Global manufacturing activity rises in January

Wed Feb 1, 2012 5:15pm EST
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By Jason Lange and Jonathan Cable

WASHINGTON/LONDON (Reuters) - Factory activity rose in China, the United States and Germany in January, and the three manufacturing superpowers drove gains in global output even as Europe struggles with fallout from its festering debt crisis.

But even as China defied expectations that its factory output would contract in January and German output improved for the first time in four months, the data released on Wednesday showed new signs of the threats from Europe's troubles.

New export orders fell in China, and manufacturing in France and several other European nations contracted.

"There is an awful long way to go yet, and given the headwinds that these economies face I would be cautious about being too optimistic," said Peter Dixon at Commerzbank.

JPMorgan's global manufacturing index, based on surveys of purchasing managers around the world, improved to a reading of 51.2 in January from 50.5 in December. Readings above 50 indicated growth.

In China, the government's official purchasing managers Aindex (PMI) inched up to 50.5 in January from 50.3 in December, as new orders rose to a three-month high.

While China's growth provides the global economy with a needed boost, new export orders fell sharply in the Asian giant, underscoring the troubles in Europe that keep Asia's export-reliant countries vulnerable.

"As external demand is now fading clearly, Chinese exporters are facing increasing difficulties," China's finance minister, Xie Xuren, said in remarks on Wednesday.   Continued...