The story of global manufacturing production continues to be China’s growth, which is the conventional wisdom. The conventional wisdom however is not correct in the belief that the USA has failed. China shot past the USA, which dropped into 2nd place, but the USA still manufactures a great deal and has continually increased output (though very slowly in the last few years).
The story is pretty much the same as I have been writing for 8 years now. The biggest difference in that story is just that China actually finally moved into 1st place in 2010 and, maybe, the slowing of the USA growth in output (if that continues, I think the USA growth will improve). I said last year, that I expected China to build on the lead it finally took, and they did so. I expect that to continue, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see China’s momentum slow (especially a few more years out – it may not slow for 3 or 4 more years).
As before, the four leading nations for manufacturing production remain solidly ahead of all the rest. Korea and Italy had manufacturing output of $313 billion in 2011 and Brazil moved up to $308 are in 4-6 place. Those 3 countries together could be in 4th place (ahead of just Germany). Even adding Korea and Italy together the total is short of Germany by $103 in 2011). I would expect Korea and Brazil to grow manufacturing output substantially more than Italy in the next 5 years.
The largest manufacturing countries are China, USA, Japan and then Germany. These 4 are far in the lead, and very firmly in their positions. Only the USA and China are close, and the momentum of China is likely moving it quickly ahead – even with their current struggles.
The chart below shows manufacturing production by country as a percent of GDP of the 10 countries that manufacture the most. China has over 30% of the GDP from manufacturing, though the GDP share fell dramatically from 2005 and is solidly in the lead.
Nearly every country is decreasing the percentage of their economic output from manufacturing. Korea is the only exception, in this group. I would expect Korea to start following the general trend. Also China has reduced less than others, I expect China will also move toward the trend shown by the others (from 2005 to 2010 they certainly did).
For the 10 largest manufacturing countries in 2010, the overall manufacturing GDP percentage was 24.9% of GDP in 1980 and dropped to 17.7% in 2010. The point often missed by those looking at their country is most of these countries are growing manufacturing, they are just growing the rest of their economy more rapidly. It isn’t accurate to see this as a decline of manufacturing. It is manufacturing growing more slowly than (information technology, health care, etc.).
The manufacturing share of the USA economy dropped from 21% in 1980 to 18% in 1990, 15% in 2000 and 13% in 2010. Still, as previous posts show, the USA manufacturing output has grown substantially: over 300% since 1980, and 175% since 1990. The proportion of manufacturing output by the USA (for the top 10 manufacturers) has declined from 33% in 1980, 32% in 1990, 35% in 2000 to 26% in 2010. If you exclude China, the USA was 36% of the manufacturing output of these 10 countries in 1980 and 36% in 2010. China’s share grew from 7.5% to 27% during that period.
The United Kingdom has seen manufacturing fall all the way to 10% of GDP, manufacturing little more than they did 15 years ago. Japan is the only other country growing manufacturing so slowly (but Japan has one of the highest proportion of GDP from manufacturing – at 20%). Japan manufactures very well actually, the costs are very high and so they have challenges but they have continued to manufacture quite a bit, even if they are not growing output much.
Hong Kong again topped the rankings, followed by Singapore, New Zealand, and Switzerland. Australia and Canada tied for fifth, of the 144 countries and territories in the Fraiser Institute’s 2012 Economic Freedom of the World Report.
“The United States, like many nations, embraced heavy-handed regulation and extensive over-spending in response to the global recession and debt crises. Consequently, its level of economic freedom has dropped,” said Fred McMahon, Fraser Institute vice-president of international policy research.
The annual Economic Freedom of the World report uses 42 distinct variables to create an index ranking countries around the world based on policies that encourage economic freedom. The cornerstones of economic freedom are personal choice, voluntary exchange, freedom to compete, and security of private property. Economic freedom is measured in five different areas: (1) size of government, (2) legal structure and security of property rights, (3) access to sound money, (4) freedom to trade internationally, and (5) regulation of credit, labor, and business.
Hong Kong offers the highest level of economic freedom worldwide, with a score of 8.90 out of 10, followed by Singapore (8.69), New Zealand (8.36), Switzerland (8.24), Australia and Canada (each 7.97), Bahrain (7.94), Mauritius (7.90), Finland (7.88), Chile (7.84).
The rankings and scores of other large economies include: United States (18th), Japan (20th), Germany (31st), South Korea (37th), France (47th), Italy (83rd), Mexico (91st), Russia (95th), Brazil (105th), China (107th), and India (111th).
When looking at the changes over the past decade, some African and formerly Communist nations have shown the largest increases in economic freedom worldwide: Rwanda (44th this year, compared to 106th in 2000), Ghana (53rd, up from 101st), Romania (42nd, up from 110th), Bulgaria (47th, up from 108th), and Albania (32nd, up from 77th). During that same period the USA has dropped from 2nd to 19th.
The rankings are similar to the World Bank Rankings of easiest countries in which to do business. But they are not identical, the USA is still hanging in the top 5 in that ranking. The BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) do just as poorly in both. The ranking due show the real situation of economies that are far from working well in those countries. China and Brazil, especially, have made some great strides when you look at increasing GDP and growing the economy. But there are substantial structural changes needed. India is suffering greatly from serious failures to improve basic economic fundamentals (infrastructure, universal education, eliminating petty corruption [China has serious problems with this also]…).
Singapore is again ranked first for Ease of Doing Business by the World Bank.
|other countries of interest|
The rankings include ranking of various aspects of running a business. Some rankings for 2011: starting a business (New Zealand 1st, Singapore 4th, USA 13th, Japan 107th), Dealing with Construction Permits (Hong Kong 1st, New Zealand 2nd, Singapore 3rd, USA 17th, China 179th), protecting investors (New Zealand 1st, Singapore 2nd, Hong Kong 3rd, Malaysia 4th, USA 5th), enforcing contracts (Luxemburg 1, Korea 2, Iceland 3, Hong Kong 5, USA 7, Singapore 12, China 16, India 182), paying taxes (Maldives 1, Hong Kong 3, Singapore 4, USA 72, Japan 120, China 122, India 147).
These rankings are not the final word on exactly where each country truly ranks but they do provide a valuable source of information. With this type of data there is plenty of room for judgment and issues with the data.
Related: Easiest Countries from Which to Operate Businesses 2008 – Stock Market Capitalization by Country from 1990 to 2010 – Looking at GDP Growth Per Capita for Selected Countries from 1970 to 2010 – Top Manufacturing Countries (2000 to 2010) – Country Rank for Scientific Publications – International Health Care System Performance – Best Research University Rankings (2008)
The Curious Cat Investing, Economics and Personal Finance Carnival is published twice each month with links to new, related, interesting content online. Also see related books and articles.
- A Nation of Public Housing by Neal Peirce – “One government agency manages 80 percent of the housing stock — all called public housing. It checks your age and whether you’re married to decide whether and when you’re eligible for an apartment.” Racial quotas are used, unmarried people can’t apply until they turn 35. Any guess on what country this is? The same country is ranked as the easiest, or close to it, country run business in the world.
- China’s end game:the dark side of a great deleveraging by Dee Woo – “The dilemma is that business entities will need more and more credit to achieve the same economic result, therefore will be more and more leveraged, less and less able to service the debt, more and more prone to insolvency and bankruptcy. It will reach a turning point when the increasing number of insolvencies and bankruptcies initiate an accelerating downward spiral for underling assets prices and drive up the non-performing loan ratio for the banks. And then the over-stretched banking system will implode. A full blown economic crisis will come in full force. The chain of reaction is clearly set in the motion now.
The biggest problem for China is the state, central enterprises and crony capitalists wield too much power over national economy, have too much monopoly power over wealth creation and income distribution, and much of the GDP growth and vested interest groups’ economic progress are made on the expanse of average consumers stuck in deteriorating relative poverty.”
- Challenges faced by middle-class L.A. families by Meg Sullivan – “Managing the volume of possessions was such a crushing problem in many homes that it actually elevated levels of stress hormones for mothers. Only 25 percent of garages could be used to store cars because they were so packed with stuff.” (read the book: Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century)
- USA Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) by John Hunter – Benefits have a maximum of $2,346/month (in 2011). The average benefit payment now is $1,111. More than 8.7 million people are received disability benefits currently (partially disabilities are not eligible for SSDI.
renewable power (excluding large hydro) accounted for 44% of new generation
capacity added worldwide in 2011, up from 34% in 2010 [and 10% in 2004]. The $237 billion invested in building these green power plants compares with $223 billion of net new expenditure annually on building additional fossil-fuelled power plants globally last year.
Current predictions are that total installed capacity in non-hydro renewable power will rise ninefold to 2.5Tw by 2030, with investment in assets rising from $225 billion in 2011 to $395 billion-a-year by 2020 and $460 billion-a-year by 2030
Total investment in solar in 2011 increased 52% to $147 billion, driven by a drop of 50% in photovoltaic module prices. Investment in wind dropped 12% to $84 billion, while onshore wind turbine prices fell between 5 and 10%. Biomass and waste to energy was the 3rd largest renewable sector at $11 billion in investments (down 12% from 2010).
USA investment surged 51% to $51 billion just behind China at $52 billion (China increased investment in renewable energy by 17% from 2010). German investment dropped 12% to $31 billion.
In 2011 renewable energy power capacity (excluding large hydropower), as a percentage of total system capacity, reached 9%, up from 4% in 2004. Total renewable energy generation (excluding large hydro) reached 6%, up from 4% in 2004.
I really can’t figure out which currency is something I would want to hold if I had the option. It doesn’t really matter, since I am not going to act on it in a very direct way (maybe if I felt very strongly I would do something but it would probably be pretty limited), but I still keep thinking about this issue out of curiosity.
The USA dollar seems lousy to me. Huge debt (both government and consumer). Government debt is huge on the books and huge off the books (state and local retirement – and federal medical care [social security is really in much better shape than people think, though it also has issues 30 + years out}).
The Euro seemed a bit lame 3 years ago. Today it seems crazy to think at least one Euro country won’t default in the next 3 years – and likely more. And if they take steps to avoid that it seems like it is going to make the case for the Euro worse).
The Japanese Yen is much stronger than makes any sense to me. I think it is mainly because of how lousy all the options are. The huge government debt (worse that almost anywhere) and lousy demographics (and the refusal to deal with demographics with immigration or something) are big problems. The biggest reason for strength is that the individuals have huge savings (when your citizens own the debt it is much less horrible than when others do – especially when you are looking at currency value).
The Chinese Yuan is the best looking at the economic data. The problem is economic data is questionable for the best cases (looking at the USA, Japan…). China’s economic data is far from transparent. Their is also great political and social risk. The current worries of a real estate bubble seems justified to me and China just this week took exactly the wrong action – trying to prop up the bubble (in order to decrease the economic slowdown). I can see either of these cases playing out 10 years from now: It was obvious the Yuan was the strongest currency you are an idiot for not being able to see that or It was obvious China was a bubble with unsustainable policies and likely social upheaval thinking that was anything but a sign to sell the Yuan was foolish.
Given all this I think I weakly come down on the side that the Yuan is likely to be the strongest.
The safest play I think is the US dollar (as lousy as it is on an absolute basis the options make it look almost good). It could get clobbered. But that seems less likely than the others getting clobbered.
Smaller currencies have some promise but they can be swamped by global moves. I really have no idea about the Brazilian Real. That might actually be a really good option. The Australian Dollar and Canadian Dollar may also. But those economies are really small. I don’t trust India: they have many good macro-economic factors but the climate for business leaves far too much to be desired (as does the pace of progress fixing those weaknesses). Many economist like them due to demographic factors. I understand that demographic factors will help, but without systemic reform I question how well India can do (it certainly has the potential to do amazingly well, but they seem to be significantly farther away from reaching their potential compared to many countries).
The Singapore Dollar seems good on many levels, but the economy is small. I am not really sure about emerging economies, there currencies can get swamped in a hurry. Thailand and Indonesia experienced this recently. Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia are interesting to me in thinking about what their currencies may experience, I would like to read more on this.
This is more an intellectual and curiosity exercise than something I see directly tied to my investing strategy. But having clear answers of what I thought reasonable scenarios were for currencies going forward that would factor into my investing decisions. Right now, the confusing this causes me, leads me to favor companies that should be fine whatever happens: Apple, Google, Toyota, Intel (I don’t really like Facebook overall but in this way they fit). Lots of the stocks in my 12 stocks for 10 years portfolio, you might notice.
Just 6.4% of nondurable goods — things like food, clothing and toys — purchased in the U.S. are made in China; 76.2% are made in America. For durable goods — things like cars and furniture — 12% are made in China; 66.6% are made in America.
Those numbers are significantly less than I expected but the concept matches my understanding – that we greatly underestimate the purchasing of USA goods and services.
We have an inflated notion of how large the China macro economic numbers are for the USA (both debt and manufacturing exports to us). The China growth in both is still amazingly large: we just overestimate the totals today. We also forget that 25 years ago both numbers (imports from China and USA government debt owned by China) were close to 0.
We also greatly underestimate how much manufacturing the USA does, as I have been writing about for years. In fact, until 2010, the USA manufactured more than China.
Who owns the rest? The largest holder of U.S. debt is the federal government itself. Various government trust funds like the Social Security trust fund own about $4.4 trillion worth of Treasury securities. The Federal Reserve owns another $1.6 trillion.
Ok, this figure is a bit misleading. But even if you thrown out the accounting games 1.13/8.9 = 12.7%. That is a great deal. But it isn’t a majority of the debt or anything remotely close. Other foreign investors own $3.5 trillion trillion in federal debt (Japan $1 trillion, UK $500 billion). The $4.6 trillion of federal debt owned by foreigners is a huge problem. With investors getting paid so little for that debt though it isn’t one now. But it is a huge potential problem. If interest reates increase it will be a huge transfer of wealth from the USA to others.
The oil figure is a bit less meaningful, I think. Oil import are hugely fungible. The USA cutting back Middle East imports and pushing up imports from Canada, Mexico, Nigeria… doesn’t change the importance of Middle East oil to the USA in reality (the data might seem to suggest that but it is misleading due to the fungible nature of oil trading). Whether we get it directly from the Middle East or not our demand (and imports) creates more demand for Middle East oil. It is true the USA has greatly increased domestic production recently (and actually decreased the use of oil in 2009). So while I believe the data on Middle East oil I think that it is a bit misleading. If we had 0 direct imports from there we would still be greatly dependent on Middle East oil (because if France and China and India… were not getting their oil there they would buy it where we buy ours… Still the USA uses far more oil than any other country and is extremely dependent on imports. Several other countries are also extremely dependent on oil imports, including the next two top oil consuming countries: China, Japan.
Related: Oil Production by Country 1999-2009 – Government Debt as Percentage of GDP 1990-2009: USA, Japan, Germany, China… – Manufacturing Output as a Percent of GDP by Country – The Relative Economic Position of the USA is Likely to Decline
I decided to take a look at some historical economic data to see if some of my beliefs were accurate (largely about how well Singapore has done) and learn a bit more while I was at it.
I just picked countries that interested me and seemed worth looking at. I looked for some around the starting position of Singapore and close to Singapore geographically. And looked at Panama as the closest match to Singapore (for Singapore’s main 1970 asset, convenient for shipping lanes, and very close for GDP per capita).
Malaysia and Singapore were 1 country after independence (from 1963-1965).
I can’t imagine more than a couple countries could reasonably be argued to have had better economic performance from 1970 to 2010 than Singapore (Korea? China? Who else?). Singapore had very little going for it in 1970. They had a good location for shipping and that is about it macro-economically. No natural resources. No huge storage of wealth. No preeminence in science, technology or business.
It seems to me that Singapore actually did have 1 other thing. A government that was to preside over a fantastic economic growth success. You won’t find many textbooks talking about the way to economic success is a very well run government. And there is good reason for that, I believe. Relying on a very well run government will nearly always fail. In some ways Singapore was like Japan but with significantly more government influence on the way economic development played out.
I was surprised how poorly the USA has faired. It isn’t so surprising that we lagged. People forget how rich the USA was in 1970. The USA is still very rich but bunched together with lots of other rich countries instead of way out ahead as they were in 1970. And in 1970 the lead was already contracting, for what it had been earlier. But even knowing the relative performance of the USA had lagged, I was surprised by how much it under-performed.
I was also surprised with India. I knew they have done poorly but I didn’t realize it had been this poor. The failures to greatly improve infrastructure, education and the stifling effect of their bureaucracy have been causing them great harm. They have been doing some good things in the last 10 years especially but still have a long way to go. Their premier education is actually pretty decent. The problem is the other 90% of the education is often poor and many people (especially women) hardly have any education at all. It is very hard to get ahead when you fail to take advantage of the talents of so many of your people.
Related: Singapore and Iskandar Malaysia – Chart of Largest Petroleum Consuming Countries from 1980 to 2010 – Chart of Nuclear Power Production by Country from 1985-2009 – Top Countries For Renewable Energy Capacity
Chart of manufacturing production by the top 10 manufacturing countries (2000 to 2010). The chart was created by the Curious Cat Economics Blog. You may use the chart with attribution. All data is shown in 2010 USD (United States Dollar).
In my last post I looked at the output of the top 10 manufacturing countries with a focus on 1980 to 2010. Here I take a closer look at the last 10 years.
In 2010, China took the lead as the world’s leading manufacturing country from the USA. In 1995 the USA was actually very close to losing the lead to Japan (though you wouldn’t think it looking at the recent data). I believe China will be different, I believe China is going to build on their lead. As I discussed in the last post the data doesn’t support any decline in Chinese manufacturing (or significant moves away from China toward other South-East Asian countries). Indonesia has grown quickly (and have the most manufacturing production, of those discussed), but their total manufacturing output is less than China grew by per year for the last 5 years.
The four largest countries are pretty solidly in their positions now: the order will likely be China, USA, Japan, Germany for 10 years (or longer): though I could always be surprised. In the last decade China relentlessly moved past the other 3, to move from 4th to 1st. Other than that though, those 3 only strengthened their position against their nearest competitors. Brazil, Korea or India would need to increase production quite rapidly to catch Germany sooner. After the first 4 though the situation is very fluid.
Chart of manufacturing production by the leading manufacturing countries (2000 to 2010). The top 4 countries are left off to look more closely at history of the next group. The chart was created by the Curious Cat Economics Blog based on UN data. You may use the chart with attribution.
Removing the top 4 to take a close look at the data on the other largest manufacturing countries we see that there are many countries bunched together. It is still hard to see, but if you look closely, you can make out that some countries are growing well, for example: Brazil, India and Indonesia. Other countries (most in Europe, as well as Mexico) did not fare well in the last decade.
The UK had a particularly bad decade, moving from first place in this group (5th in the world) to 5th in this group and likely to be passed by India in 2011. Europe has 4 countries in this list (if you exclude Russia) and they do not appear likely to do particularly well in the next decade, in my opinion. I would certainly expect Brazil, India, Korea and Indonesia to out produce Italy, France, UK and Spain in 2020. In 2010 the total was $976 billion by the European 4 to $961 billion by the non-European 4. In 2000 it was $718 billion for the European 4 to $343 billion (remember all the data is in 2010 USD).