Tag: economic outlook

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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ISM: Manufacturing Production Continues to Expand Strongly, but Activity Eased Slightly Overall

The Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) continues to reflect a strong expansion, but activity eased slightly overall in September. The headline figure dropped from 59.0 in August to 56.6 in September, which was weaker than anticipated. August’s reading had been the highest level since March 2011, and the pullback in September stemmed from slower paces of growth for new orders (down from 66.7 to 60.0), employment (down from 58.1 to 54.6) and exports (down from 55.0 to 53.5). It is likely that softer growth abroad and geopolitical events have dampened some enthusiasm, particularly on the international sales figures.

Despite some reduced data points for the month, manufacturers remain mostly positive. For instance, the pace of production (up from 64.5 to 64.6) was marginally higher in September, with the index exceeding 60 – indicating strong growth – for four consecutive months. Likewise, the new orders index has measured 60 or higher for three straight months. As such, it suggests that manufacturing leaders continue to see strengths, albeit with less optimism that the month before. The sample comments tend to support this interpretation, with several of them noting increased demand, sales and shipments.

While it is disappointing that the employment index declined somewhat in September, the longer term trend line reflects improvements from earlier in the year. For instance, the hiring measures averaged 57.0 in the third quarter, a nice step up from the 51.9 and 53.4 averages in the first and second quarters, respectively.

Overall, manufacturing sentiment was a bit softer than expected in September, but the underlying data show strong expansions in both demand and output. Manufacturing leaders are mostly positive about the coming months. This is largely consistent with the findings of our most recent NAM/IndustryWeek Survey of Manufacturers, which observed two year highs in respondents’ outlook. Yet, business leaders are also keenly aware of possible risks on the horizon. This includes geopolitical events, slowing economic growth in key export markets, a still-cautious consumer, workforce challenges, and other possible downside risks.

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

ism

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Conference Board: Consumer Confidence Unexpectedly Fell in September

The Conference Board said that consumer sentiment unexpectedly fell in September to its lowest level since May. The Consumer Confidence Index declined from a revised 93.4 in August to 86.0 in September. This pullback was even more disappointing given the fact that August’s reading had been the highest since October 2007, nearly seven years ago and pre-dating the recession. Therefore, while confidence remains higher today than earlier in the year, it is clear that Americans still remain anxious about the economy and about labor and income growth. It is also possible that geopolitical events have put the public on edge, dampening optimism. We have similar concerns in comparable data from the University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters.

Indeed, perceptions about current (down from 93.9 to 89.4) and future (down from 93.1 to 83.7) conditions were both lower for the month, particularly the latter. The percentage of respondents saying that jobs were “plentiful” dropped from 17.6 percent to 15.1 percent, and the percentage expecting their incomes to decrease rose from 11.6 percent to 13.4 percent. These data tend to suggest that there are nagging worries about jobs and the economy. Yet, there were also some positives. The percentage of those taking the survey who felt that their incomes would increase rose from 15.5 percent to 16.8 percent, and overall, many of these measures had made improvements over recent months despite the declines in September.

Buying intentions were also mixed, largely mirroring the reduced confidence described above. The percentages planning to buy a new automobile (down from 13.5 to 12.0 percent) and home (down from 5.3 percent to 4.9 percent) were both lower; yet, the percentage planning to purchase new appliances increased from 45.7 percent to 51.3 percent.

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

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Business Economists Anticipate “Steady” Growth in Second Half of 2014 and for 2015

Economists with the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) expect steady growth for the rest of this year and for next year. Respondents predict real GDP growth of 3.0 percent in the third quarter of 2014, 3.1 percent in the fourth quarter, and 3.0 percent for all of 2015. As such, it suggests that business economists feel that we have made significant progress in growth since weaknesses in the first quarter of this year.

You can see this rebound in the manufacturing figures, with panelists predicting 4.0 percent and 3.6 percent industrial production growth in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Each figure was marginally higher than in the June survey. These results are consistent with the mostly upbeat data seen in the latest NAM/IndustryWeek Survey of Manufacturers, which had sales, capital spending and hiring expectations at two-year highs. In terms of auto production, light vehicle sales should rise from an average of 15.5 million annualized units in 2013 to 16.3 million and 16.7 million in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

Meanwhile, housing starts should continue to move higher, up from an annualized 1.00 million in 2014 to 1.17 million in 2015, according to the panelists. Note that this reflects some easing in growth rates for the housing sector, as the June survey had predicted 1.27 million units by the end of 2015. The inability of business to obtain credit was the biggest factor for recent softness in the housing market, cited by 65 percent of those taking the survey. Yet, the longer-term trend remains positive.

The forecast was also encouraging in other areas. For instance, capital spending should continue to improve, with healthy gains for fixed investments in nonresidential structures, equipment and software, and intellectual property products. In terms of jobs, nonfarm payrolls should average 228,000 per month in 2014 and 211,000 in 2015. Business economists also expect the unemployment rate to drop to 5.7 percent by the end of 2015, down from 6.1 percent right now.

Regarding the Federal Reserve, nearly 70 percent of all respondents felt that the Fed would start raising short-term interest rates in either the second or third quarters of 2015.

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

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The U.S. Economy Grew 4.6 Percent in the Second Quarter

The Bureau of Economic Analysis said that the economy expanded an annualized 4.6 percent in the second quarter. This is the second revision for real GDP growth rates, up from earlier estimates of 4.0 percent and 4.2 percent.  This was the fastest pace of quarterly growth since the fourth quarter of 2011. Still, the second quarter figure largely reflected a rebound from softness in the first quarter, with activity down 2.1 percent. As such, the U.S. economy grew frustratingly slow in the first half of 2014, averaging 1.2 percent at the annual rate between the first and second quarters.

This revision reflected improved nonresidential fixed investment and goods exports data relative to prior estimates. Nonetheless, the overarching conclusions remained the same. Consumer and business spending were the big bright spots in the second quarter, collectively adding 4.6 percentage points to real GDP. Changes in inventories alone contributed 1.4 percentage points to growth, with businesses restocking their shelves after letting them deplete in the first quarter. There were also strong rebounds in goods spending and investments in both residential and nonresidential fixed investments.

In contrast, net exports and government spending offset each other in their quarterly contribution to real GDP. Goods exports increased sharply, but not enough to counteract even-stronger gains in goods imports. Likewise, reduced defense spending at the federal level served as a drag to real GDP growth; however, state and local government spending reflected generally improved financial positions, making their largest contribution to real GDP growth since the second quarter of 2009.

Moving forward, manufacturers remain mostly upbeat, and I estimate real GDP growth of 3.3 percent for the third quarter (which ends on September 30th next week). Moreover, my forecast for 2015 is for 3.2 percent real GDP growth, with continuing consumer and business spending strength and hopefully better export numbers.

Nonetheless, there are a number of downside risks out there, and it is clear that the public and business leaders remain tentative in their optimism. Beyond geopolitical worries, manufacturers would like to see better economic growth globally, a less-cautious consumer domestically, and continued improvements in the housing sector. In addition, policymakers would be wise to adopt pro-growth measures that will enable even-stronger growth in the sector such as focusing on a long-term re-authorization of the Export-Import Bank.

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

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Monday Economic Report – September 22, 2014

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

Manufacturing production declined unexpectedly in August, led lower by reduced motor vehicle output. This drop was likely the result of automakers’ switching over to a new model year and summer vacations. Indeed, auto production has risen 8.1 percent over the past 12 months, continuing to make it one of the bright spots in the economy. Excluding autos, manufacturing output rose 0.1 percent, suggesting slightly better news for the broader sector. Still, the larger story is the accelerated pace of output seen since the winter months, with the year-over-year pace up from 1.6 percent in January to 4.0 percent in August. Durable and nondurable goods production has increased 5.6 percent and 2.2 percent year-over-year, respectively. Hopefully, the August figures reflect a brief pause before picking up again in September.

Regional sentiment surveys tend to suggest that this might be the case. The Empire State Manufacturing Survey from the New York Federal Reserve Bank said that business conditions rose at their fastest pace in nearly five years, with 46 percent of those taking the survey saying that the environment had improved in the month. At the same time, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank’s Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey found healthy rates of growth in September, even as the pace pulled back slightly from very strong gains in August. Each of these two surveys reported higher levels for new orders and shipments, but they were mixed regarding hiring growth. Nonetheless, manufacturers in both districts were overwhelming upbeat about the next six months, with more than half of respondents predicting sales increases. Moreover, the Philly Fed found that a majority of those taking its survey expect production to increase in the third and fourth quarters.

Meanwhile, housing starts fell from an annualized 1,117,000 units in July to 956,000 in August. To be fair, the July figure—the second fastest pace since November 2007—was likely an outlier, and the pendulum—not unexpectedly—swung back somewhat. Yet, the slowdown in August was still disappointing. On the bright side, while single-family and multi-family unit starts and permits were both down, the highly volatile multi-family segment comprised the bulk of the decline. Looking at a longer time horizon, each has continued a slow, but steady upward trajectory. I continue to expect housing starts to be solidly at 1.1 million by year’s end. Indeed, home-builder confidence was equally optimistic about better figures moving forward, with the Housing Market Index at its highest level since November 2005.

The Federal Reserve Board provided the other major headline from last week. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) began laying out its principles for winding down the extraordinary stimulus that it has pursued since the financial crisis at the end of 2008. The Fed will end its purchases of long-term and mortgage-backed securities after its October FOMC meeting, and the expectation is that short-term interest rates will begin to “normalize” at some point in 2015. The federal funds rate, however, will remain near zero for a “considerable time after the asset purchase program ends,” a statement that some suggest means that normalization will not occur until mid-2015 at the earliest. Fortunately, news that consumer and producer pricing pressures eased in August was likely welcomed at the FOMC because it takes some pressure off of the Fed to act sooner, at least for now. (Inflation has accelerated from where it was earlier in the year, but remains below the Fed’s stated 2.0 percent goal.)

In its FOMC statement, the Federal Reserve said that “economic activity is expanding at a moderate pace.” Nonetheless, it continues to worry about slack in the economy, particularly in labor markets. The Fed predicts growth this year of between 2.0 and 2.2 percent, with 2.6 to 3.0 percent real GDP growth next year. The unemployment rate is expected to fall to 5.9 or 6.0 percent by the end of 2014 and 5.4 to 5.6 percent by the end of 2015. In terms of inflation, the Fed forecasts prices growing by less than 2.0 percent over the next few years. If core inflation consistently exceeds 2.0 percent, it will give greater credence to hawks on the FOMC to increase rates sooner rather than later.

This week, we will get a sense of how manufacturing activity is faring globally with preliminary purchasing managers’ index (PMI) data from Markit for China, the Eurozone and the United States. The Chinese economy has begun to stabilize after slowing earlier in the year, but is still not growing by much. European growth has effectively come to a halt. In the United States, however, recent PMI data have reflected healthy gains in both demand and output over the summer months. We will also get new surveys from the Kansas City and Richmond Federal Reserve banks. Beyond those surveys, we will get the second revision to real GDP growth for the second quarter on Friday, with a consensus estimate of 4.3 percent growth, or just slightly higher than the previous 4.2 percent figure.

Other highlights this week include the latest data on consumer confidence, durable goods orders and shipments, and existing and new home sales.

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

housing starts and permits - sept2014

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