Eurozone Manufacturing Heads Towards Recession

'Austerity in deficit-fighting countries is having an increasing impact on demand across the region,' says analyst.

Gloom over eurozone manufacturing deepened in April, highlighting the impact of policies to control budgets and signaling recessionary pressures, a Markit survey showed on April 2.

A key index of activity based on a survey by Markit fell to almost the lowest level for three years. Markit publishes closely watched leading indicators of economic activity and in its latest survey for its purchasing managers' index the firm said: "The eurozone manufacturing downturn took a further turn for the worse in April."

The adjusted manufacturing PMI figure, closely watched as an indicator of economic trends, fell to 45.9 from 47.7 in March. A figure of below 50 points to contraction and Markit noted that "the headline PMI has signaled contraction in each of the past nine months."

The chief economist at Markit, Chris Williamson, said: "Manufacturing in the eurozone took a further lurch into a new recession in April, with the PMI suggesting that output fell at (a) worryingly steep quarterly rate of over 2%."

He said that "austerity in deficit-fighting countries is having an increasing impact on demand across the region" and that "even German manufacturing output showed a renewed decline."

Williamson commented that the latest forecast from the European Central Bank "of merely a slight contraction of GDP this year is therefore already looking optimistic." He added: "However, with the survey also showing inflationary pressures to have waned, the door may be opening for further stimulus."

His remarks highlight controversy over policies in many countries to correct budget deficits and heavy debt to install confidence on debt markets where governments borrow. There are increasing warnings that the eurozone must raise economic growth, but opinions differ on the best route, with some saying that budget austerity opens the way to structural reform and competitiveness and others saying that extra stimulus is essential.

Markit said that "the April PMIs also indicated that manufacturing weakness was no longer confined to the region's geographic periphery."

In Germany, which has the biggest economy in the eurozone and has shown broad resilience to downturn elsewhere, Markit also noted a setback. "The German PMI fell to a 33-month low, conditions deteriorated sharply again in France and the Netherlands also contracted at a faster rate," it said.

Markit said: "There was no respite for the non-core nations either, with steep and accelerating downturns seen in Italy, Spain and Greece. Only the PMIs for Austria and Ireland held above the 50.0 no-change mark."

Markit said that manufacturers reported weak demand from clients inside and outside the zone and this had hit even German companies.

The worsening outlook for eurozone manufacturing was also affecting the job market, Markit said, just as eurozone data put the unemployment rate at a record high level. In manufacturing "job losses were reported for the third straight month in April, with the rate of decline the sharpest in over two years," Markit said on the basis of its survey.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012

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