Tag: Factory orders

Monday Economic Report – August 11, 2014

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

In a light week for economic indicator releases, geopolitical events dominated the headlines and moved equity markets. With U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, battles between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and mounting tensions with Russia, financial markets have a lot to absorb, with uncertainty sending stock values lower. Even with a triple-digit gain on Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen 3.5 percent since hitting an all-time high of 17,138.20 on July 16. From an economic perspective, geopolitical challenges could put downward pressure on forecasts for the second half of 2014 depending on how they evolve in the coming days and months. Absent these global anxieties, manufacturers have tended to be mostly upbeat about the next six months, and several recent data points have suggested rebounding demand and output as we began the third quarter.

New factory orders have risen in four of the past five months, increasing 1.1 percent in June and 4.6 percent since January. With that said, year-over-year growth has been less robust, up just 1.5 percent. This shows the extent to which winter weather weakened sales earlier this year. Still, June’s new factory orders figure of $503.2 billion reached an all-time high, which was encouraging. This data is largely consistent with positive news of late on real GDP, manufacturing sentiment surveys, and hiring. Indeed, manufacturing labor productivity increased by a relatively healthy 3.6 percent in the second quarter, lifted by robust gains in output. Unit labor costs declined 1.3 percent, with durable goods industries accounting for much of that decrease. Productivity gains since 2009 have helped to keep the sector more competitive globally, particularly for durable goods firms.

In June, the U.S. trade deficit fell to its smallest level since January, as goods imports declined at a faster pace than goods exports increased. Nonetheless, we continue to see relatively slow growth for U.S.-manufactured goods exports, which have increased 1.7 percent year-to-date. Ideally, we will see improvements moving into the second half of the year, as the current pace represents a deceleration from last year’s 2.6 percent rate of growth. Of course, challenges abound on this front, with news of weak growth in Europe, flat export sales growth to our largest trading partner Canada, and decelerating growth rates in China.

This week, we will get new industrial production figures for July. We anticipate manufacturing output growing for the sixth straight month, modestly extending upon the 3.1 percent growth observed since January. The New York Federal Reserve Bank’s Empire State Manufacturing Survey is also expected to show continued expansion for the sector in its district. Other highlights this week include the latest data on consumer sentiment, job openings, producer prices, retail sales, and small business optimism.

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

labor productivity - aug2014

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Monday Report – May 5, 2014

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

With the U.S. economy growing just 0.1 percent in the first quarter of 2014, analysts need to ask themselves whether this was just an aberration—a function largely of winter-related slowness—or a sign of larger weaknesses. The preliminary real GDP data showed drags from business investment, net exports and the government. Consumer spending on services was the biggest positive, and durable and nondurable goods purchases were up marginally for the quarter. My view is that real GDP probably will be revised higher in future updates, particularly with other data showing rebounding activity in March.

Fortunately, other recent economic reports show the economy recovering from difficulties earlier in the year. Consumer spending picked up strongly in March, with pent-up demand for durable goods, such as automobiles, pushing up overall purchases. Along those lines, manufacturing construction spending and new factory orders were also higher in March, with the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank’s monthly survey mirroring other regional reports showing an increase in respondents’ outlook.

Nationally, manufacturing confidence appears to be rising, with the Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rising from 53.7 in March to 54.9 in April, its highest point so far in 2014. Still, activity remains below the torrid pace at the end of last year. The ISM’s PMI values averaged 56.3 in the second half of 2013, with new orders and output averaging 61.8 and 62.6, respectively. As such, there is still room for improvement. One of the brighter spots in the ISM release was the increased pace of hiring, with the employment index jumping from 51.1 to 54.7. This suggested that more manufacturers were adding workers, which was progress from the slower rate the month before.

In fact, the sector has hired more than 13,000 additional employees on average each month since August, when manufacturing demand and output began gaining momentum last year. Since the end of 2009, manufacturers have created 623,000 new jobs, with 12.1 million workers total in April. In the larger economy, nonfarm payrolls increased by 288,000 for the month—well above the consensus estimate of around 220,000—and the unemployment rate fell sharply from 6.7 percent in March to 6.3 percent in April. Despite this progress, the unemployment rate’s decline was largely due to a significant drop in the labor force size. The participation rate returned to where it was in December, matching its lowest point since February 1978.

From its perspective, the Federal Reserve felt that the economy was getting better; yet, it continues to worry about elevated unemployment rates, reduced business investment and fiscal restraints. For that reason, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) reported that it would keep its highly accommodative stance for the foreseeable future, with short-term rates effectively zero until likely sometime in 2015. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve continued to taper its long-term and mortgage-backed securities purchases from $55 billion per month to $45 billion, as expected. On the positive side, inflationary pressures remain minimal, with the personal consumption expenditure deflator up just 1.1 percent year-over-year and below the FOMC’s stated target of 2 percent.

This week, the highlight will come tomorrow with the release of new international trade numbers. In the first two months of 2014, manufactured goods exports were below their pace of 2013. It will be important to see if the picture improves in the March data. Beyond trade, other highlights to watch include the latest reports on consumer credit, job openings, productivity and wholesale trade.

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

monthly employment changes - may2014

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Monday Economic Report – April 7, 2014

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

Manufacturers appear to be recovering from softness in the first two months of the year, mainly due to the number of severe winter storms. The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) reported that its Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) edged higher, up from 53.2 in February to 53.7 in March. Production began expanding again, with the pace of new orders and exports picking up slightly. Despite some degree of progress in March, sentiment remains lower than just a few months ago. PMI values averaged 56.3 in the second half of last year, with sales and output measures exceeding 60—indicating strong growth—each month from August to December.

Likewise, new factory orders increased 1.6 percent in February, partially offsetting the sharp declines in December and January. Beyond autos and aircraft, however, durable goods sales were just barely higher, suggesting more needs to be done for broader growth in the sector. Meanwhile, the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank’s manufacturing survey reflected a rebound in activity consistent with other Federal Reserve districts. Texas manufacturers remain positive about sales, output, hiring and capital spending moving forward. For example, more than half of respondents anticipate increased demand over the next six months. Still, some cited regulatory, pricing pressure, workforce and foreign competition concerns.

On the hiring front, Friday’s jobs numbers provided mixed news for manufacturers. The sector lost 1,000 workers in March, mainly due to declines in nondurable goods industries. This was particularly disappointing given consensus expectations that were closer to the ADP’s estimates, which had a gain of 5,000 workers for the month. Yet, revisions to January and February data provided some comfort, adding 15,000 more employees than original estimates. As a result, the longer-term trend for manufacturing did not change much despite March’s lower figure. Manufacturers have added more than 600,000 workers since the end of the recession, and since August, the sector has generated an average of 12,125 net new jobs per month. Another positive in this report was that the average number of hours worked and average compensation both rose, findings that mirror the rebound in overall activity.

Meanwhile, the latest international trade figures were also disappointing. The U.S. trade deficit widened from $39.28 billion in January to $42.30 billion in February. This was the highest deficit since September and the result of a decrease in goods exports and an increase in service-sector imports. Petroleum exports were also marginally lower. The numbers were particularly discouraging given that manufactured goods exports in January and February of this year were 0.6 percent lower than the first two months of last year. Still, outside of softness in our goods exports to Canada, the other top-five export markets for U.S.-manufactured goods registered increases year-to-date in 2014 relative to 2013. In addition, there remains cautious optimism that export sales will improve in the coming months.

This week, the focus will be on the release of the minutes from the March Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting. The minutes will provide additional insights on the internal debates that led the Federal Reserve Board to continue tapering but to also change its forward guidance for short-term interest rates. On Friday, the release of producer price data should continue to show that overall inflation remains minimal. Other highlights include the latest data on consumer confidence, job openings, small business optimism and wholesale trade.

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

ism pmi - apr2014

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New Factory Orders Rebounded in February from Softness in December and January

The Census Bureau said that new factory orders increased 1.6 percent in February, recovering somewhat from the sharp declines in both December and January. This was consistent with the advance data provided on durable goods the week before, with the sector rebounding from winter weather slowness. New manufactured goods orders have risen from $482.7 billion in August to $488.8 billion in February, an increase of 1.3 percent.

New durable goods orders rose 2.2 percent for the month, lifted by strong sales growth for motor vehicles and aircraft. Excluding transportation, manufacturing orders were up 0.7 percent, with durable goods edging only marginally higher in February, up just 0.1 percent. At the same time, new nondurable manufactured goods increased by 1.0 percent.

Looking specifically at new durable goods orders in February, the data were largely mixed. Areas of strength included transportation equipment (up 7.0 percent), primary metals (up 1.7 percent), fabricated metal products (up 0.4 percent), computers and electronic products (up 0.2 percent), and furniture and related products (up 0.2 percent). But, these were offset by reduced new orders for electrical equipment and appliances (down 1.3 percent) and machinery (down 1.2 percent).

Meanwhile, manufactured goods shipments were up 0.9 percent, also rebounding after lower data in both December and January. Durable and nondurable goods shipments rose 0.8 percent and 1.0 percent, respectively. On a year-over-year basis, shipments have grown from $489.5 billion in February 2013 to $493.5 billion, up 0.8 percent.

Sectors with the largest increases in monthly shipments included textile products (up 4.9 percent), petroleum and coal products (up 2.0 percent), machinery (up 1.7 percent), nonmetallic mineral products (up 1.7 percent), transportation equipment (up 1.5 percent), apparel (up 1.4 percent), and plastics and rubber products (up 1.0 percent). In contrast, there were declining shipments in the following areas: leather and allied products (down 1.6 percent), computers and electronic products (down 1.4 percent), beverage and tobacco products (down 0.7 percent), electrical equipment and appliances (down 0.5 percent), printing (down 0.3 percent), and wood products (down 0.3 percent).

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

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New Factory Orders Were Down for the Second Straight Month in January

The Census Bureau said that new factory orders declined for the second straight month, down 2.0 percent and 0.7 percent in December and January, respectively. This was not a surprise, particularly given the already-released estimates for durable goods orders and the recent challenges with weather. Much of the decline in January stemmed from reduced auto and defense aircraft sales. As such, new factory orders excluding transportation increased 0.2 percent, indicating a very modest rebound from the 0.1 percent decline the month before.

New durable and nondurable manufactured goods orders were both lower in January, down 1.0 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively. With that said, as noted above, durable goods excluding transportation rose 0.1 percent, indicating broader strength than the headline figure might suggest. Areas of strength in the durable goods sector included fabricated metal products (up 7.4 percent) and computers and electronics (up 3.7 percent). But, these were somewhat offset by reduced new orders for furniture and related products (down 3.6 percent), electrical equipment and appliances (down 2.2 percent), primary metals (down 1.2 percent), and machinery (down 0.7 percent).

Meanwhile, manufactured goods shipments were also lower for the second consecutive month, with declines of 0.3 percent in both December and January. Durable goods shipments were off by 0.3 percent, with nondurable goods down 0.4 percent. Negative weather influences can be seen in this data, particularly to the extent that consumers were not able to get the stores to make purchases.

Sectors with the largest declines in monthly shipments included textile products (down 11.4 percent), textile mills (down 3.8 percent), machinery (down 2.9 percent), automobiles (down 1.8 percent), apparel (down 1.0 percent), and chemical products (down 1.0 percent). In contrast, there were increased shipments observed in the following areas: electrical equipment and appliances (up 1.5 percent), nonmetallic mineral products (up 1.3 percent), food products (up 1.2 percent), computers and electronics (up 0.7 percent), and wood products (up 0.7 percent).

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

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Monday Economic Report – February 10, 2014

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

Hiring in the manufacturing sector continued to expand in January, averaging 15,500 per month since August. This uptick in employment for manufacturers has corresponded to the acceleration in product demand and production in the second half of 2013, with cautious optimism for 2014. However, the overall jobs numbers were disappointing for the second straight month. Nonfarm payrolls grew by just 75,000 and 113,000 in December and January, respectively, which was well below the consensus expectation of 175,000 and the 2013 average monthly gain of 193,500.

Some of the releases out last week show the negative impact that weather has had on activity. For instance, new factory orders declined 1.5 percent in December, with broad-based weaknesses in the durable goods sector pulling the data lower. Shipments were also down. Likewise, manufacturing construction spending fell 5.1 percent in December, which was notable because of a mostly upward trend from June to November. Overall construction activity edged marginally higher in December, boosted by strong residential construction activity, but nonresidential and public spending was down.

The Institute for Supply Management’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) report showed a considerable decline in manufacturing sentiment, down from 56.5 in December to 51.3 in January. The biggest declines were in new orders, output and employment, but the pace of export orders was off only slightly. The pace of export orders was off only slightly. This indicates that domestic factors were the main contributors of the decline.

Meanwhile, the U.S. trade deficit rose from $34.56 billion in November to $38.70 billion in December, but the deficit narrowed for 2013 as a whole. Petroleum was a major factor in the smaller trade deficit last year, with increased petroleum exports and fewer imports. Unfortunately, manufactured goods exports did not increase as much last year as we would have preferred, up just 2.4 percent in 2013 versus 5.7 percent in 2012. We hope stronger global economic growth will produce improved manufactured goods exports in 2014.

In other news, the Congressional Budget Office released its 10-year budget and economic outlook. The deficit will be $514 billion in fiscal year 2014, an improvement from the more than $1 trillion deficits in fiscal years 2009–2012 and the $680 billion deficit in fiscal year 2013. The report shows the growth of mandatory spending rising from $2.03 trillion in fiscal year 2013 to $3.74 trillion in fiscal year 2024. Because of this, federal deficits will start to rise again beginning in fiscal year 2017, with deficits exceeding $1 trillion in fiscal year 2022. With such facts, it should not be a surprise that 86.3 percent of manufacturers want policymakers to find a long-term federal budget deal that tackles the debt and deficit, including reining in entitlements.

This week, we will get new industrial production data on Friday. The last report showed manufacturing output rising at an annualized 4.2 percent rate in the second half of 2013, but we will see if the data show production easing somewhat in January due to weather or other factors. The consensus expectation is for modest output gains of roughly 0.3 percent. Other highlights will be the latest figures on consumer confidence, job openings, retail sales and small business optimism.

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

cbo entitlement spending - feb2014

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Monday Economic Report – January 13, 2014

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

The labor market was disappointing in December, with just 74,000 nonfarm payroll workers added in the month. This was well below the consensus estimates of around 200,000 that was expected, and it somewhat undercuts the storyline that the U.S. economy was beginning to gain some momentum. However, it is important to not make too much of one month’s data, which might have been influenced by weather and other factors. Nonfarm payrolls growth averaged 214,000 in the prior four months (August to November), and there is some thinking that December’s hiring figures were a bit of an outlier. Indeed, the participation rate fell once again to 62.8 percent, matching what was seen in October, which was the lowest level since February 1978. As a result, the unemployment rate fell to a five-year low of 6.7 percent.

Meanwhile, manufacturers added 9,000 net new workers in December, its fifth month of positive gains. From August to December, the sector has averaged 16,000 additional hires each month. In contrast, the average from March to July was a net decline of 8,000 per month. This is generally consistent with the pickup in manufacturing activity that we have seen in other economic indicators, even if the net job growth in December was down from October and November. Indeed, new factory orders rose 1.8 percent in November, and even with quite a bit of volatility in the data (mainly due to choppiness in transportation orders), year-to-date sales growth increased modestly, up 2.6 percent in the first 11 months of 2013.

The other big news of last week was the narrowing of the U.S. trade deficit from $39.33 billion in October to $34.25 billion in November. On the surface, this is a positive development, with the decline in the deficit coming largely from reduced petroleum imports. This decrease corresponded to lower petroleum costs, as the cost of West Texas Intermediate crude fell sharply during that time frame. In addition, goods exports rose to an all-time high, up from $135.61 billion to $137.01 billion.

Nonetheless, one constant that we saw in much of the data last year was the frustratingly slow pace of growth for manufactured goods exports—a finding that was still true in the latest report. The value of U.S.-manufactured goods exports for the first 11 months of 2013 increased just 2.0 percent over the same time period in 2012. As such, despite stabilization in many of our key markets, including China and Europe, slower growth in foreign demand has been a challenge for growing sales all of last year. We hope to see continued progress on the international front that will yield stronger export growth in 2014. (For more worldwide economic trends, see the most recent monthly issue of the Global Manufacturing Economic Update, which was released on Friday.)

This week will be a busier one for economic data. A number of reports will provide new insights on the current health of the manufacturing sector, with the biggest highlight being Friday’s industrial production data. It is expected that manufacturing output will continue to show signs of acceleration, extending the gains in October and November. In addition, we will get survey data from the New York and Philadelphia Federal Reserve Banks and the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI). Beyond those releases, other statistics of note to look for include the latest data on consumer and producer prices, consumer confidence, housing starts and permits, job openings, retail sales and small business optimism.

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

manufacturing employment - jan2014

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Strong Growth in Durable Goods Sales Lifted November’s Factory Orders Higher

The Census Bureau reported that new manufactured goods orders rose 1.8 percent in November, rebounding from the 0.5 percent decline observed in October. Over the past 12 months, new factory orders have risen 4.9 percent, but that somewhat overstates the year-over-year change. This data was highly volatile for much of 2013, with large shifts in aircraft orders pushing the data up and down. Illustrating this, the year-to-date growth (from December 2012) was a more modest 2.6 percent, and November’s level of new factory orders ($497.9 billion) was not much different than what was experienced in June ($497.1 billion).

Still, even with the volatility, it is clear that new factory orders have moved higher, particularly when you look at the longer-term data. Over the past three years, new factory orders have grown 17.3 percent, up from $424.6 billion in November 2010.

Looking specifically at the November 2013 data, the increase stemmed largely from strong growth in durable goods sales, up 3.4 percent for the month. In contrast, new nondurable goods orders were up just 0.3 percent. The report reflects healthy gains in aircraft and motor vehicle orders in November, and if you exclude transportation from the analysis, the increase in durable goods sales would be a more modest 1.1 percent. Nonetheless, the broader durable goods measure reflects a slow-but-steady increase in new orders, up 3.0 percent since January and 1.9 percent over the past two months. The latter figure suggests the pace of sales has accelerated more recently, consistent with other indicators.

Outside of aircraft, durable goods sectors with the largest monthly increases in new orders in November were furniture and related products (up 5.9 percent), machinery (up 3.3 percent), motor vehicles and parts (up 2.4 percent), and computers and electronic products (up 1.8 percent). These were partially offset, though, by declines in electrical equipment and appliances (down 1.9 percent) and primary metals (down 0.5 percent).

Meanwhile, shipments of manufactured goods increased 1.0 percent, its strongest monthly gain since July. Durable and nondurable goods shipments rose 1.8 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively. Sectors with the greatest increases in November included machinery (up 4.2 percent), transportation equipment (up 2.0 percent), computers and electronic products (up 1.6 percent), furniture and related products (up 1.9 percent), petroleum and coal products (up 1.4 percent), and primary metals (up 0.8 percent).

At the same time, textile mills (down 2.1 percent), beverage and tobacco products (down 1.5 percent), apparel (down 1.1 percent), paper (down 0.9 percent), and nonmetallic minerals (down 0.4 percent) were among those major manufacturing sectors with reduced shipments for the month.

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

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Monday Economic Report – November 12, 2013

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

The U.S. economy has been increasing a bit faster than expected, with real GDP up a surprisingly strong 2.8 percent in the third quarter. This was higher than consensus estimates of around 2.0 percent. In general, the data observed that many of the second-quarter trends extended into the third quarter, particularly with modest growth in consumer and business spending. In fact, goods spending grew an annualized 4.3 percent in the third quarter, contributing 0.99 percentage points to overall real GDP. Fixed investment was a positive contributor overall, but the largest component was inventory replenishment. Without inventory spending, real GDP would have been closer to the forecasted 2.0 percent. Other positives included stronger growth in exports and improved local and state government performance. While the data pre-dated the government shutdown, reduced federal government spending was once again a drag on growth, something that will continue moving into the fourth quarter.

October’s jobs numbers were also surprisingly strong. It was widely expected that the employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics were going to be closer to what ADP had estimated the week before, with roughly 130,000 additional workers added in the month. Instead, nonfarm payrolls increased by 204,000 in October, and when combined with significant revisions to August and September data, the average over the past three months is 201,667. This suggests hiring has picked up more recently in the larger economy, mirroring improvements in other data. However, the unemployment rate edged up slightly from 7.2 percent to 7.3 percent. This corresponded with the participation rate moving up a bit from 63.2 percent to 63.8 percent, suggesting that some workers might be returning to the market.

Manufacturers hired an additional 19,000 workers on net in October, its fastest pace since February. Both durable and nondurable goods firms brought on additional employees, up 12,000 and 7,000, respectively, for the month, and the largest increase occurred in the motor vehicle sector, which added another 5,700 workers. While this was better than recent figures, hiring growth for the sector has been disappointing. On a year-over-year basis, manufacturers have added 55,000 additional workers, or 2.4 percent of the 2.3 million nonfarm payroll workers added over the past 12 months.

Other data released last week also highlighted the recent acceleration in manufacturing activity. The JPMorgan Global Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) increased from 51.8 in September to 52.1 in October, its fastest pace since May 2011. Stabilization in Asia and Europe has helped to raise the level of new orders and output in many of our key trading partners, with modest growth in October. (For more information on these trends, see the latest Global Manufacturing Economic Update, which was released on Friday.) Increases in manufacturing sales helped lift the Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index (LEI) higher as well. For instance, new manufactured goods orders jumped 1.7 percent in September. Nonetheless, aircraft orders were the main driver of new factory orders, with weaknesses in the broader market.

Meanwhile, consumer confidence continued to fall in preliminary survey data from the University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters. Since reaching a six-year high in July, the confidence measure has fallen from 85.1 to 72.0. The government shutdown dampened overall sentiment, but attitudes were already waning before that. To some extent, the diminished enthusiasm about the current and future economic environment might have impacted Americans’ purchasing decisions. The latest personal spending report suggests individuals might be more hesitant about opening their pocketbooks, with only modest growth in purchases in recent months. Consumer spending fell in the third quarter, down from a year-over-year pace of 3.3 percent in June to 2.7 percent in September. Durable goods spending declined 1.3 percent in September, bringing down the total figure. Interestingly, this slowdown in spending has corresponded with relatively strong personal income growth, up an annualized 4.45 percent in the third quarter. As a result, the savings rate increased to 4.9 percent, its highest level so far in 2013.

This week, the focus will be on price, production and trade data. Prices have been increasing minimally, with core inflation running below 2 percent. That should continue to be true with the release of October consumer and producer pricing data on Thursday and Friday. Improvements in the global economy should lead to better export figures, and manufacturing production should also be up modestly, building on recent gains. Other highlights will be the latest regional manufacturing survey from the New York Federal Reserve Board and new reports on labor productivity and small business optimism.

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

real GDP forecast - nov2013

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New Factory Orders Rose 1.7 Percent in September, Led By Strength in Aircraft Sales

The Census Bureau reported that new manufactured goods orders rose 1.7 percent in September, the first increase since June. This data has been highly volatile for much of this year, with large shifts in aircraft orders pushing the data up and down. Year-to-date gains in new orders have been very modest, up just 1.1 percent, but when you add in the fourth quarter of last year, the year-over-year pace was a better figure, up 3.0 percent over the past 12 months.

As reported when the durable goods figures were released a couple weeks ago, the increase in new orders stemmed largely from a huge jump in defense and nondefense aircraft orders (both rebounding from significant declines in the previous two months). If you were to exclude transportation orders from the analysis, new orders would have declined 0.2 percent, suggesting broader weaknesses in the manufacturing sector beyond aircraft.

New nondurable goods orders declined 0.2 percent in September. Among the durable goods sectors, the largest monthly increases (outside of aircraft) were among the primary metals (up 2.9 percent) and computer and electronic products (up 1.6 percent) firms. These were offset, however, by declining monthly sales in the machinery (down 2.6 percent), furniture and related products (down 1.4 percent), fabricated metal products (down 1.2 percent), electrical equipment and appliances (down 0.9 percent), and motor vehicle (down 0.7 percent) sectors.

Meanwhile, shipments of manufactured goods increased 0.1 percent, easing from the 1.1 percent and 0.2 percent gains experienced in July and August, respectively. As such, shipments were a nice contrast to new orders in the third quarter, with shipments rising 1.4 percent for the three month period of July to August. New orders fell by 1.3 percent during the same time period. The better shipments news came after a relatively flat first half of the year, as year-to-date shipments growth for the first nine months of 2013 was just 1.3 percent.

With that said, it was also clear that shipments growth for September was slow at best. When you exclude transportation activity, manufactured goods shipments were unchanged for the month. Durable goods shipments were up 0.4 percent in September, with nondurable goods shipments off 0.2 percent. Indeed, the data were largely mixed. Growth in shipments for items like beverages (up 5.1 percent), nondefense aircraft (up 3.9 percent), automobiles (up 1.7 percent), and computers and electronic products (up 0.9 percent) were counteracted by declines or an easing in growth elsewhere.

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

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