Has Obama Lost His Economic Trump Card?
Updated from 3:52 p.m. EDT with a Romney campaign statement
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Barack Obama may have just lost his economic trump card.
The ISM manufacturing index -- a measure of manufacturing conditions in the United States -- dipped to 49.7 in June. The reading signaled contraction in the factory sector for the first time since July 2009.
"The economy just can't get out of its own way," said Josh Feinman, global chief economist at DB Advisors. "It's sobering ... because we went through the Great Recession and we need a period of strong growth to repair some of the damage that was done there and we're just not getting it."
Though the 49.7 reading doesn't indicate a recessionary dip in the U.S. economy, it does continue a trend of lackluster economic indicators that haven't helped the president's re-election message that things are getting better for the American people.
Manufacturing has been a strong suit for the administration and the president's campaign as the sector has grown at a relatively healthy clip for the better part of his term. But serious questions remain as to whether it will continue to grow with mounting international pressures.
Progress on the European debt crisis has lumbered along in 2012, which has resulted in prolonged investor uncertainty. A eurozone slowdown has also hit emerging markets, which send some 30% of their exports to the European Union.
China, a key emerging market, also plays into this global scenario -- one that isn't too rosy for Obama.
"Obviously I think people are worried about China; the expectation is that we will have a soft landing, so instead of 9.2% [GDP] growth that we got last year, maybe something in the mid- to high-7% area, but that number could be coming down as well, because we've had a continued series of disappointing PMI data," said Sam Stovall, chief equity strategist at S&P Capital IQ.
U.S. exports were particularly weak in May as eurozone manufacturing activity in the second quarter of 2012 was its worst in three years.
A Mitt Romney campaign spokeswoman said Monday that the latest manufacturing news proves Obama hasn't delivered the economic recovery he promised, but Stovall suggested it could be out of his control.
"I think that the president is in a tough position, because while he can talk about [the economy], there's not much he can do about it," Stovall added.
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