Tag: exports

China’s Manufacturing Sector Contracted for the 4th Straight Month; U.S. and Europe Strengthened

Chinese manufacturing activity contracted for the fourth straight month. Yet, the pace of the decline slowed, with the HSBC Flash Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) up from 48.0 in March to 48.3 in April. The data largely mirrored the recent deceleration seen in other economic indicators, including China’s real GDP falling from an annualized 7.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 to 7.4 percent in the first quarter of 2014.

Despite the weaknesses, one could put a positive spin on the slightly better – but still contracting – levels of new orders (up from 46.9 to 47.7) and output (up from 47.3 to 48.0). On the other hand, employment (down from 49.3 to 48.6) and export sales (down from 51.4 to 49.3). Exports have now contracted in four of the past six months, which have no doubt negatively impacted overall manufacturing sentiment.

Meanwhile, the latest reports reflect renewed strengths in both Europe and the United States. While the Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing PMI edged marginally lower (down from 55.5 to 55.4), production growth (up from 57.5 to 58.2) was at its highest level since March 2011. This was a sign that the sector has begun to move beyond the weather-related slowdowns observed earlier in the year. New orders (up from 58.1 to 58.9) and exports (up from 51.0 to 51.9) have also rebounded. Hiring eased a bit (down from 53.9 to 53.8), but still reflected modest growth.

At the same time, the Markit Flash Eurozone PMI increased from 53.0 to 53.3. This was the tenth consecutive monthly expansion on the continent for manufacturing activity. The higher figure in April was largely the result of the jump in output (up from 55.4 to 56.5), which was only barely below the three-year peak of 56.7 seen in January. Likewise, hiring also strengthened (up from 50.3 to 51.3), its highest point since September 2011.

Nonetheless, sales growth moderated slightly (down from 54.4 to 53.9), with exports unchanged (53.6). The good news was that both still reflected modest gains, and the recent gains in demand and production in Europe have helped to lift spirits, particularly given the severity of the two-year recession.

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

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Manufacturers Testify Before House Ex-Im Panel

Yesterday, manufacturers like Boeing and FirmGreen participated in a panel hosted by House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-CA) to highlight the critical importance of reauthorizing the U.S. Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank. Ex-Im Bank faces a tough reauthorization fight in Congress this year.

Manufacturers, especially small and medium-sized manufacturers, cannot afford a lapse in the financing support that helps them stay competitive in the global marketplace. Most of the Bank’s financing deals help small businesses, Ex-Im Chairman and President Fred Hochberg told the panel. Hochberg spoke with the NAM’s Member Focus magazine last year about efforts to help businesses of all sizes.

Unfortunately, manufacturers are already facing the consequences of the uncertainty surrounding Ex-Im’s reauthorization. FirmGreen CEO Steve Wilburn told lawmakers that his company lost a $57 million contract to a South Korean competitor because reauthorization legislation faces an uncertain future in Congress. “I just want you to understand the impact on people in my company, me personally and the people in the Midwest that I can’t give those jobs to,” he said. “To me, it’s unconscionable that we allow this debate to rage on a partisan basis.”

Ted Austell, Boeing’s vice president of executive, legislative and regulatory affairs, said that Ex-Im supports the company’s 160,000 employees, 15,000 suppliers and vendors, and hundreds of thousands of workers connected to the aerospace sector. “In a word, it’s jobs,” he said.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) addressed the panel yesterday afternoon, and he indicated that he will make Ex-Im a legislative priority. The NAM appreciated Rep. Hoyer’s outstanding leadership during the last reauthorization of Ex-Im, and we are very pleased that he continues to make this issue a priority. It is a critical tool that allows our small, medium and larger manufacturers to compete globally. Rep. Hoyer announced at a press conference earlier today that he is including Ex-Im Bank reauthorization in his manufacturing initiative.

This evening, Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA) and other members of the New Democrat Coalition will take to the House floor to discuss the Ex-Im Bank’s positive impact on American jobs during a “special order.” You can follow along with the New Dems on Twitter here.

The NAM will continue to advocate for Ex-Im Bank’s reauthorization on Capitol Hill and with the Administration. In March, we spearheaded a letter that was joined by more than a dozen other business leaders to urge the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and the House Financial Services Committee to take immediate action on legislation. We’re also engaging our members to add their voices and influence. Click here to learn more about what manufacturers can do today.

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ISM: Manufacturers Have Begun to Move Beyond Winter Storms

The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing purchasing managers’ index edged slightly higher, up from 53.2 in February to 53.7 in March. This reflects modest gains in overall manufacturing activity since recent weather-related weaknesses. The good news was that production (up from 48.2 to 55.9) began expanding again. The pace of new orders (up from 54.5 to 55.1) also picked up a little, including export sales (up from 53.5 to 55.5).

The sample comments continue to note the negative impact of weather. A food and beverage leader put it bluntly when they said, “We need spring.” Others have begun to move beyond the winter struggles. For instance, a petroleum and coal products manufacturer said, “Business beginning to heat up, along with the weather.” Others noted their increasing optimism. This included the transportation equipment respondent who answered, “Business is good, and we are optimistic that orders will continue to come in at a decent pace.”

Hiring growth remains soft (down from 52.3 to 51.1), and sentiment continued to be lower than just a few months ago. The average PMI value from July to December of last year, for instance, was 56.3, with new orders and production averaging 61.8 and 62.6 during that time frame, respectively. Another positive was that the manufacturing sector has now expanded for 10 straight months.

Overall, manufacturers are cautiously optimistic about future sales and output, and there is hope that the momentum seen in the second half of 2013 return to produce strong returns for 2014. While growth in manufacturing activity remains below where it was at the end of last year, it appears that the drag from winter storms has begun to fade.

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

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Kansas City Fed: Manufacturing Activity Picked Up in March

The Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing activity picked up in March, expanding for the third straight month. The composite index of general business activity rose from 4 in February to 10 in March. This was the highest point since February 2012. The largest increase was in the production index, which increased from 3 to 22. Indeed, the percentage of survey respondents who said that their output had declined in the month fell from 28 percent in February to 11 percent in March. This improvement was likely the result of better weather, which caused a number of delays in production in the previous report.

In terms of other indicators, there was also notable progress for new orders (up from 5 to 13), shipments (up from 10 to 16), and exports (up from -1 to 6). As with the production index above, the shifts were largely due to fewer people saying that there were decreases. For instance, 39 percent of those taking the survey said that their new orders had increased in the month (up from 35 percent last month); whereas, 14 percent noted decreased sales (down from 24 percent).

Hiring was one area where weaknesses remain. The index for the number of employees declined has declined from 11 in January to 3 in February to zero in March. Two-thirds of respondents said that their employment levels were unchanged, with the other answers nearly split equally. Moreover, looking ahead six months, employment growth was also only barely positive on net, unlike in several other regional surveys.

Fortunately, other forward-looking measures are more upbeat. Nearly half of those taking the survey anticipate increased production, shipments, and new orders over the next six months. Roughly one-quarter of survey participants said that they plan to increase capital spending, with 15 percent anticipating declines. One other finding that was surprisingly soft was export growth, with just 11 percent of Kansas City Fed manufacturers saying that they expect increased international sales. Hopefully, this figure improves in coming months.

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

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Markit: Chinese Manufacturing Activity Has Contracted in Each Month So Far in 2014

The HSBC Flash China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ index (PMI) continued to decelerate, down from 48.5 in February to 48.1 in March. The index has contracted for three consecutive months, with March’s pace being the slowest since July. As noted in the most recent Global Manufacturing Economic Update, these data mirror the easing that we have seen in other indicators, including industrial production, fixed asset investment, and retail sales. As such, they also suggest that real GDP might fall below the 7.7 percent rate seen in the fourth quarter.

Flash data give us an advance estimate of manufacturing activity incorporating “approximately 85% of the usual monthly survey replies,” with the final PMI data for the month released on April 1. The March data reflect decelerating levels of activity for new orders (down from 48.1 to 46.9) and output (down from 49.2 to 47.3). On the positive side, export sales shifted from contraction (49.3) to a slight expansion (51.4), and employment growth declined at a slower rate (up from 46.9 to 49.3).

Hongbin Qu, HSBC’s China Chief Economist and the Co-Head of Asian Economic Research, said, “Weakness is broadly-based with domestic demand softening further. We expect Beijing to launch a series of policy measures to stabilize growth. Likely options include lowering entry barriers for private investment, targeted spending on subways, air-cleaning and public housing, and guiding lending rates lower.”

Meanwhile, Eurozone manufacturers have seen expanding levels of activity for nine straight months, with continued modest growth in March. Nonetheless, the Markit Flash Eurozone Manufacturing PMI edged slightly lower, down from 53.2 in February to 53.0 in March. The underlying data were mixed. Sales growth picked up marginally from 54.1 to 54.4, but production (down from 55.5 to 55.4), exports (down from 54.7 to 53.6), and hiring (down from 50.4 to 50.3) moved slightly lower. Still, growth in output and new orders remained relatively healthy, even with some easing in many of the key figures.

One of the lagging economies in Europe has been France, which had contracting levels of manufacturing activity in all but 2 of the past 27 months. The good news was that French manufacturing sentiment turned positive once again in March, with the Markit Flash France Manufacturing PMI up from 49.7 to 51.9. Activity was up across the board, and growth in new orders (up from 46.6 to 53.3) were at their highest level since June 2011. Elsewhere in Europe, German manufacturing activity slowed a bit, down from 54.8 to 53.8. Despite the deceleration, output (down from 57.6 to 57.0) and sales (down from 57.2 to 55.6) growth remained strong.

Likewise, the Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing PMI moved lower for the month, down from 57.1 to 55.5. February’s figure reflected the strong rebound from January’s weather-related softness due to severe winter storms. Much like the European data, the larger story is the continued modest growth for manufacturers in the U.S. market. For instance, new orders (down from 58.8 to 58.0) continued to grow strongly even with a little easing for the month, and production (up from 57.2 to 57.5) and exports (up from 50.9 to 51.0) had a slightly faster pace of growth.

Employment growth (down from 54.0 to 53.9) was essentially unchanged for the month despite edging a bit lower for the month. After hiring nearly stalled last June, manufacturers have continued to add to their workforces, albeit at a modest pace.

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

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Ex-Im Bank Levels the Global Playing Field for U.S. Manufacturers

In the face of tough competition overseas, the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) is a critical tool the U.S. government has to boost U.S. exports and grow manufacturing jobs.

Opponents continue to paint Ex-Im Bank as a costly and unnecessary entity focused solely on providing credit to our nation’s largest exports. That is simply false.

Ex-Im Bank helps U.S. companies, many of them small and medium-sized manufacturers, offset some of the financing support that their foreign competitors receive from their governments. The Bank also helps U.S. companies to secure new customers and increase market share in emerging markets.

In FY2013, nearly 90 percent of Ex-Im Bank’s transactions directly supported small business — providing $5.2 billion in direct support for small business exporters. Small businesses like BTE Technologies in Maryland and Polyguard Products in Texas rely on Ex-Im export financing and insurance to grow their exports and add U.S. jobs. Lion Precision in Minnesota turned to Ex-Im Bank’s single buyer insurance program to bolster exports to countries like China and Japan. A small company with 35 employees, Lion Precision designs, manufactures, tests and ships high-tech sensors. Last year, more than 60 percent of the company’s sales were outside the United States.

Simply put, our foreign competitors use every tool available to aggressively pursue greater market share by offering enticing financing terms. The playing field needs to be level, and Ex-Im Bank is crucial in achieving that. At least 59 other foreign export credit agencies provide significant support to our competitors around the world. And in some cases, foreign customers insist on official export credit agency support for projects.

In the aerospace sector, Ex-Im has helped ensure that the U.S. industry remains competitive, enabling the aerospace sector to produce a positive trade balance of trade of $73.5 billion in 2013. These exports support U.S. jobs at large companies and small, both directly and indirectly. As Ex-Im Bank Chairman Fred Hochberg noted earlier this week, aerospace is the top U.S. export after agriculture. Given the high value and high volume of sales, general aviation and commercial aircraft can — in some years — make up a large portion of Ex-Im Bank’s portfolio.

In the last five years (FY09 to FY13), Ex-Im Bank assisted in financing more than $188 billion of U.S. exports and supported 1.2 million American jobs – in a public-private partnership that actually generates revenue for the taxpayer. The Ex-Im Bank is a self-sustaining agency, generating more than $1 billion for the U.S. Treasury last year — after covering its own operating costs.

In September, the Bank’s charter will expire. Congress should act now to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank. Otherwise, U.S. manufacturers small and large will increasingly find themselves locked out of the competition in global markets, an outcome that would be bad for the economy and for jobs.

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Increased LNG Exports Benefit Manufacturers and the United States

Increasing LNG exports will benefit manufacturers, their workers and the entire American economy. Arguments by opponents to free trade like Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) that energy exports would do otherwise have been disproven in studies by every credible economist in the country. Again and again, experts find that granting licenses to export LNG would result in a net economic gain, including the official study done by the Department of Energy.

Just last week, NERA Economic Consulting, the firm that performed the analysis for the Department of Energy, updated its original study with the most current data available. It found that “LNG exports provide net economic benefits in all the scenarios investigated, and the greater the level of exports, the greater the benefits.” NERA concluded, “There is no support for the concern that LNG exports, even in the unlimited export case, will obstruct a chemicals or manufacturing renaissance in the United States.”

We are, indeed, in the midst of a manufacturing comeback, fueled by our abundant energy resources. Exporting LNG is a critical part of this comeback, with each $10 billion export facility creating manufacturing jobs across the supply chain during construction and operation. In addition, experts have found not only will we have enough natural gas at stable prices to fuel domestic manufacturing while also supporting LNG exports, but we will also still come out on top.

Furthermore, Sen. Markey’s proposal to restrict U.S. exports is contrary to the international rules that the United States helped establish some 40 years ago. Export restrictions, like those on LNG, are prohibited by World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, and according to a recent report by former WTO Appellate Body Chairman James Bacchus, these delays and restrictions may be running afoul of our treaty obligations.

A New York Times editorial recently made a strong point about the importance of energy in fostering the United States’ national security. We are deeply concerned about recent events overseas as manufacturers have employees across the globe, including in Eastern Europe. We are working closely with policymakers on both sides of the aisle to safeguard manufacturing employees and manufacturers’ investments around the world.

Getting our energy policy right is not just a domestic imperative, but it also has important national security implications. Like the New York Times and many policymakers on Capitol Hill, the NAM believes that it is in our national interest—and in the interest of our allies—that the United States immediately accelerates the review process of pending LNG export terminal applications. With an expedited review, the Administration would send a strong signal to the Russian Federation, our NATO allies, our trading partners and the rest of the world that energy exports matter and are a critical tool of American foreign policy.

Aric Newhouse is Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Relations for the National Association of Manufacturers.

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Monday Economic Report – March 10, 2014

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

The Federal Reserve Board’s Beige Book noted recent progress in the economy but also reported the negative impacts of weather in many of its districts. The Federal Reserve wrote, “The weather was cited to have caused utility outages, disrupted supply chains and production schedules and resulted in a slowing of sales to affected customers.” However, the slowdown in activity in these regions is temporary, and manufacturers across the country were generally “optimistic about the future and expect manufacturing activity to rise in the coming months.”

Economists have had to try to parse through the data to determine just how much of the recent softness has been due to the weather. This is not an easy task, but in my view, the various reports suggest the momentum we saw at the end of last year should return with warmer temperatures. The latest NAM/IndustryWeek Survey of Manufacturers, which will be released this morning, echoes this finding, with 86.1 percent of respondents being positive about their company’s outlook for the next 12 months, up from 78.1 percent three months ago. Sales, capital spending and hiring expectations were also higher; however, the smallest manufacturers continue to be less upbeat about the economy and their company’s future plans. The top business challenges were an unfavorable business climate due to taxes, regulations and government uncertainties (79.0 percent) and rising health care and insurance costs (77.1 percent), with the latter serving as a proxy for frustrations with the Affordable Care Act.

Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) data released last week suggest that manufacturing sentiment has already begun to rebound from weather-related weaknesses of the month before. The Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) measure rose from 51.3 in January to 53.2 in February, with a faster pace of new orders. On the negative side, production contracted for the first time since May, and manufacturing activity remains below December’s levels. Yet, the improvement in domestic sales was a step in the right direction. Along these lines, the Markit U.S. Manufacturing PMI reflected an even larger rebound, up from 53.7 to 57.1, on much stronger growth in output and sales. As such, these reports give us hope that the declines in new factory orders in both December and January, particularly in the auto sector, will turn around in the coming months.

On the labor front, nonfarm payrolls increased 175,000 in February, somewhat higher than anticipated and better than the 84,000 and 129,000 observed in December and January, respectively. Still, hiring remains below the 194,250 additional workers created each month in 2013, reflecting the easing that we have seen recently. Manufacturing employment has also grown more slowly over the past three months, with just 6,000 new hires in February. Nonetheless, manufacturers have added new workers on net in each of the past seven months, consistent with the rebound in activity since the beginning of the third quarter of last year. Once weather-related weaknesses go away, we hope to see hiring in the sector pick up once again. Elsewhere in the jobs report, the unemployment rate increased from 6.6 percent to 6.7 percent with a slight increase in the size of the labor force. Still, the participation rate remains at levels not seen since the late 1970s.

In our first look at international trade data for the new year, the U.S. trade deficit widened ever so slightly, up from $38.98 billion to $39.10 billion. There was a significant jump in the petroleum trade deficit for the month, with weather impacts more than likely increasing demand and prices for crude oil rising. Manufactured goods exports increased modestly, up 1.2 percent in January relative to the same month last year. While our goods exports were somewhat lower to Canada for the month, the data suggest slight increases in many of our other major trading partners. We remain hopeful that improvements in the global economic landscape will yield better manufactured goods exports growth than the 2.4 percent growth rate in 2013. At the same time, any expansion would build on last year’s $1.38 trillion in manufactured goods exports, an all-time high.

This week will be a slower one for economic releases. Highlights will be new data on consumer confidence, job openings, producer prices, retail sales and small business optimism.

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

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Markit: Chinese Manufacturing Contracts Further, While U.S. Activity Rose Sharply in February

The HSBC Flash China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) decelerated further in February, contracting for the second straight month. The index declined from 49.5 in January to 48.3 in February, its lowest level since June. Flash data give us an advance estimate of manufacturing activity incorporating “approximately 85% of the usual monthly survey replies,” with the final PMI data for the month released on March 3.

This data suggests that overall manufacturing activity remains soft in China. Hongbin Qu, HSBC’s China Chief Economist and the Co-Head of Asian Economic Research, suggested that “Beijing policy makers should and can fine-tune policy to keep growth at a steady pace in the coming year.”

Unlike in January, all of the key indicators were in contraction territory. This included the index for output, which fell from 51.3 to 49.2. As such, after expanding for six consecutive months, manufacturing production in China turned negative. Meanwhile, new orders (down from 49.8 to 48.1), exports (up from 49.0 to 49.3), employment (down from 47.8 to 46.9), and finished goods inventories (down from 51.3 to 49.7) were all contracting, as well.

This report suggests that the easing that we saw in Chinese industrial production at the end of 2013 has continued into 2014. Industrial output decreased from a year-over-year pace of 10.3 percent in October to 10.0 percent in November to 9.7 percent in December. At the same time, we should caution that China continues to grow quite steadily, as witnessed by the above numbers but also by the fact that real GDP increased 7.7 percent in the fourth quarter. This indicates that the Chinese economy continues to grow solidly, even if it is slower than the double-digit rates that some had been accustomed to a few years ago.

In contrast to China, the Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing PMI rose sharply, up from 53.7 in January to 56.7 in February. Given the fact that several other economic indicators have shown negative impacts due to weather, the jump in sentiment in Markit’s survey was a bit of a surprise. Indeed, the pace of growth for new orders (up from 53.9 to 58.8) and output (up from 53.5 to 57.2) were both up significantly. That was the highest level for sales growth since May 2010, a hopeful sign that some of the momentum that we saw in the U.S. manufacturing sector in the second half of last year might be flowing over into 2014.

The expansion was mainly due to domestic factors, but export sales also expanded for the month, albeit with less gusto (up from 48.9 to 50.9). Inventory stockpiles declined at a slower rate (up from 45.0 to 45.7). Hiring also picked up in February (up from 53.2 to 54.0), growing modestly. According to Markit, the increase in employment was the result of “greater production requirements, confidence in the economic outlook and, in some cases, pressures on operating capacity.”

Meanwhile, the Markit Flash Eurozone Manufacturing PMI declined from 54.0 to 53.0. Despite the slight easing in activity, this was the eighth consecutive month of expansion for the Eurozone, which continues to be welcome news for a continent still grappling with the effects of its deep two-year recession. Nonetheless, the pace of growth decelerated across-the-board, including new orders (down from 55.4 to 54.1), output (down from 56.7 to 55.5), exports (down from 55.2 to 54.7), and employment (down from 50.7 to 50.4).

German manufacturing activity followed the Eurozone trend (down from 56.5 to 54.7), with sales and production growth off marginally in February. One bit of good news, however, was that French manufacturers reported positive growth for the first time since February 2012 (up from 48.8 to 50.5). Yet, while output was higher in France (up from 48.2 to 50.5), new orders remained quite weak (down from 47.9 to 46.6).

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

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ISM: Growth in Manufacturing Activity Slowed Considerably in January

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said that the purchasing managers’ index (PMI) slowed considerably to begin the new year, down from 56.5 in December to 51.3 in January. This report mirrors other recent releases which have shown weaknesses, with weather and the holidays dampening demand and output. Indeed, a couple of the sample comments referenced the poor weather conditions as a contributing factor.

The slower pace of growth in January came after five months of significant strength in manufacturing activity, particularly for sales and production, both of which had index values over 60 from August to December. On the positive side, the manufacturing sector has now expanded for eight straight months, having recovered from a number of challenges last spring. To the extent that weather was the main factor in the lower figures in January, we would hope to see better data in February and beyond. In fact, manufacturers remain “cautiously optimistic” overall about 2014, as seen in the comments provided by ISM and in other reports.

Looking specifically at the January data, the various components decelerated across-the-board. The index for new orders fell sharply from 64.4 in December to 51.2 in January, its slowest pace since last May. Production (down from 61.7 to 54.8), exports (down from 55.0 to 54.5), and employment (down from 55.8 to 52.3) were also lower. The slight drop in export orders suggest that the decline in sales were mainly attributable to domestic factors, with modest gains in international orders still prevalent. That is a good sign.

There continues to be modest hiring growth, but with a persistent hesitancy on the part of some firms to add workers. It will be interesting to see how the easing in employment growth seen in the PMI data translated into new manufacturing hires nationally, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics releasing new jobs data on Friday. Similar to the ISM data, manufacturing employment growth ended 2013 on a strong note, adding 16,000 net new workers on average between August and December.

The other notable element was the acceleration in pricing pressures. The index for raw material costs rose from 53.5 to 60.5, its highest level since February 2013. While inflation remains in-check for now, this figure suggests that some costs have begun to pick up.

In general, this report shows that manufacturers began 2014 with some softness, with winter weather dampening both sales and output. Overall, manufacturing activity was up strongly in the second half of 2013, and we hope that the January numbers prove to be just a respite in the rebound that we had been witnessing.

While we hope that the weaknesses seen in the ISM manufacturing report are temporary, these data also highlight some fragility of the current economy. With that in mind, manufacturers feel that it will be important for policymakers to adopt pro-growth measures that will allow the sector to flourish and to return us to the growth that we had been seeing a year’s end.

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

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