Supply Chain Matters provides highlights of April 2023 reported global and regional PMI indices which continue to reinforce a state of contraction level stabilization within global supply chain networks. Some good news is that the reported data reinforces that global supply chain wide pressures have eased considerably.
As noted in our highlights, of March and Q1 data, such a state can imply a breather, a turning point, or pending shifts.
Global Manufacturing Activity Levels
Global manufacturing activity as reported by the J.P. Morgan Manufacturing PMI®, compiled by S&P Global in association with ISM and IFPSM, provided a banner headline of global manufacturing output edging only slightly higher. Supply chain pressures reportedly eased to the greatest extent in 14 years. That stated, the reported value of 49.6 was unchanged as that of March.
The April report indicates that the global wide PMI has now stayed below the neutral 50 mark for eight consecutive months. That from our lens reflects a manufacturing recession condition.
The April report indicates that any upturn was mainly driven by expansion in consumer goods production demand with marginal growth noted in investment goods demand. The all-important intermediate goods sector, a reflection of global supply network demands, experienced the tenth consecutive month of downturn.
The report authors indicated that April data suggests that manufacturers expect the current slowdown to be short-lived. Business optimism levels reportedly rose to a 14-month high with manufacturers anticipating growth in output over the remainder of this year.
Of continued interest was that India and Thailand indexes (included in our highlights below) as leading in PMI growth during April.
Highlights of Regional Reporting
The now renamed HCOB Eurozone Manufacturing PMI® fell for the first time since January. The reported April value of 45.8 declined 1.5 percentage points from the 47.3 value reported for March. The report noted that new factory orders fell at the sharpest pace in over four months that “signaled the fastest deterioration in manufacturing conditions since May 2020, during the first wave of COVID-19 lockdowns.”
The April report noted that surveyed companies pointed to quicker delivery times and greater availability of raw materials boosting available supplies. A greater balance between supply and demand reportedly drove manufacturing costs lower.
The somewhat related S&P Global /CIPS UK Manufacturing PMI® dropped to a three month low of 47.8 for April. Output, new orders, employment and inventory stocks reportedly all contracted.
Two indices of U.S. manufacturing activity levels differed as to contraction or expansion levels.
The S&P Global US Manufacturing PMI® reported a slight improvement in operating conditions during April, posted a value of 50.2 compared to the March value of 49.2. The April report was headlined with an expansion for the first time in six months, but with higher pricing pressures. Panelists reportedly continued to note “a hesitancy among customers to place orders amid higher prices and global economic uncertainty.” Further noted was that despite subdued customer orders, suppliers hiked their prices at a steeper rate in April. Cost burdens reportedly rose “at the sharpest pace for three months, as selling prices also increased at an accelerated rate.”
The April 2023 Manufacturing ISM® Report on Business® registered a value of 47.1 for April, a 0.8 percentage point increase from the 46.3 value reported in March. The April value was noted as the fifth consecutive month of contraction after a 30-month expansion period. Timothy Fiore, Chair of the Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing Business Survey Committee observed in part that: “New order rates remain sluggish as panelists remain concerned about when manufacturing growth will resume. Panelists comments registered a 1-to-1 ratio regarding optimism for future growth and continuing near-term demand declines. Supply chain are prepared and eager for growth, as panelists’ comments support reduced lead times for their more important purchases.”
The S&P Global Thailand Manufacturing PMI® recorded a record high in April that was headlined with a new orders rebound and output surges. The reported April value of 60.4 increased an astounding 7.3 percentage points from the March value of 53.1.
The report authors pointed to the fastest increases in production and new orders on record with expectations rising for a brighter outlook. Indices for output, new orders, purchasing and input stocks reportedly all surged to record highs. Increased levels of activity were reportedly fueled by domestic level demand, with exports reportedly rising only slightly.
Manufacturing activity levels across India remained at high expansion levels in April. The S&P Global India Manufacturing PMI® reported a value of 57.2 for April, an increase of 0.8 percentage points over the 56.4 reported for March, The April report was gain headlined with firms building input stocks at a near-record pace as seek to fulfil demand. Output levels reportedly increased at the sharpest rate in four months.
Commenting on the April report, Pollyanna De Lima, Economics Associate Director at S&P Global Market Intelligence indicated in-part: “It seems like Indian manufacturers have abundant opportunities to keep powering ahead, Besides seeing the strongest inflow of new work in 2023 so far, capacities were expanded through job creation, input buying was lifted and pre=production inventories rose at a record rate.”
The two recognized indices of PMI within China each eased back to contraction conditions for April.
The Caixen China General Manufacturing PMI®, a reflection of either private or SMB businesses recorded a value of 49.5 compared to the level of 50.0 in March. The report pointed to softer demand conditions with the new orders rate falling for the first time in three months. Reportedly a number of firms indicated more sluggish market conditions and weaker demand levels. Supplier delivery times were reported as improving but manufacturing staffing levels declined at the quickest pace in six months. Most of the current demand is being attributed to consumer buying amid the lifting of prior Covid-19 restrictions across China.
China’s official PMI index compiled by country’s Statistics Bureau and weighted toward state-owned manufacturers declined again to a value of 49.2 for April, down 0.3 percentage points from the 51.9 value reported for March. Reporting on the government generated PMI data, The Wall Street Journal observed that the Chinese manufacturing sector which has served as the engine of country’s economy during the three years of the pandemic is “cooling at an unexpectedly fast rate,” according to the data. China’s economic policymakers are now placing an increased emphasis on boosting domestic consumer demand for goods.
Separately, Bloomberg has reported that profits among China’s industrial firms continued to plunge in the first quarter of this year. Industrial profits in Q1 reportedly declined 21.4 percent from the year earlier period.
Supply Chain Matters Insights and Perspectives
In our prior commentaries highlighting monthly global PMI indices to date, our stated observation was that of stabilization. In other words, the bleeding of supply disruptions has coagulated. While global production levels remain in contraction, the slope is that of stabilized contraction barring any unexpected disruption. In February there were clear indicators of moderation in supply chain volatility, and the April data seems to reinforce that occurring among many regions.
Product demand levels continue to remain uncertain given inflation stressed consumers and businesses, and continued geo-political developments. That notion was brought out in certain March country reports. A prior consensus of a belief that the second half of this year will present more normalcy remains uncertain, given April PMI panel input indicating that a global inventory overhang is still evident.
On the online retail, logistics and customer fulfillment demand side, declining volumes are taking a toll resulting in precipitous drops in global freight rates and noted as the worst in a decade. Some transportation services executives now open describe a freight rate recession.
Once again, businesses and their respective supply chain management teams need to continue with a diligent assessment of the global and domestic supply chain landscape relative to demand and supply trending, along with various business and supply chain risk factors.
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