November 3, 2014 / 6:26 AM / 5 years ago

Asia factory growth ebbing, makes case for more stimulus

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asia’s factories are reporting a generalized loss of momentum that speak volumes about the need for more policy stimulus, on top of Japan’s latest efforts to ignite growth.

A raft of regional manufacturing surveys on Monday were littered with unwelcome landmarks, including a five-month low for activity in China, a four-month trough for South Korea and a 14-month low for Indonesia.

Even China’s long resilient services sector saw growth ebb to the slowest in nine months as the cooling property sector weighed on demand.

“We still see uncertainties, given the property downturn as well as the slow pace of global recovery, and expect further monetary and fiscal easing measures in the months ahead,” said Hongbin Qu, chief economist for China at HSBC.

HSBC’s own version of the purchasing management index (PMI) compiled by Markit was a whisker firmer at 50.4 in October, from the September’s 50.2, but showed growth slowing in output and new orders, while companies trimmed staff levels for the 12th straight month.

Beijing has already cut taxes, quickened some investment projects, offered short-term loans to banks, instructed local governments to spend their budgets and reduced the amount of deposits that some banks hold as reserves to spur lending.

So far, lower mortgage rates have not revived the housing market as quickly as some had hoped, with prices falling for a sixth consecutive month in October, according to one private survey.

Readings on Japanese activity were delayed by a holiday but will likely be overshadowed by the central bank’s decision on Friday to expand its already massive asset buying program in a sudden change of tack that stunned financial markets.

The bold move has raised expectations the European Central Bank will eventually have to bite the bullet on quantitative easing, even if not at its meeting on Thursday.

“In this environment of subdued growth and long-term low-flation, we expect the ECB to announce the purchase of government bonds of euro area member states by early next year at the latest,” said Apolline Menut, an analyst at Barclays.

That outlook is one reason the euro caved to a fresh two-year trough of $1.2444 EUR= on Monday, and why the dollar reached a seven-year peak on the yen at 112.98 JPY=.

The relative outperformance of the U.S. economy should be evident in the ISM survey of manufacturing out later on Monday which is expected to hold at a healthy 56.2 in October.

The October payrolls report on Friday is also forecast to show a solid increase of around 231,000. ECONUS

EXPORTS LACKING

As usual in Asia, the data flow from China dominated the trading day and made for sober reading.

China’s official PMI for the services sector fell to 53.8 in October, down from September’s 54.0 and the weakest reading since January, the National Bureau of Statistics said.

The comparable measure for manufacturing eased to 50.8 in October, from September’s 51.1, confounding analysts’ expectations for a an improvement to 51.2.

Foreign demand was partly to blame as the index for new export orders shrank to 49.9 in October.

The same trend was evident in South Korea, where new export orders were down for a third straight month and at the lowest in 14 months.

The overall HSBC/Markit PMI for South Korea fell to a seasonally adjusted 48.7 in October, from 48.8 in September, the lowest since June.

Even Taiwan’s privileged position as a major supplier of Apple (AAPL.O) products could not prevent some slowing as its PMI slipped to the lowest in 13 months at 52.0.

A rare bright spot was India, where the HSBC PMI rose to 51.6 in October, from 51.0 in September, extending its run above 50 to a full year.

Editing by Kim Coghill

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