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A rosier picture for U.S. manufacturing

David Brancaccio Dec 1, 2011
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One of the ways the eurozone’s financial problems will hurt the U.S. is that we won’t be able to export as many goods to Europe. And it’s not just us. Penny-pinching in Europe could potentially have a bigger impact in China and countries in the European Union themselves. Several manufacturing surveys showed slow-downs in China, the eurozone and the U.K. One place where the manufacturing picture looks bright is right here in the U.S.

The Institute for Supply Management’s monthly Purchasing Managers Index is closely watched because the people who do the ordering in factories often have a pretty good sense of the mood of their bosses. A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the manufacturing sector, while a number below 50 means contraction. Today’s number was 52.7 for November, up from 50.8 in October. Better than expected.

We talked with Ian Shepherdson, an economist at High Frequency Economics. He says factories are waking up after months in the doldrums. The summer saw a parade of bad news: the debt-ceiling fiasco, the downgrade of U.S. debt and the subsequent crash in the stock market. Now, gas prices are lower, supplies are plentiful and consumers are starting to spend again. It’s enough to make managers ramp up production. And that’s means good news for jobs.

But, back to China for a minute. You could think that if China is pulling back on its manufacturing, that might mean an opening for the U.S. Not quite, Shepherdson says. The Chinese economy is still very focused domestically and Chinese growth over the past few decades has been aggressive. China’s not going to roll over just because Europeans buy fewer clothes and gadgets.

After another volatile week on the markets, all eyes will be on the Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly jobless numbers. They come out tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. ET.

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