Thursday, October 1, 2015

1/10/15: China PMIs: Signalling Deeper Problems Ahead

Latest Manufacturing and Services PMI data for China posted a strong signal of continued deterioration in the economy.

Manufacturing PMI came in at the lowest levels since March 2009, posting 47.2 in September, compared to 47.3 in August, and marking 7th consecutive month of sub-50 readings. Over the last 12 months, Manufacturing PMI reached above 50.0 in just two months, hit exactly 50.0 in one (marking zero growth in the sector) and was below 50 (marking contraction of activity) in the rest. Last time Manufacturing PMI was statistically above 50.0 was in July 2014 and last time it happened before then was in October-November 2013. In other words, there has not been statistically significant growth singled by Manufacturing PMIs for some two years now.

Per Markit release, things were even worse than the headline Manufacturing index suggested:

  • “Total new work fell at the quickest rate in over three years, partly driven by a steeper fall in new export business. 
  • “As a result, companies cut output at the sharpest rate in six-and-a-half years, while staff numbers fell at the quickest pace since the start of 2009. 
  • “The health of the sector has now deteriorated in each of the past seven months. Furthermore, the latest deterioration was the most marked since March 2009.”

On Services side, Markit’s Services PMI for September came in at 50.5, the lowest reading since July 2014. Services PMI for China has never posted a sub-50 reading in the series history, so there is little we can tell about actual levels of activity in the sector based on this data. Still, 50.5 reading is so bad, it ranks as the second lowest reading in the history of the series.

Which brings us to the Composite PMI. China’s Composite PMI posted another sub-50 reading, falling from August 48.8 to September 48.0. This implies the fastest rate of contraction across the economy since January 2009.

Per Markit:

  • “Employment trends continued to diverge across the manufacturing and services sectors in September. Manufacturers cut their workforce numbers at a solid pace that was similar to that seen in the prior month, while service providers continued to increase their payroll numbers. However, the rate of job creation was only slight, despite improving upon August’s fractional pace. Consequently, employment at the composite level declined for the fourth successive month.
  • “Manufacturing companies signalled a further increase in outstanding workloads in September, which was often linked to reduced productive capacity. Meanwhile, softer growth in new work enabled service sector firms to work through their unfinished business in September and at the fastest rate in ten months. Overall, backlogs of work declined again at the composite level, albeit at a marginal rate.”

In simple terms, whatever growth was squeezed out of both sectors, that growth came from depleting outstanding orders, rather than signing new business.

Two charts to highlight these trends:

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