The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said that manufacturing activity continued to expand strongly in July, even as it pulled back from nearly a three-year high in June. The ISM Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) decreased from 57.8 in June, its strongest reading since August 2014, to 56.3 in July. Despite some easing in many of the key measures in this survey, the underlying data reflect healthy expansions in demand and output, with manufacturers mostly upbeat in their outlook. The sample comments tend to echo these sentiments, noting strong sales, exports and profits. In addition, better growth in the sector has exacerbated workforce challenges, with one respondent suggesting, “Labor shortages are pretty universal, leading to longer lead times through the supply chain.” Read More
The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that personal spending inched up 0.1 percent in June, slowing from 0.2 percent growth in May. Personal consumption expenditures (PCEs) declined for both durable and nondurable goods, but service-sector spending increased. We have seen spending pull back from more robust growth at the end of last year. To illustrate this shift, personal spending rose 2.9 percent at the annual rate in the first half of 2017, easing from the annualized 4.8 percent rate in the second half of 2016. On a year-over-year basis, personal spending has risen 3.8 percent.
Even with some easing, however, consumer purchases continue to expand at a decent clip. This can be seen in the saving rate data, which dropped to 3.8 percent in June. One year ago, the saving rate was 5.1 percent. This is a sign that Americans have accelerated their purchases in general over the past 12 months.
The Dallas Federal Reserve Bank reported that manufacturing activity remained strong in July. The composite index of general business activity increased from 15.0 in June to 16.8 in July, expanding for the 10th straight month. Overall, the data reflect some progress in the Texas economy, with the headline index jumping from an average of 4.0 in the second half of 2016 to 18.5 through the first seven months of 2017. Despite the optimism in the headline number, the sample comments provided mixed assessments of the current economic climate, with two respondents suggesting their activity was “good, not great.” Another referred to it as the “summertime blues.” Yet, the majority remained mostly positive in their outlook even as they grapple with challenges ranging from foreign competition to difficulties in identifying qualified workers. Read More
The Bureau of Economic Analysis said that the U.S. economy grew by an annualized 2.6 percent in the second quarter, according to preliminary data. In addition, it revised first quarter growth down from 1.4 percent to 1.2 percent. As a result, the real GDP increased by 1.9 percent at the annual rate in the first half of 2017. For the year a whole, I am currently predicting real GDP growth of 2.2 percent, with 2.6 percent growth for the current third quarter. This is not far from the 2.1 percent average growth rate seen since the Great Recession, but I continue to believe that there is upward potential in the forecast, especially for 2018, if pro-growth policies are enacted.
Looking at the underlying data, consumer and business spending were the bright spots, with net exports also making a positive contribution for the second straight quarter. Personal consumption expenditures rose by 2.8 percent in the second quarter, accelerating from the 1.9 percent pace seen in the first quarter on an increased willingness to purchase goods. Along those lines, durable goods spending was marginally negative in the first quarter with consumers more cautious, but jumped 6.3 percent at the annual rate in the second quarter. With that said, spending on motor vehicles remained soft. Nondurable goods spending was also stronger, up 3.8 percent in the second quarter. Overall, personal spending contributed 1.93 percentage points to the top-line growth figure of 2.6 percent, including 1.02 percent from goods spending. Read More
The Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing activity expanded for the eighth straight month and continued to expand at a modest pace in July. With that said, the composite index of general business conditions edged down from 11 in June to 10 in July. The underlying data were mixed. On the positive side, new orders (up from 4 to 10) grew at a faster pace for the month to its best reading since March, and hiring (unchanged at 15) remained strong. Yet, other measures slowed, including production (down from 23 to 4) and the average workweek (down from 7 to 1). Nonetheless, shipments (down from 23 to -2) slipped into contraction for the first time in one year, and exports (down from 3 to -2) dropped for only the second time this year. The sample comments tended to mirror these differing views, ranging from signs of optimism in terms of sales to other respondents citing caution on capital spending and lingering challenges in identifying quality labor candidates. Read More
The Census Bureau said that growth in new durable goods orders leapt 6.5 percent, up from $230.7 billion in May to $245.6 billion to June, rebounding from declines in both April and May. This was the highest level since July 2014’s all-time high of $290.7 billion. Nonetheless, the bulk of that increase stemmed from a jump in nondefense aircraft and parts orders (up from $11.0 billion in May to $25.3 billion in June), likely centering around the International Paris Air Show. Excluding transportation equipment, new durable goods orders were up by 0.2 percent in June, extending the 0.6 percent gain seen in May. New durable goods orders have generally trended in the right direction over the course of the past 12 months. New durable goods have soared 16.1 percent since June 2016, but excluding transportation, the year-over-year gain was a still quite healthy 6.8 percent. Read More
The Richmond Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing activity in its district expanded more strongly in July, with activity accelerating to a 3-month high. The composite index of general business activity rose from 11 in June to 14 in July. (Note that these data have been revised from the prior release to reflect a new seasonal adjustment.) The sector has now expanded for 10 straight months – a sign that conditions have improved from more lackluster activity prior to that. Year-to-date, the headline index has averaged 13.3 so far in 2017, up from 2.1 in the same time period in 2016. In July, manufacturers in the mid-Atlantic region noted monthly pickups in new orders (up from 14 to 18), employment (up from 5 to 10), the average workweek (up from 1 to 9) and wages (up from 10 to 17), with shipments growth unchanged (13). The backlog of orders (up from -4 to 11) increased for the first time since April. Read More
The Conference Board said that consumer sentiment rebounded in July after a springtime lull. The Consumer Confidence Index increased from 117.3 in June to 121.1 in July, which was not far from March’s 16-year high (124.9). To illustrate the jump in sentiment, the headline index has averaged 118.3 year-to-date in 2017, up from an average of 95.6 in the same seven-month time period in 2016. In this report, the improvement in perceptions stemmed from a better assessments of both current (up from 143.9 to 147.8) and future (up from 99.6 to 103.3) conditions. The measure for the current economic environment rose to a level not seen since July 2001. Overall, more consumers said business conditions were “good,” up from 30.6 percent to 33.3 percent, with 13.5 percent citing “bad” conditions, which was unchanged. Read More
After soaring to new multiyear highs in each of the last few reports, the IHS Markit Flash Eurozone Manufacturing PMI declined from 57.4 in June, a level not seen since April 2011, to 56.8 in July, a three-month low. Despite the somewhat slower growth in this latest survey, the underlying trend remains positive, with European manufacturers continuing to expand at decent rates. New orders (down from 58.7 to 57.1) and output (down from 58.7 to 56.9) decelerated in July but mostly reflected strong growth, with exports (unchanged at 57.4) and employment (up from 55.9 to 56.0) remaining promising. In a similar way, the future output index (down from 67.4 to 66.5) indicated healthy expectations for the next six months, albeit with some easing. The forward-looking index had been at its highest point since it was introduced in mid-2012 in June, and the current data is not far from that level. Read More
Real GDP grew 1.4 percent in the first quarter, pulled lower by weak inventory spending and softer-than-desired consumer spending. At the same time, business investment was a bright spot in the report, and, according to new data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, so was manufacturing. Real value added output rebounded in the first quarter, up 4.7 percent after falling by 2.9 percent in the fourth quarter. As a result, manufacturers contributed 0.54 percentage points to headline growth in the first quarter, a notable improvement from the 0.39 percentage point drag seen in the fourth quarter. Indeed, it was the largest industrial contributor to real GDP growth in the release. Read More