Tag: economic outlook

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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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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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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NFIB: Small Business Owners More Optimistic, with Lingering Concerns

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) said that its Small Business Optimism Index rose from 95.3 in September to 96.1 in October, rebounding back to where it was in August. Small business leaders have become more confident as the year has evolved, with the index moving higher after bottoming out at 91.4 in February. Since the first quarter, the Optimism Index has averaged 95.7. At the same time, small business owners remain somewhat anxious, with the index remaining below the key threshold of 100, the level that would indicate strong growth for the sector. The index has now been below 100 since October 2006. (continue reading…)

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Monday Economic Report – November 3, 2014

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

The U.S. economy grew 3.5 percent at the annual rate in the third quarter, representing decent growth following the disappointing first half of 2014. Consumer and business spending, which rebounded strongly in the second quarter, extended those gains in the third quarter, albeit with some easing in the pace of growth. Exports were also up strongly for the quarter, and imports were down. Dramatic inventory swings over the past three quarters were also evident, with stockpiles searching for a new normal. After adding 1.47 percentage points to real GDP in the second quarter, slower inventory replenishment subtracted 0.57 percent in the third quarter, making it one of the few negatives in the report. (continue reading…)

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Conference Board: After Ebbing in September, Consumer Confidence Rebounded in October

The Conference Board said that consumer sentiment rebounded in October after ebbing in September. The Consumer Confidence Index rose from 89.0 in September to 94.5 in October. This was higher than the 93.4 reading observed in August, and both figures were the highest since October 2007, seven years ago and pre-dating the recession. Overall, Americans have become more confident over the course of the past year. In October 2013, the index stood at 72.0, and the public was worried about economic growth in light of the budget deadlock and the government shutdown. (continue reading…)

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Monday Economic Report – October 27, 2014

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

What a difference a week makes. After a volatile week in financial markets amid worldwide economic worries, things calmed down last week. While the Dow Jones Industrial Average remains 2.7 percent below its all-time high on September 19, it gained 425 points last week, or 2.6percent. Attitudes shifted to a more positive stance on decent earnings reports and on news that firms remain mostly upbeat in their outlook. (continue reading…)

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Retail Sales Were Weaker in September

The Census Bureau said that retail sales declined 0.3 percent in September, suggesting softness in consumer spending as we begin the autumn months. Indeed, spending was down mostly across-the-board, which was disappointing. It was the first decline in retail sales since the weather-induced weakness observed in January. On the positive side, year-over-year growth in retail spending continues to be at fairly decent rates, up 4.3 percent over the past 12 months. This was down from a 5.0 percent pace, however, in August.

Clothing and accessories (down 1.2 percent), building materials (down 1.1 percent), nonstore retailers (down 1.1 percent), gasoline stations (down 0.8 percent) and motor vehicles and parts (down 0.8 percent) were among the sectors with the largest declines in retail spending. A fair share of the decrease for gasoline stations stemmed from lower gasoline prices, with the average price per gallon of regular gasoline dropping from $3.410 for the week of September 1 to $3.304 for the week of September 29. (The average has fallen further to $3.147 a gallon this week.) In addition, motor vehicle sales have continued to be a strength (up 9.5 percent year-over-year) despite the decline in September.

In contrast, electronics and appliances (up 3.4 percent), food services and drinking places (up 0.6 percent), health and personal care (up 0.3 percent) and general merchandise (up 0.2 percent) stores notched retail sales gains in September. The increase in electronics spending was likely spurred by the introduction of new iPhones from Apple.

Overall, retail sales figures suggest that Americans remain quite cautious. Lower gasoline prices should help fuel additional spending in the coming months, with the National Retail Federation forecasting holiday sales growth of 4.1 percent this year. Yet, the fact that we are starting fall with weaker data suggests that consumer sentiment remains anxious. Hopefully, retail spending will pick up in the coming months.

Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers. 

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NFIB: Small Business Optimism Edged a Little Lower in September

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) said that small business sentiment edged lower in September. The Small Business Optimism Index dropped from 96.1 in August to 95.3 in September. Still, small business owners’ sentiment has largely improved after waning in the first quarter of 2014, when the index bottomed out at 91.4 in February. Nonetheless, after peaking at 96.6 in May (its highest level since September 2007), the index has eased somewhat. This suggests that small firms continue to have anxieties about economic growth despite recent progress. Moreover, the index remains below 100 – a level that would indicate health in the small business sector.

Indeed, many of the underlying data points were softer in September. For instance, the net percentage of respondents expecting sales to be higher in the next three months has fallen from 15 percent in May to 5 percent in September. Along those lines, the net percentage planning to hire more workers in the next three months has declined from 13 percent in July (a seven-year high) to 9 percent in September. In addition, capital spending plans over the next three to six months also dropped slightly, down from 27 percent in August to 22 percent in September.

Interestingly, the percentage of small business owners saying that the next three months were a “good time to expand” improved, up from 9 percent in August to 13 percent in September (its highest level since December 2007, the first month of the recession). As such, these data definitely have a nuanced perspective, showing both improvements in the economy and persistent challenges. Economic worries and the political climate were the main reasons noted for those suggesting that it was not a good time for expansion. Regulations were the “single most important problem,” cited by 22 percent of respondents. This was followed by taxes (21 percent) and poor sales (14 percent).

Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers. 

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Global Manufacturing Economic Report – October 10, 2014

Here is the summary for this month’s Global Manufacturing Economic Update: 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) slightly downgraded its global outlook earlier this week, with Asia, Europe and South America growing slower than expected three months ago. The IMF now expects world output to expand 3.3 percent and 3.8 percent in 2014 and 2015, respectively, down from 3.4 percent and 4.0 percent as estimated in its July report. One notable exception to this downward trend was the United States, with the IMF raising its 2014 forecast from 1.7 percent to 2.2 percent real GDP growth. This reflects recent strength in the U.S. economy, particularly when compared to other nations. To be fair, the IMF had more optimistic expectations for growth coming into this year, projecting 2.8 percent growth in 2014 in its January report. After disappointing growth in the first quarter, however, it lowered its outlook projections, much like everyone else.

One of the bigger challenges remains Europe. The Markit Eurozone Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) continued to decelerate in September, with activity just shy of being stagnant. New orders contracted for the first time since June 2013, when the Eurozone was emerging from its deep two-year recession. Indeed, the fear is that Europe will once again sink back into recession, with contracting levels of activity seen in four nations in September: Austria, France, Germany and Greece. Of particular note on this list was Germany, the largest economy in Europe. Real GDP was unchanged in the second quarter, down from 0.2 percent growth in the first quarter. Meanwhile, both industrial production and retail sales were higher in August. We will get new production data next week, and it is expected to be softer. For its part, the European Central Bank kept its monetary policies unchanged, but there is an expectation of further stimulus in the coming months.

Meanwhile, Brazil, Russia, India and China also continue to experience softness. Brazil shifted into its fifth contraction so far this year, but investors are cautiously optimistic about the upcoming runoff election between incumbent President Dilma Rousseff and Aécio Neves, who is favored by business leaders. Russia, India and China are growing, but just barely. China’s manufacturing sector has shown signs of stabilization, but stronger growth remains elusive. A number of key economic indicators in China have continued to decelerate this year, including industrial production, and it is likely that real GDP will decline from 7.5 percent growth in the second quarter to 7.3 percent in the third quarter. India’s PMI figure in September was at its lowest point this year, and Russian exports continue to fall. Nonetheless, it was not all bad news in the emerging markets. For instance, Indonesia, Turkey and Vietnam had their paces of new orders shift from negative to positive for the month, which bodes well for them.

The U.S. trade deficit narrowed marginally in August, although export growth remains sluggish so far this year. Looking at the top 10 markets for U.S.-manufactured goods, four countries (Brazil, Germany, Hong Kong and South Korea) experienced contracting levels of activity in September, which hampers our ability to sell products there. In addition, Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom also had marginally deteriorated demand and output in September, even as each continues to grow modestly. In contrast, manufacturing activity in Mexico and the Netherlands accelerated slightly in September.

U.S. trade negotiations in the Asia Pacific are moving forward with major meetings in Australia and China later this month and next. United States–European Union negotiations face increased controversy and new leadership at the EU Commission and Parliament. And, with the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement facing a continued stalemate, there are efforts to move the information technology talks to a conclusion and engage in the detailed environmental goods talks. The U.S. Export-Import Bank was granted a nine-month extension, but manufacturers remain highly concerned that continued uncertainty will put U.S. exporters at a disadvantage in global markets. Efforts continue to move forward on a host of trade legislation, including Trade Promotion Authority, the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill, customs reauthorization and the Generalized System of Preferences.

Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers. 

markit pmi for top 10 markets - oct2014

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