Surveys showed global manufacturing, the lifeblood of many of the world’s economies, was flat in March — the first time it has not fallen since April 2018.
“The steady result was achieved in no small part thanks to a better performance from China. China led a regional divide, with northeast Asia generally improving. While in contrast, Central Europe was notably weak, and North American manufacturing, at least based off the PMIs, was also losing some growth momentum, most especially in Canada and Mexico.”
— Alan Ruskin, chief international strategist at Deutsche Bank, wrote in a note to clients.
China’s manufacturing sector returned to growth in March, with its purchasing managers index rising above 50, after 4 months of contraction.
In the U.S., the rate of expansion in manufacturing was the weakest since June 2017. “A futher deterioraton in the manufacturing PMI suggests the factory sector is acting as an increasing drag on the US economy,” said Chris Williamson, Chief Business Economist at IHS Markit, which released the study.
Japan’s Nikkei-Markit manufacturing PMI for March capped the worst quarterly performance in the sector since the second quarter of 2016. Another study, the Bank of Japan’s quarterly survey of major companies, found confidence had its biggest drop in more than 6 years.
Eurozone manufacturing readings were much worse than expected last month, as factory activity contracted at the fastest pace in nearly 6 years. However, the metric remained in positive territory.