The Chinese economy, the second-biggest in the world, witnessed a contraction in manufacturing in May. The HSBC Flash China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) registered 49.6 for May, declining from 50.4 in April. (Source: Markit, May 23, 2013.) Any number below 50 represents contraction in the manufacturing sector.
The Chinese economy exports a significant amount of what it produces to the global economy. Contraction in Chinese manufacturing shows exports are falling—the global demand for goods is falling.
Similarly, Germany’s Flash Manufacturing PMI showed continuous contraction in the manufacturing sector. The index stood at 49.0 in May. (Source: Markit, May 23, 2013.) The German economy is important to observe, because it’s the largest economy in the eurozone and an economic slowdown in the nation can send the common currency region into another downward spiral, again affecting the global economy.
Looking at other key indicators, they are pointing to an economic slowdown ahead in the global economy. Consider the copper market. Demand for copper is suggesting activity in the global economy is sluggish, even deteriorating.
Copper prices are down more than 10% since the beginning of 2013, and stockpiles of the brown metal, tracked by the London Metals Exchange (LME), are up a staggering 95% this year! (Source: Bloomberg, May 23, 2013.)
Other industrial metal prices, such as aluminum, lead, nickel, and zinc, are in decline as well.
How can the U.S. economy possibly improve when the global economy is in trouble?
The U.S. is highly affected by any shift in demand in the global economy.
After the financial crisis of 2008, U.S.-based companies were able to show growth because of robust demand in the global economy. Some say the growth in the global economy pulled the U.S. out of recession in 2008.
Now, the economic indicators clearly point to diminishing global demand. Will U.S.-based multinational companies be able to show profit growth under the scenario of global manufacturing contraction? Of course not! (Someone tell stock market investors!)
During the first-quarter earnings reporting season, some of the biggest big-cap companies in the key American stock indices displayed concerns regarding the crisis in the eurozone. I expect more companies to start blaming the economic slowdown in the global economy as they report lower second-quarter corporate earnings.
As I have been writing in these pages, economic growth in the U.S. economy won’t happen by printing more paper money—it’s a short-term fix that creates more long-term problems.
According to data compiled by Bloomberg, 2,267 non-financial constituents of the Russell 3000 index saw their cash holdings increase by 13% to $1.73 trillion in the first quarter of 2013 compared to the same period a year earlier. (Source: Bloomberg, May 23, 2013.)
As the cash hoard continues, business spending declined 21% in the first quarter compared to the last quarter of 2012. This was the biggest decline since the financial crisis of 2008.
To top this off, business executives in the U.S. economy are worried about troubles in the global economy, and they don’t have a very optimistic view on conditions here at home. A CEO Confidence Survey conducted by the Conference Board suggests only 29% of executives believe conditions in their industries have improved in the first quarter; going forward, only 32% expect the U.S. economy to improve in the next six months. (Source: Conference Board, April 25, 2013.)
Looking at all of this, how can you not question the effectiveness of quantitative easing in the U.S. economy? The problem at hand is businesses shying away from spending in the U.S. economy and hoarding cash. To my standards, quantitative easing is failing at making businesses more confident about spending as it was promised.
Dear reader, for economic growth to take place in the U.S. economy, businesses must be willing to spend and make investments; we are seeing the opposite of that. This isn’t rocket science; once businesses start to spend and make investments, we will see recovery in the jobs market and economic growth will eventually follow.
The U.S. economy is at a vulnerable stage. I am paying extra attention to business spending because troubles from outside the U.S. economy are brewing quickly, and as a result, multinational businesses may make further cutbacks on their spending.
Where the Market Stands; Where It’s Headed:
We are putting the finishing touches on “A Dire Warning for Stock Market Investors,” a forecast we will present in video format. Please see your e-mail inbox tomorrow for this presentation. It’s important you watch it to see where the stock market is really headed next.
What He Said:
“As for the stock market, it continues along its merry way oblivious to what is happening to homebuyers’ wealth. (Since 2005 I have been writing about how the real estate bust would be bigger than the boom.) In 1927, the real estate market crashed and the stock market, even back then, carried along its merry way for two more years until it eventually crashed. History has a way of repeating itself.” Michael Lombardi in Profit Confidential, November 21, 2007. This was a dire prediction that came true.