U.S. Business Activity Gains at Start of Year
By Paul Hannon By Kim Mackrael
The U.S. economy picked up momentum at the start of the year,
while Europe showed a growing risk of a second recession amid
tougher restrictions to contain coronavirus infections, surveys of
purchasing managers showed.
Factories and service-industry companies indicated a pickup in
U.S. business activity early this month, the forecasting firm IHS
Markit said Friday. An index of manufacturing activity increased to
59.1, the highest level in more than a decade, while a measure of
service-sector activity reached 57.5.
A figure above 50 indicates the sector is expanding, based on
factors such as product sales, hiring and output. A figure below 50
Rapid growth in new recorded coronavirus cases over the winter
led to tougher restrictions on activity in parts of the U.S. and
Europe, restraining the global economic recovery after the sharp
downturn last spring.
Part of the difference between the U.S. and European performance
in January might be the result of more severe lockdowns that were
imposed in Europe this month compared with the U.S., said Chris
Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit.
"Tighter lockdowns, effective lockdowns, come at an economic
price and we're seeing that," Mr. Williamson said.
He added that expectations of another round of fiscal stimulus
under the Biden administration could be another factor contributing
to a stronger performance in the U.S. President Biden has proposed
a $1.9 trillion economic relief package that includes additional
direct payments to households and extended unemployment
The eurozone economy has suffered a weak start to the year, with
high coronavirus infection rates and government restrictions
increasing the risk of a second recession since the pandemic first
struck last year.
The European Central Bank on Friday said that 20 economists at
banks and research institutes it had surveyed between Jan. 7 and
Jan. 11 estimated that the eurozone economy shrank 2.5% in the
final three months of 2020 and would likely stagnate in the first
three months of this year. If those estimates prove correct, the
eurozone would very narrowly avoid a second recession.
"The rollout of vaccines, which started in late December, allows
for greater confidence in the resolution of the health crisis," ECB
President Christine Lagarde said. "However, it will take time until
widespread immunity is achieved, and further adverse developments
related to the pandemic cannot be ruled out."
New Covid-19 outbreaks across the globe have weighed on economic
activity, damping recovery expectations in the first half of the
year. Vaccination campaigns, however, have raised hopes for a
stronger rebound in the second half.
In the early months of the year, a number of large economies
face the threat of declining output as restaurants, cinemas and a
wider range of businesses that involve close physical proximity are
closed or have had their activities severely curtailed.
IHS Markit said its composite Purchasing Managers Index, which
measures both manufacturing and services activity, for the eurozone
fell to 47.5 in January from 49.1 in December.
The tightest lockdown since April had a particularly chilling
effect on the U.K.'s economy, which saw the largest drop in its PMI
of those released Friday. Germany separately continued to record an
In Japan, a similar survey pointed to a bigger contraction in
the services sector.
Write to Paul Hannon at firstname.lastname@example.org and Kim Mackrael at
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 22, 2021 11:28 ET (16:28 GMT)
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