US: Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index

Tue Apr 24 09:00:00 CDT 2018

Consensus Consensus Range Actual Previous
Level 16 14 to 20 -3 15

The Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index dropped sharply by 18 points to minus 3 in April, breaking a 17-month long string of expansion in manufacturing in the Fifth District by posting the first negative reading since September 2016. The sharp decline follows a 13-point plunge in March and came as a negative surprise to most analysts, whose consensus expectations were for a slight improvement to 16. Weighing down the index in April was a contraction in shipments, plummeting 23 points to minus 8, and new orders, which fell by a similarly sharp 26 points to minus 9. Several components still remained in expansionary territory, however, including employment, with the number of employees rising 1 point to 12 and wages up 5 points to 27.

Contraction in current conditions was also seen in capacity utilization, down 17 points to minus 4, backlog of orders, down 26 points to minus 4, and local business conditions, down 8 points to minus 1. But there were elements of strength that held out hope of a resumption of the expansion, led by capital expenditures, which rose 15 points to 31, and finished goods inventories, up 10 to 15.

The declines in business owners' assessments of current conditions were also reflected in significant declines in their expectations for nearly all business categories in the next six months, yet these expectations still remained very optimistic and well within expansionary territory.

Current inflation pressures rose slightly for prices paid, at a 2.43 percent annualized rate, but edged lower for prices received to a 1.46 percent annualized rate. Business owners expected roughly the same rate of inflation for prices paid over the next six months, while expecting the prices received annualized rate to rise to 1.91 percent.

Market Consensus Before Announcement
Steady strong growth is Econoday's consensus for the Richmond Fed manufacturing index, at a consensus 16 for April vs March's 15. Watch for dislocations tied to steel tariffs including increasing prices or stockpiling in the raw materials component.

This survey tracks business conditions in the Richmond Fed's manufacturing sector. The headline index is a composite of the new orders, shipments, and employment indexes.

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.