Wednesday brought renewed hope that the US recession may be abating. From Bloomberg:
The Institute for Supply Management’s factory index climbed to 36.3 in March, a third consecutive increase that brought it closer to the breakeven point of 50. The number of contracts to buy existing homes in February rose 2.1 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors.
The employment situation continues to deteriorate though.
Other reports today showed the job market continued to deteriorate last month. Companies in the U.S. cut an estimated 742,000 workers in March, the most since records began in 2001, according to ADP Employer Services. Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a Chicago-based placement firm, said job-cut announcements almost tripled last month from a year earlier, led by planned cutbacks at government agencies, pharmaceutical and aerospace and defense firms.
Certainly, the employment situation is deteriorating in Europe. Bloomberg reports:
The jobless rate in the euro zone rose to 8.5 percent from a revised 8.3 percent in January, the European Union’s statistics office in Luxembourg said today. The February reading is the highest since May 2006 and exceeded the 8.3 percent rate economists forecast, according to the median of 23 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. The January figure was revised higher from 8.2 percent reported on Feb. 27.
But as in the US, the contraction in manufacturing in the euro area slowed in March. Again from Bloomberg:
Europe’s manufacturing industry contracted more than estimated in March as a deepening economic slump prompted companies to cut output and costs.
A gauge of manufacturing activity rose to 33.9 from 33.5 in February. The March reading is below an initial estimate of 34 released on March 24. The index is based on a survey of purchasing managers by Markit Economics and a reading below 50 indicates contraction.
Manufacturing also improved in the UK, and at an even sharper rate. Reuters reports:
The CIPS/MARKIT manufacturing purchasing managers' index improved to 39.1 in March from 34.9 in February. Analysts had expected a more modest improvement to 35.0.
However, manufacturing failed to maintain its improving trend in China. Bloomberg reports:
The CLSA China Purchasing Managers’ Index dropped to a seasonally adjusted 44.8 from 45.1 in February, CLSA Asia- Pacific Markets said today in an e-mailed statement. A reading below 50 indicates a contraction.
In Japan, the Nomura/JMMA Japan manufacturing PMI had been reported on Tuesday to have risen to 33.8 in March from 31.6 in February. However, Wednesday brought more negative news for the sector, courtesy of AFP/CNA.
Business confidence among major Japanese manufacturers hit a record low in the three months to March, as the global economic crisis deepened, the central bank said Wednesday.
Confidence tumbled to minus 58 in March from minus 24 the previous quarter, plunging below its previous record low of minus 57 registered in 1975, according to the Bank of Japan's Tankan survey of more than 10,000 firms.
Still, the global manufacturing PMI rose to 37.2 in March from 35.8 in February, a hopeful sign perhaps for the global economy.