Tag: manufacturing activity

California’s Manufacturing Sector Expected to Improve in the Second Quarter

Manufacturing activity in California is expected to improve in the second quarter, according to the A. Gary Anderson Center for Economic Research at Chapman University. The composite purchasing managers’ index (PMI) increased from 56.2 in the first quarter (January) to 58.5 in the second quarter (April). Indeed, manufacturers largely anticipate increased paces for production (up from 60.5 to 64.4) and new orders (up from 55.8 to 60.9). Roughly half of the respondents in the survey said that they thought sales and output would be higher in the second quarter.

Employment growth remained soft (down from 55.6 to 53.3). Looking at the specific responses, 24.1 percent felt that their employment levels would increase in the second quarter, with 11.4 percent saying that it would be lower. However, the bulk of responses (64.5 percent) said that their hiring levels would be unchanged for the quarter. One positive, of course, was that net hiring was positive, albeit only modestly so.

The PMI for nondurable goods (up from 56.7 to 58.2) advanced more than the one for durable goods industries (up from 58.1 to 58.3), which increased only marginally. Each was lower than it was one year ago, however, when durable and nondurable goods firms had index values of 60.3 and 60.9, respectively.

Overall, these data show that manufacturers in California see demand and production picking up this quarter. That is a good thing, but it is also worth noting that the pace of growth remains below the pace observed in mid-2013. Moreover, manufacturers in Orange County were less positive this quarter than in the last (down from 64.1 to 58.5) on slower new order and employment growth.

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

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Monday Economic Report – March 31, 2014

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

The U.S. economy grew 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter, according to the most recent revision, and for 2013 as a whole, real GDP growth was a rather lackluster 1.9 percent. Consumer spending, business investment and net exports were bright spots in the fourth quarter, with reduced government spending subtracting nearly one percentage point from growth.

Meanwhile, business economists predict real GDP growth of 2.8 percent on average for 2014, with 1.9 percent growth in the current quarter. (My own forecast is marginally higher for both, up 3.0 percent for the year and 2.1 percent for the first quarter of 2014.) Weather-related slowdowns account for the deceleration in activity, particularly for manufacturers, in the current quarter. However, modest growth is expected to resume once temperatures warm up, and we have already begun to see that. The National Association for Business Economics (NABE) Outlook Survey also suggested that the industry should grow 3.2 percent in 2014 and 3.4 percent in 2015, which would indicate a pickup from the current pace.

The latest manufacturing surveys show a rebound in sentiment after softness from December to February. The Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) slowed a bit, down from 57.1 in February to 55.5 in March. Despite the lower figure, new orders and production growth continued to grow relatively strongly, with overall manufacturing activity improved from January’s winter storms. A similar recovery was seen in regional data from the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank, mirroring the findings from New York and Philadelphia the week before. Still, not everyone has seen improvements yet. The Richmond Federal Reserve reported lackluster growth in sales and output, with weather continuing to “wreak havoc” for many manufacturers. In addition, while new durable goods orders were up a strong 2.2 percent in February, sales growth increased at the less-than-robust rate of just 0.2 percent when transportation orders were excluded.

On the consumer front, the data were mostly positive, but with some caveats. Personal income and spending both increased 0.3 percent in February, with each rising 3.0 percent over the past 12 months. This was a decent pace, but increased purchases of nondurable goods and services mainly fueled spending growth in February. Durable goods spending declined for the third month in a row. In terms of consumer confidence, the two reports out last week were mixed. The Conference Board’s measure of consumer sentiment reached a six-year high; yet, labor market worries dampened enthusiasm for the current environment. Likewise, the University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters reported that consumer sentiment edged lower in March, with employment and income growth also weighing on respondents’ minds. In both surveys, however, Americans are more confident today than in the fall during the government shutdown.

Looking overseas, Markit released preliminary manufacturing PMI data for China and the Eurozone. Chinese manufacturing activity has now contracted for three consecutive months, with March’s pace being the slowest since July. The data mirror other recent indicators, including industrial production, fixed asset investment and retail sales, which have slowed. As such, they all suggest that real GDP might fall below the 7.7 percent rate in the fourth quarter. (First-quarter real GDP for China will be released on April 15.) Meanwhile, European manufacturers have seen expanding activity levels for nine straight months, even as Eurozone PMI values eased slightly in March. New orders and production remain strong in Germany, and, of note, French manufacturers were positive in their sentiment for the first time since June 2011.

This week, the focus will be on the March jobs numbers, which will come out on Friday. The consensus expectation is for nonfarm payroll growth of around 190,000, with manufacturers hiring somewhere near the 12,000 average experienced in the sector since August. In addition, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) is expected to show a slight rebound in manufacturing PMI activity in its March data, up from 53.2 in February. Other highlights this week include the latest data on construction spending, factory orders and international trade.

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

gdp forecast - mar2014

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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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New Durable Goods Orders Rebound on Increases in Motor Vehicle and Aircraft Sales

The Census Bureau said that new durable goods orders rose a strong 2.2 percent in February, recovering from steep declines in both December and January. Much of the recent decreases were weather-related with severe winter conditions hampering sales and shipments. In February, the largest rebounds came in the transportation sector, with new orders for motor vehicles and parts (up 3.6 percent), nondefense aircraft and parts (up 13.6 percent), and defense aircraft and parts (up 21.1 percent) increasing significantly.

Excluding transportation, new orders were up just 0.2 percent, suggesting some continued softness in the broader manufacturing sector beyond autos and aircraft. The sector-by-sector data are mostly mixed. Increased sales in primary metals (up 1.8 percent), other durable goods (up 1.1 percent), computer and electronic products (up 0.4 percent), and fabricated metal products (up 0.3 percent) were somewhat offset by declines for machinery (down 1.5 percent) and electrical equipment and appliances (down 0.9 percent).

On a year-over-year basis, new durable goods orders excluding transportation have risen 1.5 percent, indicating slow-but-modest growth, up from $155.6 billion in February 2013 to $157.9 billion in February 2014. Ideally, we would like to see a much faster pace for new orders, preferably around 3 percent or so.

Meanwhile, durable goods shipments have risen 3.4 percent from $226.3 billion to $234.0 billion over the past 12 months. In February, shipments increased 0.9 percent, beginning to counterbalance the decreases of 1.7 percent and 0.6 percent observed in December and January, respectively. If we were to exclude transportation, shipments would have fallen by 0.7 percent in February, with reduced aircraft orders lowering the headline figure.

Looking at the shipments data for February, the largest increases were seen in the motor vehicles and parts (up 3.9 percent), machinery (up 1.6 percent), other durable goods (up 1.4 percent), and fabricated metal products (up 1.1 percent) sectors. On the other hand, there were notable declines for defense aircraft and parts (down 6.2 percent), nondefense aircraft and parts (down 5.3 percent), computer and electronic products (down 1.3 percent), electrical equipment and appliances (down 0.6 percent).

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

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Richmond Fed: Manufacturing Activity Contracted Once Again in March

The Richmond Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing activity in its District has contracted for two consecutive months. The composite index declined slightly from -6 in February to -7 in March, both of which represent a dramatic shift from the expansion noted in January (12). As such, respondents to the Richmond Fed survey did not observe the rebound from weather-related softness that was noted in similar surveys from the New York and Philadelphia Federal Reserve Banks.

Instead, growth continued to be lackluster, with new orders (unchanged at -9), shipments (down from -6 to -9), and capacity utilization (down from -7 to -14) all declining for the second straight month. Employment levels were flat. According to the Richmond Fed’s report, “A participant commented that weather has `wreaked havoc’ on demand for the past two months, but he anticipated that his company will be very busy once the weather improves.”

Indeed, manufacturers in the region remained mostly upbeat about the future despite the current weaknesses. The index for expected new orders six months from now improved from 15 in February to 30 in March, returning to where it was in January. Similar rises were seen in the forward-looking measures for shipments (up from 17 to 31), capacity utilization (up from 12 to 29), employment (up from 12 to 22), and capital expenditures (up from 9 to 18). The employment figure was notable because it suggested that the pace of hiring was now at its fastest pace since December 2010.

The prices paid for raw materials edged slightly lower for the month, down from 1.19 percent at the annual rate in February to 0.85 percent in March. Pricing pressures six months from now also eased, down from 2.25 percent to 1.81 percent.

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

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Global Manufacturing Economic Update – March 21, 2014

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

Headlines around the world have focused on the Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula from the Ukraine and the mysterious disappearance of a Malaysian Airlines jetliner. Each of these events injects an element of uncertainty in the global dynamic picture. Indeed, so far in 2014, the global economy has not built on the strong momentum that we saw in the second half of 2013. A number of winter storms in the United States, financial struggles in the emerging markets and decelerating growth in China have combined to soften growth in recent months. Yet, we should not lose track of the longer-term trend, as markets in many of our largest trading partners have made significant progress over the course of the past year, with modest growth rates overall.

The JPMorgan Global Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) increased from 53.0 in January to 53.3 in February, its highest point since April 2011. New orders, exports and hiring rose. That said, this global measure might also be skewed higher by stronger performance in the United States, with the Markit U.S. Manufacturing PMI jumping from 53.7 to 57.1, its fastest pace in nearly three years. Sales and production both rebounded in February after weather dampened demand and hampered output and shipments in January. Elsewhere, there were signs that manufacturing activity eased somewhat in February in a number of areas, with a definite split between the developed nations and emerging markets. The HSBC Emerging Markets Index dropped from 51.4 to 51.1, influenced by contracting levels of activity in China, Russia and South Korea.

Speaking of China, its manufacturing PMI has now contracted for two straight months, and a number of economic indicators suggest that its economy has continued to decelerate. Industrial production has slowed from 10.4 percent in August to 8.6 percent in February, and fixed asset investment and retail sales have also eased significantly. These data points suggest that real GDP might fall below the 7.7 percent rate seen in the fourth quarter. Still, growth remains strong overall, even if these figures are well below the rates of growth that many businesses have become accustomed to. In other news, the Bank of China has worked to weaken its currency over the past month, with the Chinese yuan depreciating more than 2 percent since mid-February. The Chinese government has engineered this devaluation, it says, to help fend off speculators; yet, it is also important to note that the yuan has generally appreciated against the U.S. dollar since 2005. (See the attached graphic.)

Looking at our largest trading partners, 8 of the top 10 markets for U.S.-manufactured goods had expanding levels of manufacturing activity, with five countries experiencing slightly faster growth in February than in January. For example, the Canadian economy grew marginally faster in the fourth quarter, with real GDP up 2.9 percent in the fourth quarter. Manufacturing capacity utilization and shipments have also picked up recently, and the RBC Canadian Manufacturing PMI increased from 51.7 to 52.9, suggesting modest growth.

Meanwhile, in Europe, sentiment dipped somewhat in February, but the trend since last summer remains positive. New orders, exports and production eased a little for the month, but growth still remained healthy overall. Real GDP increased 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter, but growth is expected to rise to 1.1 percent for 2014 as a whole. While that indicates very slow growth, it is enough to provide a psychological boost to many businesses and consumers. The one issue that we do continue to worry about is possible disinflation, with still-weak demand keeping price growth at a minimum. Consumer prices have risen just 0.7 percent over the past year, for instance.

On the policy front, the Senate Finance Committee boasts a new chairman, as trade legislation from Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) awaits action. Globally, Russia’s activities in Crimea and the Ukraine are prompting action by the Obama Administration and Congress, while trade talks in the Asia-Pacific and with Europe continue. Work has started on a bill to reauthorize the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank before the end of September. Manufacturers are also seeking input on which products should be covered by new international negotiations to eliminate tariffs on environmental goods.

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

chinese yuan - mar2014

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Philly Fed Reported a Rebound in Manufacturing Activity in March

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said that manufacturing activity rebounded in March from weather-related weaknesses the month before. The Business Outlook Survey’s composite index of general business activity shifted from contraction in February (-6.3) to a decent expansion in March (9.0). The percentage of respondents who said that conditions had worsened fell from 31.4 percent in February to 24.2 in March, with one-third of those taking the survey saying that business was better in the latest month.

Taking the February data out of the analysis, manufacturers have been positive in their outlook since June, mirroring the upturn that we have seen in the national economy in the second half of last year. The average composite index measure over the past 10 months (including February) was 10.9, suggesting that manufacturers in the Philly Fed region have continued to grow at a pretty reasonable rate.

In March, the index for new orders increased from -5.2 to 5.7, with 31.8 percent of respondents saying that their sales were higher in the month. This was up from 23.9 percent who said the same thing in February. Similar findings were observed for shipments (up from -9.9 to 5.7) and the average workweek (up from -7.0 to 3.1). One area where there was a bit of weakness was hiring. The pace of employment growth eased slightly (down from 4.8 to 1.7), but remained positive. Two-thirds of manufacturers completing the survey said that their employment levels were unchanged.

Fortunately, the manufacturing community in the Philadelphia Fed district remains mostly positive about the coming months. Nearly half of them said that they expect sales and shipments to be higher six months from now, with just over one-third expecting to add workers and increase capital spending.

Moreover, when asked about capital expenditures for 2014, manufacturers mostly anticipated increased levels of spending on non-computer equipment (a net percentage of 17.1 percent), software (14.3 percent), computer and related hardware (12.9 percent), structures (5.7 percent), and energy-saving equipment (2.9 percent). Half of the respondents said that they would increase capital spending because of the pickup in sales, with the need to replace outdated capital equipment (47.1 percent) and information technology equipment (41.2 percent) closely following.

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

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Empire State Survey: Manufacturing Activity Picked Up Slightly in March

Sentiment edged somewhat higher in March, according to the Empire State Manufacturing Survey from the New York Federal Reserve Bank. The composite index of general business conditions rose from 4.5 in February to 5.6 in March. Nonetheless, overall optimism has taken a hit over the past couple months, mostly due from poor weather conditions, with the index down from 12.5 in January.

Weather wreaked havoc in February, with the new orders index slightly contracting (-0.2). In March, sales shifted to modest gains once again (3.1), which was a good sign. Just over 30 percent of respondents said that their new orders increased in the month, with 27.3 percent noting declines. Shipments (up from 2.1 to 4.0) and the average workweek (up from 3.8 to 4.7) also improved. In addition, pricing pressures for raw materials decelerated a bit (down from 25.0 to 21.2), with 74.1 percent saying that their costs were unchanged in March.

Meanwhile, the pace of hiring slowed somewhat (down from 11.3 to 5.9), but employment growth has been positive for three straight months with mostly modest gains. Still, 68.2 percent of those taking the survey said that hiring was constant for the month.

Looking ahead six months, manufacturers in the New York Fed district continue to be mostly optimistic, albeit less so than last month. Nearly 48 percent of respondents anticipate increased new orders in the coming months, down from 55.0 percent who said the same in February. Similarly upbeat assessments were seen for shipments, with a generally positive outlook for modest growth in both hiring and capital spending. Indeed, these data support the view that the current weaknesses will be temporary, particularly if the more-positive view of future growth comes to fruition.

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

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ISM: Production Contracted for the First Time since May, but Orders Pick Up

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) provided a mixed view of the current state of the manufacturing sector.  First and foremost, it found that production contracted for the first time since May (down from 54.8 in January to 48.2 in February). This was a sharp contrast to strong growth in output observed from August to December, with the production index averaging 62.7 over that time frame. In addition, stockpiles of inventories also rose (up from 44.0 to 52.5) in February. Poor weather conditions have reduced output and overall activity over the past two months.

A few of the sample comments spoke to the negative impact of weather. A petroleum and coal products respondent said, “Bad weather hampered logistics across the country.” Meanwhile, an apparel manufacturer commented about reduced orders due to winter storms, with “raw material disruptions” and “back-ups at the ports” cited by a business leaders from the chemical industry.

Despite these challenges, the report also suggested that sentiment has begun to bounce back. The purchasing managers’ index (PMI) rose from 51.3 to 53.2. While this remains below the 56.5 seen in December, it was a step in the right direction, giving manufacturers some hope. Indeed, the pace of new orders picked up, increasing from 51.2 to 54.5. This improvement was in domestic sales, with exports easing slightly for the month (down from 54.5 to 53.5).

On the employment front, the pace of hiring was unchanged in February from January’s 52.3. This indicated modest growth in hiring, but below the stronger rate observed from August to December (which averaged 54.6). With new jobs numbers out on Friday for February, this could suggest a slight slowdown from the 15,500 average employment increase for manufacturers observed over the prior six months.

In short, weather has wreaked havoc for manufacturers this winter, negatively impacting sales, production, and shipments. The ISM data confirm this, with output shrinking for the first time in nine months in February. Yet, this report also indicates that new orders have begun to accelerate, an encouraging sign. Leaders in the manufacturing sector continue to be cautiously optimistic about growth in 2014, particularly with the strong momentum seen at the end of 2013. Hopefully, the softness seen of late will prove to be temporary, particularly to the extent that it was weather-related.

At the same time, the recent weakness also reminds us how difficult it is for strong growth to be maintained. Friday’s downgrade in real GDP was another reminder of this. For that reason, the NAM continues to push for pro-growth measures that will lift the economy and help to give additional momentum for manufacturers and the rest of the business community.

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

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Kansas City Fed: Manufacturing Activity Expanded Modestly for the Second Straight Month

Manufacturing activity expanded for the second straight month in the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank district. With that said, the composite index of general business activity eased slightly from 5 in January to 4 in February. The underlying data were largely mixed, but with modest growth overall.

The pace of shipments (up from 3 to 10), production (up from -8 to 3), and the average workweek (up from -6 to 1) improved for the month, but new orders were unchanged at 5. A larger percentage of survey respondents said that their sales were flat in February (39 percent) than those who noted increases (35 percent), with nearly one-quarter observing declines. Export orders contracted barely (down from 4 to -1); whereas, hiring slowed (down from 11 to 3).

The sample comments were equally varied, but more negative than positive. While some manufacturers felt that business was improving, others cited problems due to weather, financing, economic uncertainties, the tax and regulatory environment, and delivery times.

Despite some current challenges, manufacturers in the Kansas City Fed region continued to be cautiously optimistic about the coming months. Nearly half expect shipments and production will be higher six months from now. Moreover, the percentages feeling that new orders, capital spending, and employment levels will be increased in that time frame was 40 percent, 35 percent, and 27 percent, respectively. Still, that positivity wavered somewhat in February, with the forward-looking composite index dropping from 26 to 11.

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

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