The Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) said that manufacturing activity expanded for its fifth straight month in July, albeit with a slight easing for the month. The composite index edged down from 53.2 in June to 52.6 in July, but more importantly, this report suggests that manufacturers are doing better today than the contracting levels of activity seen in the October to February time frame. The boost in sentiment reported more recently has come from relatively strong expansions in new orders (down from 57.0 to 56.9) and production (up from 54.7 to 55.4), with the latter growing at its fastest pace in 12 months. Indeed, demand and output have now expanded for seven consecutive months, which is encouraging. Exports (down from 53.5 to 52.5) also slowed a bit in July but have expanded for five consecutive months, according to ISM. Read More
The latest gross domestic product (GDP) numbers confirm that the U.S. economy remains mired in slower-than-desired growth despite recent signs of progress in some data points. Real GDP grew just 1.2 percent in the second quarter, well below the consensus estimate of 2.6 percent, with first quarter growth revised down to 0.8 percent. This release reflects a rebound in consumer spending, but there were significant drags on activity from fixed investment and inventories. Indeed, manufacturers and other business leaders continue to be quite cautious, and as a result, they are holding back on capital spending and hiring, waiting for better signs of traction in the economy.
The U.S. economy has averaged 2.2 percent growth annually since the end of the Great Recession, and with this release, real GDP is likely to expand by 1.8 percent in 2016. That would, however, suggest a better second half of the year, as real GDP grew just 1.0 percent at the annual rate in the first half. With that in mind, we need policymakers – especially in this all-important election year – to focus on pro-growth measures that will spur stronger activity. Read More
After slightly expanding for the first time since January 2015 in June, manufacturing activity in the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank’s district contracted once again in July. The composite index of general business conditions dropped from 2 in June to -6 in July. This region has been challenged for much of the past two years by pullbacks in the energy sector and the stronger U.S. dollar, and the sample comments suggest that post-Brexit anxieties might have lowered sentiment in this release’s data. New orders (down from 4 to -5), production (down from 12 to -15) and shipments (down from 10 to -17) all returned to negative territory for the month. One-third of all respondents saying that their sales were lower in July, with 28 percent suggesting that sales were higher and 37 percent noting no change. At the same time, the rate of decline somewhat for both hiring (down from -4 to -5) and exports (down from -1 to -7). Interestingly, the average workweek (up from 1 to 7) widened in this report. Read More
The Census Bureau released advance statistics for a couple economic indicators for June, building off of its success in reporting preliminary figures on trade in recent months. Here is a run-down of some of the findings in this current release:
- International Trade in Goods: The goods trade deficit widened to a four-month high in preliminary data, up 3.7 percent from $61.1 billion in May to $63.3 billion in June. This was largely the result of an increase in goods imports for the month, up from $180.2 billion to $183.5 billion, which outpaced growth in goods exports, up from $119.1 billion to $120.2 billion. Final data will be released on August 5. Note that the U.S. trade deficit is also assisted by a surplus in service-sector activity, which was $21.1 billion in May. Exports were mixed by category. Consumer goods (up $879 million), foods, feeds and beverages (up $558 million) and capital goods (up $381 million) each had notable gains, but there were reduced exports for automotive vehicles (down $416 million), industrial supplies (down $158 million) and other goods (down $184 million). Meanwhile, the largest increases for goods imports in June were for industrial supplies (up $2.1 billion), consumer goods (up $1.6 billion) and capital goods (up $564 million).
- Wholesale and Retail Inventories: Wholesale inventories were essentially unchanged in June, up from $589.1 billion to $589.3 billion. Stockpiles for nondurable goods products were somewhat higher, up from $233.8 billion to $235.6 billion, but that increase was largely offset by reduced inventories for durable goods firms, down from $355.3 billion to $353.7 billion. At the same time, retail trade inventories grew 0.5 percent in June, up from $601.2 billion to $604.2 billion, boosted by strong gains at motor vehicles and parts dealers, up 1.0 percent from $208.2 billion to $210.3 billion. Excluding automobiles and parts, retail trade inventories were up 0.2 percent. Final numbers will be released on August 9.
The Census Bureau said that new durable goods orders fell sharply in June on reduced aircraft sales and broader weaknesses. New orders dropped from $229.0 billion in May to $219.8 billion in June, a decline of 4.0 percent. Moreover, on a year-over-year basis, sales have decreased by 6.4 percent since June 2015. This highlights the ongoing challenges in the sector over the course of the past 12 months or more. With that said, much of the decline in activity in June came from lower nondefense and defense aircraft orders, down 58.8 percent and 7.4 percent for the month, respectively. Note that airplane orders can often be choppy from month-to-month, especially for nondefense sales, with transactions often centering around large trade shows. Excluding transportation equipment, new orders for durable goods were off by 0.5 percent in June, with 3.6 percent decreases year-over-year. This indicated broader weaknesses in the sector, even if the declines were more modest than the headline number suggests.
Looking more closely at the various durable goods sectors, the data were mostly lower in June. The exceptions were motor vehicles and parts (up 2.6 percent) and electrical equipment and appliances (up 0.8 percent), both of which notched some gains. Those increases, however, were not enough to offset declining new orders aircraft sales, as noted above, and for computers and electronic products (down 2.2 percent), primary metals (down 1.3 percent), fabricated metal products (down 0.3 percent) and machinery (down 0.1 percent).
Meanwhile, durable goods shipments increased by 0.4 percent in June, rebounding from the 0.3 percent decrease seen in May. Nonetheless, the higher figure in this release was boosted by motor vehicles (up 2.7 percent), with transportation equipment orders up 1.4 percent for the month. Excluding transportation, shipments of durable goods declined by 0.2 percent. Indeed, the sector-by-sector breakdowns were mixed, but mostly negative. Shipments fell for fabricated metal products (down 0.7 percent), machinery (down 0.4 percent), electronic equipment and appliances (down 0.2 percent), computers and electronic products (down 0.1 percent) and other durable goods (down 0.1 percent). Beyond automobiles, other segments with higher orders in June were communications equipment (up 6.0 percent) and (primary metals (up 0.8 percent).
Since June 2015, durable goods shipments have fallen 2.0 percent, with a decline of 3.2 percent when transportation equipment were excluded.
The Richmond Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing activity in its district improved in July after weakening once again in June. The composite index of general business activity rebounded from -10 in June, its lowest reading since January 2013, to 10 in July. Indeed, the underlying data recovered across-the-board in this report, including new orders (up from -17 to 15), shipments (up from -8 to 7), capacity utilization (up from -11 to 3) and the average workweek (up from -7 to 1). In addition, manufacturers in the region accelerated their employment growth (up from 1 to 6) somewhat. Each of these indices were encouraging. Yet, this report has been highly volatile so far this year from month-to-month, with the headline number ranging from -10 in June to 17 in March. Hopefully, the expansion seen in July can be sustained moving forward. Read More
The Dallas Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing activity in its Texas district stabilized somewhat in July, even as sentiment has now contracted for 19 straight months. The composite index of general business conditions increased from -18.3 in June to -1.3 in July, bringing this measure closer to neutral territory. This shift was mirrored by better production (up from -7.0 to 0.4), capacity utilization (up from -9.3 to 0.3), shipments (up from -8.6 to 0.1) and capital expenditures (up from -2.1 to 4.8), with each index expanding slightly in July. As such, this release represented some progress for a state that has grappled with lower energy prices and the strong dollar over the past couple years. Read More
Interestingly, the last Markit survey’s responses on Eurozone manufacturing activity were due on June 23, the day of the “Brexit” vote for the United Kingdom to exit the European Union. In that survey, the Markit Eurozone Manufacturing PMI rose to a six-month high, with stronger data in most European markets, including Germany and the U.K. Suffice it to say, the surprise – at least for financial markets – decision for Britain to leave the European Union has shifted sentiment since then. In the latest survey, the Markit Flash Eurozone Manufacturing PMI fell to a two-month low, down from 52.8 in June to 51.9 to July, mainly on slowing new orders (down from 53.4 to 52.0). The composite measure, which includes the service sector, edged down from 53.1 to 52.9, its lowest level since January 2015 and off from 54.3 six months ago. Read More
As noted earlier, the U.S. economy grew by an annualized 1.1 percent in the first quarter, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis has now released data breaking out that growth by industry. In short, real value-added output in the manufacturing sector increased by 1.4 percent in the first quarter of 2016, slowing from 2.6 percent and 2.4 percent growth in the third and fourth quarters of 2015, respectively. As a result, manufacturers contributed 0.16 percentage points to headline growth in the first quarter, down from 0.31 percent and 0.29 percent in the prior two quarters.
Looking specifically at manufacturing in the first quarter, real value-added from nondurable goods firms rose 3.8 percent at the annual rate, but durable goods manufacturers saw output decline by 0.6 percent. Therefore, durable and nondurable goods businesses contributed -0.04 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively, to real GDP for the quarter. Read More
The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said that manufacturing sentiment in July contracted for the third time in the past four months (or the ninth time in the past 11 months). The composite index of general business activity declined from 4.7 in June to -2.7 in July. It is likely that post-Brexit worries negatively impacted assessments about the broader economy. Despite a decrease in the headline number, many of the underlying data points improved for the month. For instance, both new orders (up from -3.0 to 11.8) and shipments (up from -2.1 to 6.0) returned to expansion territory in July, which was encouraging. Indeed, the percentage of respondents suggesting that orders had increased for the month rose from 20.6 percent in June to 27.6 percent in July, with those noting declining sales dropping from 23.6 percent to 15.8 percent. Read More