|General Business Conditions Index - Level||-7.00||-10.00 to 2.00||-4.59||-10.74|
Factory activity continues to contract in the New York manufacturing region and especially, unfortunately, employment and the workweek. The Empire State index posted its fifth negative reading in a row, minus 4.59 for December which however is the least weak reading of the run. New orders, at minus 5.07, are down for a seventh month in a row but here to the degree of contraction is easing. Not easing, however, is employment which is deeply negative at minus 16.16 for the fourth contraction in a row and the deepest since July 2009. The workweek is another disappointment, at minus 27.27 for the worst reading since even further back, to April 2009.
But there are pluses in this report led by a big gain for the six-month outlook, to 38.51 from 20.33. The gain reflects greater optimism for new orders and shipments but no greater optimism for employment where hiring is expected to be no more than moderate.
Turning back to negatives, prices received are down for a fourth month in a row, at minus 4.04. Contraction in prices for finished goods points to price concessions and lack of demand.
The recovery worst readings for employment and the workweek are definitely worrisome signs. Yes, this report has been running lower than other regional manufacturing reports but today's results do not point to any year-end lift for the factory sector which is being hit by low exports and low prices.
Market Consensus Before Announcement
The Empire State report has been offering decisive signals of weakness in the factory sector with the headline index in significant contraction since August. Order data have all been deeply negative as has the workweek. Employment is in its weakest streak since late 2009. Prices have also been in contraction with final-goods prices down for three straight months. The Econoday consensus is calling for a headline of minus 7.00 vs November's minus 10.74.
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.