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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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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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NABE: Economic Activity Eased Somewhat Over the Past 3 Months

The National Association for Business Economics (NABE) reported decelerated growth in its latest Business Conditions Survey. The net percentage of respondents saying that their profit margins had increased over the past three months dropped from 24 percent in January to 10 percent in April, reflecting both weaker demand and higher costs. On the positive side, sales continue to expand, just at a slightly eased pace. This is especially true in the goods-producing sectors, which had half of those taking the survey say that their sales were higher in the quarter. Yet, 56 percent of respondents noted that slower growth in China had negatively impacted their businesses, with two –thirds saying that a stronger U.S. dollar had made a negative “material impact” on them. (continue reading…)

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Monday Economic Report – April 20, 2015

Here is the summary for this week’s Monday Economic Report:

Manufacturing production increased 0.1 percent in March. This followed three months of weaker data, including declines in both January and February. There have been some significant headwinds hitting the manufacturing sector over the past few months, including a strong U.S. dollar, weakened economic markets abroad, lower crude oil prices, the West Coast ports slowdown and weather. These challenges have slowed activity in the sector since November. The latest Beige Book discussed these headwinds. The year-over-year pace of manufacturing production in March was 2.4 percent, down from 4.5 percent in November. Meanwhile, total industrial production, which includes mining and utilities, fell 0.6 percent in March, declining for the third time in the past four months. As such, the data suggest manufacturers have started the new year on a very soft note despite optimism for better demand and output moving forward. (continue reading…)

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Global Manufacturing Economic Update – April 17, 2015

Here is the summary for this month’s Global Manufacturing Economic Update: 

The global economic environment remains challenged, even as it continues to experience modest growth overall. The J.P. Morgan Global Manufacturing PMI, for instance, observed the highest production levels since August. Yet, the overall pace of expansion has clearly eased over the past few months. Along those lines, manufacturers in half of the top 10 markets for goods manufactured in the United States reported declining levels of activity in March, up from just two countries in February. Three Asian economies shifted into contraction territory for the month: China, Hong Kong and South Korea. In addition, Brazil and Canada remained challenged, with the latter struggling on lower crude oil prices. Manufacturing in the emerging markets also stagnated in March, with weaknesses in a number of nations counteracting progress in others. (continue reading…)

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Higher Gasoline Costs Help Increase Consumer Prices for the Second Straight Month

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that the consumer price index increased for the second straight month in March, up 0.2 percent. This was largely due to higher gasoline prices, which increased 2.4 percent and 3.9 percent in February and March, respectively. To be fair, the price of regular gasoline remains 29.2 percent lower today than it was 12 months ago. Indeed, the average price of regular gasoline rose from $1.982 a gallon on January 26 to $2.348 per gallon on March 30, according to the Energy Information Administration. It has edged marginally lower since then, down to $2.317 per gallon on April 13, or earlier this week. (continue reading…)

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Philly Fed: Modest Manufacturing Growth in April, but With Lingering Challenges

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said that manufacturing activity picked up a bit in April after softening over the past three months. The composite index of general business activity rose from 5.0 in March to 7.5 in April. This suggests modest growth overall, even as it continues to show an expansion that was slower than at the end of last year. The headline index was 24.3 in December, for instance. The Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey continues to reflect mostly positive attitudes moving forward, despite headwinds that will continue to challenge growth. One of those headwinds has been a stronger U.S. dollar. (continue reading…)

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Housing Starts Remained Weak in March

The Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said that residential construction activity remained weak for the second straight month. New housing starts increased 2.0 percent, up from an annualized 908,000 in February to 926,000 in March. Each of those figures, however, remain below the 1,072,000 rate observed in January. They reflect reduced activity in every region of the country, most notably in the Midwest, Northeast and West. Poor weather conditions have been a factor in some regions, and along those lines, starts in the Midwest and Northeast rebounded somewhat as they recovered from heavy snowstorms the month before. (continue reading…)

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Manufacturing Production Edged Marginally Higher in March

Manufacturing production increased 0.1 percent in March, according to the Federal Reserve Board. This followed three months of weaker data, including declines in both January and February. There have been some significant headwinds hitting the manufacturing sector over the past few months, including a strong U.S. dollar, weakened economic markets abroad, lower crude oil prices, the West Coast ports slowdown and weather. It is clear that these challenges have slowed activity in the sector since November. The year-over-year pace of manufacturing production in March was 2.4 percent, down from 4.5 percent in November. In addition, manufacturing capacity utilization was unchanged at 77.1 percent, down from 78.1 percent in November. (continue reading…)

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