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Empire State Manufacturing Tumbled to Lowest Level Since 2009

August 17, 2015

by Jill Mislinski

This morning we got the latest Empire State Manufacturing Survey. The diffusion index for General Business Conditions at -14.9 (-14.92 to two decimals) shows a significant decrease from last month's 3.8, which signals a decline in activity.This is the lowest level since 2009.

The Investing.com forecast was for a reading of 5.0.

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 August 2015 Empire State Manufacturing Survey indicates that business activity declined for New York manufacturers. The headline general business conditions index tumbled nineteen points to -14.9, its lowest level since 2009. The new orders and shipments indexes also fell sharply, to -15.7 and -13.8 respectively, pointing to a marked decline in both orders and shipments. The inventories index dropped to -17.3, signaling that inventory levels were lower. Price indexes showed that input prices were slightly higher, while selling prices were flat. Labor market indicators suggested that employment levels and hours worked were little changed. Indexes for the six-month outlook registered somewhat greater optimism than in July, with the future general business conditions index rising seven points to 33.6.

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 an 18 point decline 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