quarter for GDP growth in France and slightly better sentiment data have offered at least some hope that the economy could stage a comeback into year-end. But yesterday's disappointing industrial production data poured cold water on that idea.
The PMI survey continues to send a downbeat message on growth in the euro area despite signs of improvement in other sentiment data: The final manufacturing PMI in the Eurozone fell to 50.1 in November from 50.6 in October.
The FOMC yesterday did what it had to do, and said what it had to say. The super-doves were kicked into line, with a unanimous vote, though two members' blue dots showed they think rates should not have been raised. In our view, though, Dr. Yellen's avowed intention to raise rates gradually sits uneasily with her--correct--assertion that policy remains very accommodative, bearing in mind that the unemployment rate is now at the Fed's estimate of the Nairu, while evidence of accelerating wage gains is burgeoning.
Recent upbeat economic reports have mitigated the downside risks we had been flagging to our growth forecast for Mexico for the current quarter.
In contrast to surveys of manufacturing activity and sentiment, the Conference Board's measure of consumer confidence rose sharply in August, hitting an 11-month high. People were more upbeat about both the current state of the economy and the outlook, with the improving job market key to their optimism. The proportion of respondent believing that jobs are "plentiful" rose to 26%, the highest level in nine years.
We can't recall a time when we have disagreed so strongly with the consensus narrative, in both the media and the markets, about the state of the U.S. economy. We think both investors and the commentariat are too bearish on growth and too complacent about inflation risks, and as a result, insufficiently worried about the speed with which interest rates will rise over the next couple of years.
Retail sales data later today will give us the first hard data from the fourth quarter, and the story should be altogether more positive than the still downbeat message from the manufacturing sector.
Eurozone bond traders of a bearish persuasion are finding it difficult to make their mark ahead of Italy's parliamentary elections next weekend.
Economic data in the Eurozone are sending an increasingly upbeat message on the economy. Yesterday saw a barrage of numbers, but the most startling of them was the continued acceleration in the money supply.
Another day, another couple of April reports likely to reverse March "weakness", triggered by the early Easter. We look for robust core durable goods and pending home sales reports, with the odds favoring consensus-beating numbers. In both cases, though, the noise-to-signal ratio is quite high, and we can't be certain the Easter seasonal unwind will be the dominant force in the April data.
Yesterday's IFO survey in Germany sent a marginally more downbeat message than the strong PMIs last week. The IFO business climate index fell to 115.2 in September, from 115.9 in August, its second straight monthly dip.
Mexican consumers started the third quarter strongly, supporting our relatively upbeat view for the economy in the near term. Private consumption represents about 70% of Mexico's GDP, one of the consumption shares in the EM world, so the strength of spending is hugely important.
The Markit/CIPS manufacturing PMI shot up to a three-year high of 57.3 in April, from 54.2 in March, bringing an end to the run of downbeat news on the economy. The performance of the U.K. manufacturing sector, however, remains underwhelming, given the magnitude of sterling's depreciation.
The July trade deficit likely fell significantly further than the consensus forecast for a dip to $42.2B from $43.8B in June, despite the sharp drop in the ISM manufacturing export orders index. Our optimism is not just wishful thinking on our p art; our forecast is based on the BEA's new advance trade report. These data passed unnoticed in the markets and the media. The July report, released August 28, wasn't even listed on Bloomberg's U.S. calendar, which does manage to find space for such useless indicators as the Challenger job cut survey and Kansas City Fed manufacturing index. Baffling.
The Tankan survey powered ahead in Q2, pulling away from Q1 and mostly beating consensus. This confirms our impression of the strength of the recovery ,just as Prime Minister Abe's Liberal Democratic Party is trounced at the polls in Tokyo. The drubbing is understandable as the main benefits of Abenomics have gone to the business sector, at the expense of the household sector.
We have no reason to think the underlying trend in payroll growth has changed--the 235K average for the past three months is as good a guide as any--but the balance of risks points clearly to a rather lower print for August. Two specific factors, neither of which have any bearing on the trend, are likely to have a significant influence on the numbers, and both will work to push the number below the 217K consensus.
Yesterday's retail sales report indicates that preliminary Eurozone Q4 GDP data next week are likely to paint an upbeat picture of the economy. Sales rose 0.3% month-to-month in December, equivalent to 2.8% year-over-year. An upward revision to November data means that turnover increased 0.8% quarter-on- quarter, the best since the first quarter of 2005.
Yesterday's Brazilian industrial production data were relatively upbeat.
Retail sales data later today will provide further support for the upbeat consumer story in the Eurozone. We expect a third monthly gain in a row, taking retail sales to a 0.8% expansion quarter-on-quarter in Q4, the fastest since the end of 2006. We are seeing clear signs of improvement in the Eurozone economy, and the data are forcing us to recognise upside risks to our Q4 GDP forecast of 0.3-to-0.4%
Today's Sentix survey of Eurozone investor sentiment likely will remain downbeat. We think the headline index rose only trivially, to 6.0 in April from 5.5 in March, and that the expectations index was unchanged at 2.8. Weakness in equities due to global growth fears and negative earnings revisions likely is the key driver of below-par investor sentiment.
Money supply data in the euro area are sending an increasingly upbeat signal on the economy. The increase in narrow money growth is the key variable here, now pointing to a noticeable acceleration in GDP growth later this year. Allowing for the usual lags between upturns in M1 and the economy, we should start to see this in the second and third quarter.
Today will be an incredibly busy day for EZ investors with no fewer than eight major economic reports. Overall, we think the data will tell a story of a stable business cycle upturn and rising inflation. Markets will focus on advance Q4 GDP data in France and in the euro area as a whole. Our mo dels, and survey data, indicate that the EZ economy strengthened at the end of 2016, and we expect the headline data to beat the consensus.
On the face of it, the February consumer spending data, due today, will contradict the upbeat signal from confidence surveys. The dramatic upturn in sentiment since the election is consistent with a rapid surge in real consumption, but we're expecting to see unchanged real spending in February, following a startling 0.3% decline in January.
The euro has so far defied the most bearish forecasters' predictions that it is on track for parity with the dollar. Currencies can disregard long-run parity conditions, however, for longer than most investors can hold positions.
The ECB will receive most of the credit for the recent gain in stock markets, but the main leading indicator for the stock market, excess liquidity, was already turning up late last year. With the MSCI EU ex-UK up 21%, in euro terms, since October, a lot is already priced in, but in the medium term the outlook is upbeat, and we look for further gains this year.
The story in EZ capital markets this year has been downbeat.
Yesterday's national surveys in the EZ confirmed the downbeat message from the PMIs and consumer sentiment data earlier this week.
Yesterday's March retail sales report for Mexico is in line with other recently released hard and survey data, painting an upbeat picture of the economy.
Mr. Draghi gave one of his most dovish performances to date yesterday. The central bank kept its main interest rates and the pace of QE unchanged, but reiterated that risks to growth and inflation are tilted to the downside. The president noted further that the existing policies will be "reexamined" in December in light of updated staff projections. It is difficult to see how the downbeat assessment on the economy will change materially from now until December, indicating that further stimulus is likely.
Financial markets and economic survey data have been sending a downbeat message on the Eurozone economy so far this year. The composite PMI has declined to a 12-month low, consumer sentiment has weakened, and national business surveys have also been poor.
This is the final Monitor before we hit the beach for two weeks, so want to highlight some of the key data and event risks while we're out. First, we're expecting little more from the FOMC statement than an acknowledgment that the labor market data improved in June. After the May jobs report, the FOMC remarked that "...the pace of improvement in the labor market has slowed".
The cyclical recovery in Italy likely strengthened in the second quarter. Real GDP rose 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in Q1, and we think the e conomy repeated, or even slightly, beat this number in Q2. This would mark the strongest performance in four years, but it will take more than a business cycle upturn to solve the Italian economy's structural challenges. Government and non-financial corporate debt has risen to 220% of GDP since 2008, and non-performing loans--NPLs--have sky rocketed.
The Eurozone PMIs stumbled at the end of Q2. The composite index slipped to a five-month low of 55.7 in June, from 56.8 in May, constrained by a fall in the services index. This offset a marginal rise in the manufacturing index to a new cyclical high. The dip in the headline does not alter the survey's upbeat short- term outlook for the economy.
ECB growth bears looking for the Fed to move in order to take the sting out of the euro's recent strength were disappointed last week. The FOMC refrained from a hike, referring to the risk that slowing growth in China and emerging markets could "restrain economic activity" and put "downward pressure on inflation in the near term." In doing so, the Fed had an eye on the same global risks as the ECB, highlighting increased fears of deflation risks in China, despite a rosier domestic outlook.
The third estimate of first quarter GDP growth, due today, will not be the final word. The BEA will revise the data again on July 30, when it will also release its first estimate for the second quarter and the results of its annual revision exercise. Quarterly estimates back to 2012 will be revised. The revisions are of greater interest than usual this year because the new data will incorporate the first results of the BEA's review of the seasonal problems.
April's consensus-beating retail sales figures fostered an impression that the recovery in consumer spending is in fine fettle, even though the rest of the economy is suffering from Brexit blues. Retailers have stimulated demand, however, by slashing prices at an unsustainable rate. With import prices and labour costs now rising, retailers are set to increase prices, sapping the momentum in sales volumes.
The PMIs are telling an increasingly upbeat story for the EZ economy in Q4. The composite PMI in the euro area rose to an 11-month high of 54.1 in November, from 53.3 in October. The uptick was driven by strong new business growth across all private sectors, and employment also increased in response to higher work backlogs.
The IFO survey signals that markets shouldn't be too downbeat on the German economy, even as it faces uncertainty from global trade tensions.
The key data today, covering March durable goods orders and international trade in goods, should both beat consensus forecasts.
The trend of consensus-beating EZ economic data was brought to a halt yesterday. The IFO business climate index in Germany slipped to a five-month low of 109.8 in January, from 111.0 in December, mainly due to a fall in the expectations index. But we are not alarmed. The dip in the headline comes after a run of strong data, and the IFO remains consistent with GDP growth of about 1.6% year-over-year.
Survey data in Germany continue to tell an upbeat story on the economy. The IFO business climate index rose to 109.0 in November from 108.2 in October, lifted by gains in both the expectations and current assessment indexes. The IFO tends to be slightly over-optimistic on GDP growth, but our first chart shows that the survey points to upside risks in the fourth quarter.
The two main national surveys--IFO and INSEE-- both beat consensus forecasts yesterday, supporting our story of that economic sentiment is holding up relatively well in the face increasing investor anxiety. In Germany, the main IFO business climate index rose marginally to 108.5 from a revised 108.4 in August, boosted by an increase in the expectations index to a six-month high of 103.3, up from 102.0 in August. The IFO expectations index points to real GDP growth rising 0.5%-to-0.6% quarter-on-quarter in Q3.
Markets are trading like Emmanuel Macron has already moved into the Élysée Palace. Eurozone equities soared at the open yesterday, lead by the French banks, 10-year yields in France plunged, and the euro jumped. This makes sense given the signal from the polls. They were correct in their prediction of Mr. Macron's victory on Sunday, and they have been consistently forecasting that he will comfortably beat Mrs. Le Pen in the runoff.
The BoK kept rates unchanged at 1.50% yesterday. We thought a hike was open to consideration, as the authorities had professed to be on a mission to reduce dependency on exports and household debt. But we remain more bearish than the BoK on the outlook for the rest of the year.
A downbeat French INSEE consumer sentiment report yesterday continued the run of poor survey data this week. The headline index fell to 95 in February from 97 in January, indicating downside risk f or Q1 consumers' spending. But we remain optimistic that private consumption will rebound solidly, following a 0.4% quarter-on-quarter fall in Q4.
Yesterday's PMIs kicked off a busy week for Eurozone data on a downbeat note. The composite EZ PMI fell to a five-month low of 55.8 in July, from 56.3 in June; it was constrained by a 0.6 point dip in the manufacturing index to 56.8.
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Samuel Tombs has focused on the U.K. economy since 2009. Prior to joining Pantheon, he was Senior U.K. Economist at Capital Economics, leading the team which topped the 2014 Sunday Times' poll of forecasters. In 2011, Samuel won the Society of Business Economists' prestigious Rybczynski Prize for an article on quantitative easing in the UK.
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