U.S. manufacturing has shrunk to a 3-year low.
Business Insider notes:
As we wrote earlier, one of the big stories from today’s PMI (Purchasing Managers Index – a primary measure of a country’s manufacturing activity) reports was the strength of the BRICS. China, Brazil, South Africa, India, and Indonesia all turned in good reports.
Europe was stable too. Eurozone PMI hit its highest level in 8 months.
And this time it was the U.S. ISM report that laid a brick, with the headline number going sub-50 (signaling contraction) and various sub-indices doing poorly.
Whereas the rest of the world is now on an up-tick in momentum, it appears that the U.S. (perhaps due to a combination of Cliff worries and Sandy) is seeing a rough patch.
Earlier today, we posted a couple of sentences from SocGen analyst Kit Juckes. The gist was: The China hard landing risk was coming off the table, the Euro crisis was fading, and now the last risk was the U.S. and the cliff.
An optimist will tell me that at 50.6 China’s manufacturing PMI is at its highest level since April, a pessimist will point out that it’s barely above 50. But the ‘tail risk’ of an imminent hard landing for the Chinese economy is fading, just as the conclusion of the latest Greek drama means that risk of a return to full-blown Euro Zone crisis is fading. So, two of three major risks are reduced, leaving only the dreaded ‘fiscal cliff’ to worry about.
And in a must-read article, AP analyzes IMF data on 180 nations’ trade with China – and concludes that China has surpassed America as the world’s “top global trader”:
As recently as 2006, the U.S. was the larger trading partner for 127 countries, versus just 70 for China. By last year the two had clearly traded places: 124 countries for China, 76 for the U.S.
Despite China’s now-slowing economy, its share of world output and trade is expected to keep rising, with growth forecast at up to 8 percent a year over the next decade, far above U.S. and European levels.
The United States is still the world’s biggest importer, but China is gaining. It was a bigger market than the United States for 77 countries in 2011, up from 20 in 2000, according to the AP analysis.
The United States still does more trade overall – but just barely. If the trend continues, China will push past the U.S. this year, a remarkable feat for a country so poor 30 years ago that the average person had never talked on a telephone.
China resumed its upward trajectory in the last two years. Even with key Western markets in a slump, exports are up 58 percent since 2009. Imports are up an even sharper 73 percent.
Indeed, some claim that China is already the world’s biggest economy.
Postscript: While the U.S. has launched wars all over the world to seize control of resources, China has quietly been trading for its needs, or mining or building resources itself for subsequent export. See this, this and this. No wonder China is surpassing the U.S. as the world's trading giant.
Another difference between the U.S. and China: derivatives, which Warren Buffet called "weapons of mass destruction". Their unregulated use were largely responsible for the 2008 crisis. China never allowed derivatives to the extent the U.S. did, and reined in derivatives somewhat (here, here, here and here) during the economic crisis. On the other hand, U.S. banks have increased their derivatives exposure - with government backing - and are massively manipulating the derivatives markets. Given that derivatives are inherently destabilizing for the economy, this only hurts the U.S.