Why a global manufacturing slump is a recurring threat

THE GLOBAL economy had an inauspicious start to 2019. Markets went into a tailspin and America’s government was locked in a seemingly interminable shutdown. But matters have not played out as dismally as they might have. The government in Washington is open again. America and China appear close to a trade deal which, although modest in its achievements, would nonetheless reflect a welcome easing of tension between the world’s two biggest economies. Markets have smiled on these developments: the MSCI index of global shares has risen by 10% so far this year.

Good news notwithstanding, many economic indicators have undergone a remarkable downward shift since early 2018. Back then economists were celebrating the emergence of a broad-based expansion. When it assessed the world economy in January last year, the IMF hailed the “broadest synchronised global growth upsurge since 2010”. Now the progress on trade talks is occurring against a darker economic backdrop.

Global manufacturing activity has slowed (see chart). Economies that are especially reliant on trade, such as Germany and Japan, have suffered. Industrial production in the euro area has fallen over the past year. Both Japan and South Korea reported tumbling exports in January. The World Trade Organisation’s global trade outlook index has been falling for the past...



via The Economist: Finance and economics Business Feeds

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