Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Chemical Activity Barometer "Signals Slowdown of Economic Activity"

by Bill McBride on 9/22/2015 12:41:00 PM

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

From the American Chemistry Council: Chemical Activity Barometer Cools; Signals Slowdown of Economic Activity

The Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB), a leading economic indicator created by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), dropped 0.4 percent in September, following a revised 0.2 percent decline in August. The pattern shows a marked deceleration, even reversal, over second quarter activity. Data is measured on a three-month moving average (3MMA). Accounting for adjustments, the CAB remains up 1.2 percent over this time last year, also a deceleration of annual growth. In September 2014, the CAB logged a 4.1 percent annual gain over September 2013. It is unlikely that growth will pick up through early 2016. ...

Applying the CAB back to 1919, it has been shown to provide a lead of two to 14 months, with an average lead of eight months at cycle peaks as determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research. ...

“Business activity cooled off in September,” said ACC Chief Economist Kevin Swift. “Chemical, other equity, and product prices all continued to suffer, signaling a likely slowdown in broader economic activity,” he added. “One bright spot continues to be plastic resins, particularly those used in light vehicles. Sales of light vehicles are on track to record a banner year, the best since 2000,” he said. Light vehicles are a key end use market for chemistry, containing nearly $3,500 of chemistry per vehicle.

Also at play is the ongoing decline in U.S. exports. According to Swift, global trade is lagging behind both global industrial production and broader economic activity with deflationary forces at play. With this month’s data, the CAB is signaling slower gains in U.S. business activity into early 2016.
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 a slowdown in growth for industrial production.