Monday, December 3, 2012

3/12/2012: Ireland's Manufacturing PMI for November 2012

NCB Purchasing Manager Indices for Manufacturing for Ireland are out this morning with a deserved upbeat soundings on foot of the core data showing continued growth in the sector. Here are some details, both worth a positive overall note and some warning signs of potential tightness ahead.

Business conditions continued to improve in the Irish manufacturing sector during November, marking the ninth consecutive month of such increases, though there were slower rises in output and new orders.

Overall PMI was running at 52.4 in November, slightly up on October 52.1. November reading was the highest since July 2012. Strictly-speaking, both October and November indices were statistically indistinguishable from 50.0, however, with the last index reading that was statistically significantly above 50.0 was July 2012 and the last time this happened before then was April 2011.

Not to rain too much on the parade, 12mo MA through November 2012 is at 51.1 and 6mo MA is at 52.4, both encouraging. 3mo MA through November is 51.2 and this is behind 3mo MA through August 2012 which as 52.6. In other words, last 3mo activity does not seem to signal any significant improvement on June-August period, although both 3mo averages are ahead of 50.9 reading that represents the 3mo average between March and May 2012.

Likewise, looking at actual quarterly averages: Q1 2012 came in at 49.8 (contraction), Q2 at 51.5 (expansion at shallow rates), Q3 at 52.2 (another shallow expansion) and Q4-to-date at 52.25 (no material improvement on Q3).

Let's take a look at core subcomponents:

  • Actual Output levels expanded in November at 53.8, down on 54.4 expansion in October, but up strongly on output growth of 51.0 and 51.3 recorded in August and September. 12mo MA is at 51.5. Both October and November readings were significantly above 50.0 line - adding some statistical support to the output growth signals. 6mo MA is now at robust 53.3 and 3mo MA is at 53.2, identical to the 3mo MA through August 2012. Q4-to-date reading is at strong 54.1 and up on 52.1 average for Q3 2012, 51.4 average for Q2 2012 and 50.2 average through Q1 2012. Good news, despite slower growth rate recorded m/m.
  • New orders also moderated the rate of expansion to 52.1 in November, from 52.7 in October. 12mo MA is now at 51.4 and 6mo MA at 53.1, the latter being statistically significantly different from 50.0. 3mo MA is at 52.4 down from 53.7 3mo average through August 2012. On quarterly basis, Q1 average stood at 49.9, Q2 2012 average rose to 52.0, with Q3 2012 average hitting 53.3, and Q4-to-date average sliding back to 52.4.
  • Growth in new orders seemed to have been driven by growth in export orders, up from 51.8 in October to 52.1 in November. Both months expansions were statistically insignificant. New export orders improvement, however, in m/m terms was more significant than improvement in overall new orders. 12mo MA for export orders stands at 52.3, with 6mo MA at 52.5. 3mo MA at 50.8 - signaling weakness in the overall sub-index performance, against 3mo MA of 54.2 recorded in June-August 2012. On quarterly basis: Q1 2012 average reading was 51.9, rising to 52.8 in Q2 and Q3, before sliding to 52.0 in Q4-to-date.

 Per Markit/NCB release: "According to respondents, slower growth of new business enabled manufacturers to work through outstanding business. Backlogs of work decreased for the twenty-first month running, albeit at a reduced rate." This is illustrated below:

As you know, I usually run more detailed comparatives on input/output prices and profitability in a separate post, once Services sector data comes in. But some reflections here:

  • Output prices contracted in November, posting a reading of 49.7 down from 51.7 in October. This is the first contraction in the series since August 2012. Overall, trends in output prices are not encouraging for Irish manufacturers. 12mo MA is at 49.1, with 6mo MA at 50.3. Q1 2012 average is at 47.3, Q2 2012 average at 49.4 and Q3 average at 50.2, while Q4-to-date average is 50.7.
  • Meanwhile, Input prices continued robust inflation trend set o since August 2012. In November, input prices subindex stood at 59.0 down slightly on 60.7 in October and 60.6 in September. 12mo MA is at 58.0, 6mo MA at 55.8, 3mo MA through November is at 60.1 and previous 3mo MA through August was at 51.4. In quarterly averages terms, Q1 saw average subindex reading of 60.4, Q2 at 57.9, Q3 at 55.1 and Q4-to-date at 59.9.
  • Continued widening gap between input prices (cost) inflation and output prices (revenue) deflation suggests two possible pressures in the sector: (1) rising transfer pricing - as opposed to actual activity - in the sector by the cost-base-driven MNCs, and (2) shrinking profit margins for Irish firms and profit-base-driven MNCs.

Lastly, per chart above, employment:

  • Employment subindex expanded to 53.5 in November, a robust rise on 51.9 in October, but behind 54.1 reading reached in September. Overall, employment index is now ahead of 50.0 line for nine consecutive months. 12mo MA is at 52.3, 6mo MA at 53.3. 3mo MA through November is at 53.2, slightly down on 53.4 3mo MA through August 2012. In quarterly terms, Q1 saw subindex average 50.0, Q2 2012 - 54.4, Q3 2012 - 52.8 and Q4 2012-to-date averages at 52.7. In other words, there seem to be robust hiring signal coming from the sector in the last 9 months.
Net conclusion: good PMI readings, especially considering that Euro area continues to tank and global trade slowdown is yet to be reversed. Some tightness on profit margins and weakening new orders growth rate are to be watched. However, the two warning signals above are likely to be offset by the stocks rebuilding in months ahead, should new orders hit a slowdown.

Manufacturing PMIs across the euro zone contracted for a sixteenth consecutive month in November, with last month's reading at 46.2, up on 45.4 in October. November marks the slowest pace of contraction in eight months, but the downturn remains strong. New exports continued decline, while Italy PMI is down to a 3mo low of 45.1 and Spain is at 45.3.

The Markit/HSBC China Manufacturing PMI for November rose to 50.5, up from 49.5 in October hitting for the first time in 13 months the 50.0 mark.

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