(Economist Intelligence Unit)– Current weakness of industrial output is not just related to the fallout from Covid-19
Event Oct. 22 (Economist Intelligence Unit) — Working-day adjusted industrial output fell by 3.8% year on year in August, a significant acceleration from the 0.2% drop in the previous month. In the first eight months of the year overall, industrial production contracted by 3.9%.
Analysis Industrial output in Greece has fallen in year-on-year terms in 16 of the past 18 months, indicating that the current weakness is not just related to the fallout from Covid-19. However, the pandemic has clearly had a negative impact on both supply and demand in industry, and production collapsed by 10.7% year on year in April and by a further 8.1% in May, two of the months when global supply chains were worst affected.
While this supply shock has been mostly unwound since, the negative demand effect of the pandemic remains significant. Although output was almost flat in year-on-year terms in July, the August data provide a reminder that operating conditions for Greek manufacturers remain extremely challenging.
The brunt of the fallout so far this year has been suffered by consumer durable goods output, which contracted by 11.2% year on year in January-August. Over the same period energy output was down by 6.9% and intermediate goods production by 3.4%.
Output of capital goods and consumer non-durables has held up somewhat better, falling by 1% and 1.3% respectively over the period.
Although the trough of the current downturn is likely to have been in Q2 2020, there are few reasons to think that a swift recovery is on the cards. Latest data from across Europe suggest that a second wave of infections is already under way, and governments in many countries have started to retighten lockdown measures.
This, in turn, will reduce demand for many industrial goods. The latest IHS Markit manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for Greece provided, if not grounds for optimism, then at least reason not to be too despondent about near-term prospects for the country’s industry.
The headline reading was 50 in September, exactly on the level separating expansion from contraction but the first reading at or above 50 since February. However, the survey data contained plenty of reasons for caution, not least a further squeeze on firms’ margins and a rising reported level of uncertainty about the near-term economic outlook.
Impact on the forecast Assuming the introduction of tighter public restrictions in the fourth quarter, and taking account of the eight-month data, we will revise down slightly our industrial production estimate of -3.8%