Tag: Philadelphia Fed

Monday Economic Report – March 24, 2014

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

For much of the past month, people have been questioning how much of the recent softness in the manufacturing sector was due to weather and how much stemmed from other factors. The data released last week support the view that it was largely weather related, with numerous winter storms keeping shoppers from the stores and closing factories temporarily. Fortunately, manufacturing activity has rebounded in the latest reports. For instance, manufacturing production increased 0.8 percent in February, nearly offsetting January’s 0.9 percent decline, with capacity utilization for the sector rising from 75.9 percent to 76.4 percent. Similar rebounds were seen in the March surveys from the New York and Philadelphia Federal Reserve Banks, and more importantly, manufacturers continue to be mostly upbeat about new orders and shipments over the next six months.

In its monetary policy statement, the Federal Reserve Board’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) acknowledged the negative effects of “adverse weather conditions” on recent activity. It also provided the following evaluation of the current economic environment:

Labor market indicators were mixed but on balance showed further improvement. The unemployment rate, however, remains elevated. Household spending and business fixed investment continued to advance, while the recovery in the housing sector remained slow. Fiscal policy is restraining economic growth, although the extent of restraint is diminishing. Inflation has been running below the Committee’s longer-run objective, but longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable.

The biggest news from the FOMC’s statement was the change in its forward guidance, as expected, to no longer mention an unemployment rate target. Since its December 2012 meeting, the FOMC has said it would pursue a highly accommodative monetary policy until the unemployment rate hit 6.5 percent and/or long-term inflation consistently exceeded 2.0 percent. With unemployment falling, this put the Federal Reserve in a predicament because job growth continues to be a challenge, particularly for the long-term unemployed, and progress in the unemployment rate fails to acknowledge loforw participation rates and underemployment that exists in the labor market. For this reason, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis President Narayana Kocherlakota opposed the change in the Fed’s guidance, and he subsequently said that he wanted a 5.5 percent unemployment rate target.

In the end, however, short-term interest rates cannot hover around zero percent forever, particularly with the U.S. economy improving. The Federal Reserve now forecasts real GDP growth in 2014 of 2.8 percent to 3.0 percent, with the unemployment rate falling to 6.1 percent by year’s end. The FOMC continued to taper its long-term asset purchases, down from $65 billion each month to $55 billion, and short-term interest rates are now expected to start rising sometime in 2015. (This is true even with new Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s suggestion that rates might begin to increase around six months after quantitative easing ends, a comment that spooked markets on Wednesday.)

Fortunately for the Federal Reserve, inflationary pressures remain minimal, allowing the FOMC to continue its stimulative measures for now. Consumer prices rose 0.1 percent in February, with core inflation increasing 1.6 percent over the past 12 months. Of course, higher interest rates could negatively impact spending, particularly for large consumer items and for business investments.

Along these lines, housing starts have stabilized a little, up from 905,000 annualized units in January to 907,000 in February, but still remain somewhat weak. On the positive side, housing permits—a proxy of future activity—exceeded 1 million for the first time since November, largely on gains in multifamily residential construction. Single-family permitting remained soft, however, and homebuilder sentiment continued to be down from where it was just a few months ago. In addition to weather challenges, National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Chief Economist David Crowe attributes the current weakness to “a shortage of buildable lots and skilled workers, rising materials prices and an extremely low inventory of new homes for sale.”

Today, we will get March Markit Flash Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) data for the United States, China and Eurozone. In particular, economists will be looking to see if Chinese manufacturing activity continues to decelerate and if the slight easing in February’s data was a one-month phenomenon. (For more on international trends, see the latest Global Manufacturing Economic Update, which was released on Friday.) Other highlights this week include updates on consumer confidence, durable goods orders and shipments, GDP, manufacturing surveys from the Kansas City and Richmond Federal Reserve Banks, personal income and spending and state employment.

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

fed funds rate - mar2014

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)


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

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)


Manufacturers Report a Sharp Drop in New Orders and Shipments in Philly Fed Region in February

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said that manufacturing activity declined sharply in February, the net contraction since May. The Business Outlook Survey’s composite index of general business activity decreased from 9.4 in January to -6.3 in February. The difference-maker in this figure was the percentage of respondents who said that conditions had worsened in the month, up from 17.5 percent in January to 31.4 percent in February.

With that said, the decrease was more than likely due to poor weather conditions, much as we have seen in other data lately. To the extent that weather was the main factor, this pullback in activity should be temporary.

Nonetheless, February’s data reflected significant weakness in the Philly Fed region, with all of the key indicators down. Helping to lend credence to the weather argument, the index for shipments plummeted from 12.1 to -9.9 for the month, with the percentage of manufacturers reporting decreased shipments rising from 20.6 percent to 35.5 percent. Similarly, new orders (down from 5.1 to -5.2) and the average employee workweek (down from -5.3 to -7.0) were both in contraction territory.

On the positive side, overall hiring continued to expand, albeit modestly and with some easing from January (down from 10.0 to 4.8). Yet, even on the employment front, 56.9 percent of respondents made no changes in their workforce for the month.

Fortunately, the manufacturing community in the Philadelphia Fed district remains mostly positive about the coming months. Nearly half of them said that they expect sales and shipments to be higher six months from now, with just over one-quarter expecting to add workers and increase capital spending. Moreover, despite the dismal February numbers, those taking the survey were positive in their assessment of the first quarter of 2014. When asked about production in the first quarter relative to the last quarter of 2013, 54.7 percent said that they anticipated an increase, versus 28.0 percent that thought that output might fall.

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

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)


Monday Economic Report – January 21, 2014

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

Manufacturing production rose 2.6 percent in 2013, slowing from the 3.5 percent and 3.2 percent growth rate experienced in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Yet, the lower 2013 figure stemmed largely from weaknesses in the first half of the year, with manufacturing output rising an annualized 4.2 percent in the second half. As such, the sector ended the year on a strong note, with a pickup in demand and cautious optimism for 2014. Indeed, a number of other reports reached the same conclusion. Surveys from the New York and Philadelphia Federal Reserve Banks and from the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI) both observed expanding levels of activity in their latest releases. Respondents to these surveys tended to be mostly upbeat about new orders, shipments, exports and hiring over the coming months—which is definitely good news.

Over the past couple years, the rebound in the housing sector has been one of the bright spots in the U.S. economy. Housing starts were lower in December, but it seems the November data were a bit of an outlier. Absent that soaring figure, new residential construction was generally higher to end 2013, particularly for single-family units. New single-family starts increased 7.6 percent year-over-year. Housing permits also eased slightly in December but increased 4.6 percent from the year before. The reduction in housing activity could have been due to severe winter storms, with somewhat higher borrowing costs as another possible contributing factor. The average 30-year mortgage rose from 4.29 percent in the week of November 27 to 4.48 percent in the week of December 26, according to Freddie Mac. Nonetheless, this still historically low rate helps to explain the generally upbeat assessment of home builders.

Meanwhile, the pace of retail sales slowed in December, with reduced auto sales dragging the overall figure lower. Still, motor vehicle sales increased 5.9 percent in 2013, making it one of the stronger components of consumer spending growth. Excluding autos, retail sales would have risen by 0.7 percent last month, suggesting broader strength than the headline figure implies. On a year-over-year basis, total retail spending increased 4.1 percent, a modest pace that marks the slowest since 2009.

The two measures of sentiment moved in opposite directions. Preliminary data from the University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters on consumer confidence was surprisingly lower for the month, down from 82.5 in December to 80.4 in January. The December data has noted a recovery in perceptions about the economy after falling in the wake of the government shutdown, and the expectation had been for January’s data to extend those gains. With a reduction in sentiment instead, this suggests that the public remains somewhat anxious about economic conditions. At the same time, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) noted an increase in optimism for the second straight month. Underneath the main reading, however, the data were mixed, with more small business owners calling it a “good time to expand” but with sales and earnings remaining subpar.

In terms of news events, outgoing Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke delivered a speech at the Brookings Institution that provided his take on the lessons learned from the financial crisis. This “exit interview”—as it has been widely dubbed—was mostly a valedictory address defending the Fed’s monetary actions to help stimulate growth in the economy. Coincidently, Bernanke gave it on the same day that the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that core consumer inflation had risen by just 1.7 percent over the past year. A similar conclusion on producer prices had been released the day before, and in each case, the data suggested that pricing pressures were increasing within an acceptable range, at least for now, according to the Fed’s stated targets.

There will only be a handful of economic data releases this week. From the manufacturing perspective, the highlights will come on Thursday. Markit will provide “flash” estimates for its purchasing managers’ index (PMI) reports for the United States, the Eurozone, and China. In addition, the Kansas City Fed will discuss the latest results of its regional manufacturing survey. In each instance, the expectation will be for manufacturers to note continued growth, building on recent gains. Other data releases include updates on the leading economic index and existing home sales.  

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

manufacturing production - jan2014

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)


Monday Economic Report – December 23, 2013

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

The U.S. economy grew a surprisingly strong 4.1 percent in the third quarter, according to the most recent revision of real GDP from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. While inventory replenishment accounted for a large portion of this increase, consumer and business spending continue to boost overall economic activity. I expect real GDP growth of 2.5 percent in the current (fourth) quarter, essentially the same pace for 2013 as a whole. For 2014, the economy should expand by 3.0 percent, which would be the first year since 2005 that the annual average would grow by that amount.

A number of data sources supported the view that economic activity has begun to improve, continuing the accelerating pace in the second half of 2013. For instance, manufacturing production rose 0.6 percent in November and 2.9 percent year-over-year. On the latter figure, the annual pace has made definite progress since July’s 1.2 percent pace. The Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI) predicts that industrial production will accelerate to 3.1 percent in 2014 and perhaps 4.1 percent in 2015.

A number of regional surveys show manufacturers tend to be mostly upbeat about new orders and output in the coming months. This includes the latest reports from the Kansas City, New York and Philadelphia Federal Reserve Banks. The more optimistic future assessment was true despite notable weaknesses in the current environment, particularly in the Kansas City and New York surveys. Similarly, the latest Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) suggested that output growth remained near the more robust pace at the beginning of 2012, with modest growth overall. Meanwhile, we continue to see stabilization in the Chinese and European economies. These releases show hiring growth remains modest at best.

The housing market also bounced back strongly in November. New housing starts soared to 1.09 million units at the annual rate, the highest level since February 2008. Both single-family and multifamily starts were up sharply for the month, and overall, new residential construction has increased nearly 30 percent over the past 12 months. Furthermore, new housing permits have also exceeded 1 million units for two straight months, which should bode well for future activity. The gains in residential activity have also helped to lift homebuilder confidence once more, according to the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo. I expect that housing will continue to be one of the bright spots in the economy, particularly as borrowing costs remain at historic lows and the “sticker shock” of higher rates wears off.

The improvements in the economy have led the Federal Reserve to finally start to pare back its latest quantitative easing program. At the conclusion of its December Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, the Federal Reserve decided to begin tapering its purchases of long-term and mortgage-backed securities, down from $85 billion each month to $75 billion starting in January. The expectation is that this will set in motion future reductions in these purchases, with all buying ending sometime in mid-2014. However, the Federal Reserve will still be pursuing a “highly accommodative” monetary policy, with short-term interest rates near zero for the foreseeable future. In his press conference afterward, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke suggested short-term rates might not move up until after the unemployment rate hits 6.5 percent, which it is not likely to do until the end of 2014. He made a similar comment in his speech to the National Economists Club in November. Fortunately, pricing pressures remain quite low for now, providing the Federal Reserve with more time to pursue its stimulative measures.

This week will be a shortened one due to the Christmas holiday, but there will still be some key data releases. Later this morning, we will get the latest reads on personal spending and consumer confidence, both of great importance in terms of holiday spending. Sentiment had improved in the initial estimate from the University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters, rebounding from the dips in perceptions seen during the government shutdown. This should help retail sales, which have grown modestly of late. We will also learn more about the health of the manufacturing sector with a new report on durable goods sales and the latest survey from the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank.

Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers. Due to the holidays, there will be no report issued during the week of December 30. The schedule will resume on Monday, January 6.

housing starts and permits - dec2013

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)


Monday Economic Report – November 25, 2013

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

The latest forecast from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) calls for continuing improvements in markets around the world, with global GDP accelerating from 3.7 percent in 2013 to 5.5 percent in 2014. According to the OECD, the U.S. economy, which should grow by 2.1 percent this year, is predicted to strengthen to 3.2 percent next year. If true, it would be the first year since 2005 that annual output would expand by more than 3.0 percent. However, weaknesses persist in emerging markets, and continued political risks could dampen the prospects for better growth.

The latest data tend to reflect the recent pickup in the global economy. Manufacturers in China and Europe have seen improvements in sales, exports and production over the past few months as their respective economies have begun to stabilize. At the same time, manufacturing activity in the United States has accelerated in the past few months from midyear weaknesses. The Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose from 51.8 in October to 54.3 in November, with output at its fastest pace since February. Meanwhile, surveys from the Kansas City and Philadelphia Federal Reserve Banks have reported expanding activity levels since the summer, even as some weaknesses continue. Hiring growth remains quite soft, with new orders slowing in the Philadelphia region and exports falling for manufacturers in the Kansas City region. Nonetheless, respondents tend to be mostly upbeat about the sector over the next six months in most sentiment surveys, including these.

Consumer spending and the rebound in the housing sector have both been bright spots in the economy over the past few years, but in data released last week, the two were moving in opposite directions. Retail spending increased 0.4 percent in October, with year-over-year growth of 3.9 percent. While the annual pace of retail sales has decelerated since June, October’s modest gains were a sign that consumer purchases were beginning to strengthen, especially for automobiles.

In contrast, existing home sales have fallen for two consecutive months, down from an annualized 5.39 million units in July and August to 5.12 million units in October. Higher mortgage rates were to blame for the decrease, with many buyers rushing to close in-process deals during the summer when interest rates were soaring. This made the levels in those months an outlier. The good news is that existing home sales are still on an overall upward pace, and mortgage rates have declined from their early September highs. Of course, long-term interest rates are likely to move higher again in the coming months, which could once again dampen housing purchases. My guess, however, is that homebuyers will become accustomed to the new normal in mortgage rates, which, while higher than earlier in the year, are still at historic lows. This will allow housing to once again move in the right direction.

Monetary policy actions are behind the moves in interest rates. Fortunately, pricing pressures remain extremely modest. Consumer and producer prices were both lower in October, led by declining energy costs. With overall inflation mostly in check, at least for now, the Federal Reserve has been able to utilize highly accommodative measures to pursue its dual mandate of price stability and higher employment. The minutes of its October Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke’s remarks at the National Economists Club both suggested that the Federal Reserve does not plan to tighten its monetary policy anytime soon. While the FOMC will probably vote to taper (or reduce) its asset purchases in the coming months, it will keep short-term rates effectively at zero—at least until the unemployment rate hits 6.5 percent. Chairman Bernanke’s address made it clear that 6.5 percent was the threshold at which the Federal Reserve would begin to debate possible changes, and not a “trigger” that would automatically mean increased fund rates. That would suggest “easy money” policies for at least the next year and perhaps beyond.

This week will be a shorter one due to the Thanksgiving holiday, but there will be several important economic releases of note. First, we will finally get housing starts and permits data, which were delayed due to the government shutdown. As noted earlier, residential construction ebbed somewhat during the summer with higher mortgage rates, but the consensus estimate is for roughly 910,000 new starts at the annual rate in October, up from 891,000 in August. There will also be a number of key data points on manufacturing activity, including durable goods orders and regional reports from the Chicago, Dallas and Richmond Federal Reserve Banks. Other highlights include consumer confidence and leading indicators data.

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

retail sales - nov2013

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)


Manufacturing Activity Surged in the Philadelphia Fed District in September

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia reported a sharp increase in manufacturing activity in September. The Business Outlook Survey’s composite index of general business activity surged from 9.3 in August to 22.3 in September. This was the fastest pace since March 2011 and was more than double the consensus expectation. In general, this measure has been highly volatile over the course of this year, making it harder to interpret, with index values ranging from -12.5 in January to the 22.3 reading of September. This was the fourth consecutive month of expansion, with the composite index being 12.5, 19.8, 9.3, and 22.3 in the four months from June forward.

Stronger sales and shipments data were behind the higher composite index value. The new orders index increased from 5.3 in August to 21.2 in September. Behind these figures, it is instructive to see how the responses were different between the two months. Respondents saying that their orders had increased from the previous month rose from 27.7 percent to 38.5 percent; while at the same time, those reporting a decrease in sales for the month declined from 22.4 percent to 17.3 percent. This indicates a nice pickup in new orders, boosting confidence and many of the other data figures. At the same time, it is worth noting that just over 40 percent had sales levels that were unchanged, down from roughly half last time.

The positivity was fairly broad-based, with indices for shipments (up from -0.9 to 21.2), employment (up from 3.5 to 10.3), and the average workweek (up from -2.6 to 12.2) all higher. The news of increased hiring is welcome, but it is also tempered by the fact that 68.3 percent have made no changes to their employment levels.

Moving forward, 56.3 percent of manufacturers in the Philly Fed region expect production to be higher in the third quarter relative to the second quarter, with an average growth rate of 1.6 percent. There is slightly less optimism for the fourth quarter, with 43.8 percent anticipating increased output. Overall, respondents to this survey are cautiously optimistic about the next six months. Over 60 percent predict rising new orders, and over one-third expect to add some more employees. Capital spending plans are also a bit higher, with 36.3 percent planning to increase their investments over the next six months, up from 27.9 percent in August.

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

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)


Monday Economic Report – August 19, 2013

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

For much of the past few weeks, economic data seemed to show manufacturing activity picking up. This was welcome news given the weaknesses in the sector over the past year, especially during the spring. The data released last week tended to find that gains in output and sales might be smaller than hoped. Manufacturing production, for instance, declined by 0.1 percent in July, and the year-over-year rate continues to be a disappointing 1.3 percent. A broad spectrum of segments in the sector saw softness, with capacity utilization edging lower again—a downward trend that has occurred all year. In addition, surveys from the New York and Philadelphia Federal Reserve Banks found that sentiment had eased in both regions. While both districts continue to grow, the pace has decelerated this month.

These surveys also continue to reflect cautious optimism for the next six months, with generally higher expectations for new orders and production. Plans to increase hiring or capital spending were also predicted to be higher, albeit more modestly. Similarly, the National Federation of Independent Business’s (NFIB) optimism index was higher last month, with a slight increase in the percentage of respondents saying the next three months were a good time to expand. In fact, many key variables have reflected improvements in the past few months, even as earnings and overall sentiment remain subpar. Of those saying the next three months were not a good time for expansion, the economy and political environment were the main reasons.

Meanwhile, the University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters reported that consumer confidence was somewhat lower in August, with higher gasoline prices and borrowing costs most likely reducing optimism. Americans remain more confident today than they were at the beginning of the year; yet, they tend to react to pocketbook issues in general. So far, the reduced perceptions of the current economic environment has not altered consumer spending significantly. July’s retail sales figures were mostly higher. At the same time, higher interest rates have perhaps dampened monthly purchases in motor vehicles, home improvement, home furnishings and electronics. On the residential front, new housing starts and permits were higher in July, but single-family unit construction was marginally lower. While the prospects for growth in housing remain strong, the data suggest that higher mortgage rates probably will dampen activity moving forward.

On the pricing front, core consumer and producer inflation, excluding food and energy costs, continues to be under control—at least for now. Core prices remain below 2 percent on an annual basis, the stated goal of Federal Reserve Board policymakers. This has allowed the Federal Reserve to pursue “highly accommodative” monetary policies in an effort to stimulate economic growth. However, the producer price data report higher costs at the crude level, mainly stemming from recent petroleum increases. This could suggest accelerated prices in the coming months as these costs work through the production process.

This week, monetary policy will again come into focus with the release of the minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee’s July meeting and with news coverage of the annual symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyo. The Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank will hopefully show continued improvements in manufacturing activity in its region. On the international front, Markit will publish Flash Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) data for the Eurozone and China. Recent data have suggested some stabilization in both regions, including the announcement last week that real GDP in the Eurozone grew for the first time since the third quarter of 2011. Other highlights this week include data on existing and new home sales, leading economic indicators and state employment.

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

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)


Manufacturing Activity Growth Eases in the Philadelphia Fed District in August

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia reported that manufacturing activity eased in August. The Business Outlook Survey’s composite index of general business activity dropped from 19.8 in July to 9.3 in August. On the one hand, this suggests that the sharp increase in sentiment observed last month has moderated a bit, which might be expected. That index reading had been the fastest pace since March 2011, for instance, and June and July’s healthy gains followed much weaker data from January to May. With that said, it is also clear that there remain some pockets of softness in activity.

For instance, shipments contracted slightly in August, with its index reading down from 14.3 to -0.9. The shift occurred mostly because 38.0 percent had said that shipments were higher in July, but only 26.0 percent said the same thing in August. The majority of that difference went into the “no change” category.  Likewise, new orders declined from 10.2 to 5.3. While this still suggests modest gains in sales for the month, the percentage of respondents reporting increased new orders declined from 35.1 percent in July to 27.7 percent in August. Almost half said that their orders were flat.

Looking at the other August data, inventory reductions declined at a slower rate (up from -21.6 to -11.3), and pricing pressures decelerated somewhat (down from 21.5 to 17.3). On the employment front, the pace of hiring slowed (down from 7.7 to 3.5), with 65.0 percent of respondents saying that their hiring had not changed. On the negative side, the average employee workweek was modestly lower, down from 6.6 to -2.6. The percentage of manufacturers with a longer average workweek dropped from 21.5 percent in July to 16.4 percent in August, helping to explain this shift.

The good news is that manufacturers continue to be cautiously optimistic about the next 6 months, with some deceleration in sentiment reported in this survey. The forward-looking composite index declined from 44.9 to 38.9. Yet, over half of respondents anticipate increased new orders and shipments ahead, and more than one-quarter expect to hire additional workers and invest in more capital spending. As such, even with the easing, manufactures in the Philly Fed region remain fairly upbeat about the second half of this year.

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

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)


Philly Fed: Manufacturing Activity Picks Up in July

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s Business Outlook Survey reflects stronger sentiment on manufacturing activity in July. The composite index suggests that the sector has begun to recover from springtime weaknesses, up from -5.2 in May to 12.5 in June to 19.8 in July. This was the highest level since March 2011. Overall, the numbers suggest modest to decent growth in the sector, particularly moving forward.

More than anything, they find that manufacturing leaders who responded to the survey were more optimistic about general business activity, both now and over the course of the next six months. Looking just at the future-oriented measure, 51.5 percent of respondents expect for economic conditions to improve, with just 6.6 percent anticipating declines. Two months ago, those figures were 44.5 percent and 12.2 percent, respectively, suggesting some progress in perceptions in a short period of time.

Looking just at the July data, respondents indicated continued growth in many of the measures of manufacturing activity. For instance, the index for shipments rose from 4.1 in June to 14.3 in July, with 38 percent of those taking the survey saying that their shipments were higher for the month. Nearly one-quarter still report declining shipments, which is a sizable figure and suggests continued weaknesses. At the same time, the pace of new orders eased slightly for the month (down from 16.2 to 10.2), but still indicate relatively strong growth.

One area where there continues to be weaknesses, both in the Philly Fed survey and elsewhere, is in the employment measures. Hiring shifted from net declines in June (-5.4) to modest gains in July (7.7). Nearly 70 percent of respondents said that their hiring was unchanged for the month, which is consistent with sluggish job gains nationally for the sector. In terms of utilization, there was a slight pickup in the average workweek, up from 0.8 to 6.6.

As noted earlier, the forward-looking composite measure increased from 33.7 to 44.9 for the month, with gains anticipated across-the-board. Nearly 60 percent expect their sales to be higher in the second half of the year, suggesting cautious optimism ahead. Moreover, while roughly half of respondents plan to keep hiring and capital spending unchanged, both are expected to be higher on net.

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

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)


A Manufacturing Blog

  • Categories

  • Connect With Manufacturers

            
  • Blogroll