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All the early indications on the manufacturing sector show weakness this month including the Richmond Fed report where the headline index is in the minus column for the second month in a row, at minus 3 vs March's minus 8. New orders are in the negative column for the 3rd month in a row, at minus 6, while backlog orders, at minus 8, continue to extend their long negative streak. Shipments are negative, at minus 6, and capacity utilization is negative, at minus 4.
Yet despite the weakness in orders and despite the weakness in shipments, employment in this report, as it curiously has been in other manufacturing reports as well, is up, to plus 7 vs plus 6 in March. This must reflect confidence that ongoing weakness is only temporary and that order and shipment momentum is certain to build.
Other details include depressed price readings, consistent with other reports as well. The manufacturing sector is being held down by weak exports and trouble in the oil & gas sector, but it's not keeping firms from hiring.
Market Consensus Before Announcement
The Richmond Fed manufacturing index in March fell into contraction, to minus 8 vs zero in February. Order readings, both for new orders and backlogs, were down substantially as were shipments and the workweek. Hiring, however, remained respectable, at least for now. Price readings showed only the most marginal pressure.
This survey provides a comprehensive set of indicators of business conditions within the fifth region's manufacturing sector. The survey provides participants' knowledge of recent changes in manufacturing activity as well as insights into expected developments in six months. The data are released the fourth Tuesday of each month. The headline index is the composite for current month activity. It is a weighted average of the shipments (33%), new orders (40%) and employment (27%) indexes. (Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond)
Investors need to monitor the economy closely because it usually dictates how various types of investments will perform. By tracking economic data such as the regional Fed surveys, investors will know what the economic backdrop is for the various markets. The stock market likes to see healthy economic growth because that translates to higher corporate profits. The bond market prefers more moderate growth so that it won't lead to inflation. These surveys give a detailed look at the 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 market behavior.
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