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Manufacturing meltdown in Europe will affect rest of economy

INDUSTRY in Europe is in trouble and there's a risk it will infect other parts of the economy, deepening the slowdown that's already left the region fragile

Manufacturing meltdown in Europe will affect rest of economy

INDUSTRY in Europe is in trouble and there's a risk it will infect other parts of the economy, deepening the slowdown that's already left the region fragile

14 June 2019 - 19:00

INDUSTRY in Europe is in trouble and there's a risk it will infect other parts of the economy, deepening the slowdown that's already left the region fragile.

There's growing concern across the board that the services sector won't be able to withstand a broader manufacturing slump. That would undermine jobs growth and domestic demand, the main pillars propping up confidence in the outlook for the euro-zone.



Services employment is holding up better in the current slowdown, reports Bloomberg.



However, resilience in other areas such as transport and technology has helped to cushion the blow of a manufacturing sector beset by escalating trade tensions, weaker demand in China, and troubles in the car industry.



But services can't remain immune for long, and worries are permeating the highest level of policy making. European Central Bank president Mario Draghi has called this contagion the 'key issue' motivating officials to raise the prospect of interest rate cuts.



'The bright side is that domestic demand remains quite resilient to all these external factors,' said Nicola Nobile, an economist at Oxford Economics. 'Can this last forever? Of course not. One of the two will have to converge.'



The risk is that fewer manufacturing orders means companies hire and invest less, dragging further on growth. Confidence could also suffer, making businesses and consumers more cautious, with a fallout on demand for bank lending.



For now, the source of the continent's manufacturing slump is centred in Germany. Its Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) has suggested contraction every month this year. France, Spain and Italy look in better shape, but growth is still barely better than stagnation.



A drop off in trade has already hit the air cargo market, with freight volumes down almost five per cent in the past year. Deutsche Lufthansa is cutting some services this quarter and next.



In Spain, truckers have started to notice a slight slowdown in demand in the past several months from clients in France and Germany, bucking four years of solid annual growth, said Juan Jose Gil, head of Fenadismer, an association that represents 32,000 small Spanish transport companies.



'Germany is Europe's locomotive,' Mr Gil said. 'If Germany catches a cold, other countries get sick.'



The euro-area economy is already feeling some pain. Annual growth stayed at the weakest in more than four years in the first quarter. Expansion for all of 2019 is predicted to come in at 1.2 per cent, less than half the pace predicted for the US.


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