Market Overview

European Industrial Production Mixed in May

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Industrial Production across European economies was mixed in May, as some nations saw a rebound in output whereas others saw a continued contraction. French Industrial Production posted a large miss, as industrial production fell 1.9 percent from April, worse than estimates of a 0.9 percent contraction.

French Industrial Production (IP) fell in May after growing a revised 1.4 percent in April. Initial reports had shown that French IP had risen 1.5 percent in April. Industrial Production is used as a proxy for economic growth, so the weak readings do not bode well for the French economy and the European economy as a whole.

Other European nations saw growth in IP in May. Finland reported that Industrial Production had grown 1.2 percent in May, up from the 0.6 percent rate seen in April. Italian IP also rose in May, rising 0.8 percent, beating estimates of a 0.2 percent contraction and April's -2.0 percent contraction. Finally, British IP growth beat expectations, rising 1.0 percent on estimates of a 0.2 percent contraction.

The mixed data seen out of Europe adds further to the uncertainty surrounding global markets. Traders have seen signs of slowing growth out of all corners of the world, including Chinese trade data, German manufacturing data, and now mixed industrial production data. Also, the U.S. has seen similar mixed data, with employment growth slowing and yet manufacturing growth continuing.

Slowing global growth is negative for risk assets. Growth-linked commodities such as copper and oil normally sell off in these market environments, however the two assets have already seen significant sell-offs. WTI oil, measured by the front month contract, has fell nearly 30 percent peak to trough from its highs in February. Copper, also measured by the front month contract, is down nearly 15 percent from its February highs. The S&P 500 is down 4.6 percent from its March highs.

For traders, the question becomes: has the market priced in a slowdown, as seen through the slide in these risk assets, or is there more to come? For those who believe that the slide is over, buying oil at these low levels is a direct play on growth. As the chart below shows, oil prices have lagged the Citi U.S. Economic Surprise Index. This index, which measures the strength and momentum of the U.S. economy, is appearing to bottom. Should a bottom form, it would be bullish for oil.

Traders who see this bottom could look at buying the United States Oil Fund ETF (NYSE: USO), as it is linked to oil futures.

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