Thursday, January 17, 2008

Philly Fed Index and Recessions

by Bill McBride on 1/17/2008 01:18:00 PM

The Philadelphia Fed Index was released today: Manufacturers See Weakening in Activity. Since the index was so weak, this gives me an excuse to plot a long term graph of the Philly index vs. recessions.

Philly Fed IndexClick on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the Philly index vs. recessions for the last 40 years. There are a number of times the index was below zero without a recession - so the reading today doesn't mean the economy is in recession. However it is very likely that the economy is already in recession.

From the release, weaker conditions and higher prices:

Indicators Suggest Weakening

The survey’s broadest measure of manufacturing conditions, the diffusion index of current activity, fell sharply from a revised reading of -1.6 in December to -20.9, its lowest reading since October 2001 (see Chart). [footnote] Forty percent of the firms reported no change in activity from December, but the percentage of firms reporting decreases (41 percent) was substantially greater than the percentage reporting increases (20 percent). Other broad indicators also suggested declines this month. Demand for manufactured goods, as represented by the survey’s new orders index, fell dramatically, from a revised reading of 12.0 in December to -15.2, its first negative reading in 15 months. The current shipments index fell 17 points, from 15.0 to -2.3. Indexes for both unfilled orders and delivery times remained negative.

Weakness was also evident in replies about employment and hours worked. The percentage of firms reporting a decrease in employment (22 percent) was slightly greater than the percentage reporting an increase (21 percent), and the current employment index declined four points, to its first negative reading since September 2003. Weakness was most evident in average hours worked this month: 31 percent reported declines in average hours worked, 15 percent reported increases, and the average workweek index fell from 7.4 in December to -16.1.


Firms Report Higher Prices

A sizable share of firms reported higher prices for inputs this month. One-half of manufacturers reported higher input prices this month, and the prices paid index jumped from 36.5 in December to 49.8 in January, its highest reading since May 2006. Price increases for the manufacturers’ own products were more widespread. Thirty-six percent of the firms reported increased prices for their own goods, and the prices received index increased from a revised 15.2 in December to 32.0 this month, its highest reading since October 2004.

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