Keeping in mind that monthly economic data is part science and part guesstimate, what did we learn from the global ISM data today? I’d offer that it’s a mixed bag with one particularly worrisome component.
First, if you want to see the data for a lot of countries in tabular form go to the WSJ Real Time Economics Blog. I can’t paste and copy the table for some reason.
The US beat all comers with as the index spurted from 50.9 in June to 55.4 in July. Only the UK with a reading of 54.6 comes close to the US. The Eurozone expanded from 48.8 to 50.3 but the gains weren’t evenly distributed. Germany, Italy (no lie!) and Ireland were up while other, notably Spain and France, contracted. If you’re interested, Greece went up from 45.4 to 47.0, which probably only says that at some point things just can’t get worse.
Asia, however, went the other way. China officially said its index increased from 50.1 to 50.3 but the HSBC reading has it at 47.7 versus 48.2 in June. Look around the rest of Asia and you’ll probably conclude that the HSBC rating is the one to believe. Australia cratered going from 49.6 to 42.0, Korea from 49.4 to 47.2 and Taiwan from 49.5 to 48.6. The miracle of Abenomics took the Japan index from 52.3 to 50.7.
So is Asia in contraction and likely to drag the rest of the world with it or will recovery, slow as it might be, in Europe and the US pull Asia back up and if not accelerate continue at pace? Clearly China is pulling its neighbors down as its fortunes slide. Given the opacity of the country it’s difficult to know not only the extent of its economic ills or even if it has any. If they’re minor then it would seem that the path is clearly for some sort of continuing worldwide recovery. If they’re severe then all bets are off. Europe is hit or miss and the US economy isn’t yet a strong enough engine to pull everyone along. Things look a lot better but, as ever, nasty surprises might be waiting out there.