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Manufacturing & The Economy

Markit: U.S. Manufacturing Growth at 11-Month Low

U.S. manufacturing output and new orders continued to rise at a solid pace in December, but both rates of expansion eased to the weakest for 11 months. The latest survey also highlighted a moderation in job creation and input buying growth across the manufacturing sector. Meanwhile, goods producers benefitted from a slowdown in cost inflation to its lowest since April 2013, reflecting falling commodity prices and oil-related costs.

Adjusted for seasonal influences, the Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing PMI registered 53.7 in December, down from 54.8 in November and the lowest reading for 11 months. Nonetheless, the index was comfortably above the neutral 50.0 value and remained higher than the long-run series average (52.1).

Manufacturing payroll numbers increased for the 18th consecutive month in December. Meanwhile, manufacturing input cost inflation moderated for the third month running and was the lowest since April 2013.

ASQ: More Manufacturers Upbeat About 2015 Revenue Growth

Manufacturers are increasingly positive as 2014 ends, with 83% expecting revenue growth next year, up from 64% of manufacturers who anticipated growth in 2014, according to results of the ASQ 2015 Manufacturing Outlook Survey. Results found that 75% of manufacturers experienced revenue growth in 2014, up from 65% in 2013.

Manufacturers still face challenges however, with 41% citing the economy as their greatest hurdle, followed by the shortage of skilled workers, at 26%, according to the survey. Other hurdles identified by respondents include, “competition,” “falling crude oil prices,” “managing growth,” and “raw materials shortages.”

“Driven by gains in 2014, it’s encouraging to see manufacturers’ positive outlook in revenue growth for 2015,” said ASQ CEO William Troy.

Law Signed to Create National Manufacturing Strategy

The omnibus spending bill just passed by Congress included a bipartisan bill from Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) to create a national manufacturing strategy. The American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act would require the development of a national manufacturing strategy and requires the administration to analyze every four years factors that have an impact on manufacturing competitiveness.

The omnibus spending bill also included bipartisan manufacturing legislation to expand a national network of manufacturing innovation institutes. The hubs, modeled on the eight that the Obama Administration has announced thus far, will bring together businesses, universities and local public officials to conduct research, job training and manufacturing all under the same roof.

NAM Monday Economic Report – December 15, 2014

The biggest domestic economic news story last week was actually a global one: The price of petroleum continued to plummet. Since peaking at $107.95 per barrel on June 20, the price of West Texas Intermediate crude has fallen dramatically, down to $57.49 a barrel on Friday. There are a number of factors at play here, including increased North American energy production, excess supply worldwide, a stronger U.S. dollar and a slowing global economy. It is this latter point that has spooked financial markets, on fear that the weakened global demand for petroleum might be a harbinger of larger challenges. Indeed, as discussed in the most recent Global Manufacturing Economic Update, North America’s economy appears to be a bright spot in an otherwise sluggish international economic climate.

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Fed Beige Book Finds Economic Improvement, Optimism

Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts suggest that national economic activity continued to expand in October and November. A number of Districts also noted that contacts remained optimistic about the outlook for future economic activity.

Manufacturing activity generally advanced during the reporting period. Steel production increased in Cleveland, Chicago, and San Francisco. Fabricated metal manufacturers in the Chicago and Dallas Districts noted widespread growth in orders. Dallas reported that domestic sales for plastics were strong, while demand for plastics was steady in Richmond and declined in Kansas City. Chemical manufacturers in the Boston District indicated that the falling price of oil relative to natural gas had made U.S. producers less competitive, because foreign chemical producers rely more heavily on oil for feedstock and production. St. Louis, Minneapolis, and Dallas reported that food production was little changed on balance, but production in Kansas City continued to decline. Chicago and Dallas indicated that shipments of construction materials increased. Manufacturers of heavy machinery in the Chicago District cited improvements in sales of construction machinery, but reported ongoing weak demand for agricultural and mining equipment. High-tech manufacturers in Boston, Dallas, and San Francisco noted steady growth in demand. Biotech revenue increased in the San Francisco District.

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