Global manufacturing PMI survey results for October are consistent with the base case scenario here of a progressive loss of momentum through end-Q1 2022, at least.

PMI new orders have moved sideways for two months but export orders and output expectations fell further last month, to nine- and 12-month lows respectively – see chart 1.

Chart 1

A striking feature of the survey was a further rise in the stocks of purchases index to a 15-year high – chart 2. Stockpiling of raw materials and intermediate (semi-finished) goods has been supporting new orders for producers of these inputs but the boost will fade even if stockbuilding continues at its recent pace, which is very unlikely. This is because output / orders growth is related to the rate of change of stockbuilding rather than its level.

Chart 2

Chart 3 illustrates the relationship between new orders and the rate of change of the stocks of purchases index, with the coming drag effect expected to be greater than shown because of the high probability that stockpiling will moderate.

Chart 3

Stockbuilding of inputs has been particularly intense in the intermediate goods sector – chart 4. This suggests that upstream producers – particularly suppliers of raw materials – are most at risk from relapse in orders. Commodity prices could correct sharply as orders deflate – see also previous post.

Chart 4

A similar dynamic is playing out in the US ISM manufacturing survey, where new orders fell last month despite the inventories index reaching its highest level since 1984, resulting in a sharp drop in the orders / inventories differential – chart 5. The survey commentary attributes the inventories surge to “companies stocking more raw materials in hopes of avoiding production shortages, as well as growth in work-in-process and finished goods inventories”.

Chart 5

The combination of an ISM supplier deliveries index (measuring delivery delays) of above 70 with new orders in the 50-60 range has occurred only four times in the history of the survey. New orders fell below 50 within a year in every case.

The global PMI delivery times index (which has an opposite definition to the ISM supplier deliveries index, so a fall indicates longer delays) reached a new low in October but a recent turnaround in Taiwan, which often leads, hints at imminent relief – chart 6. The view here is that current supply shortages reflect the intensity of the stockbuilding cycle upswing, with both now peaking.

Chart 6

The global manufacturing PMI new orders index – a timely indicator of industrial momentum – registered a surprise small rise in September, with weaker results for major developed economies foreshadowed in earlier flash surveys offset by recoveries in China and a number of other emerging markets.

Does this signify an end to the recent slowdown phase, evidenced by a fall in PMI new orders between May and August? The assessment here is that the rise should be discounted for several reasons.

First, it was minor relative to the August drop. The September reading was below the range over October 2020-July 2021.

Secondly, the increase appears to have been driven by inventory rebuilding. The new orders / finished goods inventories differential, which sometimes leads new orders, fell again – see chart 1.

Chart 1

Remember that orders growth is related to the second derivative of inventories (i.e. the rate of change of the rate of change). Inventories are still low and will be rebuilt further but the pace of increase – and growth impact – may already have peaked.

Thirdly, the recovery in the Chinese component of the global index was contradicted by a further fall in new orders in the official (i.e. NBS) manufacturing survey, which has a larger sample size. The latter orders series has led the global index since the GFC – chart 2.

Chart 2

Fourthly, the OECD’s composite leading indicators for China and the G7 appear to have rolled over and turning points usually mark the start of multi-month trends. The series in chart 3 have been calculated independently using the OECD’s published methodology and incorporate September estimates (the OECD is scheduled to release September data on 12 October). The falls in the indicators imply below-trend and slowing economic growth.

Chart 3

Finally, additional August monetary data confirm the earlier estimate here that G7 plus E7 six-month real narrow money growth was unchanged at July’s 22-month low – chart 4. The historical leading relationship with PMI new orders is inconsistent with the latter having reached a bottom in September. The message, instead, is that a further PMI slide is likely into early 2022, with no signal yet of a subsequent recovery.

Chart 4

While the focus of inflation is typically centered on rising raw material costs and wage increases, we are seeing transportation costs become an additional and significant part of the inflation problem, and one that is not as easily passed on to consumers.

Transportation affects every aspect of a company’s supply chain and the rising costs are unavoidable. Further, it has been a recent topic of conversation for our own holdings, as well as some of the largest companies in the world. At a recent conference, Molson Coors, the fifth largest brewer in the world, said transportation costs are the main contributing factor to inflation, while Proctor and Gamble warned that an announced price increase will not be enough to offset higher commodity and transportation costs due to not only the size, but the speed of the increases. Multinational conglomerate 3M is a good barometer, as it is seeing “a lot of pressure on logistics costs.” Dollar Tree is one of the largest retail importers in the United States (US) and at their recent quarterly earnings presentation, they spent a considerable amount of time discussing the global supply chain and higher freight costs, saying they were “not counting on material improvements in 2022, especially in the first portion of the year.”

The recovery from the pandemic has seen a huge increase in demand, but with continued quarantine controls, distancing measures at ports and labour shortages are causing severe backlogs. The Suez Canal blockage and summer typhoons off the Chinese coast did little to ease the problem. Another consideration is the consolidation of ocean shipping lines’ key shipping routes being dominated by a handful of companies, causing fewer vessels in general to be travelling between ports.

The ocean carriers have responded to the high demand by increasing container capacity by 22%, but this does not solve the problem of logjams and the waiting lines reaching record levels at some of the ports.[1] The order book for container ships has doubled in 2021, but the majority won’t be delivered until 2023.

So what does all this mean? Container rates seem to be stabilizing, yet remain extremely elevated. Freightos, a digital booking platform for international shipping, published containerized freight rates. The cost of a container from Asia to the US East Coast is over $20,000, an increase of 415% compared to last year. Shipping from Asia to the US West Coast is slightly less, but the cost is up 452% in comparison to a year ago. Shipping from Asia to North Europe has seen the largest year-over-year increase, up 714% to $13,855. Freight rates from Northern Europe to the US East Coast have been the least affected, up “only” 238% from the period last year to $5,929. In view of these rates, shipping companies are focusing on the most profitable trade routes, meaning reduced volumes crossing the Atlantic. The Baltic Dry Index is a benchmark for the price of shipping major raw materials by sea and is at its highest level since before the Great Financial Crisis.

Source: Bloomberg

The majority of companies are struggling to solve this logistical headache, but our portfolios contain two names that have been natural beneficiaries.

Clipper Logistics (CLG.LN) is a leading provider of value-added logistics solutions, e-fulfilment, and returns management services to the retail sector, primarily in the United Kingdom (UK), but with an expanding presence in Europe. Sales are comprised of the following: 60% of sales come from e-fulfilment and returns management, supporting the online activities of customers; 28% of sales come from non e-fulfilment businesses, supporting traditional brick and mortar customers; and the remaining 12% of sales comes from commercial vehicles sales. Of the logistics related revenues, 85% comes from the UK. Over 90% of Clipper’s contracts are on an open book basis (i.e. cost plus), or hybrid contract, protecting them from increasing costs. However, they are not immune to labour shortages, as they recently flagged the impact that a shortage of HGV drivers is having.

Kerry Logistics (636.HK) is a third-party logistics service provider based in Hong Kong with global exposure. The company provides many supply chain solutions, including integrated logistics, international freight forwarding (air, ocean, road, rail, and multimodal), industrial project logistics, cross-border e-commerce, last-mile fulfilment, and infrastructure investment. Revenue mainly comes from Asia-Pacific, which accounts for 74% of sales (Mainland China 32%, Hong Kong 13%, Taiwan 7%, and other Asia 21%). The Americas accounts for 16% and Europe about 10%. Their customers are mainly big multinational companies, across many industries, including fashion, electronics, food and beverages, FMCG, industrial, automotive, and pharmaceutical.

Perhaps the best advice we could give readers is that with supply chain and transportation issues showing little signs of abating, you would be wise to start your holiday shopping sooner, rather than later.


The economic / market view here remains cautious based on 1) an expected slowdown in global industrial momentum through H2 (already apparent in Chinese data) and 2) recent less favourable “excess” money conditions.

Global six-month real narrow money growth, however, may have bottomed in May / June. A Q3 rebound would signal a stronger economy in H1 2022. An associated improvement in excess money could reenergise the reflation trade in late 2021.

The issue can be framed in cycle terms: does the recent top in the global manufacturing PMI new orders index mark the peak of the stockbuilding cycle (implying a shortened cycle) or will the peak be delayed until H1 2022?

Possible drivers of a real money growth rebound include Chinese policy easing, a slowdown in global consumer price momentum and a pick-up in US / Eurozone bank loan expansion.

The H2 industrial slowdown view remains on track. The global manufacturing PMI new orders index fell further in July, confirming May as a top. Chinese orders were notably weak and have led the global index since the GFC – see chart 1.

Chart 1

Global six-month real narrow money growth fell steadily between July 2020 and May but a stabilisation in June has been confirmed by additional monetary data released over the last week – chart 2.

Chart 2

Will PBoC policy easing drive a recovery in Chinese / global money growth? The hope here was that the 15 July cut in reserve requirements would be reflected in an early further fall in money market interest rates and easier credit conditions. Three-month SHIBOR, however, has moved sideways while corporate credit availability is little changed, judging from the July Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business survey – chart 3. July money data, therefore, could show limited improvement.

Chart 3

Global six-month real money growth should receive support from a slowdown in consumer price momentum as commodity price and bottleneck effects fade. Eurozone six-month CPI inflation eased on schedule in July, with further moderation suggested and the move lower likely to be mirrored in other countries (Tokyo July numbers also showed a slowdown) – chart 4.

Chart 4

US monetary prospects are foggy. Disbursement of stimulus payments boosted nominal money growth over March-May but there was a sharp slowdown in June. Weekly data indicate a reacceleration in July as the Treasury ran down its cash balance at the Fed to comply with debt ceiling legislation – chart 5. This effect, however, will be temporary and an improving fiscal position suggests a reduced contribution from monetary financing during H2 and into 2022.

Chart 5

Stable or higher US money growth, therefore, may require a pick-up in bank loan expansion. The Fed’s July senior loan officer survey, released yesterday, is hopeful, showing a further improvement in demand balances across most loan categories (not residential mortgages) – chart 6. The ECB’s July lending survey gave a similar message – chart 7. The survey indicators, however, are directional and the magnitude of a likely loan growth pick-up is uncertain. Actual lending data remained soft through June.

Chart 6

Chart 7

Failure of global real money growth to recover in Q3 – and especially a further slowdown – would suggest that the stockbuilding cycle is already at or close to a peak. The cycle bottomed in Q2 2020 and – based on its average historical length of 3.33 years – might be expected to reach another low in H2 2023, in turn implying a peak no earlier than H1 2022. As previously discussed, however, the current upswing could be short to compensate for a long (4.25 years) prior cycle.

Proponents of the consensus view that replenishment of stocks will underpin solid industrial growth in H2 cite the still-low level of the global manufacturing PMI finished goods inventories index – chart 8. Research conducted here, however, indicates that the stocks of purchases index (i.e. raw materials / intermediate goods) is a better gauge of the stockbuilding cycle and tends to lead the finished goods index. The former index is already at a level consistent with a cycle top and the rate of change relationship with the new orders index is another reason for expecting orders to weaken significantly during H2 – chart 9.

Chart 8

Chart 9