Tag: Philadelphia Fed

Monday Economic Report – April 20, 2015

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

Manufacturing production increased 0.1 percent in March. This followed three months of weaker data, including declines in both January and February. There have been some significant headwinds hitting the manufacturing sector over the past few months, including a strong U.S. dollar, weakened economic markets abroad, lower crude oil prices, the West Coast ports slowdown and weather. These challenges have slowed activity in the sector since November. The latest Beige Book discussed these headwinds. The year-over-year pace of manufacturing production in March was 2.4 percent, down from 4.5 percent in November. Meanwhile, total industrial production, which includes mining and utilities, fell 0.6 percent in March, declining for the third time in the past four months. As such, the data suggest manufacturers have started the new year on a very soft note despite optimism for better demand and output moving forward. (continue reading…)

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Philly Fed: Modest Manufacturing Growth in April, but With Lingering Challenges

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said that manufacturing activity picked up a bit in April after softening over the past three months. The composite index of general business activity rose from 5.0 in March to 7.5 in April. This suggests modest growth overall, even as it continues to show an expansion that was slower than at the end of last year. The headline index was 24.3 in December, for instance. The Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey continues to reflect mostly positive attitudes moving forward, despite headwinds that will continue to challenge growth. One of those headwinds has been a stronger U.S. dollar. (continue reading…)

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Monday Economic Report – March 23, 2015

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

The U.S. economy has sputtered a bit in the early months of 2015. While it continues to grow modestly, several economic indicators are weaker than we would prefer. For example, manufacturing production decreased by 0.2 percent in February, declining for the third straight month. Many headwinds have combined to bring about this softness in the manufacturing sector, including global economic weakness, a strong U.S. dollar, the West Coast ports slowdown, a cautious consumer and the weather in some parts of the country. (continue reading…)

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Philly Fed: Modest Manufacturing Growth in the District in March

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia reported that manufacturing activity has expanding modestly in March. The composite index of general business activity edged marginally lower, down from 5.2 in February to 5.0 in March. Overall activity has been softer-than-desired in the first three months of 2015, averaging just 5.5; whereas, the composite index had averaged a more robust 18.6 for 2014 as a whole. Nonetheless, the Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey has now expanded for 13 straight months, and business leaders in the district remain relatively optimistic about the coming months. (continue reading…)

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Monday Economic Report – February 23, 2015

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

In the minutes of its January 27–28 meeting, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) provided a nuanced view of the economic outlook. Participants noted that “economic activity had been expanding at a solid pace,” and they were mostly optimistic about the “prospects for further improvement in 2015.” Yet, the FOMC also pointed to some significant headwinds in the U.S. economy, including sluggish global growth, a stronger U.S. dollar, federal government sequestration and reduced crude oil prices. Regarding the latter, the Federal Reserve said that it was concerned that “persistently low energy prices might prompt a larger retrenchment of employment [and capital investment] in these industries.” (continue reading…)

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Monday Economic Report – January 20, 2015

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

Financial markets around the world continued to react to the softening global economic environment. In particular, foreign exchange markets were rocked by news that Switzerland would no longer support its cap on the franc, where that currency has been seen as a safe haven, particularly against the euro. Almost immediately, the Swiss franc appreciated sharply against the euro and other currencies. For its part, the euro has continued to depreciate against the U.S. dollar, with one euro selling for $1.1581 on Friday. This was down $1.3927 on March 17, the high point of 2014, representing an appreciation of more than 17 percent for the U.S. dollar against the euro. These developments could hurt the ability of manufacturers in the United States to grow exports. (continue reading…)

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Philly Fed: Manufacturing Activity Remained Strong in December

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said that manufacturing activity remained strong in December. While the composite index dropped from 40.8 in November to 24.5 in December, that figure continues to reflect healthy gains in demand and output. The November data points were outliers in terms of their strength, with December’s report reflecting figures that were closer to the average of the second half of 2014 (27.0). Manufacturers in the Philly Fed region have cited marked improvements since the first half, when the composite index contracted in February and averaged just 10.3 over the first six months of the year. (continue reading…)

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Monday Economic Report – November 24, 2014

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

Central banks around the world have acted recently in an attempt to lift a sagging global economy. On Friday, for instance, the European Central Bank (ECB) announced that it has begun purchasing asset-backed securities, finally beginning a quantitative easing program that some have long sought. Earlier in the day, ECB President Mario Draghi said that “we will do what we must” to spur economic growth. In addition, the People’s Bank of China surprised markets by cutting interest rates on Friday. These actions followed the Bank of Japan’s announcement on October 31 that it would increase the amount of its monthly asset purchases. (continue reading…)

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Philly Fed Manufacturers Were Very Positive about Activity in November

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said that manufacturing activity expanded very strongly in November, with its composite index measuring an off-the-chart 40.8 for the month. This was up from 20.7 in October, and you would have to go back two decades to find a higher figure (December 1993’s 41.2 reading). In fact, 49.2 percent of respondents to the Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey said that conditions had improved in November, up from 34.2 percent who said that same thing in October. Along those lines, the Philly Fed survey has registered above average index figures since the first quarter, averaging 23.0 from April to November. That suggests that manufacturers in the district are currently very positive about their businesses. (continue reading…)

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Monday Economic Report – October 20, 2014

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

Global financial markets were highly volatile last week, with investors concerned about slower growth in Europe and an Ebola outbreak in the United States, among other factors. Indeed, industrial production in the Eurozone fell 1.8 percent in August, and activity was down largely across-the-board, most notably in Germany (down 4.3 percent), the Eurozone’s largest economy. Sluggish income and labor market growth in Europe has also pushed inflationary pressures lower, with year-over-year pricing changes of just 0.3 percent in September. Despite such worries, equity markets began to rebound on Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) closing at 16380.41. Nonetheless, the DJIA remains 5.2 percent below its all-time high of 17279.74 on September 19.

Still, the U.S. economy has shown signs of resilience. Despite a softer August, manufacturing production increased 0.5 percent in September. Over the past 12 months, output in the sector has risen 3.7 percent. While this was slower than its July year-over-year pace, it reflects a nice improvement from the more sluggish 1.5 percent rate in January.

Moreover, surveys from the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI) and the New York and Philadelphia Federal Reserve Banks observed expanding activity levels in their latest reports. Each measure eased somewhat in October, but they were expansionary nonetheless. The weakest of these reports was the Empire State Manufacturing Survey, which observed a slight contraction in new orders. Yet, even there, respondents remained mostly optimistic about demand and output over the next six months. Along those lines, MAPI has a generally upbeat outlook, predicting that manufacturing production will increase by 3.4 percent in 2014 and 4.0 percent in 2015.

Housing starts exceeded 1 million again, increasing from an annualized 957,000 units in August to 1,017,000 in September. This continues a slow-but-steady trend upward, with an average of 978,111 so far in 2014 relative to an average of 930,000 for all of 2013. Still, there was relatively weak housing activity throughout much of the second half of last year and the first half of this year, and the latest data suggest that the sector has begun to stabilize somewhat. I continue to predict housing starts solidly in the 1.1 million unit range by the beginning of 2015. Homebuilder confidence has also reflected a positive outlook despite slipping a bit in October. Lower mortgage rates might spur more residential construction activity. According to Freddie Mac, average 30-year fixed mortgage rates fell to 3.97 percent this past week, their lowest level since June 2013.

Meanwhile, there was mixed news on the consumer front. On the positive side, consumer confidence reached a pre-recessionary high, according to the University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters. This is a sign that improvements in the economy and lower gasoline prices have helped to lift Americans’ spirits. Yet, there are also lingering worries about income and labor market growth, and consumers remain somewhat cautious overall. Retail spending declined 0.3 percent in September, suggesting softness as we begin autumn. At the same time, year-over-year growth in retail sales was up 4.3 percent, a fairly decent rate, and the holiday season retail outlook looks pretty strong. We hope we will see better consumer spending data in the coming months.

This week, we will get additional insights regarding the health of the global economy. Markit will release Flash Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) data for China, Japan, the Eurozone and the United States. The European data are expected to show continued weakness, but we will be watching for signs of progress in the Chinese manufacturing sector, which has decelerated in recent months. The Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank will also unveil its latest manufacturing survey, and it is expected to show continued expansion in its district. Beyond these surveys, we will learn about growth in consumer prices, and if they are similar to the producer price index data released last week, they will reflect easing in both food and energy costs. Other highlights this week include reports on existing and new home sales, leading indicators and state employment.

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

DJIA - oct2014

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