Strong Manufacturing Data Eases Global Economic Slowdown Fears

The strong start to U.S. equities has been tamped down by fears of a global economic slowdown, but strong manufacturing data from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) re-instilled confidence back to the markets on Monday as the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose over 200 points.

The ISM index rose to 55.3 in March–up from a previous reading of 54.2 with three of five its main components increasing. this beat estimates from a Bloomberg survey that was expecting a rise to 54.5, staying above the 50 level–an indication of expansion.

In addition, the Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index rose to 50.8 during, which was its highest level in eight months. A poll of economists by Refinitiv were expecting a 49.9 number.

“Comments from the panel reflect continued expanding business strength, supported by gains in new orders and employment,” said Timothy Fiore, chairman of the ISM business survey committee.

“The manufacturing sector continues to expand, demonstrated by improvements in the PMI three-month rolling average, which is consistent with overall manufacturing growth projections,” Fiore added.

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Fears of a global economic slowdown was compounded by market noise of an inverted yield curve blaring from the bond community. The short-term 3-month and longer-term 10-year yield curve inversion has been the prime focus the past week–an event that hasn’t been seen since 2007–just ahead of the financial crisis.

The spread between the 3-month and 10-year notes fell below 10 basis points for the first time in over a decade. This strong recession indicator contrasted a more upbeat central bank on Wednesday, but investors were quick to sense the cautiousness.

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The inversion came after the central bank decided to keep interest rates unchanged last month. In move that was widely anticipated by most market experts, the Federal Reserve elected to keep rates unchanged, holding its policy rate in a range between 2.25 percent and 2.5 percent.

In addition, the central bank alluded to no more rate hikes for the rest of 2019 after initially forecasting two in December of last year. Four rate hikes came during the 2018–the last of which was during the peak of fourth quarter sell-offs in U.S. equities.

“The cycle is extended, and the inverted curve has made us even more alert for trouble in the economy and financial markets, but we do not think trouble is imminent,” Doug Peta, chief U.S. investment strategist at BCA Research, said in a note. “We are not dismissing the inverted yield curve, but our other recession-indicator inputs are not confirming its warning. Given the Fed’s new guidance, we expect that the next recession will not arrive before mid-to-late 2020.”

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