Weak economic reports in the US, Europe, Australia, and China tell the same story: The global economy continues to cool.

MarketWatch reports China manufacturing growth slows further

The official China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing Managers’ Index eased to 52.0 from 52.9 in April, marking the slowest pace of growth in nine months.

The result was below the median forecast of 52.2 in a Reuters survey of economists.

Meanwhile, a separate PMI published by HSBC and compiled by U.K. group Markit, showed headline activity at 51.6, easing from 51.8 in April, the slowest pace of growth in 10 months.

Analysts at Credit Suisse said that the Federation’s PMI showed new orders declining at a faster pace than the slowdown in the overall reading, a sign that manufacturing activity may have already peaked in the current economic cycle.

“Actual economic activity may have cooled down faster than the headline suggests,” said Credit Suisse analysts.

Australia Reports Biggest GDP Drop in 20 Years

The BBC reports Australian economy reports biggest fall in twenty years

Its economy contracted by 1.2% in the first three months of the year, compared with the previous quarter, the latest government figures showed.

The government said flooding and cyclones in resource rich states of Queensland and Western Australia had a significant impact on growth.

Australia’s economy is heavily reliant on its resources sector.

“The economy has hit a temporary pothole courtesy of the natural disasters this year,” said Besa Deda of St George Bank.

That temporary pothole is about to become a Grand Canyon led by declines in housing and retail spending.

Chicago Region Manufacturing Gauge Biggest Drop in 2.5 Years

Please consider Chicago manufacturing gauge nosedives

A Chicago-area manufacturing gauge dropped by the largest amount in nearly two-and-half years in May, in a further sign that the rise in oil prices and the Japanese earthquake have affected activity.

The Chicago PMI fell to a reading of 56.6% in May, the lowest reading since Nov. 2009, from 67.6% in April.

While that reading is still significantly above the 50-line indicating growth, the eleven-point drop is the biggest one-month deceleration since Oct. 2008 and was worst than the 60% reading that economists polled by MarketWatch anticipated.

Indexes for production, new orders and order backlogs each dropped by double digits. Inventories jumped, which in this case is more likely an indication of unplanned gains due to a lack of sales than stocking up in anticipation of better times ahead.

US Consumer Confidence Declines

Rounding out a torrent of bad news for the day, U.S. consumer confidence declines in May

The nonprofit Conference Board said its consumer-confidence index fell to 60.8 in May — the lowest reading in six months — from a revised 66 in April. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast an increase to 67.5.

Most economists were surprised by the decline. Some attributed the drop to the cost of gas, a downward spiral in housing prices, recent weakness in the economy, and even to a series of tornados and floods wracking parts of the U.S.

The expectations index, which measures the view of consumers six months out, fell to 75.2 from 83.2 last month. It’s the lowest reading since last October.

The percentage of consumers who say jobs are plentiful increased to 5.6% from 5.1% in April, although the percentage who say they are hard to get also rose slightly to 43.9%.

The consumer-confidence index remains low by historical standards. In a healthy economy, the index averages about 95 points.

In a healthy economy the index averages 95. Currently it sits at 60.8.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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