- Although most activity indicators are holding up, they appear to be starting to drop back from the very high levels of previous months both in Europe and the US
- In China, the pace of growth has continued to moderate due to strict restrictions, tighter regulatory measures, a shortage of electricity, and the difficulties of China Evergrande
- Having risen almost every month since the beginning of the year, equity markets were more volatile in September
The first signs of a moderation in global economic growth are on the horizon. According to the latest market report by BLI - Banque de Luxembourg Investments, the moderation in activity seems to be more the result of the ongoing disruptions in supply chains than any major weakening of demand.
“Although most activity indicators are holding up, they appear to be starting to drop back from the very high levels of previous months. In the United States, for example, the manufacturing activity index fell for the second consecutive month after 15 months in a row of almost uninterrupted growth”, points out Guy Wagner, Chief Investment Officer and managing director of the asset management company. Besides, in services, the activity index was also down slightly due to the rise in coronavirus infections, although, in his view, "this should prove temporary.”
The "Highlights" report shows that trends appear similar in Europe, with activity remaining robust but possibly at a turning point.
Moderation in China continues
In China, the pace of growth has continued to moderate in recent months. According to BLI, this is due to the simultaneous effect of strict restrictions to curb the epidemic, tighter regulatory measures in almost all economic sectors, a shortage of electricity, and the financial difficulties of China Evergrande, the country's second biggest property developer. In Japan, exports continue to be the most dynamic segment, as yet showing no signs of weakening.
Upcoming reduction in asset purchases
The FOMC (the Federal Reserve's monetary policy committee) left its monetary policy unchanged at its September meeting. Nevertheless, Fed Chair Jerome Powell signaled that it would start tapering asset purchases, from the next meeting in November through to mid-2022. The report reminds that when it comes to the future level of interest rates, Powell reiterated that the end of asset purchases did not mean a simultaneous rise. “Opinion in the FOMC seems to be divided on this subject since half its members are expecting a first interest rate hike in 2022", it adds.
In Europe, in view of the economic improvement and the surge in prices, the ECB announced a slight readjustment of asset purchases under the pandemic emergency purchase program to a level slightly below that of the previous two quarters. At the December meeting, the monetary authorities expect to give more details on the monetary policy outlook for 2022.
More volatility in equity markets
Lastly, BLI highlights that having risen almost every month since the beginning of the year, equity markets were more volatile in September. “Uncertainty surrounding the financial difficulties of property developer China Evergrande and the rise in long-term interest rates weighed on share prices. In consequence, the major indexes in the United States, Europe, and the MSCI Emerging Markets recorded losses", says Wagner.
Meanwhile, the Topix in Japan was alone in rising, partially making up for the accumulated lag of previous months. “In terms of sectors, energy stocks stood out with a sharp increase in their share price on the back of rising oil and gas prices”, concludes the Luxembourgish economist.