|General Business Conditions Index - Level||7.0||3.0 to 10.2||-1.19||6.90|
There's no evidence yet that the manufacturing sector is building up steam early into the spring quarter. The Empire State index points to month-to-month contraction for April, at minus 1.19 for only the second negative reading in the last 23 months. The other negative reading was in December which was just about the beginning of this indicator's slowdown.
New orders are contracting noticeably, at minus 6.00 for the second straight contraction. Weakness in exports, tied to the strong dollar and soft global demand, is a major factor behind the dip in orders. Unfilled orders, at minus 11.70, are in sharp contraction for a second straight month.
But the drop in orders has yet to pull down shipments which, at least for now, are still in the plus column and well into the plus column, at 15.23. Employment is also well into the plus column at 9.57 on top of March's standout strength of 18.56.
Still, shipments and employment are certain to turn lower if orders don't pick up. But, in an optimistic note, that's exactly what the sample sees as a sizable 52 percent expect general conditions to improve in the next six months.
All in all, today's report is soft reflecting weakness in global demand, weakness underscored by yesterday's data out of China where GDP is at a 6-year low. Watch for the US industrial production and the latest hard data on manufacturing at 9:15 a.m. ET.
Market Consensus Before Announcement
The Empire State manufacturing index in March, at an index of 6.90, remained modestly favorable but order data have been very soft both this quarter and going back to the fourth quarter. New orders were in contraction in the March report, at minus 2.39 which is the second negative reading of the last 6 months, a stretch where this reading has averaged a pitiful plus 2.24.
The New York Fed conducts this monthly survey of manufacturers in New York State. Participants from across the state represent a variety of industries. On the first of each month, the same pool of roughly 175 manufacturing executives (usually the CEO or the president) is sent a questionnaire to report the change in an assortment of indicators from the previous month. Respondents also give their views about the likely direction of these same indicators six months ahead.
Investors track economic data like the Empire State Manufacturing Survey to understand the economic backdrop for the various markets. The stock market likes to see healthy economic growth because that translates to higher corporate profits. The bond market prefers a moderate growth environment that won't generate inflationary pressures. The Empire Manufacturing Survey gives a detailed look at New York state's manufacturing sector, how busy it is and where things are headed. Since manufacturing is a major sector of the economy, this report has a big influence on the markets. Some of the Empire State Survey sub-indexes also provide insight on commodity prices and other clues on inflation. The Federal Reserve closely watches this report because when inflation signals are flashing, policymakers can reset the direction of interest rates. As a consequence, the bond market can be highly sensitive to this report. The equity market is also sensitive to this report because it is the first clue on the nation's manufacturing sector, reported in advance of the Philadelphia Fed's business outlook survey.