Global factory output picks up steam in December

Mon Jan 4, 2010 7:39pm EST
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By Steven C. Johnson and Jonathan Cable

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) - Chinese manufacturing grew at its fastest pace on record in December, data showed on Monday, while U.S. factories marked their best month in nearly four years, suggesting more improvement in the world economy.

A recovery among European manufacturers, led by those in Britain, also gained pace, according to surveys released on Monday. A global factory index produced by JPMorgan showed manufacturing output around the world near a four-year peak.

Major economies have been mired in a deep recession, but government stimulus spending, particularly in China, led to a massive recovery around the middle of 2009 and has helped lift the world economy out of crisis.

"December data indicate that the global manufacturing sector approaches 2010 on a positive footing," said David Hensley, a director at JP Morgan.

In China, the HSBC Purchasing Managers' Index rose to 56.1 in December, its highest level since the survey began in April 2004, from 55.7 in November.

The U.S. manufacturing sector expanded for a fifth straight month in December, with the Institute for Supply Management's national factory activity index at 55.9, its highest level in nearly four years, from 53.6 the prior month.

"This is what we need in 2010 for a V-shaped recovery," said Alan Lancz, president of Alan B. Lancz & Associates in Toledo, Ohio.

After tumbling in late 2007 into its worst recession since the 1930s, the U.S. economy returned to growth in the third quarter of 2009, expanding at a 2.2 percent annual rate.   Continued...