|General Business Conditions Index - Level||-0.50||-6.00 to 5.00||-14.67||-14.92|
The shocking weakness in August was no fluke as the Empire State index came in far below expectations for September, at minus 14.67. Next only to August's minus 14.92, September's reading is the weakest of the recovery, since April 2009. And, unfortunately, judging by new orders, activity in October may prove to be just as weak. New orders are deeply negative this month, at minus 12.91 vs minus 15.70 in August and the fourth straight negative reading. And manufacturers in the New York region won't be able to turn to backlogs which are extending their long run of contraction at minus 8.25.
Searching for positives in this report is difficult. Negative signs sweep components including shipments, at minus 7.98 following August's minus 13.79. If extended to national data, these results point to trouble for third-quarter GDP. Employment is at minus 6.19 which is the first negative reading since all the way back in January 2013. The workweek, reflecting the weakness in shipments, is down very steeply at minus 10.31. Price data show outright contraction for finished goods at minus 5.15 -- the first negative reading since November 2013. And rounding things out is a 10 point loss in the 6-month outlook to 23.21 which is the weakest since, once again, January 2013.
The negative signals from this report from August were not confirmed by other regional indications but could be confirmed as early as this morning with the August industrial production report. Strength in the auto sector gave manufacturing a lift in June and July but this lift, given weakness in foreign markets and the energy sector, may not have extended too far, at least based on this report.
Market Consensus Before Announcement
The Empire State manufacturing index is expected to bounce back in September, to a consensus minus 0.50 which would indicate only slight month-to-month contraction vs August's extremely deep contraction of minus 14.92. Focus will be on new orders which, at minus 15.70 in August, posted its weakest reading in 5 years.
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.