ISM: Manufacturing Activity Expanded for Second Straight Month, Slowing a Little in April

By | Economy, General, Shopfloor Economics | No Comments

The Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) expanded for the second straight month, albeit at a slower pace in April. The composite index declined from 51.8 in March to 50.8 in April, but even with the decrease, this represented progress in the manufacturing sector after contracting for five consecutive months from October through February. New orders (down from 58.3 to 55.8) and production (down from 55.3 to 54.2) each grew at decent rates for the month despite some easing in this release, and exports (up from 52.0 to 52.5) accelerated, increasing for only the third time in the last 12 months.

Last month’s release helped to fuel the narrative that manufacturing activity was starting to stabilize, and the current data mostly support that view. At the same time, though, manufacturers remain challenged by global headwinds and still-low commodity prices, and a number of economic indicators have been disappointing, highlighting the fact that business’ struggles are still far from over. The sample comments tended to echo this nuanced view of modest improvements, with some respondents noting a pickup in sales while others cited ongoing sluggishness. One’s perspective was likely industry-specific. Read More

Markit: U.S. Manufacturing Activity Grew at the Slowest Pace since September 2009

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U.S. manufacturing activity grew at the slowest pace since September 2009, according to preliminary figures from Markit. The Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing PMI decreased from 51.5 in March to 50.8 in April. In general, the strong dollar and weaknesses abroad have dampened international demand and overall sentiment over the course of the past year. Manufacturing activity has decelerated significantly over the past 12 months, with the main PMI number down from 54.2 in April 2015. In this report, output (down from 51.4 to 50.3) and hiring (down from 52.1 to 50.2) each pulled back to a near-standstill, with exports (down from 50.0 to 48.5) contracting for the second time in the past three months. On the other hand, new orders (down from 52.8 to 52.0) continued to expand modestly, but with some easing for the month.

As such, this report stands in sharp contrast to the better-than-expected sentiment seen in the competing data from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM). In that release, new orders and output each grew surprisingly strong in March, lifting its manufacturing PMI value above 50 for the first time since August. It provided some encouragement after months of softness, even as other economic data – including this one from Markit – continue to suggest ongoing challenges. Read More

March Employment: Stabilized Demand, Production Does Not Translate Into #MFGJobs—Yet

By | Shopfloor Economics, Shopfloor Main | No Comments

It is clear hiring remains weak for manufacturers as they grapple with global headwinds and lingering anxieties about the overall economic outlook.  Employment in our sector declined by 29,000 in March. That said, we have begun to see some signs of stabilization for demand and production in other manufacturing data—but that has not translated into jobs just yet, according to today’s release. Meanwhile, nonfarm payrolls continued to make slow-but-steady gains, with growth near consensus estimates.

For the Federal Reserve, this report does not change much, as short-term rates were not likely to be increased at the upcoming meeting in April anyway. Instead, the Federal Open Market Committee will be looking for broader-based improvements in the U.S. economy as it prepares for its June meeting, and for manufacturers, we would hope that such data would include progress in the industrial sector. Manufacturers have been nervous about the Federal Open Market Committee raising rates too quickly, as they reported in the most recent NAM Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey.

Sluggish hiring for manufacturers should also force our political leaders to consider pro-growth policies to improve overall economic conditions and to allow our businesses to better compete in the global marketplace. The NAM has outlined its pro-manufacturing policy agenda in its “Competing to Win” document, which was released earlier this year.

Conference Board: Consumer Confidence Waned in February

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The Conference Board said that consumer sentiment waned again in February, with Americans nervous in their economic outlook. The Consumer Confidence Index dropped from 97.8 in January to 92.2 in February, its lowest level in seven months. Since June of last year, these data have been highly volatile, ranging from a low of 91.0 in July to 102.6 in September, with the latter being the second-highest reading since the recession. (The index peaked at a post-recessionary high of 103.8 in January 2015.) The high degree of change from month-to-month indicates just how anxious the public is right now, with recent financial market volatility likely dampening perceptions in this report. In February, consumers were less upbeat in their assessments of the current (down from 85.3 to 78.9) and future (down from 116.6 to 112.1) economy.

Respondents to this survey are often swayed by pocketbook issues, including worries about labor market prospects, and this release is no different. The percentage of those completing the survey suggesting that jobs were “plentiful” declined from 23.0 percent to 22.1 percent, with those saying that jobs were “hard to get” rising from 23.6 percent to 24.2 percent. In a similar fashion, the percent expecting their incomes to increase in the coming months decreased from 18.6 percent to 17.2 percent, with those predicting declining incomes increasing from 10.7 percent to 12.5 percent.


ISM: Manufacturing Activity Remained Negative in December for the Second Straight Month

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The Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) remained negative for the second straight month. The composite index fell from 48.6 in November to 48.2 in December, its lowest level since June 2009. As such, manufacturers reported soft demand and production activity at the end of 2015, which represented a sharp contrast to the modest growth seen 12 months prior to that. Indeed, the ISM Manufacturing PMI was 55.1 one year ago, and it peaked last year at 58.1 in August 2014. The sector has struggled with sluggish growth abroad and lower commodity prices over much of the past year, dampening overall manufacturing activity. Along those lines, new orders (up from 48.9 to 49.2) and production (up from 49.2 to 49.8) continued to indicate weaknesses in the sector, even as each recorded some easing in the pace of decline in December. To be fair, however, the sample comments also noted some segments that were doing well at year’s end, particularly those aligned with the automotive sector. Read More

Business Economists Noted Slower Growth in Sales in July than Earlier in the Year

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The National Association for Business Economics (NABE) said that activity slowed somewhat from earlier in the year, mirroring other indicators. In the latest Business Conditions Survey, respondents noted slightly weaker conditions than in prior reports, and yet, they also remained mostly upbeat about the second half of 2015. The net rising index for sales, for instance, has declined from 45 in July 2014 to 28 in this survey, with the percentage of those completing the survey observing rising sales dropping from 57 percent one year ago to 49 percent in April to 46 percent in July. Despite the drop in demand growth, this release continues to show sales growth that is more favorable than not, with just 18 percent of respondents citing declining sales in July. Along those lines, 59 percent of industry economists anticipate sales increases over the next three months. Read More

ISM: Manufacturing Activity Picked Up Somewhat in June

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The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing purchasing managers’ index picked up a little in June. The headline PMI increased from 52.8 in May to 53.5 in June, returning to a level last seen in January. As such, this report indicates that manufacturing activity has begun to recover from the softer demand, output and hiring levels experienced earlier in the year, with a number of economic headlines challenging the sector. Still, that does not mean that manufacturers are out of the woods yet, with activity expanding at a slower pace than desired. To illustrate this point, the manufacturing PMI averaged 56.9 in the second half of 2014, but has averaged 52.6 through the first six months of 2015. Read More

Conference Board: Consumer Confidence Jumped Higher in June

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The Conference Board said that consumer sentiment jumped higher in June. The Consumer Confidence Index increased from 94.6 in May to 101.4 in June, matching its level of March and coming after two months of softness in the data. Sentiment continues to remain below the post-recessionary peak observed in January (103.8), but overall, this report suggests that Americans’ attitudes have rebounded from weaknesses earlier in the year. In addition, confidence has risen from one year ago when the index was 86.4. Despite these improvements, the public continues to remain somewhat anxious about labor and income growth. Read More

ISM: Headline Number Unchanged at 51.5, but Orders and Production Rebounded a Little

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The Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) was unchanged at 51.5 in April. On the positive side, manufacturing activity has continued to expand very modestly, and yet, these data reflect softness in the market seen over the past few months. Six months ago, for instance, the PMI value was 57.9, and this headline number has trended lower since then. Demand and output have shifted into a lower gear on challenges from a stronger U.S. dollar, reduced crude oil prices, residual impacts from the West Coast ports slowdown, and other factors. The sample comments note that these headwinds were top-of-mind for survey respondents in this report. Read More

Markit: Chinese Manufacturing Activity Declined Again

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The HSBC Flash China Manufacturing PMI reflected reduced activity again, down from 50.7 in February to 49.2 in March. It has contracted in three of the past four months now, reflecting a decelerated rate of growth in China. China has reduced its target real GDP growth rate for 2015 to 7 percent. New orders (down from 50.4 to 49.3), exports (up from 47.1 to 49.0) and employment (down from 49.3 to 47.0) were all below 50 in March – the threshold signifying growth. It was the reduction in demand that pushed the headline index lower. On the positive side, output (unchanged at 50.8) continues to expand very modestly for the month, and the decrease in input prices (up from 42.2 to 44.7) have helped manufacturers in terms of costs, even as the rate of decline was less in March. Read More