The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) reported that manufacturing activity continued to expand solidly in March, even as it pulled back from the best reading since May 2004 in February. The ISM Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index declined from 60.8 in February to 59.3 in March, but the data continue to indicate strength in the sector overall. Indeed, the indices for new orders (down from 64.2 to 61.9) and production (down from 62.0 to 61.0) have exceeded 60—a threshold suggesting robust expansions for both measures—since at least June 2017. Exports (down from 62.8 to 58.7) and employment (down from 59.7 to 57.3) growth also remain quite healthy despite some deceleration in the March figures. Exports, for instance, had expanded at the fastest rate since April 2011 in February, with international sales helping to fuel stronger overall demand. Read More
The Census Bureau said that new durable goods orders rebounded, up 3.1 percent in February after falling by 3.5 percent in January. Much of that volatility stemmed from shifts in aircraft and parts sales, which can have large swings from month to month. The increase in February was also buoyed by stronger motor vehicles and parts orders (up 1.6 percent), and with solid gains in aircraft and automobiles, transportation equipment orders jumped 7.1 percent in February. Excluding transportation equipment, new durable goods orders increased 1.2 percent in February.
New durable goods orders have trended strongly higher over the course of the past 12 months, soaring 6.9 percent since February 2017. One of the more important measures in this release is new orders for core capital goods (or nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft), which can often be seen as a proxy for capital spending in the U.S. economy. In February, new orders for core capital goods were up 1.8 percent, but like the headline number above, the year-over-year pace was a very healthy 8.0 percent. Read More
The Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank reported that manufacturing activity continued to expand strongly in March, with the composite index of general business conditions unchanged at 17. Employment remained one of the bright spots in the latest survey (up from 23 to 26), with the index rising to a new all-time high in the survey’s 17-year history. This reflects an ever-tightening labor market, with the average workweek also widening to the best reading in seven years (up from 11 to 15). At the same time, production (down from 21 to 20) and shipments (down from 24 to 12) slowed a little in March, with new orders contracting for the first time since August 2016 (down from 16 to -1). Exports were also softer than desired (down from 2 to 1). Read More
The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said that manufacturing activity continued to be healthy in its district in March. The composite index of general business activity eased somewhat from 25.8 in February to 22.3 in March, but new orders (up from 24.5 to 35.7) and shipments (up from 15.5 to 32.4) accelerated strongly at their fastest paces in 12 months. More importantly, just over 52 percent of respondents said that new orders had increased in March, with just 16.4 percent noting declines. In addition, the labor market remained tight, with employment (up from 25.2 to 25.6) strengthening slightly and nearly 35 percent of those completing the survey suggesting that hiring had picked up in March. The average workweek (down from 13.7 to 12.8) slowed a bit in this report but was strong overall. Read More
Manufacturing activity in the New York Federal Reserve Bank’s district continued to show solid gains in manufacturing activity in March. In the latest Empire State Manufacturing Survey, the composite index of general business conditions rose from 13.1 in February to 22.5 in March. After decelerating for four straight months from the three-year high of 28.8 in October, it was encouraging to see the headline index rebound once again. Many of the key underlying data points were also higher in March, including faster expansions for new orders (up from 13.5 to 16.8), shipments (up from 12.5 to 27.0), the average workweek (up from 4.6 to 5.9) and inventories (up from 4.9 to 5.6). Read More
The Richmond Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing activity in its district accelerated strongly in February. The composite index for the general business assessment doubled from 14 in January to 28 in February. This was not far from November’s all-time high in the survey’s 34-year history (30). The bottom line is that manufacturers in the region see relatively strong expansions in activity through the first two months of 2018, continuing the trend of decent growth experienced for much of 2017. The underlying data were also encouraging, including healthy expansions in new orders (up from 16 to 27), shipments (up from 15 to 31), capacity utilization (up from 13 to 32), employment (up from 10 to 25) and capital expenditures (up from 18 to 28).
The Richmond Fed has also added several measures to provide even more details on this activity, with improvements seen in February for equipment and software expenditures (up from 22 to 27) and local business conditions (up from 13 to 29). In addition, an index was created for the availability of skills needed (down from -10 to -17), which continued to illustrate just how much tightness in the labor market has challenged manufacturers’ ability to hire new workers. Read More
The Census Bureau said that new durable goods orders fell 3.7 percent in January following two months of solid gains in both November and December. The decline in the latest data stemmed largely from significant decreases in defense and nondefense aircraft and parts sales, which were off by 45.6 percent and 28.4 percent, respectively. It is important to note that aircraft orders can be highly volatile from month to month. Excluding transportation equipment, new durable goods orders edged down 0.1 percent in January, falling (ever-so-slightly) for the first time since June. As such, broader activity in the durable goods sector started 2018 on a soft note. Read More