07172018Tue
Last updateTue, 17 Jul 2018 6pm

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Beige Book: Solid Outlook Despite Tariff Concerns

Economic activity continued to expand at a modest to moderate pace across the 12 Federal Reserve Districts in March and early April. Outlooks remained positive, but contacts in various sectors including manufacturing, agriculture and transportation expressed concern about the newly imposed and/or proposed tariffs.

In general, manufacturing respondents were optimistic in their outlook. However, two contacts brought up the proposed China tariffs and said they represent a major risk. Of seven firms contacted this cycle, only one reported a year-over-year decline in sales and four reported higher sales versus the same period a year ago. 


IMF Predicting Global Economic Upswing

World growth strengthened in 2017 to 3.8%, with a notable rebound in global trade. It was driven by an investment recovery in advanced economies, continued strong growth in emerging Asia, a notable upswing in emerging Europe, and signs of recovery in several commodity exporters. Global growth is expected to tick up to 3.9% this year and next, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts, supported by strong momentum, favorable market sentiment, accommodative financial conditions and the domestic and international repercussions of expansionary fiscal policy in the U.S. The partial recovery in commodity prices should allow conditions in commodity exporters to gradually improve.  

CEO Confidence Increased Again in First Quarter

The Conference Board Measure of CEO Confidence, which rebounded in the fourth quarter of 2017, made further gains in the first quarter of 2018. The measure now reads 65, up from 63 in the fourth quarter of 2017 (a reading of more than 50 points reflects more positive than negative responses).

CEOs’ assessment of current economic conditions was slightly more positive, with 75% saying conditions are better compared to six months ago, up from 71% in the fourth quarter of last year. CEOs were also moderately more optimistic in their appraisal of current conditions in their own industries. Now, 51% say conditions in their own industries have improved, up from 49% last quarter. 

NAM Quarterly Survey Reports Record Optimism

In the latest Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), U.S. manufacturers express levels of optimism about the future of their companies and their industry that have never been seen in the survey’s 20-year history. Manufacturers project record-setting growth rates for capital investments, full-time employment and inventories over the next 12 months. The percentage of manufacturers who believe the country is on the right track (67.6%) has risen since the last survey, while the numbers of those who believe we are on the wrong track (11.4%) or are unsure (21%) have both fallen. 

Global Manufacturing PMI at Five-Month Low in March

The rate of expansion in the global manufacturing sector eased to a five-month low in March, as companies reported slower growth of output, new orders and employment. The J.P.Morgan Global Manufacturing PMI posted 53.4 in March, down from 54.1 in February and its lowest reading since October 2017. The average level over the opening quarter as a whole (54.0) was nonetheless unchanged from the prior quarter.

March data signaled slower rates of expansion in both the consumer and intermediate goods sectors, with growth at three- and seven-month lows respectively. The Investment Goods PMI rose to its highest level in the year-so-far. 

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