Wednesday, 3 May 2006

Manufacturing booms, interest rates and oil prices still on uptrend

It is not just the US economy that is performing well. Reuters reports the global boom in manufacturing.

Manufacturing worldwide expanded at its fastest pace in 20 months in April, but economists warned of signs this year's factory boom may soon tire as inventories start to climb.

Surveys of some 10,000 manufacturing firms, seen as one of the earliest monthly indicators of global activity, paint a robust picture of the world economy in 2006 and underline the push by most major central banks to tighten credit conditions.

April's readings are consistent with annualized growth in world industrial production of 7 percent, economists estimate.

Some numbers:

JP Morgan, which compiles a global aggregate index from the underlying national surveys, said its global purchasing managers' index (PMI) rose to 55.9 in April from March's 55.2.

That was the highest since August 2004 and was well above the 50 mark that divides growth from contraction...

The PMI for the 12-nation euro zone hit its highest since September 2000 at 56.7...

The rise in the Chinese manufacturing index hit an 11-month high at 52.7, from 51.0 in March, reinforced expectations Beijing will soon take extra steps to cool the red-hot economy following last week's rise in interest rates.

In the UK, the strong data in manufacturing and elsewhere is causing a rethink on interest rates, according to another Reuters report.

The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply/RBS said its gauge of manufacturing business activity rose to 54.1 in April, its highest since late 2004. That was well above 51.0 in March and expectations of a rise to 51.3.

The Confederation of British Industry said that its retail sales balance rose to +2 in April from -16. Easter falling in April this year instead of March boosted the figures but most economists were upbeat about the prospects for a pick-up.

And British Bankers' Association figures showing a 33 percent rise in mortgage approvals in March compared with a year ago added to evidence the housing market has revived and could make policymakers wary of stoking it any further with lower rates.

While the Bank of England makes its decision tomorrow, we already know today that the Reserve Bank of Australia is raising rates.

Australia's central bank has raised its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points to 5.75 per cent, the first increase in 14 months, in a bid to keep inflation in check.

And just to complicate things, central banks have also to disentangle the demand and supply factors behind the continuing saga of higher oil prices.

Oil rose toward $75 a barrel on Tuesday, pushed higher by persistent fears about supply disruption, especially from Iran, and by aggressive fund buying across the commodities sector.

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