The United States is starting to look like a two-speed economy. As I write in my latest weekly commentary, last week’s economic data paints a very mixed picture of the U.S. economy.
On the positive side, all the manufacturing data – including the ISM National Survey and the regional surveys – came in much stronger than expected, with new orders looking solid. In other words, U.S. manufacturing looks stable, or is even expanding.
At the same time, U.S. job growth, and by extension consumption, remain muted. While the October jobs report won’t be out until Friday, last week’s private ADP employment survey came in weaker than expected, and as has been the case most of the year, slow job growth continues to be associated with low confidence and lackluster retail sales.
This is not just a U.S. phenomenon. There’s a similar two-speed pattern happening in many other countries. For instance, China achieved a nice growth rebound in the second quarter, but its growth continues to be led by investment and infrastructure, not consumption. In a similar fashion, Spanish growth ticked up this quarter, but the gains were led by exports, while Spanish unemployment remains close to record levels.
So how can this divergence be solved? Either the global and U.S. recoveries will eventually broaden or the rebound in manufacturing will peter out as inventories start to climb too high. I still continue to believe that there will be some modest, with an emphasis on the word modest, improvement in the global economy in 2014.
In the meantime, there are two implications for investors: