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Empire State Manufacturing Disappoints Forecast, Declined at Fastest Pace Since Recession

January 15, 2016

by Jill Mislinski

This morning we got the latest Empire State Manufacturing Survey. The diffusion index for General Business Conditions at -19.4 (-19.37 to two decimals) shows a significant decrease from last month's -6.21, which signals a faster decline in activity.

The Investing.com forecast was for a reading of -4.0.

The Empire State Manufacturing Index rates the relative level of general business conditions in New York state. A level above 0.0 indicates improving conditions, below indicates worsening conditions. The reading is compiled from a survey of about 200 manufacturers in New York state.

Here is the opening paragraph from the report.

The January 2016 Empire State Manufacturing Survey indicates that business activity declined for New York manufacturers at the fastest pace since the Great Recession. The headline general business conditions index fell thirteen points to -19.4. The new orders and shipments indexes plummeted, indicating a steep decline in both orders and shipments. Price indexes suggested that both input prices and selling prices increased. Labor market conditions continued to deteriorate, with employment indexes remaining in negative territory. The six-month outlook was noticeably weaker, with the index for future general business conditions falling to its lowest level since early 2009.

Here is a chart of the current conditions and its 3-month moving average, which helps clarify the trend for this extremely volatile indicator:

Empire State Manufacturing

Click this link to access a PDF set of charts of the individual components over the past 12 months.

Since this survey only goes back to July of 2001, we only have one complete business cycle with which to evaluate its usefulness as an indicator for the broader economy. Following the Great Recession, the index has slipped into contraction multiple times, as the general trend slowed. It had remained in a relatively narrow range over the past year. The latest reading is a 13.2 point decrease from last month.

Here is an overlay of the current and future conditions (a six month outlook).

Meanwhile, here's another look at the latest ISM Manufacturing Business Activity Index.

ISM Manufacturing PMI

Let's compare all five Regional Manufacturing indicators. Here is a three-month moving average overlay of each since 2001 (for those with data).

Here is the same chart including the average of the five. Readers will notice the range in expansion and contraction between all regions - this averages out to approximately zero for the average, which is flat and neither expanding nor contracting.

Let's keep a close eye on some of the regional manufacturing indicators in the months ahead.

Here are the remaining four monthly manufacturing indicators that we track:

Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey (TMOS)

Kansas City Manufacturing Survey

Fifth District Manufacturing Survey (Richmond)

Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey

Regional Fed Overview