The data seems sure to dishearten the European Central Bank, struggling to spur growth and revive disconcertingly low inflation and whose head Mario Draghi again raised prospects on Monday of using extra unconventional measures if needed.
In China, signs of a weakening labour market reinforced expectations that authorities in Beijing would further relax financing conditions in coming weeks.
“The Chinese number beat expectations but it’s not really going anywhere,” said Peter Dixon, senior economist at Commerzbank. “It’s indicative of an economy that doesn’t have a lot of momentum behind it. It’s doing okay but we would be looking for a bit more strength.”
The HSBC/Markit Flash China PMI rose to 50.5 in September from August’s final reading of 50.2. Economists polled by Reuters had expected factory growth to stall at 50.0, citing deteriorating business confidence and the growing drag from the cooling property market.
Markit’s Eurozone Composite Flash Purchasing Managers’ Index, based on surveys of thousands of companies across the region and seen as a good indicator of growth, dipped to a nine-month low of 52.3, shy of expectations in a Reuters poll for no change from August’s 52.5.
Inflation outlook poor
The index has been above the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction since July 2013.
But Markit said the latest survey pointed to third-quarter economic growth of just 0.3 per cent — not enough to generate strong inflation.
“This survey does nothing to alter the picture of a struggling eurozone economy, intensifying the pressure on governments and the ECB to provide more policy support,” said Jennifer McKeown, senior economist at Capital Economics.
Growth ground to a halt in the bloc in the last quarter as Germany’s economy shrank and France’s stagnated, and the ECB surprised markets earlier this month by cutting benchmark lending and deposit rates further and said it would buy asset-backed securities and covered bonds.
Notwithstanding Draghi’s remarks on Monday, no more changes to policy are expected when the Governing Council meets next week.
Consumer inflation in the 18 countries sharing the euro rose to just 0.4 per cent year-on-year in August, slightly higher than July’s 0.3 per cent but staying so far below the ECB’s two per cent target ceiling that it was not enough to radically alter the outlook.
According to the PMIs, firms cut prices again this month — although not as steeply as they did in August. The composite output price index rose to 49.2 from 48.9 but has now been below the 50-mark for a full 2-1/2 years and the discounting may still not be paying off.
The manufacturing PMI for Germany, Europe’s largest economy, slumped to 50.3, its lowest reading since June 2013 and below all forecasts in a Reuters poll of 32 economists. Its services PMI however blew out the top end of forecasts.
A service industry PMI for France, the bloc’s second-biggest economy, sank to 49.4 after just two months in growth territory.
“The German economy is still ticking along at a reasonable rate of growth but it’s by no means impressive. The overall picture for France when you put this all together is another quarter of stagnation at best,” Chris Williamson, Markit’s chief economist said.
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