Tag: Richmond Fed

Richmond Fed: Manufacturing Activity Stagnated in February

The Richmond Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing activity stagnated in February, ending 10 straight months of expansion in the district. The composite index of general business conditions declined from 6 in January to zero in February, its lowest level since contracting in March 2014. Indeed, many of the underlying measures slipped into negative territory in February. This included new orders (down from 4 to -2), shipments (down from 10 to -1), capacity utilization (down from 9 to -4) and the average workweek (down from 8 to -6). As such, manufacturers clearly pulled back in a number of areas for the month, likely due to global slowness, a stronger dollar and reduced commodity prices. (continue reading…)

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Monday Economic Report – February 2, 2015

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

The U.S. economy grew 2.4 percent in 2014, just barely edging out the 2.2 percent gain in 2013. Yet, that somewhat understates the strength of the economy since the winter-related weaknesses seen at this point last year. Indeed, real GDP increased by an annualized 4.1 percent during the last three quarters of 2014, and in the fourth quarter, Americans spent at a healthy 4.3 percent annual pace, the fastest rate since the first quarter of 2006. Still, the 2.6 percent growth rate in real GDP in the fourth quarter also had some red flags. Weaker growth abroad, a strengthening U.S. dollar and worries about dramatically lower energy prices have impacted capital spending and international demand negatively. Therefore, while manufacturers remain mostly upbeat about orders and production in 2015, these developments serve as a reminder of the challenges in the global marketplace right now. (continue reading…)

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Richmond Fed: Manufacturing Activity Continues to Grow Modestly

The Richmond Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing activity continued to expand modestly in January. The composite index of general business conditions edged marginally lower, down from 7 in December to 6 in January. While this represented a slower pace than the more-robust growth seen in October, when the composite index measured 20, it did represent the tenth consecutive monthly expansion in the Richmond Fed district. Moreover, growth in shipments (up from 5 to 10), capacity utilization (up from -5 to 9) and the average workweek (up from 4 to 8) accelerated for the month, which were encouraging signs. (continue reading…)

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Monday Economic Report – December 1, 2014

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

The U.S. economy grew 3.9 percent at the annual rate in the third quarter, according to revised real GDP data released last week. This was better than the 3.5 percent original estimate, and more importantly, it suggests real GDP increased at an annualized 4.2 percent over the past two quarters. The report highlighted a number of positive elements in the economy, including healthy increases in consumer and business spending, goods exports and end-of-fiscal-year government spending. The revision also included better inventory replenishment numbers than originally estimated. (continue reading…)

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Richmond Fed: Manufacturing Activity Expanded at a Slower Rate in November

The Richmond Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing activity expanded at a slower rate in November. The composite index of general business conditions declined from 20 in October to 4 in November. To be fair, the October figure represented the fastest pace since December 2010, and as such, some pullback might have been expected. The larger story is that manufacturers in the Richmond Fed district have now reported expanding levels of activity for eight straight months, with the headline index averaging 9 over that time frame. This suggests modest growth overall. (continue reading…)

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Monday Economic Report – November 3, 2014

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

The U.S. economy grew 3.5 percent at the annual rate in the third quarter, representing decent growth following the disappointing first half of 2014. Consumer and business spending, which rebounded strongly in the second quarter, extended those gains in the third quarter, albeit with some easing in the pace of growth. Exports were also up strongly for the quarter, and imports were down. Dramatic inventory swings over the past three quarters were also evident, with stockpiles searching for a new normal. After adding 1.47 percentage points to real GDP in the second quarter, slower inventory replenishment subtracted 0.57 percent in the third quarter, making it one of the few negatives in the report. (continue reading…)

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Richmond Fed: Manufacturing Activity Continued to Expand at Fastest Pace in Nearly 4 Years

The Richmond Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing activity continued to expand at its fastest pace since December 2010. The composite index of general business conditions rose from 14 in September to 20 in October. It was the seventh consecutive monthly expansion since the winter-related contractions in both February and March. Indeed, much like other regional surveys, these data show an uptick in demand and production for manufacturers recently, with a mostly upbeat assessment for the coming months.

Looking specifically at current activity, manufacturing leaders in the Richmond Fed district noted sharply higher paces for new orders (up from 14 to 22) and shipments (up from 11 to 23). (continue reading…)

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Monday Economic Report – September 29, 2014

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

The U.S. economy grew an annualized 4.6 percent in the second quarter of this year, its fastest pace since the fourth quarter of 2011. Consumer and business spending were the big bright spots in the real GDP report, with strong rebounds after softness in the first quarter. This latest revision reflected improved nonresidential fixed investment and goods exports data relative to prior estimates. At the same time, it is hard to forget that real GDP fell by 2.1 percent in the first quarter, with growth in the first half of 2014 expanding by a frustratingly slow 1.2 percent. Moving forward, manufacturers remain mostly upbeat. For instance, the Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) held firm at 57.9, its fastest pace since May 2010.

I estimate real GDP growth of 3.3 percent for the third quarter, which ends this week. Nonetheless, there are a number of downside risks, and business leaders and the public remain tentative in their optimism.

Along those lines, regional surveys from the Kansas City and Richmond Federal Reserve Banks continued to show expanding activity levels in their districts. The Richmond release found that activity has now grown for six straight months since winter-related contractions earlier in the year. It also reflected an uptick in production and demand, with the pace of hiring accelerating to its highest level since December 2010. All of this was encouraging. In the Kansas City district, manufacturers remained mostly positive, with more than half of respondents expecting increased production and shipments in the next six months. Among the issues cited in the Kansas City survey, manufacturers noted persistent challenges in attracting and retaining skilled workers. Other sample comments mentioned rising pricing pressures, both for wages and raw materials.

Turning to the global economy, the HSBC Flash China Manufacturing PMI edged slightly higher, up from 50.2 in August to 50.5 in September. This marked the fourth consecutive month with expanding manufacturing activity, improving from contractions in the first five months of the year. Yet, even with some signs of stabilization in China in recent data, the country is expected to continue to decelerate in its growth rates moving forward, something that it continues to grapple with. Similarly, the European Central Bank has struggled to cope with slow economic and income growth in the Eurozone, with persistent worries about deflation. Indeed, the Markit Flash Eurozone Manufacturing PMI eased yet again, down from 50.7 to 50.5. This was the lowest level of growth since July 2013, the first month that the Eurozone emerged from its deep two-year recession.

Meanwhile, housing data released last week were mixed. New home sales rose sharply, up from an annualized 427,000 in July to 504,000 in August. This was the highest level in more than six years, and the pace of sales in August starkly contrasts with what we have seen so far in 2014. This makes it likely that September figures will pull back a little, but the trend line remains promising. In contrast, existing home sales decreased 1.8 percent in August, which was disappointing given recent improvements. It is likely that August’s decline was the result of a strong July reading, with some easing probably inevitable. Moving forward, the expectation is that existing home sales should move higher, continuing a longer-run trend in the data since March.

This week, the focus will be on jobs. After a disappointing employment report in August, we anticipate better news in September. I would not be surprised if the zero jobs figure in August for manufacturing was revised higher, and I continue to expect manufacturing jobs gains to revert to an average of 12,500 to 15,000 per month for the rest of the year. Nonfarm payrolls should once again exceed 200,000 in September, an improvement from the 142,000 figure in August (which is also likely to get revised upward). Other highlights this week include the latest data on construction spending, factory orders, international trade, personal income and manufacturing activity in the Dallas Federal Reserve district.

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

real GDP forecast - sept2014

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Richmond Fed: Manufacturing Activity Continued to Expand at Fastest Pace in Over 3 Years

The Richmond Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing activity continued to expand at its fastest pace since March 2011. The composite index of general business conditions rose from 12 in August to 14 in September. It was the sixth consecutive monthly expansion since the winter-related contractions in both February and March. Indeed, much like other regional surveys, these data show an uptick in demand and production for manufacturers recently, with a mostly upbeat assessment for the coming months.

Looking specifically at current activity, manufacturing leaders in the Richmond Fed district noted increased paces for many of the key measures. This included new orders (up from 13 to 14), shipments (up from 10 to 11), the average workweek (up from 8 to 10) and the number of employees (up from 11 to 17). Regarding hiring, that measure was the highest level observed since December 2010, suggesting that manufacturers in the region are adding new workers at an accelerated pace. The only measure to decelerate slightly in the month was capacity utilization (down from 17 to 13), but it continues to expand at a decent rate.

Manufacturers in the region remain relatively optimistic in their expectations for the next six months, albeit marginally less positive than the month before. Indices for a number of indicators shifted somewhat lower in September but still indicate strong growth ahead. This includes new orders (down from 47 to 37), shipments (down from 43 to 41), capacity utilization (down from 35 to 26), hiring (down from 18 to 17) and the workweek (unchanged at 10). On the positive side, capital expenditures picked up the pace, with the index increasing from 27 to 38. Wages (up from 28 to 35) also accelerated convincingly.

Inflationary pressures picked up once again in September, bucking the trends seen in national pricing data.  Manufacturers in the region said that prices paid for raw materials grew 2.10 percent at the annual rate in September, up from 1.39 percent in August. Yet, looking ahead six months, respondents expect input costs to increase an annualized 2.00 percent, down from 2.05 percent the month before. This suggests that businesses anticipate modest gains in input prices over the course over the next few months, mostly in-line with Federal Reserve projections.

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

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Monday Economic Report – September 2, 2014

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

Manufacturers continue to report improved activity in August. Last week, the Dallas, Kansas City and Richmond Federal Reserve Banks all noted expanding levels of new orders and production for the month, mirroring releases from the New York and Philadelphia Federal Reserve Banks in the prior weeks. These surveys reflect rebounds from earlier in the year, and perhaps more importantly, they suggest a mostly upbeat assessment in demand, output, hiring and capital spending over the next six months. At the same time, the Dallas and Kansas City studies showed some easing in growth rates in August, with the latter indicating that hiring had turned negative for the month. Exports also contracted in the Kansas City district, showing persistent international sales weaknesses in that region. The data illustrate that, even where we have seen progress, there are often some nagging challenges beneath the surface.

This same observation could be made about much of the other data released last week, too. For instance, new durable goods orders soared in July, up a whopping 22.6 percent. This represented an all-time high for the data series, but it was also largely the result of a jump in nondefense aircraft sales. Commercial airplane orders are choppy, with sales usually announced in batches. New durable goods orders have improved from earlier in the year. Outside of transportation, the manufacturing sector was weak in July. New durable goods orders excluding transportation fell 0.8 percent for the month. This suggests that the broader market for manufacturers was soft in July despite the sky-high headline figure.

Along those lines, the Conference Board reported that consumer confidence rose to its highest point since October 2007. This increase stemmed from improvements in views about the current economic environment. Yet, the Conference Board’s figures also suggested some lingering worries about employment and income growth. The University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters’ report on consumer sentiment seems to focus even more on these anxieties. Even with a marginal increase in the August confidence measure, the University of Michigan data have not changed much this year, and respondents have had a diminished view of future growth over the past few months, not unlike what was seen in the Conference Board data. Geopolitical worries might be playing into these doubts. Either way, the confidence reports mirror other indicators, which show that consumers are cautious right now. Personal spending in July declined for the first time since January, consistent with other data showing flat retail sales.

Despite some softness in July, personal spending has increased at an annualized 4.1 percent over the past six months. Indeed, consumer and business spending were strengths during the second quarter, according to the latest revision of real GDP growth. The U.S. economy grew 4.2 percent at the annual rate during the second quarter, slightly better than the 4.0 percent original estimate and reflecting a rebound from the 2.1 percent decline in the first quarter. The biggest disappointment in the second quarter continued to be international trade figures, with net exports serving as a drag on growth. Moving forward, I estimate real GDP growth of roughly 3.0 percent during the second half of 2014. A number of risks abound, and business leaders and consumers remain tentative. If the first half of this year has taught us anything, it is an optimistic recovery can still be a fragile one.

This week, we will get additional insights regarding the health of the manufacturing sector. This morning, the Institute for Supply Management will release its August Purchasing Managers’ Index data for the sector. The ISM report found strong gains in demand, output and employment in July, and the August survey is expected to show another pickup in activity. Moreover, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will publish new jobs numbers on Friday. Manufacturers have added 15,000 workers on average each month since August 2013, with a 22,000 average from May to July of this year. Look for continued hiring growth for the sector in the August numbers that are at least consistent with the average of the past year. Other highlights this week include the latest data on construction spending, factory orders, international trade and productivity.

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

personal spending - sept2014

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