Bloomberg is reporting Services ISM Unexpectedly Slows.

U.S. service industries grew at the slowest pace in almost four years in March, leaving the economy more exposed to slumps in manufacturing and housing.

The Institute for Supply Management’s index of non-manufacturing businesses including banks, builders and retailers slid to 52.4, lower than economists anticipated. Orders placed with American factories rose 1 percent in February, the Commerce Department said in Washington, also less than analysts predicted.

Services, which account for 90 percent of the economy and have propped up growth for the past year, are now being hurt by rising fuel costs and slowing sales.

FedEx Corp., the world’s largest air-cargo carrier, is among service providers getting pinched. On March 21, the Memphis, Tennessee-based company reported its first quarterly profit decline in three years and cut its earnings forecast for this quarter citing slowing economic growth. The slowdown is hurting its Express parcel delivery and Freight trucking units.

The ISM index was forecast to rise to 55, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of economists. Factory orders were forecast to increase 1.8 percent. Excluding transportation equipment, bookings fell 0.4 percent after a 2.5 decline the prior month.

Orders Slow, Prices Rise

The ISM’s report showed the index of new orders fell to a seven-month low of 53.8 and a measure of prices paid rose to 63.3, the highest since August. The report also showed hiring cooled to an almost three-year low.

“Business sentiment is weakening,” said Kevin Logan, senior market economist at Dresdner Kleinwort in New York. “Sales are slowing, and businesses are looking out and seeing that it’s going to be harder to make money.”

Monster Worldwide Inc., owner of the world’s largest Internet job-listing site, said today first-quarter sales rose less than forecast as demand slowed in the U.S.

The slowdown in services last month confirmed a similar weakening in manufacturing. ISM’s factory index, out earlier this week, showed activity slowed while raw-materials costs jumped, adding to concerns that a cooling economy is failing to damp inflation.

Once again we see the word “unexpected” and once again I can not figure out why. The better question is how is it holding up as good as it is?

German Industrial Production Declines

In Germany we see Industrial Production Probably Declined in February.

German industrial production probably declined in February for the first time in four months after export orders sagged early in the year, a survey of economists shows.

Production may have fallen a seasonally adjusted 0.5 percent from January, when it rose 1.9 percent, according to the median of 39 forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey. The Economy and Technology Ministry will release the figures at noon today.

Dyckerhoff AG, Germany’s second-biggest cement maker, said March 28 it expects earnings this year to stagnate. Vossloh AG, Germany’s largest supplier of concrete rail-track ties, aims to cut annual spending on production, purchasing and logistics by 25 million euros ($33 million) by next year.

Used car prices plummet in Canada

In Canada a Flood of used cars pours in from U.S.

Peter Pauls runs a small used-car dealership northeast of Winnipeg and rarely has his lot been more jammed with metal than in the past several months.

Cars and trucks have been piling into Canada’s pre-owned market and into the hands of dealers like Mr. Pauls. And their prices have plunged as supply exceeds demand.

Mr. Pauls said he sold a handful of Pontiac Grand Am and Oldsmobile Alero cars before Christmas for between $12,900 and $14,100. That’s half of their manufacturer’s suggested retail price. All the cars were one year old.

“I’m still up to the rafters in inventory,” he said yesterday. “I’m over-filled. Unless I’ve got a vehicle sold, I am still not buying anything.”

Used-vehicle prices are a key leading indicator of overall vehicle demand and also a good proxy for the health of the overall economy, according to Bank of Nova Scotia. And their accelerated drop in recent months signals potential pain ahead.

The price drop began in Canada last summer and has worsened in recent months, Scotiabank said. It has spread to the United States, as slowing economic growth begins to dampen household purchasing power, the bank said.

Lower used-car prices hurt sales of new cars because consumers have less equity when they trade in their vehicles. That in turn means they’re more likely to keep driving the vehicles they have instead of buying a new one.

“We think that this means new-vehicle sales should start coming under additional pressure in coming months,” said Carlos Gomes, senior Scotiabank economist. Scotiabank forecasts automakers will sell 1.55 million new light vehicles in Canada in 2007, down from 1.61 million last year. The unexpectedly strong Canadian sales automakers have seen in the past four months are not sustainable, the bank said.

Building permits in Canada plunge

The big story in Canada is a plunge in building permits.

The value of Canadian building permits plunged from record highs to their lowest level in a year in February, but analysts were quick to caution against doomsday predictions of a sudden real estate collapse.

Statistics Canada reported on Wednesday a 22.4 percent tumble in permits due to a sharp decline in both residential and nonresidential permits.

The decline was more than three times the 6.5-percent drop forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll. The total value of permits was C$4.9 billion ($4.2 billion), 12 percent below the monthly average in 2006.

Building intentions in the residential sector fell 17.8 percent to C$3.0 billion, pulled down by a 34.4 percent plunge in permits for multifamily units. The biggest decline was in the province of Ontario but western Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, as well as Quebec in the central region also saw significant setbacks.

Analysts noted extremely cold temperatures in February, which might have impacted construction.

When things go bad blame the weather. I suggest this is the beginning of the end of the housing boom in Canada. Canada seems to be about 18 months or so behind the US and has a lot of catching up to do. It will be a painful process especially for recent buyers and trapped sellers, just as it played out in the US.

The Current Scorecard

  1. Non-manufacturing ISM unexpectedly slows.
  2. Capital spending is weak.
  3. Sales of new single-family homes plunged to the lowest level in more than six years.
  4. U.S. corporate profits fell in the fourth quarter of 2006.
  5. Durable goods orders except transportation unexpectedly drop.
  6. Monster job listing rose less than forecast.
  7. Housing permits plunge in Canada.
  8. Used car prices in Canada plunge.
  9. Germany Industrial production declines.
  10. The yield curve is inverted.
  11. Base money supply and M’ annual rate of growth is negative.
  12. That combination of money supply and yield curve inversion has accurately predicted every single recession with no misses and no false positives since 1960.
  13. 2.1 million homeowners missed a mortgage payment in the 4th quarter of 2006.
  14. Foreclosures are rising.
  15. Bankruptcies are rising.
  16. Home prices are falling.
  17. Jobs growth is anemic.
  18. There will be no housing spillover.

All this talk of no spillover is rather interesting given that many items on that list might be considered proof of a spillover.

Nonetheless the International Monetary Fund headline du jour is World ‘unlikely’ to catch America’s cold.

The economic slowdown in the United States is unlikely to spill over into the rest of the world as long as America’s problems remain confined to its troubled housing market, the International Monetary Fund has concluded.

It said in its World Economic Outlook, published ahead of its annual meeting in Washington next week, that the rest of the world was well placed to “de-couple” from the US economy and sustain strong growth.

The IMF studied five recessions and two mid-cycle slowdowns since the 1970s. It found that synchronised slumps were associated with full-blown recessions like those in 1974-75, 1980-82 and 1991, rather than with intermediate growth pauses like those in 1986, 1995 and the current phase.

It also concluded that worldwide downturns were rarely caused by “spillovers” from US-specific problems like the sub-prime mortgage crisis but reflected global shocks like the quadrupling of the oil price in the 1970s or the bursting of the tech bubble in 2000.

So the IMF has concluded this is an “intermediate growth pause”. I have news for the IMF. The spillover from housing is going to be far bigger than the spillover from the tech wreck. We are currently in the greatest monetary experiment in history with worldwide housing bubbles, derivative bubbles, stock market bubbles, and empire building bubbles (the US in Iraq). In fact we have bubbles within bubbles with the all encompassing bubble being the credit/debt bubble partially fueled by a mammoth YEN carry trade. The question is not whether or not there will be a mammoth spillover (there will be) but rather how fast and furious it will be once it gains some traction.

Mike Shedlock / Mish/