Last updateTue, 26 Mar 2019 2pm


U.S. Manufacturing Output Sees Biggest Gain in 10 Months

Industrial production increased 0.3% in December after rising 0.4% in November. For the fourth quarter as a whole, total industrial production moved up at an annual rate of 3.8%. In December, manufacturing output increased 1.1%, its largest gain since February 2018, and increased at an annual rate of 2.3% in the fourth quarter; the index rose 2.5% between the fourth quarter of 2017 and the fourth quarter of 2018. 

Fed: Optimism on Economy Fading in Much of U.S.

Economic activity increased in most of the U.S., with eight of twelve Federal Reserve Districts reporting modest to moderate growth. The majority of districts indicated that manufacturing expanded, but that growth had slowed, particularly in the auto and energy sectors.

Outlooks generally remained positive, but many districts reported that contacts had become less optimistic in response to increased financial market volatility, rising short-term interest rates, falling energy prices, and elevated trade and political uncertainty. 

Empire State Index Lowest in Over a Year

Business activity grew slightly in New York State, according to firms responding to the January 2019 Empire State Manufacturing Survey. The headline general business conditions index fell eight points to 3.9, its lowest level in well over a year. New orders increased at a slower pace than in recent months, while shipments continued to climb significantly. Delivery times were slightly shorter, and inventories declined. Labor market indicators pointed to a modest increase in employment and hours worked. The prices paid index moved lower for a second consecutive month, indicating some slowing in input price increases, and the prices received index held steady. Looking ahead, firms were less optimistic about the six-month outlook than they were last month. 

OECD Predicts a Slowdown for Major Economies

Composite leading indicators (CLIs), designed to anticipate turning points in economic activity relative to trend six to nine months ahead, continue to point to easing growth momentum in most major economies.

In the U.S. and Germany, the tentative signs of easing growth momentum, that were flagged in last month’s assessment, have been confirmed with easing growth momentum remaining the assessment for Canada, the UK and the euro area as a whole, including France and Italy. 

CEO Confidence at Lowest Level in Six Years

The Conference Board Measure of CEO Confidence, which had decreased in the third quarter of 2018, declined in the fourth quarter. The Measure now reads 42, down from 55 in the third quarter of 2018 (a reading of more than 50 points reflects more positive than negative responses). This is the lowest reading since Q3 2012.

Only 21% say conditions are better compared to six months ago, down from 49% last quarter. Meanwhile, about 39% say conditions are worse, up from less than 8% in the prior quarter. CEOs were also much more negative about current conditions in their own industries compared to six months ago. Now, just 21% say conditions are better, down from 31% last quarter, while those who say conditions have worsened rose to 35%, up from 25% last quarter. 

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