There was enough good news this week to keep base metal prices broadly steady. What had most impact was the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ announcement that the US economy had created 165,000 jobs in April. This was comfortably above expectations of a 145,000 rise, and figures for February and March were also revised upwards. The unemployment rate in the US also crept down by 0.1% to 7.5%.
The other good news was that German factory orders rose by 2.2% between February and March, the same rise noted between January and February. Not only was this the second rise in a row, but it was also a much better performance than the expected 0.5% fall. It caused some economists to suggest that the German economy may be starting to recover.
Other news was less good, though it was still not bad.
The purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for the Chinese manufacturing sector, published by the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing, fell to 50.6 in April from 50.9 in March. It was nevertheless above 50, pointing to the seventh consecutive month of growth.
The manufacturing PMI for China, compiled for the bank HSBC, which gives greater weight to small and medium-sized companies than the official figure, dipped to 50.4 in April from 51.6 in March. This index was in positive territory for the sixth consecutive month.
But one component of the official Chinese PMI figure showed the index for export orders fell to 48.6 in April from 50.9 in March, suggesting a contraction.
Meanwhile, the PMI for US manufacturing, compiled by the Institute for Supply Management, eased to 50.7% April from 51.3% in March. It was the fifth consecutive expansion, noted the trade organisation, adding that, out of 18 manufac-turing industries, 14 were reporting growth. But the US Census Bureau noted that new orders for manufactured goods fell by 4% in March.
In the eurozone, retail spending was down. The statistics agency Eurostat announced that the volume of sales contracted by 0.1% during March, after having contracted by 0.2% in February. The year-on-year drop of 2.4% in March was sharper than expected, causing some concern about the zone’s growth.