The Australian Financial Review trumpeted its deal with the Financial Times which started today, and promptly missed the big story that has remained on the front page of the FT‘s Asian edition’s website overnight Wednesday/Thursday (and for more than 18 hours).

“Global slowdown bites across Asia” was a report on the monthly surveys of manufacturing activity conducted by Markit. In fact, The AFR should have written its own story, just based on the headline on the Markit release which consolidated the results of the PMI surveys for countries from Japan to China, Vietnam, Indonesia and India.

“Manufacturing downturn deepens as exports suffer largest fall for over three years,” the headline told readers of the release. And the dot points underneath explained: “Asian Manufacturing PMI falls to second-lowest since April 2009, Broad-based weakness evident across region, Exports fall at the fastest rate for over three years, Employment and prices also fall.”

The region isn’t in recession, as Europe is (the PMI for the eurozone worsened sharply last month to a 37-month low), nor is it sliding as sluggish as the US, but from a low base. The PMI for the US was negative for a second month. The surveys for Europe and the US were out by 10.30 last night, Sydney time. Certainly the European surveys were available earlier in the evening, but the important ones for us were in Asia.

Seeing the area covered by the Markit survey in Asia is our biggest export market (containing China, Japan, India, South Korea and Taiwan, which buy the overwhelming majority of our iron ore, coal, LNG and metals exports), you would have though The AFR — as the country’s premier business journal — would have spotted the story and ran with it on page one, especially after its new partner, the FT, was leading with it.

There was a story on the two surveys of Chinese manufacturing activity that were out yesterday, but that was on page 16 and the headline, “China verges on contraction”, was really the headline for the surveys for May and April, as well as July. In other words, it wasn’t new news. What was was the way the surveys for other major economies across the region fell in July, with exports slumped in the biggest fall for three years.

Instead we got a sadsack collection of AFR favourites: James Packer; former RBA board member and economist Warwick McKibbin urging his old mates to intervene to drive down the value of the Aussie dollar (he’s a favouriate of AFR editor Michael Stutchbury); a story on BHP and its supposed management problems, plus a pointer to another story inside; and that old hobby horse of the paper and Stutchbury, industrial relations and reform of workplace laws.

The stories grabbed from FT were moderately interesting, but they didn’t bother to update any of them, especially the one on the Swiss National Bank’s euro buying spree and its impact on currencies such as the Australian dollar (which would have ruined the story about McKibbin’s demands for the RBA to intervene to cut the value of the Aussie currency).

Oh well, I suppose The AFR will grab the PMI story for tomorrow’s edition …