manufacturing

By Iftekhar Zaman, Transparency International, Bangladesh

One year ago today, three thousand garment workers started a typical work day at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh.

Like many of the country’s 4m garment workers – over 80 per cent of whom are young women – they earned just over one dollar a day for up to 19 hours of work; went without water or toilets; and crucially were not protected by basic workplace safety standards. They walked up one staircase: the only way in and out of the building. 

Five per cent GDP growth is these days more associated with the fittest Asian and African emerging economies than the sluggish EU fringe, but Romania has sprung a surprise with its Q4 2013 figures, its best for five years.

A flash estimate from Bucharest’s National Institute of Statistics on February 14 suggests that the economy grew by 5.2 per cent year-on-year in the final quarter of last year. This takes its full-year rate to 3.5 per cent, among the fastest in Europe and appreciably above a recent IMF forecast of 2.8 per cent. Meanwhile inflation, once a serious concern, fell to an all-time low of 1.1 per cent in January. 

Central Europe’s leading economies have strapped on afterburners, with new manufacturing PMI data released Monday showing a strong recovery in Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

In Poland, the region’s largest economy, the improvement in business conditions was the strongest in three years. The headline PMI number, in which anything above 50 marks an economic expansion, came in at 55.4 for January, up from 53.2 in December. 

Source: HSBC / Markit

The monthly temperature-taking of Asian manufacturing, aka the purchasing managers index, is out for some of Asia’s bigger economies – and at first glance, things look good.

China may have seen its HSBC/Markit (in contrast to the official government) index fall below the 50 mark that separates contraction from expansion, but India, Indonesia and South Korea all look in good shape.

Or do they? 

PMI scores | Source: HSBC / Markit

Asian manufacturers are more positive than any point since April, according to the latest Markit / HSBC PMI surveys.

The purchasing managers index for October for six Asian economies (China, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam) showed that five scored over the 50 mark that separates expansion from contraction, and with none showing a decline in sentiment. It’s a big improvement on just two months ago when only China was showing any postive signs. 

Central European economies are continuing to show signs to recovery, with the newest purchasing manager index reports released Tuesday surprising on the upside despite slightly worse numbers from Germany – the region’s largest export market.

In Poland, the largest CEE economy, PMIs jumped to 53.1 where anything above 50 marks an economic expansion. That is the highest level in two and a half years and was due largely to improvements in the employment picture. 

There has been a bit of a turnaround in sentiment in Asian manufacturing from August to September. The purchasing managers index (PMI) readings for six major Asian economies paint a more optimistic picture – just.

The Asia PMI scorecard shows that August’s red is turning blue – with three indices moving above the 50-mark that separates expansion from contraction.

Source: HSBC, Markit

 

Central Europe’s economies are showing strong signs of life, if the crop of manufacturing PMI data released on Monday is anything to go by. The region – which has become the EU’s low-cost workshop – is being lifted by the broader eurozone revival.

For Poland, the Purchasing Managers Index showed manufacturing quickening its pace in August, the second positive month following a 14-month slump. Polish PMI beat expectations, rising to 52.6 from July’s 51.1, where anything above 50 indicates an expansion. 

Cadbury India, part of the $35bn Mondelez International group, is setting up its biggest plant in the Asia Pacific region. And it has chosen the south eastern state of Andhra Pradesh for it. That’s a huge chunk of investment – especially since the plant appears to be real this time. 

How gloomy should we be feeling about emerging markets? According to HSBC’s Emerging Markets Index, very. The index – a weighted composite of purchasing managers’ indices from 16 countries – has dipped into negative territory for the first time since the crisis of 2008-09.

Worse, the deterioration was increasingly broad-based across the emerging world. But there were some bright spots amid the gloom – reminding us to be careful when thinking about the emerging markets as if they were one homogeneous group. 

Tough times in Egypt: on top of all the political turmoil, the latest manufacturing index has fallen off a cliff to its second-lowest since the numbers began.

The Markit/HSBC purchasing managers’ index came in at a lowly 41.7 in July, down from 47.5 in June (50 marks the border between expansion and contraction) The longer the political uncertainly goes on, the harder it will be for Egypt to recover. 

A quick look at manufacturing purchasing managers’ indices for Asia this year shows a worrying trend. From a positive start to 2013, the numbers for the six countries tracked by Markit Economics/HSBC are gradually slipping down to the 50 mark separating expansion from contraction, and below.

Source: HSBC, Markit

 

Keith McLoughlin, Electrolux chief executive, tells Louise Lucas, consumer industries editor, he is seeing a shift in manufacturing back to countries such as the US and that sales remain strong in developing economies despite a slowdown in growth.

The central Mexican region known as El Bajío is known as the nation’s colonial heartland, its grain belt and a hotbed of fervent Catholicism. Now Japanese auto production can be added to the list.

While Barack Obama and the Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto were talking in Mexico City about jobs, Honda was announcing the creation of 1,500 of them in an $470m transmission plant to be built in Celaya in El Bajío. 

Terrible news out of Poland on Thursday morning as Polish manufacturing showed signs of a steepening downturn, posting the worst results since the depths of the first wave of the economic crisis in 2009.

April’s purchasing managers index, compiled by Markit Economics for HSBC, hit 46.9, far below analysts’ expectations of 47.8 and the worst since July 2009. PMI figures of less than 50 denote a contraction of manufacturing, and Poland has been posting them for 13 successive months, the grimmest performance in a decade