Data from the US on Friday show that recovery in employment and growth in manufacturing continued in March. Bloomberg reports:
The U.S. unemployment rate unexpectedly dropped to a two-year low of 8.8 percent in March as employers created more jobs than forecast, adding to evidence of a recovery in the labor market.
Payrolls rose by 216,000 workers last month after a 194,000 gain the prior month, the Labor Department said today in Washington. Economists projected a March increase of 190,000, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey...
Manufacturing expanded in March at about the same pace as February, the strongest month since May 2004. The Tempe, Arizona-based Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index was 61.2 compared with 61.4 in February. Readings greater than 50 signal expansion. The median forecast of 79 economists surveyed by Bloomberg was 61.1.
However, construction spending in the US fell again in February. Bloomberg reports:
Construction spending in the U.S. fell more than forecast in February, indicating the economic recovery has not yet spread to the building industry.
The 1.4 percent drop was the third in a row and brought the value of all projects down to a $760.6 billion annual rate, the lowest since October 1999, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. The median estimate of economists in a Bloomberg survey called for a 0.2 percent decline.
Also showing falling unemployment on Friday was the euro area. Bloomberg reports:
European unemployment fell in February as companies from Germany to Italy added workers to meet reviving global demand, offsetting job cuts in debt- burdened Spain.
The 17-nation euro region’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate fell to 9.9 percent from a revised 10 percent in January, the European Union statistics office in Luxembourg said in an e- mailed statement today. At 20.5 percent, Spain had the highest jobless rate and the Netherlands the lowest, with 4.3 percent.
Manufacturing in the euro area, though, disappointed. Again from Bloomberg:
European manufacturing growth slowed more than initially estimated in March as output weakened from Germany to Italy and France, suggesting the euro-area economy is losing some strength.
A gauge of manufacturing in the 17-nation euro region fell to 57.5 from 59 in February, London-based Markit Economics said in an e-mailed report today. That’s below an initial estimate of 57.7. A reading above 50 indicates growth. A gauge of output growth in Germany, the region’s biggest economy, fell to 60.9 from 62.7, Markit said.
The UK manufacturing PMI also came out weaker than expected. Reuters reports:
British manufacturing activity growth weakened more than expected in March after the inflow of orders slowed sharply, but firms still ramped up prices at a record rate to cover rising costs, a survey showed on Friday.
The Markit/CIPS manufacturing PMI headline index fell to a five-month low of 57.1 in March from a downwardly revised 60.9 in February. Analysts had expected a more modest easing to 60.6.
China did report an acceleration in manufacturing activity though. AFP/CNA reports:
Manufacturing activity in China rebounded in March after a fall the previous month, official and independent data showed on Friday, giving Beijing more leeway to take new measures to rein in inflation.
The purchasing managers index (PMI) rose to 53.4 in March from 52.2 in February, after three consecutive months of slowdowns, the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing (CFLP) said in a statement...
And the HSBC China Manufacturing PMI indicated a milder rebound, bouncing back slightly to 51.8 in March from 51.7 in February, the British banking giant said in a statement.
Also out on Friday was a largely irrelevant Tankan survey report from Japan. AFP/CNA reports:
Japanese business confidence improved in March, data showed Friday, but the impact of the nation's biggest ever earthquake and a devastating tsunami was not fully reflected in the report...
Friday's report showed that large manufacturers' business confidence reading improved to 'six' from 'five' in the previous quarter...
The BoJ will on Monday release data reflecting responses received from February 24 to March 11, and responses received from March 12 to March 31.