Global slowdown signal

From the U.S. to Asia and the eurozone, a closely watched indicator sent a similar message: There’s a major slowdown underway in manufacturing and services sectors in the world’s biggest economies.

Why it matters: The degree of pain is different, but the trend is the same. The data is the latest to suggest the global economy may be tipping into a recession.

Driving the news: This morning, S&P Global released its gauge of private sector activity for a slew of countries. None of them were good.

  • In the U.S.,composite index of manufacturing and service sector activity unexpectedly dropped to 45 in August from 47.7. Any level below 50 indicates contracting activity. The services sector logged the steepest rate of decline, as goods producers saw output drop modestly.
  • Activity in Japan’s service sectorfell into contraction territory, as its manufacturing sector registered the lowest reading since January (but still expanded). The economy is still dealing with Covid-19 fallout that’s curbing consumer activity, while firms are also facing rising material and energy costs.

In the eurozone, the survey results compounded an already grim outlook. Output declined yet again — with Germany and France posting particularly weak activity — pointing “to an economy in contraction during the third quarter,” S&P said.

  • The cost of living crisis is curbing spending, and supply constraints are still hurting manufacturers.

What they’re saying: “Russia is supplying only a limited amount of gas, high inflation is tearing deep holes in the coffers of private households, companies are facing massive uncertainties – the economic outlook for the economy in the euro zone is bleak,” Commerzbank’s Christoph Weil wrote in a note.

  • The survey of U.K. activity remains slightly above 50. But factory activity saw a bigger-than-expected slowdown.

Between the lines: A key part of the global slowdown story is the strengthening U.S. dollar, which is wreaking havoc around the globe. The flip side of the dollar’s rally is slumping currencies elsewhere: The euro, for instance, is at the lowest level since 2002.

  • The U.S. currency’s strength is the result of the Federal Reserve’s interest rate-hiking campaign that’s been markedly faster than its major central banking peers.
  • But the result of the recent rise is rising inflation pressures for many countries, as imports priced in dollars become more expensive. (And for poorer countries, dollar-denominated debt becomes pricier to pay.)

-Lessons from the “early hikers”

Some of the world’s most prominent central banks have been playing catch-up this year, tightening policy to make up for a late start. Some new research, however, asks: What about those that started earlier?

State of play: Central banks in countries like Brazil, Poland and New Zealand began raising interest rates last fall, far ahead of their counterparts in the U.S. and Western Europe.

  • As such, a new report from Goldman Sachs studied the results in nine countries that were “early hikers” for lessons on how things might play out for the rest of the world.

The findings: None of the nine showed definitive evidence of being in recession so far, though two (Chile and Peru) are potentially in a mild recession.

  • Strong private sector balance sheets, resulting from pandemic-era fiscal transfers, have enabled most of the early hikers to maintain growth momentum.

What they’re saying: The resilience of early hikers “supports our view that no major economy will enter a monetary policy driven recession in the coming year,” write Daan Struyven and Devesh Kodnani with Goldman.

Important caveat: They note that early hikers are mostly small, open, emerging market economies that may well have different dynamics than their counterparts elsewhere.

  • And just because they’re not in a recession now doesn’t mean they won’t be eventually.


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