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Missing piece of global growth jigsaw may be falling into place

The thinking is that capital investment, or capex, will stoke not just demand, but ultimately higher wages and inflation

Enda Curran | Bloomberg 

Volkswagen, Chattanooga, cars, manufacturing unit

Spurred by higher profits and buoyant stock markets, some of the world’s best known companies from to Volkswagen are ramping up spending on new plants and equipment after years of caution. For an economic expansion already gathering speed, that could prove a boon.

The thinking is that capital investment, or capex, will stoke not just demand, but ultimately higher and That’s positive for central banks and governments yearning to see profits trickle into workers’ pockets. Employers have been reluctant to spend even amid an economic upswing spanning 75 per cent of the globe.

is definitely picking up,” said Chetan Ahya, co-head of global economics at Morgan Stanley in Hong Kong. “This is a very important part of the story.”

A new tracker of business spending by economists at JPMorgan Chase underpins such confidence. It points to growth running at a pace of around 8 per cent.

While the picture varies from country to country, there’s enough evidence that spending is improving. US orders for business investment, for example, increased by more than expected in September and the economy’s 3 per cent spurt of the third quarter was aided by a 1.5 per cent climb in business fixed investment.

Missing piece of global growth jigsaw may be falling into place
“The pickup in business investment is like a fountain of youth for an aging recovery,” said Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Leuthold Group in Minneapolis. “US companies have an incredible amount of dry powder right now.” For investors, the “green shoots” of greater business spending should prompt a better performance from US industrial stocks and higher yields on 10-year Treasury notes, analysts at Pavilion Global Markets told clients in a recent report.

Amazon is spreading its reach with operations in India, Australia and Latin America. It also has invited US states and local governments to submit proposals for a new headquarters that will cost $5 billion and create 50,000 jobs over the next 15 to 17 years.

Caterpillar, the largest maker of construction and mining equipment, raised its sales and earnings forecasts, citing increased demand across markets. “We are seeing broad-based sales increases across a number of industries in all regions,” Chief Executive Officer James Umpleby said on a conference call.

It’s not just the big names. The Pavilion analysts calculate capital spending by smaller US companies in the Russell 2000 index rose 33 per cent this year through Wednesday.

“Small business owners are definitely spending more on equipment,” said Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina. “This marks a real change and partly reflects the improved regulatory environment, which is seeing less new regulation coming on line.”

In Japan, core machinery orders, which are a leading indicator for future capex, rose in both July and August from a month earlier, after dropping in April through June. Auto giant Mitsubishi Motor plans to boost annual research expenses by 50 per cent to 133 billion yen ($1.2 billion) in three years, while others including Toshiba and Toyota Motor are also spending.

First Published: Tue, October 31 2017. 04:02 IST