Manufacturing Shrinks, And So Do Stocks

Global manufacturing is shrinking.

Here in the U.S., the Institute for Supply Management said Tuesday that manufacturing activity fell in August, shrinking for three months in a row. In the 17 nations of the eurozone, the manufacturing index stands at 45.1; in the UK it's 49.5; in China, it's 47.6.  Any reading under 50 indicates contraction. The shrinkage on a global scale shows businesses and consumers are cutting back on their demand for factory-produced items.

Similar sentiment was echoed by FedEx (NYSE:FDX). The shipping giant cut its earnings expectations for the quarter just wrapped up, expecting to earn between $1.37 and $1.43 per share, down from an original forecast of $1.45 to $1.60 per share.

The shortfall is primarily in its express division -- the speedy shipping unit has been hit hard as customers are more inclined to pay less for slower delivery methods.

FedEx is out with earnings Sept. 18.

Overall, stocks ended mixed Tuesday, as traders headed back to work and volume picked up. About 3.2 billion shares traded for the NYSE Composite average -- the highest in two weeks. The Dow Industrials lost 55 points, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 8 -- the tech index was thanking Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), its largest component.

Apple shares shot up by $10, as the company sent out email invitations to its event in San Francisco next week. The invitation's text was characteristically terse, reading: "It's almost here," with the number "12" below. A shadow was evident underneath the number 12 that looked like the number "5."  The rumors continue to build that Apple will announce the new iPhone 5, running on iOS 6, at the event.

September is a big month overall for major announcements by the tech giants. Nokia and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) will hold a dual press event later today where they are expected to announce devices for Windows 8. Motorola will also make an announcement, and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) has an event scheduled for Thursday.

Stock futures are pointing to a lower open on Wall Street Wednesday. Investors are waiting for two key events: Thursday's meeting of the European Central Bank, and Friday's release of U.S. employment data for August. Dow futures are off by about 30 points.