Genuinely positive stories on the economic front are relatively rare these days, with no fewer than ten of the EU's 27 economies in recession and Australia's central bank forced to cut rates by 50bp yesterday in part because the non-mining economy is contracting. Thankfully, both Germany and America continue to defy the global gloom. In the US, the manufacturing sector is expanding at a respectable pace, propelled by solid growth of both domestic and export orders. Strong automobile-demand is making a significant contribution to the upturn in manufacturing – auto sales in the first quarter were the highest for four years and auto production accounted for roughly one-half of the growth in GDP in Q1. In response to this latest batch of healthy data, the Dow Jones index last night reached its highest level since the end of 2007. Over in Europe, the German labour market continues to forge ahead, with employment up another 37K in March, the 25th consecutive MoM gain. Currencies remain generally becalmed although, with a myriad of important economic releases due over coming days, we can expect volatility to increase. Friday's payrolls figures are critical following last month's disappointment.