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Markit: U.S. Manufacturing Activity Remained “Subdued” Despite Picking up a Little in March

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U.S. manufacturing activity remained “subdued” despite picking up a little in March, according to the latest figures from Markit. The Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing PMI increased from 51.3 in February, its slowest pace in more than three years, to 51.4 in March. This suggests that manufacturing in the U.S. remains challenged despite some signs of progress, including accelerated growth for new orders (up from 51.7 to 52.8), output (up from 51.3 to 51.4) and hiring (up from 51.5 to 52.1). The pickup in demand is notable, even as the sales expanded at a much faster pace at this point last year, when the index for new orders stood at 56.4. On the other hand, exports (up from 49.1 to 50.0) were stagnant in March, stabilizing a bit after contracting in February. In general, the strong dollar and weaknesses abroad have dampened international demand and overall sentiment over the course of the past year, with the export index averaging 50.2 over the past 15 months. Read More

ISM: Manufacturing Contracted for the 5th Straight Month, but Offered Some Encouraging Signs

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The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said that manufacturing activity has now contracted for five straight months. The manufacturing purchasing managers’ index increased from 48.2 in January to 49.5 in February but remained below the important threshold of 50 which would indicate the start of expansion. In that regard, this report continued to show weaker-than-desired data for manufacturers, with the sector challenged by global headwinds and reduced commodity prices. Indeed, exports (down from 47.0 to 46.5) remained in contraction territory, hurt by the strong dollar and economic softness for manufacturing goods to key markets.

Yet, this latest release also offered some signs of encouragement. For one thing, the headline index was higher than the consensus expectation of roughly 48.5, indicating that respondents were perhaps less downbeat than predicted. At the same time, some of the underlying data reflect stabilization  in activity from prior months. For instance, new orders (unchanged at 51.5) and production (up from 50.2 to 52.8) have now expanded for two consecutive months, with the latter growing at its fastest pace since August. Moreover, the pace of decline for hiring (up from 45.9 to 48.5) slowed in February, and pricing pressures (up from 33.5 to 38.5) remain virtually nonexistent.

This does not mean that manufacturing’s struggles are over, but this report does offer a glimpse of cautious optimism, with the ISM data coming in a bit stronger than anticipated. Even with this finding, manufacturers remain anxious in their economic outlook overall, and other reports continue to highlight softness in the marketplace. With that in mind, manufacturing leaders remain focused on implementing pro-manufacturing policies, including those outlined in the NAM’s “Competing to Win” document in this all-important election year and beyond.

Kansas City Fed: Manufacturing Activity Has Declined for 12 Straight Months

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The Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing activity in its district has declined for 12 straight months. The composite index of general business conditions fell from -9 in January to -12 in February, its lowest level since April 2009. Reduced crude oil prices, the strong dollar and weaknesses abroad have pressured the sector’s performance. The data were negative across-the-board, including new orders (up from -27 to -15), production (unchanged at -8), shipments (down from -7 to -11), exports (down from 1 to -6), employment (down from -7 to -20) and the average employee workweek (down from -7 to -14). Half of all respondents said that they experienced no change in new orders for the month, with 30 percent noting declining sales. As such, it should not be a surprise that manufacturers in the region remained anxious.

With that said, manufacturing leaders in the Kansas City Fed area were cautiously positive in their outlook for the next six months, but not overwhelmingly so. The forward-looking composite index edged down from 5 to 4. At the same time, new orders (up from 13 to 15), production (up from 14 to 16) and shipments (up from 18 to 20) are expected to increase at decent rates in the months ahead, which should provide some encouragement. Yet, other indicators reflect ongoing softness in the market. For instance, the labor market is anticipated to remain weak, including hiring (down from 5 to 3) and the average workweek (up from -8 to 1), and capital spending is seen declining (down from -1 to -9). Exports (down from 2 to -1) are also predicted to be slightly negative over the next six months.

Markit: U.S. Manufacturing Activity in February Eased to its Slowest Pace since October 2012

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The Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing PMI fell to its slowest pace in more than three years in February, a sign that challenges hitting the sector have not yet abated. The composite measure declined from 52.4 in January to 51.0 in February, and in general, manufacturing activity has decelerated over the course of the past year, down from 55.1 in February 2015. On the positive side, new orders (down from 53.6 to 51.7), output (down from 53.2 to 51.3) and employment (down from 52.8 to 51.5) expanded somewhat, just not as far as we might prefer, with the rate of growth slowing in February for each. On the other hand, exports (down from 51.1 to 49.1) returned to negative territory after two months of progress, a sign of just how much the stronger dollar and weaknesses abroad have dampened international demand and overall sentiment. Read More

Factory Orders Fell 2.9 Percent in December

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The Census Bureau said that new factory orders fell 2.9 percent in December, declining for the fourth time in the past five months. New manufactured goods orders decreased from $470.0 billion in November to $456.5 billion in December, its lowest level since June 2011. As such, these data continue to reflect a disappointing pace of demand for manufactured products in light of recent economic slowness globally. On a year-over-year basis, new orders have declined by 3.9 percent, down from $474.9.0 billion in December 2014. Read More

ISM: Manufacturing Sentiment Negative for the Fourth Straight Month

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The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said that manufacturing sentiment remained somewhat negative in January. The purchasing managers’ index for the sector edged marginally higher, up from 48.0 in December to 48.2 in January. It was the fourth straight month with the headline PMI under 50, which would suggest contracting sentiment among manufacturers over that time frame. This mainly reflected deteriorating employment (down from 48.0 to 45.9) and inventories (unchanged at 43.5), with the decline in hiring at its lowest level since June 2009, the last official month of the Great Recession. Indeed, manufacturers continue to worry about the impact of the global slowdown as we start the new year. This can be seen in export growth (down from 51.0 to 47.0). The exports index has contracted in seven of the past eight months on the strong dollar and soft growth abroad. Read More

ISM: Manufacturing Activity Remained Negative in December for the Second Straight Month

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The Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) remained negative for the second straight month. The composite index fell from 48.6 in November to 48.2 in December, its lowest level since June 2009. As such, manufacturers reported soft demand and production activity at the end of 2015, which represented a sharp contrast to the modest growth seen 12 months prior to that. Indeed, the ISM Manufacturing PMI was 55.1 one year ago, and it peaked last year at 58.1 in August 2014. The sector has struggled with sluggish growth abroad and lower commodity prices over much of the past year, dampening overall manufacturing activity. Along those lines, new orders (up from 48.9 to 49.2) and production (up from 49.2 to 49.8) continued to indicate weaknesses in the sector, even as each recorded some easing in the pace of decline in December. To be fair, however, the sample comments also noted some segments that were doing well at year’s end, particularly those aligned with the automotive sector. Read More

NY Fed: Manufacturers Contracted for the 5th Straight Month in December, Albeit at a Slower Pace

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The Empire State Manufacturing Survey reflected contracting levels of activity for the fifth straight month in December, albeit at a slower pace. The composite index of general business conditions improved from -10.7 in November to -4.6 in December. It was the best reading of the headline index since July’s 3.9 figure. The improvement could be seen in growth of shipments (up from -4.1 to 5.5) for the month, which expanded for the first time since July, and a slower rate of decline for new orders (up from –11.8 to -5.1). Looking more closely at the new orders figures, the percentage of respondents saying that their sales had declined for the month has fallen from 37.2 percent in October to 30.6 percent in this latest report. That represents progress of some sort, but it must also be compared to the one-quarter of those completing the survey who had increased new orders. Read More

ISM: Manufacturing Activity Contracted for the First Time in Three Years in November

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The Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) contracted for the first time in three years in November. The composite index fell from 50.1 in October to 48.6 in November, the first negative number since October 2012 and the lowest level since June 2009. This is one more piece of evidence that manufacturers continue to struggle in the face of a strong dollar, lower commodity prices and difficulties in growing international demand. Indeed, the index for new orders decreased from 52.9 to 48.9, representing a sharp decline from the more-robust pace of 63.0 observed in November 2014. Much like the headline figure, the new orders measure was the lowest since August 2012, or essentially in just over three years. Behind this number, new export orders (unchanged at 47.5) have declined in eight of the 10 months year-to-date. Read More

Durable Goods Orders Fell for the Second Straight Month in September

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Durable goods orders declined for the second straight month in September, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Census Bureau. New orders fell 1.2 percent in September, extending the 3.0 percent decrease observed in August. At least part of this decline could be explained by reduced nondefense aircraft sales, which have continued to normalize after soaring in June during the Paris Air Show. This led to a 2.9 percent decrease in new orders for transportation equipment despite a rebound in motor vehicle and parts sales (up 1.8 percent). Still, even excluding transportation equipment, new durable goods orders fell 0.9 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively, in August and September, indicating broader weaknesses in the sector. Read More