October 28, 2021

Spending Cuts Weigh on Manufacturing

Data so far had shown little sign that higher taxes and the $85 billion in across-the-board government spending cuts that took effect March 1, known as the sequester, had weighed on economic activity.

“It suggests the economy was probably starting to slow at the end of the quarter, possibly reflecting the impact of the fiscal headwinds coming from sequestration and higher taxes,” said Millan Mulraine, a senior economist at TD Securities.

The Institute for Supply Management said on Monday that its index of national factory activity fell to 51.3 last month from 54.2 in February. A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the manufacturing sector. New orders, an indicator of future growth, accounted for much of the drop in the index.

The I.S.M. report was at odds with a separate report showing that factories gained steam in March on strong order growth, closing out the best quarter for the sector in two years.

The financial data firm Markit said its manufacturing purchasing managers index rose to 54.6 last month from 54.3 in February. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.

“We are beginning to see where the government spending cuts will reduce demand,” said Joel L. Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors. “In those sectors and parts of the country that will feel the wrath of sequestration, adjustments are being made.”

Separately, the Commerce Department reported on Monday that construction spending advanced 1.2 percent in February. Spending declined 2.1 percent in January.

The construction report added to a series of other data that has suggested economic growth accelerated in the first quarter from the fourth quarter’s anemic 0.4 percent annual pace.

Data on employment, consumer spending, industrial production and housing have been relatively strong.

Some economists raised their growth estimates for the January-March period as a result of the construction report.

Macroeconomic Advisers lifted its forecast by one-tenth of a point to 3.6 percent. JPMorgan Chase raised its estimate from 2.7 percent to 3.8 percent. Part of the increase reflected strong consumer spending.

Construction spending in February was bolstered by a 1.3 percent rise in private construction projects. Spending on private residential projects increased 2.2 percent to the highest level since November 2008.

“Housing is catching fire,” said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics. “All the conditions are in place for further improvement with housing, even with lingering risks. Housing will keep the economy going forward even with the fiscal constraints.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/02/business/economy/us-manufacturing-slows.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Economic Troubles in Europe and U.S. Start to Affect Asia

HONG KONG — A rate cut in Australia and lowered economic growth estimates by the Asian Development Bank on Tuesday highlighted the extent to which the economic woes of Europe and the United States are spilling over into this part of the world.

Economic growth in much of Asia remains robust, the Asian Development Bank said. But trade and financial activity have already started to be hit by the turmoil in Europe and risk being undermined further if the sovereign debt crisis in the euro zone evolves into a full-blown financial and economic crisis of the kind seen after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008.

“Things are changing very rapidly — not just weekly and daily, but hourly,” Iwan J. Azis, head of the A.D.B.’s office of regional economic integration, said at a news conference in Hong Kong, as he presented the bank’s latest update on emerging East Asian nations.

The A.D.B. lowered its 2012 growth forecast for the emerging East Asia region — which includes China and much of Southeast Asia, but not India and Japan — to 7.2 percent, from a previous projection of 7.5 percent.

It also cautioned that growth could be as low as 5.4 percent if the West’s troubles escalated and tipped the United States and Europe back into recession.

Hopes of at least a modest upturn in the United States have risen after some better-than-expected manufacturing and job data in recent weeks, though unemployment there remains worryingly high.

The outlook for Europe, however, is grim, as austerity budgets and tighter lending by beleaguered banks constrain growth. Analysts at Nomura, for instance, said they expected the euro zone to contract 1 percent next year.

Top European policy makers are to assemble in Brussels on Thursday and Friday to try to come up with a solution for the region’s sovereign debt woes. Over the past weeks, the crisis has spilled beyond small peripheral euro zone nations and begun to undermine investors’ confidence in larger economies like Italy and even France.

The rapid deterioration has prompted a succession of support measures from international financial institutions in recent weeks: The European Central Bank lowered interest rates last month and is widely expected to stage another cut at its policy meeting Thursday.

In another bid to restore confidence, the two main leaders of the euro zone — Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France — said Monday that they would together push to remake the European Union into a more integrated political and economic federation, with tight legal restraints on how much debt national parliaments can issue.

The changes would effectively subordinate economic sovereignty to collective discipline enforced by European technocrats in Brussels.

It is unclear whether promises of future action will be enough to pacify the markets, which have been testing the resolve of European leaders for months.

Investors initially welcomed the proposed steps, sending stocks and the euro higher in Europe and the United States. But some of those gains were swiftly eroded after Standard Poor’s put 15 European nations on a credit watch, and stocks fell across the Asia-Pacific region Tuesday. The main indexes in Japan and Australia dropped 1.4 percent, and in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index fell 1.2 percent.

Standard Poor’s said its warning of possible downgrades for core European nations had been prompted by its belief that “systemic stresses in the euro zone have risen in recent weeks to the extent that they now put downward pressure on the credit standing of the euro zone as a whole.”

“If the response of policy makers is not viewed by investors as robust, we believe market confidence could take another, possibly steep, drop downward,” the ratings agency said.

The Asia-Pacific region, meanwhile, is for the most part not burdened with the high government and household debt levels that are weighing on Europe and the United States. Asian banks also have little exposure to European debt, meaning that any defaults would not cause huge write-downs.

Still, much of the region depends on the West as a market for its products, and slowing demand in the United States and Europe has caused export growth from Asia to ease in recent months.

Economic growth in China has also slowed as Beijing’s efforts to cool down excessively rapid growth earlier this year have borne fruit.

The Australian central bank highlighted those concerns with its decision to lower interest rates
on Tuesday. The cut, the second in two months, took the main cash rate to 4.25 percent from 4.5 percent.

Trade in Asia is now “seeing some effects of a significant slowing in economic activity in Europe,” Glenn Stevens, the governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, said in a statement accompanying the interest rate move.

“The sovereign credit and banking problems in Europe, to which European governments are still seeking to craft a full response, are likely to weigh on economic activity there over the period ahead.”

Analysts have also recently grown increasingly worried that beleaguered European banks could sharply scale back their lending in Asia.

Although there is little evidence at this stage of a full-scale withdrawal by such lenders, “there is a lot of scope for that to happen if the European situation worsens,” Rob Subbaraman, chief Asia economist at Nomura, said in a media conference call Tuesday.

Asian stock and bond markets have also seen portfolio outflows as nervous U.S. and European investors put their funds closer to home. This has caused currencies like the Indian rupee and the Indonesian rupiah to slump against the U.S. dollar.

The good news, however, is that policy makers in Asia have more flexibility than their Western counterparts to prop up flagging growth via interest rate cuts or tax incentives. Some, like Indonesia and Australia, have already cut rates, and analysts expect more such steps across the region next year. Such policy support, Mr. Subbaraman said, should help Asia to bounce back more rapidly from a downturn than other parts of the world.

Moreover, Mr. Azis of the A.D.B. said, banks in Asia have ample liquidity and could help fill financing shortfalls caused by a withdrawal of loans from European banks in the region. Despite the turmoil in the West, “Asia is in for a soft landing — not a hard landing,” he said.

Stephen Erlanger contributed reporting from Paris.

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