|General Activity Index||-2.5||-8.0 to 0.5||-15.8||-4.6|
Nowhere are the effects of the oil-patch rout more evident than in the Dallas Fed manufacturing report where the general activity index fell to minus 15.8 in August from July's already weak minus 4.6. New orders fell into deep contraction this month, down more than 13 points to minus 12.5 with employment, at minus 1.4, in contraction for a fourth straight month. Hours worked are at minus 6.3 while readings on the business outlook fell steeply though both remain in slightly positive ground. Less weak readings were posted by production, shipments and capacity utilization. But price readings are very weak, with raw materials at minus 8.0 and finished goods at minus 15.7. It really doesn't get any worse than this report which points to increasing drag from the energy sector.
Market Consensus Before Announcement
The Dallas Fed index has been coming out of deeply negative territory, at minus 4.6 in July from minus 7.0 in June and minus 20.8 in May. The Econoday consensus is calling for minus 2.5 in August. This report has been offering some of the most striking evidence of oil-patch trouble.
The Dallas Fed conducts this monthly survey of manufacturers in Texas regarding their operations in the state. Participants from across the state represent a variety of industries. In the latter half of the month, the questions for the manufacturing survey are electronically transmitted to respondents and answers are collected over a few days. About 100 manufacturers regularly participate in the Dallas Fed survey, which began collecting data in mid-2004. Participants are asked whether various indicators have increased, decreased or remained unchanged. Answers cover changes over the previous month and expectations for activity six months into the future. The breakeven point for each index is zero with positive numbers indicating growth and negative numbers reflecting decline.
Investors track economic data like the Dallas Fed 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 will not generate inflationary pressures. The Dallas Survey gives a detailed look at Texas' manufacturing sector, how busy it is and where it is headed. Since manufacturing is a major sector of the economy, this report can have a big influence on the markets. Some of the survey indexes also provide insight on inflation pressures -- including prices paid, prices received, wages & benefits, and capacity utilization. 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 an early clue on the nation's manufacturing sector, reported in advance of the ISM manufacturing index and often in advance of the NAPM-Chicago index.