HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK
- October began on a sour note. A deepening contraction in the manufacturing ISM confirmed that the global manufacturing slump has washed up on American shores, and the sectoral weakness may be spreading into other industries.
- The jobs report offered some encouragement, even as the details were not entirely positive. Payrolls rose a decent 136k and the unemployment rate fell to a 50-year low at 3.5%. Still, wage growth cooled, dipping below 3% y/y.
- Trade developments remained top of mind. After getting the okay from the WTO, the U.S. plans to apply tariffs on $7.5 bn of EU goods in mid-October. This is around the same time it plans to increase the tariff rate on $250 bn of Chinese goods. This increases the chances of tit-for-tat measures, which would expedite the slowdown in global growth.
Mixed Signals on Strength of Expansion
The mood at the start of October was predominantly downbeat, with a weak manufacturing report setting the tone early on. The ISM manufacturing index fell again in September, diving deeper into contractionary territory (Chart 1). The details of the report were equally disappointing, with weakness broad-based across the subcomponents. Strikingly, new export orders fell to the lowest level since early 2009. The recent deterioration is a clear sign that the global manufacturing slump has now firmly washed up on American shores. The other, larger side of the U.S. economy also showed signs of fatigue. The ISM non-manufacturing index, disappointed expectations, retreating by nearly 4 points to 52.6 in September. While the index remains in expansionary territory, its downward trajectory is an indication that the manufacturing slump is seeping into other sectors.
The consumer remains the main bright spot for the American economy. Keeping with that theme, U.S. vehicle sales continued their momentum with yet another strong reading in September (+1.1% to 17.2 million). On the surface, this bodes well for consumer spending in the third quarter. That said, given that the monthly gain was driven by fleet volume, we caution against reading too much into it.
The jobs report however, offered additional encouragement on the consumption narrative. Payrolls rose by 136k in September – a decent print, but one that highlights an expected slowing trajectory in hiring at this point in the cycle. In addition, the tally for payrolls in the two months prior was bumped up by 45k. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate fell to a 50-year low of 3.5%. Given that the participation rate held steady, the drop in the jobless rate appears to be organically-driven, as workers moved out of unemployment and into jobs. One thorn in the side of this report, however, was a cooling of wage growth to 2.9% y/y – a factor that does not bode well for income growth (Chart 2).
Aside from data, there were plenty of other salient developments this week, with trade remaining top of mind. The WTO gave the U.S. the green light to impose tariffs on $7.5 bn worth of EU goods, with the ruling pertaining to a long-running dispute over illegal subsidies provided to Airbus (the EU is pursuing a similar case against Boeing). The U.S. is wasting no time, announcing plans to apply tariffs between 10% and 25% on October 18th (see list of products). This would come at a particularly bad time for the EU, which is on the brink of recession (see here). The issue is not so much the $7.5 bn of goods impacted, but rather what might come after.
A flare up in tensions may get the ball rolling for more tit-for-tat measures. The EU’s retaliation could push the U.S. to levy auto tariffs. A decision on the latter is already pending for mid-November. What’s more, in mid-October, the U.S. is set to raise tariffs on $250 bn of Chinese goods. Increased protectionist measures with any or both of its two most important goods trading partners, will expedite the slowdown in global growth. In this vein, we expect the Fed to continue with its cautionary stance by cutting rates once more this year.
Admir Kolaj, Economist | 416-944-6318
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