A key industrial activity indicator, the Norwegian Purchasing Manager Index, was said by Fokus Bank on Thursday to indicate a steep fall from October of 1.6 points to 48.6 points in November. A reading below 50 points indicates contraction.
“This is foremost a fall in staffing and the order index being pulled down,” Fokus chief economist, Frank Jullum, said in a statement.
He said the development wasn’t all bad, as production numbers were up in the third quarter. He did warn, however, that orders alone were down almost three points since the start of October, and were at their lowest levels since autumn 2009.
For the export-driven Norwegian economy, the drop in orders points squarely at crisis-hit Europe and the slowing economic engine, China.
Despite bank-funding action from Europe on Wednesday that energized markets in mixed economies, Oslo's stock exchange slumped and opened flat on Thursday. The order dip suggests European banks focused on buying local debt and supporting the euro are not lending to customers buying high-capital Norwegian items.
China, normally a big buyer of Norwegian farmed fish, has turned away since the Norwegian Nobel Committee handed the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to a dissident. Now, Chinese production has fallen for the first time in 32 months, the bank’s PMI figures show.
Lower orders of big-ticket goods from Norway — like ship and rig gear — could also fall, although the Norwegian government has promised cheaper export finance to back such orders.
The government acted swiftly (and some say hastily) to shore up orders for Norwegian wares, but may be too late to stave off a spike in unemployment. The Fokus Bank numbers also show the staffing index was down nearly three points to 44.7 points, a number the lender’s analysts believe suggest falling employment numbers for the rest of the year.