The HSBC Flash China Manufacturing PMI shifted to a marginal expansion in February, improving slightly after contracting for two straight months. The headline index increased from 49.7 in January to 50.1 in February. The underlying data were mixed. New orders (down from 50.8 to 50.4) and output (up from 50.1 to 50.8) grew slowly for the month, even as the pace of sales slipped a bit. At the same time, new export orders (down from 51.1 to 47.1) and employment (up from 49.1 to 49.3) declined on net. Export sales, in particularly, deteriorated to their lowest level since August 2013, which was disappointing. The index for hiring, which has contracted now for 24 consecutive months, increased to a 7-month high, with the pace of the decline decreasing. Final PMI data will be come out on Monday, March 2. (continue reading…)
The Markit Flash Eurozone Manufacturing PMI edged ever-so-slightly higher, up from 51.0 in January to 51.1 in February. This suggests very modest growth in manufacturing activity in February, with better data for new orders (up from 50.6 to 50.9), output (up from 52.1 to 52.2) and exports (up from 50.7 to 51.8). Hiring in the Flash Eurozone Composite PMI, which includes all segments of the economy, rose to its highest level since August 2011, but this was primarily in the service sector. Indeed, for manufacturers, the pace of employment growth was unchanged in February at 50.6. (continue reading…)
Manufacturing production edged marginally higher in January, up 0.2 percent, according to the Federal Reserve Board. This represented an improvement from being flat in December, and yet, these data also suggest that output in the sector has been quite soft in both December and January. On the positive side, manufacturing production has risen a whopping 5.6 percent over the past 12 months. Of course, sharply reduced output in January 2014 due to a number of winter storms helped to buoy this year-over-year figure. Still, the year-over-year pace last month was 4.3 percent, illustrating decent growth in manufacturing output last year overall. (continue reading…)
The Federal Reserve Board said that manufacturing production increased 0.3 percent in December, a slower pace than 1.3 percent growth rate observed in November. As such, it was a softer-than-desired end to the year in terms of output. On the positive side, it was the fourth straight monthly expansion for manufacturing production, and the sector has experienced a healthy 4.9 percent increase in output in 2014. That is more than double the year-over-year pace observed in December 2013 of 2.3 percent, for instance, illustrating the significant gains in production and in the outlook made over the past year. Manufacturers continue to be mostly upbeat about 2015, even as they are keenly aware of possible downward risks, especially in global markets. (continue reading…)
The Chinese economy continues to slow, with the HSBC Flash China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) contracting for the first time since May. The headline index declined from 50.0 in November to 49.5 in December. New orders (down from 51.3 to 49.6), output (up from 49.6 to 49.7) and employment (up from 48.7 to 48.9) were below 50 – the threshold signifying reduced activity – in December, with production declining for the second straight month. On the positive side, new export orders (up from 51.1 to 51.7) were still growing somewhat modestly. As such, this report suggests that the Chinese economy is ending 2014 much as it began it, with softness in the manufacturing sector. (continue reading…)
Manufacturing production was up sharply in November, increasing 1.1 percent after a softer-than-desired autumn. More importantly, production in the sector has risen a relatively healthy 4.8 percent over the past 12 months, suggesting healthy gains over the past year in terms of output. This data tends to mirror other reports, including the latest NAM/IndustryWeek survey, that show manufacturers relatively upbeat about new orders and output as we are about to move into the new year. These stronger gains should bode well for the coming months, we hope, even as business leaders grapple with continuing global economic uncertainties.
Capacity utilization for manufacturers was also higher, up from 77.6 percent in October to 78.4 percent. This was the highest utilization rate since December 2007, the first month of the Great Recession. (continue reading…)
The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that productivity in the manufacturing sector increased 2.9 percent in the third quarter. This was slightly lower than the original estimate of 3.2 percent growth. Manufacturing output rose 4.2 percent in the third quarter, with unit labor costs down 1.3 percent. On a year-over-year basis, labor productivity has increased 2.7 percent, with unit labor costs down 0.5 percent. Higher productivity has helped to improve U.S. manufacturers’ overall global competitiveness, with unit labor costs in the sector down 6.3 percent since the recession. (continue reading…)
The HSBC Flash China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to neutral (50) in November, down from 50.4 in October. This was the weakest reading since Chinese respondents noted contracting levels of activity from January through May. Indeed, output contracted once again (down from 50.7 to 49.5) for the first time since May, which was not a good sign. Hiring (down from 48.9 to 48.4) was also negative for the 13th straight month. On the positive side, new orders (up from 51.2 to 51.4) edged slightly higher, and exports (down from 51.7 to 50.5) continued to expand, albeit at a much slower pace. (continue reading…)
Manufacturing production rose 0.2 percent in October. At the same time, output in the sector was revised down from an original estimate of 0.5 percent in September to 0.2 percent. As such, manufacturing production has been weaker over the past three months than desired. Capacity utilization among manufacturers has also edged lower over this time frame, down 77.8 percent in July to 77.2 percent in October.
On a year-over-year basis, manufacturing production has risen 3.4 percent since October 2013. That indicates modest growth over the past 12 months, and yet, it also reflects a deceleration in the year-over-year pace since peaking in July at 4.9 percent. (continue reading…)
The HSBC Flash China PMI rose to its highest level in three months, up from 50.2 in September to 50.4 in October. It was the fifth consecutive monthly expansion in manufacturing activity in China, an improvement from the contracting activity levels experienced in the first five months of 2014. Yet, despite the better headline figure, many of the underlying data points reflect some easing in growth rates for the month, including new orders (down from 51.5 to 51.4), exports (down from 54.5 to 52.8) and output (down from 51.3 to 50.7). Hiring continued to decline but at a slower rate (up from 47.5 to 48.6).
As such, Chinese manufacturers are expanding but not by as much as we might prefer. This finding is consistent with the deceleration in other Chinese data, including real GDP, which slowed from 7.5 percent year-over-year growth in the second quarter to 7.3 percent in the third quarter. Fixed real investment (down from 16.5 percent year-over-year in August to 16.1 percent in September) and retail sales (down from 11.9 percent year-over-year to 11.6 percent) also declined. On the positive side, industrial production picked up, increasing from the year-over-year rate of 6.9 percent in August to 8.0 percent in September; yet, that remained lower than July’s 9.0 percent pace.
Meanwhile, the Markit Flash Eurozone Manufacturing PMI increased from 50.3 to 50.7. That is good news, as the September figure had been the lowest level since July 2013, when Europe first emerged from its recession. October’s reading was higher largely due to a pickup in output (up from 51.0 to 51.9) and employment (up from 50.1 to 50.6). Still, new orders (unchanged at 49.3) contracted for the second straight month, with exports (down from 51.6 to 50.5) easing. The Eurozone continues to face challenges in manufacturing, especially in terms of falling sales. The results also vary by country, with Germany (up from 49.9 to 51.8) improving somewhat, while French manufacturers (down 48.4 to 47.6) continue to report weakness.
Closer to home, the Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing PMI dropped slightly, down from 57.5 to 56.2. The pace of activity was down across-the-board, including new orders (down from 59.8 to 57.1), output (down from 59.6 to 58.0), hiring (down from 56.4 to 56.2) and exports (down from 54.1 to 51.9). While the index for new orders was at its lowest level since January’s 53.9 reading, it is hard to get too worked up over October’s decline for these indicators. After all, demand, production and employment continue to grow at decent rates, and manufacturers are reporting higher activity levels than earlier in the year.
Still, we would like to see better results to begin the fourth quarter, particularly for exports. Given the softness in worldwide markets, however, this weakness should not be a surprise.
Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.