Strong Auto and Aircraft Orders Mask Softness in Broader Durable Goods Sales in March

The Census Bureau said that new durable goods orders rose 4.0 percent in March, increasing for just the third time in the past eight months. Strong defense and nondefense aircraft orders helped to push the headline index higher, and motor vehicle sales also rebounded from recent weaknesses. Note that aircraft sales are often bulked together in batches, making them more volatile from month-to-month. As a whole, transportation equipment orders jumped 13.5 percent in March.

Excluding transportation, the news was less encouraging, with durable goods down 0.2 percent. Indeed, durable goods orders excluding transportation have fallen from their recent peak of $169.2 billion in September to $159.9 billion in March, a drop of 5.5 percent over the past six months. To be fair, the September figure might have been an outlier, with an average of $164.6 billion for 2014 as a whole. Still, that represents a softer sales environment than we would prefer for the broader durable goods sector. (continue reading…)

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Kansas City Fed: Manufacturing Sentiment Fell Further in April

The Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing sentiment fell further in April, contracting for the second straight month. The composite index of general business conditions declined from -4 in March to -7 in April. The sample comments tick off a number of challenges for manufacturers in the district, including the strong U.S. dollar, lower crude oil prices, continuing logistics problems from the West Coast ports slowdown and global competition. The index for new export orders (down from -9 to -12) was negative for the fourth consecutive month, reflecting the dollar’s strength and weaknesses abroad. (continue reading…)

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Small Businesses Shine At Ex-Im Annual Conference

As Congress debates whether to reauthorize the U.S. Export-Import Bank, small businesses are telling the story of how they’ve utilized Ex-Im Bank to grow exports and add jobs. Some of these small businesses earned a lot of applause today, as the Ex-Im Bank Annual Conference kicks off in Washington, DC.

Among the companies celebrated were fire truck maker W.S. Darley & Co., cheesecake company Love & Quiches Gourmet, and Texas-based Fritz-Pak Corp. These companies have tapped Ex-Im Bank financing to sell their products abroad. (continue reading…)

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Markit: Slower Manufacturing Data in China, Europe and the U.S. in April

Manufacturing activity in China contracted for the fourth time in the past five months, according to preliminary data from Markit. The HSBC Flash China Manufacturing PMI dropped from 49.6 in March to 49.2 in April, its lowest level in 12 months. The decline stemmed largely from reduced domestic demand, with the new orders index down from 49.3 to 49.2. The employment index (up from 47.4 to 48.0) has now reflected contracting levels of hiring for 20 straight months. On the positive side, new export orders (up from 49.0 to 50.6) shifted to a slight expansion in April, and output (down from 50.8 to 50.4) expanded ever-so slightly, albeit at a slower pace this month. (continue reading…)

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House Taxwriter Questions Use of IRS Funds to Hire “White Shoe” Law Firms

Manufacturers were glad to see House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chair Peter Roskam (R-IL) today raise serious concerns at a hearing about the IRS’ use of outside law firms to question witnesses under oath in on-going audits and litigation. In conjunction with a hearing on the 2015 tax filing season, the Subcommittee issued a report, “Doing Less with Less: The IRS’s Spending Decisions Harm Taxpayers,”  which outlines a number of instances of IRS’ wasteful spending, all at the expense of American taxpayers. One of the worse cases described in the report is IRS’ decision to hire a team of high-priced attorneys to help out with an on-going case, at a cost of $2.1 million. (continue reading…)

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Nearly 300 State and Local Associations Stand behind TPA

In a letter released this week and coordinated by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and other major trade associations, nearly 300 U.S. state and local organizations urged swift action to renew Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). The organizations that signed the letter represent millions of companies and workers from every sector of the economy, and every state in the country. (continue reading…)

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Shareholder Activism in the U.S. Courts

Last week, in a major ruling, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a District Court ruling and affirmed positions asserted in the NAM’s amicus brief in Trinity Wall Street v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.   If allowed to stand, the District Court’s ruling would have had serious implications for U.S. manufacturers and their retailing customers by requiring inclusion of frivolous and inappropriate shareholder proposals in proxy statements at the company’s expense—and, therefore, at the expense of every other shareholder.  (continue reading…)

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Support for Permanent R&D Credit Growing

For years, manufacturers have applauded the efforts of Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX) and John Larson (D-CT) for championing legislation to finally make the on-again, off-again R&D tax credit permanent once and for all. Now, the wave of new supporters for this much-needed research incentive is picking up momentum. (continue reading…)

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Energy Efficiency Legislation Finally Heads to President’s Desk

This afternoon the House voice voted to approve S. 535, the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015, and will send the measure to the President’s desk. The bill, which the Senate passed by voice vote in March, would loosen efficiency standards for grid-enabled water heaters, increase efficiency in government data centers and promote efficiency in commercial, residential and federal government–owned buildings. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), have introduced various iterations over the last several years. Previously in the 114th Congress a version of the legislation, S. 128, was adopted as an amendment to a separate bill (S. 1, to approve the Keystone XL pipeline) but was vetoed by the president on Feb. 24. The House passed a similar efficiency bill, H.R. 2126 in the 113th Congress, by a vote of 375-36 in March of 2014, but the Senate never acted on that measure. (continue reading…)

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NAM’s Dempsey on C-SPAN: TPA to Supercharge U.S. Jobs and Economic Growth

Linda Dempsey, vice president of international economic affairs at the NAM, appeared on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal this morning to discuss the importance of passing TPA to ensure U.S. negotiators have the ability to bring back strong trade agreements that open global markets, level the playing field for manufacturers in the U.S. and increase global competitiveness.

“We need new trade agreements to supercharge our exports, sales, and opportunities in a growing global economy,” said Dempsey. “TPA—the trade agreement that was introduced on a bipartisan basis last week—is exactly the kind of legislation that allows these trade deals to be negotiated by Congress.”  (continue reading…)

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