Economy

Wisconsin Added the Most Manufacturing Jobs in October

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that Wisconsin created the most net new manufacturing workers in October, hiring 5,400 additional employees for the month. Other states with significant increases in manufacturing employment in October included Pennsylvania (up 2,700), Indiana (up 2,500), Minnesota (up 2,300), Oregon (up 2,200) and South Carolina (up 2,100). Looking over the past 12 months, the five states with the greatest manufacturing employment gains were Indiana (up 24,100), Texas (up 14,900), Ohio (up 13,700), Wisconsin (up 12,100) and Minnesota (up 10,500). (continue reading…)

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Consumer Prices Were Unchanged in October

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that consumer prices were unchanged in October. Over the past 12 months, consumer inflation has risen 1.7 percent. In addition, core prices, which exclude food and energy costs, were up 1.8 percent year-over-year. As such, core inflation continues to remain below the Federal Reserve’s stated goal of 2 percent at the annual rate, which it has now done for 20 consecutive months. Overall, these trends mirror the producer price index data released earlier in the week.

In particular, Americans continue to benefit from falling energy prices, which declined 1.9 percent in October and have dropped in each of the past four months. Since peaking in June, total consumer energy costs have decreased 5.4 percent. Indeed, we have seen the average price of regular gasoline decline from $3.64 a gallon during the week of June 23 to $2.86 a gallon this week, according to the Energy Information Administration. (continue reading…)

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Philly Fed Manufacturers Were Very Positive about Activity in November

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said that manufacturing activity expanded very strongly in November, with its composite index measuring an off-the-chart 40.8 for the month. This was up from 20.7 in October, and you would have to go back two decades to find a higher figure (December 1993’s 41.2 reading). In fact, 49.2 percent of respondents to the Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey said that conditions had improved in November, up from 34.2 percent who said that same thing in October. Along those lines, the Philly Fed survey has registered above average index figures since the first quarter, averaging 23.0 from April to November. That suggests that manufacturers in the district are currently very positive about their businesses. (continue reading…)

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Markit: Chinese and European Economies Stalled in November

The HSBC Flash China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to neutral (50) in November, down from 50.4 in October. This was the weakest reading since Chinese respondents noted contracting levels of activity from January through May. Indeed, output contracted once again (down from 50.7 to 49.5) for the first time since May, which was not a good sign. Hiring (down from 48.9 to 48.4) was also negative for the 13th straight month. On the positive side, new orders (up from 51.2 to 51.4) edged slightly higher, and exports (down from 51.7 to 50.5) continued to expand, albeit at a much slower pace. (continue reading…)

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Housing Trends Remain Positive in October Despite a Slight Drop in Starts

The Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said that housing data were mixed in October, but the overarching trend line remains positive. New housing starts eased somewhat, down from a revised 1,038,000 annualized units in September to 1,008,000 in October. Yet, housing permits – a proxy of future activity – rose from 1,031,000 to 1,080,000 units. That was the highest level of residential permitting since June 2008, suggesting movement in the right direction. In addition, new starts have also edged higher, up from an average of 955,167 in the first half of 2014 to 1,027,000 in the four months so far in the second half. (continue reading…)

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Producer Prices for Final Demand Goods Declined for the Fourth Straight Month

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said that producer prices for final demand goods and services rose 0.2 percent in October. Yet, that gain stemmed mainly from increased costs for food (up 1.0 percent) and services (up 0.5 percent). Producer prices for final demand goods fell for the fourth straight month, down 0.4 percent. Falling energy costs (down 3.0 percent) continue to force the overall headline number lower. Indeed, prices for final demand energy goods have declined 5.9 percent since June, helping to decelerate overall inflationary pressures for producers.

At the same time, food prices rebounded from a softer September. Through the first 10 months of 2014, prices for final demand foods have risen 4.8 percent. In October, cooking oils, eggs, fruits, meats and vegetables accounted for the bulk of the monthly jump in food costs, with those same categories responsible for the year-to-date gains. (continue reading…)

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Industrial Production Disappoints in October

Manufacturing production rose 0.2 percent in October. At the same time, output in the sector was revised down from an original estimate of 0.5 percent in September to 0.2 percent. As such, manufacturing production has been weaker over the past three months than desired. Capacity utilization among manufacturers has also edged lower over this time frame, down 77.8 percent in July to 77.2 percent in October.

On a year-over-year basis, manufacturing production has risen 3.4 percent since October 2013. That indicates modest growth over the past 12 months, and yet, it also reflects a deceleration in the year-over-year pace since peaking in July at 4.9 percent. (continue reading…)

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NY Fed: Manufacturing Activity Picked Up Again in November

The Empire State Manufacturing Survey reported a pickup in activity again in November after slowing somewhat in October. The New York Federal Reserve Bank’s composite index of general business conditions rose from 6.2 in October to 10.2 in November. While this figure reflects continued expansion in the sector, it is perhaps notable that the headline figure had averaged 21.2 over the five months of May through September. As such, growth for manufacturers in the New York Fed district has been more modest in the fourth quarter than it was mid-year. (continue reading…)

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University of Michigan: Consumer Confidence at Highest Point Since July 2007

The University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters said that consumer confidence rose to its highest level since July 2007. Preliminary Consumer Sentiment Index data increased from 86.9 in October to 89.4 in November. This reflects continued improvement in Americans’ perceptions about the U.S. economy, with the headline figure rising from 75.1 in November 2013 (in the aftermath of the budget shutdown). Moreover, it mirrors similar data from the Conference Board, which also has reached a pre-recessionary high of late. (continue reading…)

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Retail Sales Bounced Back in October

The Census Bureau said that retail sales rose 0.3 percent in October, offsetting the 0.3 percent decline in September. This was slightly better than the consensus estimate of 0.2 percent growth for the month. Moreover, gasoline station sales fell 1.5 percent and have declined in four of the past five months. Of course, gasoline prices were largely behind this decrease, with the average price of regular gasoline dropping from $3.64 in late June to less than $2.91 last week. Excluding gasoline, spending would have risen 0.6 percent, suggesting better sales figures in the broader market. (continue reading…)

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