UK economy continued to slow in November. According to the monthly GDP estimate the economy shrank by -0.3% m/m. Although the smoothed 3/3m rate still showed a +0.1% rise, this was the slowest pace since fears of a hard Brexit dominated thinking back in the summer and on a y/y basis the +0.6% recorded was the weakest since back in the days of the Eurozone debt crisis (June 2012 to be exact).
Slight undershoot in the December payrolls report, but the 145k jobs created is only modestly below the 164k market guess and while the revisions from November were slightly downward that was a strong report in itself. Over 12-months revisions are very mildly negative but not showing any real deterioration in trend since the summer.
Germany has just reported much-improved industrial production numbers for November. In volume terms they jumped 1.1% mom on a seasonally-adjusted basis, better than consensus expectations for a 0.8% rebound. So the downturn is over? Don’t bet on it.
Does populism pose a risk to markets in 2019? Yes! but not from the expected quarter. 2019 brought a surprise on the European front. The support for traditional parties has been plummeting for a long time. We call this the European souffle where support for the centre ground continues to cave over time. Populist parties gained 20% or more of the vote in many national elections this year, thought there were signs of their vote stabilising in the most recent polls.
Better performance from industry during November, IP and manufacturing production both rising 1.1% mom. Partly this was due to one-offs, following disruptions from the GM strike, which flattered November’s bounce. There are still a couple of sectors that look weak, notably chemicals and machinery, the latter in particular important given this is basically the capital goods part of activity.
Another batch of soft numbers. Although we saw another m/m rise and a mild upward revision, the y/y growth rates continue to look fragile, particularly when stripping out more volatile items like gas and vehicle sales. The control group reading in fact dropped to the weakest rate since March, when comparing to the period a year earlier.
We have no strategic positions on Italy. But we went there to check on our prejudices and met with a wide range of wise people. This confirmed that we should not short Italian sovereign debt right now - or anything else in Italy.
The strong upswing in Chinese consumer price inflation in November has a very straightforward explanation. The swine flu epidemic and the devastation this has inflicted on Chinese pig herds – reducing total numbers by over 40%. Indeed, meat prices are up 74% yoy, driven by pork which is now up 110% compared to the same period last year.
October retail sales registered a further deceleration in growth. The control group is still showing a decent rate of y/y expansion but other groups momentum has clearly reversed from the summer pick up. The industrial production report was bleaker reading.
Quite a slowdown in credit growth during October, certainly compared to the rate we saw last year. While the trend for shadow sector deleveraging continues there was also quite a sharp slowing of bank loans. Corporate bond issuance remained muted while there was a pronounced deceleration in the ‘other’ category, which now encompasses local government bond issuance.
A rather disappointing first assessment of US productivity in the third quarter. Non-farm productivity registered the first qoq decline since the end of 2015. On the positive side the yoy rate still looks a reasonable 1.4%, compared to a 5-year average of 1.1%, but the trend still lacks much conviction. Really, we’re still flatlining at best. Labour costs were stronger than expected, rising at a 3.6% annualised rate in the non-farm sector overall. That’ll raise the heckles of the hawks that view the tight labour market as a risk.
A modest bounce in German factory orders in September (+1.3% m/m wda), which has pared the yoy decline a little. But at -4.6% yoy orders are still clearly a weak spot, having recorded 13 consecutive months of yoy declines. That leaves total orders around 10% below their late 2017 peak.
We now have the final October purchasing managers indices for October and the data paints something of a mixed picture. That could be seen as slightly encouraging given our concerns that the economic soft spot was turning into something more damaging.
Solid payrolls report with 128k jobs added, with the strong upward revisions to September and August, which further dampened concerns about the labour market slowdown. Clearly there has been a deceleration in job creation, but it looks pretty mild based on these rough estimates (employment date subject to heavy annual revisions so not the best indicator of the real-time health of the labour market at potential turning points).
First glance shows positive surprises for Wednesday’s data releases. First, we had the October ADP report which recorded a 125k jobs gain versus the 100k consensus. But there was a decent downward revision to September (-42k) and the underlying rate of growth continues to decelerate.
While China’s 3Q GDP number was a little lower than expectations at 6.0% y/y the monthly production and activity series for September all improved. Retail sales growth picked up to 7.8% y/y from 7.5% while industrial activity rebounded to 5.8% y/y from 4.4% in August. Investment was perhaps the one area of disappointment, growth slowing to 5.4% y/y despite a further modest pick up on the State Owned side.
US industrial activity disappointed again in September, with output down -0.4% m/m. Although there was some better news in August, with production from then revised upward a little bit, the underlying trend remains weak. Manufacturing is still the focal point with the declines we’ve seen in non-durables spreading to durables this month.
The headline numbers might have missed expectations, with retail sales falling across most measures month to month. But this is really some giveback after better figures over the summer, including upward revisions to the August numbers. This is reflected in the firming of the y/y trend we’ve seen, underlying growth looking far stronger now that it was at the start of the year.
UK employment market continued to soften over the summer, recording another rise in the claimant count. This is unsurprising given the Brexit related uncertainty and generally slower global growth environment. Employment growth slowed, particularly for male workers and the participation rate has dropped back.
China’s trade balance continues to improve, a function of persistent weakness for imports which again outweighed soft, if patchy, export demand. The locus of the export demand problem remains the US which is being offset by ongoing growth from the Eurozone and parts of Asia, the exceptions being Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong, which have continued to contract.