Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Chemical Activity Barometer for March Suggests "continued modest growth"

by Bill McBride on 3/26/2014 12:37:00 PM

Here is a new indicator that I'm following that appears to be a leading indicator for industrial production.

From the American Chemistry Council: Equity Prices Drive Chemical Activity Barometer Growth Despite Continued Adverse Weather

While winter weather extremes continue to impact economic reporting, strengthening chemical equity prices drove solid gains in the American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) monthly Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB), released today. March’s reading featured a gain of 0.3% over February on a three-month moving average basis (3MMA), rebounding past the average 0.2% gain in late 2013, and pointing to modest but continued growth in the U.S. economy through the fourth quarter of 2014. Strengthening chemical equity prices in February and March are a positive signal and a major factor in this month’s CAB reading. The economic indicator, shown to lead U.S. business cycles by an average of eight months at cycle peaks, is up 2.5 percent over a year ago, at an improved year-earlier pace. The CAB reading for February was revised upwards slightly from earlier reports.

“Winter weather extremes have carried into March and continue to impact many of the economic readings, but all signs point to an expanding U.S. economy through 2014,” said Kevin Swift, chief economist at the American Chemistry Council. “Strengthening chemical equity prices, combined with the expansion of sales in intermediate goods, which constitute roughly 85% of overall chemical sales, are encouraging signs for the continued health of the U.S. economy.”
emphasis added
Chemical Activity Barometer Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the year-over-year change in the 3-month moving average for the Chemical Activity Barometer compared to Industrial Production.  It does appear that CAB (red) generally leads Industrial Production (blue).

And this suggests that continued growth.