We’ve got so used to the dismal news from Europe over the last couple of years – the banks, the unemployment, the fiscal deficits, the mired politics – that there have been times when the whole question of an economic revival seems like a page from next year’s diary rather than this year’s.
We already know that the IMF has given the 17 countries of the eurozone a prospective growth of minus 0.6% this year – indeed, it was only on 9th July that it made that very prediction. Whereas, by comparison, the UK got a surprisingly chirpy 0.9% – up, by the way, from 0.7% previously. And the European Central Bank agrees, expecting the eurozone economy to contract by 0.6% in 2013 – followed, it hopes, by growth of 1.1% in 2014.
But what we’ve got now is some evidence of a manufacturing-led rebound. Well, maybe that’s putting it just a little strongly. The Markit eurozone Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), a measure of both business output and forward orders, showed a level of 50.4 in July, compared with 48.7 in June. (50 denotes no change.)
It’s not the kind of improvement that you’d normally open the champagne for, but it suggests that things are heading in the right direction. “The best PMI reading for one-and-a-half years provides encouraging evidence to suggest that the euro area could – at long last – pull out of its recession in the third quarter,” enthused Chris Williamson, Markit’s chief economist, this morning.
Better, Or Just Less Worse?
Well, maybe that was a little over the top. It’s true that Markit’s PMI figure hasn’t been above 50 since February 2012. But as the company also points out, employment is still falling. It’s just that the rate of deterioration has slowed a bit.continuing to fall, although at a slower rate than earlier in the year.
The survey finds that the recovery is taking place across the whole manufacturing sector. And as for the service sector? Well, it’s another case of getting worse less rapidly. Activity in the sector fell once again, but this time the decline was the smallest it had been since January 2012. And, according to Markit, the data shows some stabilisation after an earlier period of “marked rates of decline” earlier in the year.
Oh yes. Market says that the latest data may suggest that the eurozone will grow by 0.1% in the third quarter of this year. Although we do need to stay aware that this is a survey, not an in-depth calculation. And that strong growth in northern countries, especially Germany, are being countered by slight declines in southern European states. Plus ça change….
You can read the report’s press release at http://www.markiteconomics.com/Survey/PressRelease.mvc/b9f7cd408c63428ca6cab343f4dbed5d