undergroundnewsroom.com April 26, 2018

Manufacturing PMI at five-month low of 51 in March

04 April 2018, 01:14 | Damon Campbell

Singapore's manufacturing activity grows for 19th straight month in March

Strong Canadian manufacturing growth maintained in March

But the performance completes a relatively weak quarter for the industry after a mini-boom at the end of a year ago.

The Caixin survey showed that staff numbers at Chinese manufacturing companies declined at the fastest pace since August amid reports of cost-cutting plans. It was marginally higher than a preliminary reading of 53.6.

The March PMI decreased by 1.5 percentage points, landing at 59.3%. This is just one-tenth of a point lower than the flash estimate from mid-March and was highlighted by strong new orders and export orders.

In PMI parlance, a reading above the 50 point mark means growth, while below that mark shows a contraction.

USA factories reported a strong end to the first quarter, with the PMI advancing to a three-year high.

Goods manufacturers raised their output for the eighth successive month during March. Panelists commonly reported that the latest rise was driven by firmer client demand.

Production and total new orders both expanded at their weakest rates in four months, while the increase in export sales was the slowest since May, according to the survey, which is sponsored by Caixin and compiled by global information and data analytics provider IHS Markit Ltd. "Companies cited rising demand at home and overseas plus recent government policy announcements as helping shore up confidence in terms of their future production levels". However, the ability of manufacturers to make a profit was beefed up by the stable increase in new orders and the much slower jump in input costs. "Increased costs were often passed on to customers, meaning prices charged for goods at the factory gate showed the steepest rise in over four years".

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The prices index was the only metric to increase in March, reaching 78.1% after landing at 74.2% in February.

The President of CIER Wu Chun-shu (吳中書) said part of the reason for the gains in March was due to a higher number of working days following the week long holiday period in February.

Analysts at Econoday noted that despite the overall soft month-over-month performance, there is strength in the homebuilding sector, and building for transportation projects and commercial projects have also improved lately. For China, which is in the midst of a tariff battle with the US, new factory orders and exports have been muted.

However, the UK's deficit with the rest of the world shrank, as the United Kingdom received increased earnings on foreign investments thanks to a growing world economy'.

Affin Hwang Investment Bank Bhd chief economist Alan Tan said Malaysia's manufacturing growth remains to be in the range of 5% in the first half of 2018 (1H18) supported by the robust economic growth, compared with 6% in 2017.

As such, there's been optimism about the year ahead, though the ongoing tariff battles-largely between the USA and China over steel and intellectual property rights-have contributed to inventory stockpiles.

While the US economy ended 2017 on fairly high note, MarketWatch noted it may have gotten off to a softer start in 2018.

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