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
The Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said that new housing starts rose to a three-month high in June, recovering a bit from a springtime lull. New residential construction activity increased from an annualized 1,135,000 in May to 1,189,000 in June. This was not far from 1.2 million units, a threshold that the market seems unable to maintain of late. Nonetheless, I would expect 1.21 million housing units started by year’s end. Indeed, residential construction remains one of the brighter spots in the economy, and builders remain mostly upbeat about the next six months, according to the National Association of Home Builders. With that said, housing starts were off 2.0 percent over the past 12 months, mainly from volatility in the multifamily segment. Single-family starts were more indicative of recent strength, up 13.4 percent year-over-year.
In this report, both single-family (up from 745,000 to 778,000) and multifamily (up from 390,000 to 411,000) starts data were higher in June. New single-family residential construction activity grew at its fastest pace since February, and they continue a slow-but-steady trend higher. Single-family housing starts have averaged 776,333 year-to-date in 2016 through June, up from 675,833 for the same time frame in 2015. At the same time, the multifamily starting pace represented a nine-month high, with these figures experiencing large swings from month-to-month. The year-over-year comparison was skewed by an outsized gain in activity in June 2015 to 527,000 units. If you exclude that outlier, multifamily starts rose from an average of 368,800 through the first 5 months of 2015 to an average of 379,167 in the first half of 2016.
Meanwhile, housing permits increased from 1,136,000 to 1,153,000, a four-month high. Permits were slightly higher for both single-family (up from 731,000 to 738,000) and multifamily (up from 731,000 to 738,000) units. Permits are often a proxy for future activity, and in that light, the gain was somewhat encouraging, even if we might prefer faster growth. Much like the housing starts numbers, the year-over-year data were off sharply, down 13.6 percent from 1,334,000 housing permits in June 2015. The prior year’s permitting rate was skewed by strong multifamily activity, as noted above. Excluding that figure, growth in permits has been essentially unchanged, up from an average of 1,140,400 in the first 5 months of 2015 to 1,141,000 in the first half of 2015.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that consumer prices rose 0.2 percent in June, matching the gain seen in May. It marked the fourth straight monthly increase in consumer costs. Higher energy costs have helped to buoy these growth in consumer prices over that time frame, up 1.3 percent in June alone. With that said, energy prices have declined over the past year as a whole, down 9.4 percent, and they have generally helped to keep a lid on larger pricing pressures over that time frame. Food costs have also quite modest over the past year, up just 0.3 percent since June 2015, which has helped. In June, food prices were off by 0.1 percent, with costs lower for meats, dairy and fruits and vegetables. On a year-over-year basis, the consumer price index increased 1.1 percent, unchanged from the pace seen in the prior two releases but accelerating from 0.7 percent six months ago. Read More
The Empire State Manufacturing Survey said that manufacturing activity slowed to a crawl in July after rebounding in June. The composite index of general business conditions declined from 6.0 in June to 0.6 percent in July. On the positive side, the headline index had been -9.0 in May, suggesting some progress over the past couple months even if growth remained less than desired. The underlying data were generally weaker in this report, including new orders (down from 10.9 to -1.8) and shipments (down from 9.3 to 0.7). Nearly 29 percent of respondents in this survey said that orders were higher in July, down from 34.2 percent in June; conversely, the percentage stating decreased orders rose from 23.2 percent to 30.8 percent for the month. The labor market data continued to be discouraging. Hiring (down from zero to -4.4) and the average employee workweek (down from -5.1 to -5.5) were both negative. Read More
Manufacturing production rebounded in June after a disappointing May report. Output in the sector rose by 0.4 percent in June, following a decline of 0.3 percent in May. Strong growth in the motor vehicles and parts segment, up 5.9 percent, helped to boost the headline number. Yet, despite some progress in June, it is safe to say that manufacturing activity remains quite challenged. Over the past 12 months, manufacturing production has risen by just 0.4 percent. That is an improvement from the year-year over year decline of 0.2 percent seen in May, but such sluggish growth was indicative of recent struggles that manufacturers have had in light of global headwinds. Capacity utilization increased from 74.8 percent to 75.1 percent, but that remained lower than the 75.3 percent utilization rate observed in June 2015. Read More
The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that producer prices for final goods and services rose 0.5 percent in June, its fastest monthly pace in 13 months. At the same time, producer prices for final demand goods jumped 0.8 percent in June, extending the 0.7 percent gain seen in May. Food and energy prices were up 0.9 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively, for the month. Regarding energy, the price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil has risen from an average of $30.32 in February to $48.76 in June, its highest point since July 2015. Meanwhile, the rise in food prices in June for goods producers came largely from higher costs for beef, finfish and shellfish, fruits and melons, grains, oilseeds, pork and shortening and cooking oils. Despite the rises this month, food costs have trended lower over the past 12 months, down 2.3 percent, with energy prices off 11.3 percent year-over-year.
Producer prices for final demand goods and services have increased 0.3 percent since June 2015, up from being unchanged year-over-year in May. Core inflation also inched higher for the month, up from 1.2 percent year-over-year in May to 1.3 percent in June. That was the fastest pace for year-over-year core producer price growth since January 2015, and yet, overall pricing pressures remain under control for now. Indeed, core producer prices have remained below the Federal Reserve’s stated goal of 2 percent for 25 straight months. This frees the Federal Open Market Committee to continue pursuing stimulative monetary policies, albeit with a sense that prices are starting to accelerate somewhat.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that manufacturing job openings pulled back in May after achieving an all-time high in April. Postings in the sector declined from a revised 397,000 in April to 353,000 in May. That still represented progress from February’s pace of 320,000 job openings, and year-to-date in 2016, postings have averaged 349,000, up from 311,000 for 2015 as a whole. Reduced openings from durable (down from 208,000 to 185,000) and nondurable (down from 190,000 to 168,000) goods manufacturers pulled the headline number lower in May. The April data appear to be a bit of an outlier for both durable and durable goods firms, with the May numbers more consistent with recent trends. Still, positive upward movement for job openings over the course of the past year continue to provide some optimism for faster hiring growth moving forward. Read More
The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) said that sentiment among small business owners edged slightly higher in June. The Small Business Optimism Index increased from 93.8 in May to 94.5 in June, its highest level since December. It marked some continued improvement from March’s two-year low in optimism, even as small firms continue to be concerned about the overall economic outlook. As a sign of this caution, the percentage suggesting that the next three months would be a “good time to expand” inched down from 9 percent to 8 percent, with economic conditions and the political climate cited by those saying that it would not be a good time for expansion. Read More