Tag: Markit PMI

Global Manufacturing Economic Update – April 11, 2014

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

In its latest World Economic Outlook, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) now predicts global GDP growth of 3.6 percent in 2014 and 3.9 percent in 2015. The forecast for this year was essentially unchanged from the outlook in October, and it suggests that the global economy continues to recover. Global growth in 2013 was 3.0 percent. The IMF projects U.S. growth of 2.8 percent this year and 3.0 percent next year, up from 1.9 percent last year. Europe is another area where the IMF sees progress this year—albeit quite modestly—with real GDP growth of 1.2 percent in 2014 and 1.5 percent in 2015, with the continent emerging from its deep two-year recession. Despite the slightly better data overall, the IMF worries about low inflation in advanced economies, structural challenges in emerging markets and geopolitical risks.

The IMF also notes that China’s economy continues to decelerate, with real GDP growth of 7.5 percent in 2014 and 7.3 percent in 2015. This is consistent with recent data, which show activity in the manufacturing sector slowing down. The HSBC China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) has contracted for three straight months with falling levels of new orders and output. On the positive side, export sales appeared to pick up a bit in March. Next week, we will get new data for industrial production, fixed-asset investment and retail sales. Each has eased significantly in recent reports. Still, even with these slower rates, the outlook for China remains strong overall, and China has already begun to put stimulative measures in place to boost the economy further. As noted in the past report, the Bank of China has also supported a depreciation of the yuan in the past few months, but it asserts that its actions have been mainly to fend off speculators.

Weaknesses in China and Russia have also weighed heavily on manufacturing activity figures for emerging markets. The HSBC Emerging Markets Manufacturing PMI fell below 50 for the first time since July as demand and production stagnated. Nonetheless, outside of China and Russia, the picture for emerging markets was somewhat more positive. Several countries continued to experience modest growth rates, albeit with a slower pace than the month before in some cases. Two notable strengths among emerging markets hail from Eastern Europe. The Czech Republic and Poland continue to see strong growth in their manufacturing sectors despite some deceleration in March. For instance, the production index in the Czech Republic has now exceeded 60 for two straight months, a sign that output is experiencing healthy gains of late.

In all of Europe, manufacturers report slow-but-steady progress. The Markit Eurozone Manufacturing PMI has now expanded for nine consecutive months, an encouraging sign after the deep two-year recession. France, which had lagged behind many of its peers on the continent, had its manufacturing PMI figure exceed 50 for the first time since July 2011. However, overall economic growth remains modest. The unemployment rate continues to be elevated, even as it fell below 12 percent for the first time in 13 months. Weak income growth has caused many to worry about possible deflationary concerns. Annual inflation rates in the Eurozone have fallen from 1.7 percent in March 2013 to 0.5 percent in March 2014, and producer prices declined in February. Aware of these trends, the European Central Bank (ECB) held interest rates steady and said it was prepared to pursue quantitative easing, if necessary, to stimulate the economy further.

Meanwhile, the U.S. trade deficit widened in February due to a decrease in goods exports and an increase in service-sector imports. Manufactured goods exports in the first two months of 2014 were 0.6 percent lower than during the same time period last year, which was disappointing. Nonetheless, we continue to be optimistic that better economic growth rates abroad will lead to improvements on the export front. Fortunately, four of our top five markets for U.S.-manufactured goods notched year-to-date increases in the first two months relative to last year, including Mexico, China, Japan and Germany.

Efforts to move forward U.S.–European and Asian–Pacific negotiations continue, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) is heading to the next stage of implementing the recently completed Trade Facilitation Agreement. On the legislative side, Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank reauthorization efforts continue, while manufacturers keep pressing for congressional action on key trade legislation, such as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB).

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

eurozone inflation rates - apr2014

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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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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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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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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.

employment situation - mar2014

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Monday Economic Report – February 24, 2014

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

Mark Twain once said, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes.” Indeed, the poor weather conditions that temporarily closed many facilities and hampered shipments in the manufacturing sector over much of the past few weeks appear to have improved. Yet, the damage can be seen in many of the latest economic indicators released last week. Regional surveys from the New York and Philadelphia Federal Reserve Banks showed softness in new orders and production in February. This followed reports from earlier in the month that manufacturing production and the Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) both dropped sharply in January. Housing data were also weak, with new starts down 16 percent in January and homebuilder confidence plummeting 10 points in one month.

To the extent that weather was the primary factor in reducing activity, one should not over-interpret these results to suggest they indicate broad-based weaknesses in the economy. The same data sources provide hints that the momentum manufacturers experienced at the end of 2013 will continue into 2014. For example, housing permits fell less sharply in January, particularly for single-family homes, indicating that the intent to start new residential construction has largely been sustained (even if weather prevented homebuilders from doing so). Similarly, the New York and Philadelphia Federal Reserve surveys continue to report optimism for the next six months, with essentially half of the respondents in both surveys anticipating sales increases. Production, hiring and capital spending are also expected to rise in both regions.

Moreover, the Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing PMI appeared to shrug off weather concerns altogether, up from 53.7 in January to 56.7 in February. The pace of growth for new orders (up from 53.9 to 58.8) and output (up from 53.5 to 57.2) increased significantly, with sales growth at its highest level since May 2010. Such data reinforce the notion that manufacturing should rebound from recent weaknesses.

Still, there were signs that global growth might also have slowed a bit. While European manufacturing activity continues to expand modestly and has made substantial progress after its deep two-year recession, there was a slight deceleration in the pace of growth in many key indicators in the preliminary February data. Meanwhile, the HSBC Flash China Manufacturing PMI has now contracted for two straight months, down from 49.5 in January to 48.3 in February. This suggests that the easing that we saw in industrial output during the final months of last year might be continuing in 2014. Nonetheless, even with reduced activity, the Chinese economy continues to grow solidly, with real GDP up an annualized 7.7 percent in the fourth quarter and industrial production up 9.7 percent year-over-year in December.

Regarding price stability in the United States, consumer and producer price data showed modest growth in January. Cold weather had an impact, with higher home heating costs pushing up natural gas and electricity prices. At the same time, pricing pressures remained minimal and in line with the Federal Reserve Board’s stated goal of keeping core inflation below 2 percent at the annual rate. This has allowed the Federal Reserve the luxury of pursuing highly accommodative monetary policies to try to stimulate growth. At the same time, the minutes from the January Federal Open Market Committee meeting suggests that better economic data might necessitate higher short-term interest rates by year’s end—sooner than expected. Either way, with the unemployment rate nearing 6.5 percent, the Federal Reserve will need to change its forward guidance. Long-term asset purchases are anticipated to end by mid-2014.

This week, the highlight will come on Friday when fourth-quarter real GDP will be revised. The consensus is for real GDP to decline from its earlier estimate of 3.2 percent to 2.3 percent. We will also get three new perspectives regarding current regional manufacturing activity in surveys from the Dallas, Kansas City and Richmond Federal Reserve Banks. These reports will be closely watched given the declines seen in last week’s releases. In addition, preliminary data on new durable goods orders and shipments are anticipated to reflect significant weaknesses. Other important releases include new data on consumer confidence, new home sales and the national activity index.

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

ppi - feb2014

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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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Global Manufacturing Economic Update – February 14, 2014

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

Worldwide equity markets have grappled with struggles in emerging markets in recent weeks, with some countries forced to defend their currencies by raising interest rates. Turkey, for instance, raised its key interest rate to as much as 12 percent to stem significant declines in its lira. Argentina, India, South Africa and other countries have taken similar moves. While many of these nations have suggested that the Federal Reserve’s polices have contributed to their current plight, recent events have exposed larger structural weaknesses in these countries that the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program might have camouflaged. Realizing that these challenges might be more isolated, global stock markets have recovered mostly of late.

For manufacturers, the latest data continue to show improvements in most major economies, including emerging markets. Some measures indicated a pullback to begin the new year, with the JPMorgan Global Manufacturing PMI down slightly from 53.0 in December to 52.9 in January. Yet, the larger story is that manufacturer sentiment has increased globally for 15 straight months, and several of our largest trading partners are experiencing multiyear highs. The Markit Eurozone Manufacturing PMI, for example, reflected the fastest pace of growth since May 2011, buoyed by strong gains in new orders and output in countries such as Germany, Italy and Spain. Even Greece had positive manufacturing activity for the first time since August 2009. France remains one of the few European countries that continues to struggle.

In all, nine of the top 10 markets for U.S.-manufactured goods had manufacturing PMI values greater than 50—the threshold for expansion. The one country where the manufacturing sector contracted in January was China. The HSBC China Manufacturing PMI dropped from 50.5 to 49.5, its lowest level in six months. However, we should not make too much of this decline, particularly if February’s data rebound. The measure for output continued to show modest growth, albeit at a slower pace. Moreover, real GDP in China grew 7.7 percent in the fourth quarter and for all of 2013, higher than the 7.5 percent rate in the third quarter. While Chinese economic growth has decelerated from past years, the country has shown improvements from mid-2013 and still continues to grow strongly.

Meanwhile, the U.S. trade deficit narrowed in 2013 overall, but it rose somewhat in December. Spurred energy production in the United States has helped the overall trade balance, with petroleum exports up and imports down for the year. Still, one of the more frustrating storylines of 2013 was the sluggish growth of manufactured goods exports, up just 2.4 percent for the year. This was below the 5.7 percent pace of 2013, and the disappointing increase remained true even with overall improvements in the global economy. Exports of manufactured products to South America and Europe were down 2.0 percent and 0.1 percent, respectively, with an easing in the growth rate of exports to our two largest trading partners—Canada (0.7 percent) and Mexico (5.1 percent). One of the brighter spots was China—defying conventional wisdom—with U.S.-manufactured goods exports up 18.4 percent in 2013. To be fair, however, the manufactured goods trade deficit with China remains large.

From the President’s remarks on Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) in his State of the Union address to hearings on the reauthorization of the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank, trade legislation is a prominent part of the discussion in our nation’s capital. Globally, U.S. negotiators will be seeking to make progress in the next rounds of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) this month and next. India garners substantial attention from the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and business groups, while the sanctions agreement with Iran takes effect.

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

manufactured exports growth - feb2014

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Monday Economic Report – January 27, 2014

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

According to the latest data, manufacturers contributed $2.03 trillion to the economy in 2012, or 12.5 percent of GDP. This was up from $1.56 trillion in 2000 and $1.92 trillion in 2011. As such, it suggests that manufacturing remains quite strong in the United States, with output continuing to expand and recovering from the falloff during the recession. In fact, manufacturing in the United States would be the eighth-largest country in the world if you were to compare manufacturing’s contribution with worldwide GDP values. Nations with GDP greater than U.S. manufacturing’s contribution were the United States, China, Japan, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Brazil.

Looking at more current data, there were two manufacturing developments of note in the data released last week. First, Chinese manufacturing activity contracted slightly for the first time since July, spooking financial markets. This reduction in the preliminary Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) data stemmed largely from fewer new orders and exports, and it provided fodder for those worried about deceleration in China’s economy. (This also fed anxieties about growth in the emerging markets in general.) Yet, Chinese manufacturing output remained expansionary, albeit at a slower pace than the month before, and production has been positive for six straight months.

The second notable trend was the negative impact of colder weather on U.S. production in January. Both the Kansas City Federal Reserve’s survey and the Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing PMI data indicated weaker output for the month, with winter shutdowns cited as one of the causes. We would expect such changes due to poor weather conditions to be temporary, and for the most part, manufacturers in the United States remain mostly upbeat about new orders, shipments, employment and capital spending moving forward. These sentiment surveys, as well as other similar ones, continue to show improvements in manufacturing sales and output since the beginning of the third quarter, with cautiously optimistic expectations for 2014.

Two indicators released last week support this more upbeat assessment of the U.S. economy’s health. The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index (LEI) continued to expand in December, rising 3.4 percent in the second half of 2013. One of the stronger elements in this index was the new orders component, particularly as measured by the Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) PMI reports. Similarly, manufacturing was a significant positive contributor to the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank’s National Activity Index (NAI). This measure has shown strong improvement in the past few months, with overall growth now above its historical trend.

This week will be a much busier one on the economic front. However, much of the focus will be on two separate developments. The first of these will come on Wednesday with the Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) release of its monetary policy statement. This will be the last meeting with Ben Bernanke as the Federal Reserve Board chair, and it is widely expected that the FOMC will continue to taper its purchases of long-term assets, probably down from $75 billion each month to $65 billion. Then, on Thursday, we will get our first glimpse of fourth-quarter real GDP growth numbers. The consensus expectation is for growth of at least 2.5 percent in the final quarter of 2013, down from 4.1 percent in the third quarter.

Other highlights for the week include new manufacturing surveys from the Dallas and Richmond Federal Reserve Banks and consumer confidence data from both the Conference Board and the University of Michigan. In addition, we will get the latest updates for new durable goods orders, personal income and spending and state employment.

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

manufacturing value-added - jan2014

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Markit: Cold Weather Hurts U.S. Production, and Chinese Output Contracts for First Time since July

The Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) eased somewhat, down from 54.4 in December to 53.7 in January. 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 February 3. All of the key subcomponents of the index were lower to begin the new year, with winter weather impacting overall U.S. production.

For instance, the index for output dropped 3.9 points from 57.3 to 53.4. As such, production growth continued to expand, but at the slowest pace in three months. Similarly, there were lower data points for new orders (down from 56.1 to 54.1) and employment (down from 54.0 to 53.2). To the extent that sales growth was positive, it stemmed largely from domestic increases. New export orders (down from 51.4 to 48.9) contracted slightly in January for the first time since September.

Despite the deceleration in activity in January, the longer-term trend for U.S. manufacturers has generally shown improvement. After weaknesses in the spring months (e.g., the Markit Manufacturing PMI bottomed out at 51.9 in May), the data have made progress in recent months, reflecting modest growth overall. If cold weather contributed to January’s slower activity, the impact should be temporary, and we should get some indication of that, either in the final data release or in the February numbers.

Meanwhile, financial markets have reacted to news that manufacturing activity in China has unexpectedly contracted. The HSBC Flash China Manufacturing PMI fell from 50.5 in December to 49.6 in January. This was the first decline since July, following stabilization in the Chinese economy over the past six months. The reduction in the overall PMI figure stemmed largely from fewer new orders (down from 51.8 to 49.8) and exports (down from 50.3 to 49.0). Hiring continued to be negative (down from 48.8 to 47.8), with the employment index below 50 each month since March.

On the other hand, the manufacturing output data (down from 51.8 to 51.3) remain expansionary, albeit at a slower pace than the month before. In fact, the output measure has exceeded 50 for six consecutive months, suggesting that growth might be soft but it is still expanding modestly. Indeed, real GDP in the fourth quarter of 2013 decelerated, as well, from an annual rate of 7.8 percent in the third quarter to 7.7 percent. Nonetheless, 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 the Chinese and U.S. reports, European manufacturing activity strengthened. The Markit Flash Eurozone Manufacturing PMI increased from 52.7 in December to 53.9 in January. This was the highest point for the PMI since May 2011. The underlying data were mostly higher, including new orders (up from 54.2 to 55.4), output (up from 54.8 to 56.7), exports (up from 53.9 to 55.2), and employment (up from 49.9 to 50.7). The hiring figure is notable in that it was the first time since January 2012 that net employment growth was positive.

The pace of growth has varied from country to country, with German manufacturing accelerating (up from 54.3 to 56.3) but French production continuing to contract (up from 45.2 to 48.2), albeit with a slower rate of decline.

Even with stabilizing conditions in Europe, growth on the continent remains far from robust, with real GDP in the third quarter up just 0.1 percent and some worries about deflation, with pricing pressures decelerating. Despite such worries, the Markit PMI data reflect modest growth in output prices, which have been slightly expansionary since July.

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

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