The reactions in USDJPY, Nikkei 225, S&P futures, Gold, Treasury futures, and oil (in a word - none!) tells you all you need to know about the market's total loss of faith in the soft-survey-based PMI data from around the world (and in particular China and Japan). Despite dramatic weakness in a slew of hard-date economic indicators for both nations, the PMIs rose and beat. Japan's to 7-month highs (so much for moar QQE?) but New orders and Output tumbled. China rose and beat but all key components dropped. As the two charts below suggest... things in PMI data production-land need some better "adjustments" if they are to keep the dream alive...
Just two simple charts...Soft-Survey-based PMI vs hard-data-based Industrial Production
China nailed it!
By some accounts, these data are better indicators than the hard numbers that come out of the government. After all, they are released very early, they are raw unfiltered data (other than seasonal adjustment), they are never revised and they are simple to interpret. We disagree. In our view, they are useful as a rough and ready early read on the economy. However, once the corresponding official data are released, we put very little weight on these surveys.
It is important to understand how crude these surveys are. Each month, a few hundred purchasing managers are asked if a variety of activity variables are up, down, or the same relative to the prior month. Their responses are then converted into diffusion indexes: the sum of the number managers reporting activity is “increasing” and half of those reporting “the same.” Note that there is some guesswork involved: the survey is taken before the month is over and some of the questions cover areas of the firm that are difficult for a purchasing manager to get a timely read on. For example, a purchasing manager may not have a very precise idea of what is happening to hiring in a large, diverse firm. Moreover, since they don’t gather specific numbers for each series, they may have to make a rough guess, particularly if the trend is slightly up or down.
Fans of the two indexes point out that they are relatively stable, easy to interpret and never revised. However, in our view, the simplicity of the data is a drawback, not an advantage. It means no attempt is made to correct misreporting or to include late respondents. Moreover, the sample they use is not representative of the overall economy. They represent a broad cross-section of industries, but they oversample big firms and they make no attempt to adjust for the birth and death of firms.
* * *
Of course - what really matters is the narrative is alive... (from HSBC/Markit)
"The HSBC China Manufacturing PMI improved to 50.4 in the flash reading for October, up from 50.2 in the final reading for September. Domestic as well as external demand showed some signs of slowing although both remained in expansion territory. Disinflationary pressures intensified, as both the input and output price indices declined further. Meanwhile both employment and inventory indices improved. While the manufacturing sector likely stabilized in October, the economy continues to show signs of insufficient effective demand. This warrants further policy easing and we expect more easing measures on both the monetary as well as fiscal fronts in the months ahead."