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Conference Board: Consumer Confidence at Highest Level Since August 2007

Consumer confidence rose to its highest level since August 2007, just a few months before the start of the Great Recession. The Consumer Confidence Index from the Conference Board increased from 93.1 in December to 102.9 in January. The increase in perceptions was more than likely positively influenced by lower gasoline prices and better economic news of late. Indeed, the index of present conditions, which gauges sentiment on the current economic environment, jumped from 99.9 to 112.6. The forward-looking subcomponent also improved, up from 88.5 to 96.4. (continue reading…)

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Richmond Fed: Manufacturing Activity Continues to Grow Modestly

The Richmond Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing activity continued to expand modestly in January. The composite index of general business conditions edged marginally lower, down from 7 in December to 6 in January. While this represented a slower pace than the more-robust growth seen in October, when the composite index measured 20, it did represent the tenth consecutive monthly expansion in the Richmond Fed district. Moreover, growth in shipments (up from 5 to 10), capacity utilization (up from -5 to 9) and the average workweek (up from 4 to 8) accelerated for the month, which were encouraging signs. (continue reading…)

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Durable Goods Orders Were Disappointing in December

The Census Bureau said that new durable goods orders fell 3.4 percent in December, ending the year on a weak note. Orders for durable goods declined in four of the past five months. As such, manufacturing activity in the second half of 2014 was less-than-desired, providing a bit of a contrast with better demand and sentiment data elsewhere. The sluggish global economic environment probably played a role in this softness. On a year-over-year basis, durable goods orders have risen only 0.3 percent since December 2013. On the other hand, they were up 2.9 percent from the weather-related slowdown of January. (continue reading…)

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Dallas Fed: Reduced Energy Prices Have Weakened Manufacturing Activity

Texas manufacturers have been hurt by lower petroleum prices. The Dallas Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing activity contracted in its district for the first time since May 2013, with reduced energy prices weakening demand and dampening the outlook. The composite index of general business activity has declined from 10.1 in November to 3.5 in December to -4.4 in January. The bulk of the sample comments, for instance, mentioned crude oil prices, both for those in the energy supply chain and from others who are worried about the impacts on the broader Texas economy.   (continue reading…)

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Business Economists Were More Optimistic in the Latest Industry Survey

The National Association for Business Economics (NABE) said that sales and earnings have improved, with a mostly upbeat outlook for 2015. The latest Business Conditions Survey observed that industry participants were more optimistic in January than they were in October. The percentage of respondents saying that their sales were rising increased from 49 percent three months ago to 54 percent now. This was somewhat offset, however, by an increase in the percentage suggesting that their sales were falling, up from 7 percent to 15 percent. Therefore, the news on current demand was mixed. Still, business leaders continue to be positive moving forward, with 69 percent of goods-producing respondents expecting sales to rise in the next three months, up from 58 percent in October. (continue reading…)

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Monday Economic Report – January 26, 2015

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

The European Central Bank (ECB) finally announced its long-awaited quantitative easing program on Thursday. The ECB will purchase 60 million euros in bonds each month until September 2016—totaling at least 1.1 trillion euros overall—in an attempt to stimulate growth. Depending on where the Eurozone economy stands pointing September 2016, the ECB might extend its purchasing beyond that point. The impact on the euro was almost immediate, with the euro exchanging for $1.1206 at Friday’s close, down from $1.3927 on March 17, the high point of 2014. This will complicate manufacturers’ ability to sell goods into Europe, something that was mentioned in the sample comments in the latest Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank’s monthly survey (see below). (continue reading…)

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January Chinese and Eurozone PMI Figures Move Higher, But Global Softness Remains

Even as the global economy remains soft, there were some signs of stabilization in Asia and Europe, according to the most recent purchasing managers’ index (PMI) data. The Markit Flash Eurozone Manufacturing PMI increased from 50.6 in December to 51.0 in January. This was the highest level since July. The pace of growth for new orders (up from 50.2 to 50.4), output (up from 50.9 to 52.2) and employment (up from 50.6 to 50.9) each picked up somewhat. At the same time, exports (down from 51.6 to 50.7) eased slightly but continued to expand. (continue reading…)

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Kansas City Fed: Manufacturers Began the New Year on a Softer Note

The Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing activity slowed in January, beginning the new year on a softer note. The composite index of general business conditions dropped from 8 in December to 3 in January, its lowest level in five months. Underlying this figure, new orders (down from 14 to -8), production (down from 7 to -2), shipments (down from 8 to -5) and exports (down from zero to -7) declined for the month, and hiring (down from 8 to zero) stagnated. On the positive side, it was the 13th straight month with expanding levels of sentiment, and manufacturers remain mostly optimistic about the coming months. (continue reading…)

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Housing Starts Rebounded in December, with Progress from Earlier in the Year

The Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said that new residential construction rebounded in December. New housing starts rose from an annualized 1,043,000 in November to 1,089,000 in December. These data have been up and down for much of the second half of 2014, with December’s value not far from October’s 1,092,000 reading. The underlying story, however, is one of progress. Housing starts averaged 1,052,167 in the second half of 2014, which was a nice improvement from the 955,167 average observed in the first half. In continue to predict that housing starts will exceed 1.1 million in the coming months, and this latest data are relatively close to that mark. (continue reading…)

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Monday Economic Report – January 20, 2015

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

Financial markets around the world continued to react to the softening global economic environment. In particular, foreign exchange markets were rocked by news that Switzerland would no longer support its cap on the franc, where that currency has been seen as a safe haven, particularly against the euro. Almost immediately, the Swiss franc appreciated sharply against the euro and other currencies. For its part, the euro has continued to depreciate against the U.S. dollar, with one euro selling for $1.1581 on Friday. This was down $1.3927 on March 17, the high point of 2014, representing an appreciation of more than 17 percent for the U.S. dollar against the euro. These developments could hurt the ability of manufacturers in the United States to grow exports. (continue reading…)

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