Thursday, October 21, 2010

Philly Fed Index "steady" in October

by Bill McBride on 10/21/2010 10:00:00 AM

Here is the Philadelphia Fed Index: Business Outlook Survey

Results from the Business Outlook Survey suggest that regional manufacturing activity was steady in October. Although the broad survey measures showed marginal improvement this month, the new orders index continued to suggest weak demand for manufactured goods.
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The survey’s broadest measure of manufacturing conditions, the diffusion index of current activity, increased from a reading of –0.7 in September to 1.0 in October. The index had been negative for two consecutive months (see Chart). Indexes for new orders and shipments continued to indicate weakness this month: The new orders index increased 3 points but remained negative for the fourth consecutive month.
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Firms reported near steady employment again this month, but lower average work hours for existing employees. The percentage of firms reporting increases in employment (20 percent) narrowly edged out the percentage of firms reporting decreases (17 percent). The index for employment was slightly positive for the second consecutive month but increased just 1 point. Indicative of still weak activity, more firms reported declines in average work hours for existing employees (22 percent) than reported increases (16 percent).emphasis added
Philly Fed Index Click on graph for larger image in new window.

This graph shows the Philly index for the last 40 years.

This index turned down sharply in June and July and was negative in August and September (indicating contraction). The index was barely positive in October, and the internals (new orders, employment) are still weak.

These surveys are timely, but noisy. However this is further evidence of a slowdown in manufacturing. This was slightly worse than the consensus view of a reading of 1.8 (slight expansion).