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Philly Fed Business Outlook: Manufacturing Activity Increased in August

August 20, 2015

by Jill Mislinski

The Philly Fed's Business Outlook Survey is a monthly report for the Third Federal Reserve District, covers eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and Delaware. While it focuses exclusively on business in this district, this regional survey gives a generally reliable clue as to direction of the broader Chicago Fed's National Activity Index.

The latest gauge of General Activity came in at 8.3, up from last month's 5.7. The 3-month moving average came in at 9.7, fractionally up from 9.2 last month. Since this is a diffusion index, negative readings indicate contraction, positive ones indicate expansion. The Six-Month Outlook was up at 43.1, versus the previous month's 41.5.

Today's 8.3 came in above the 7.0 forecast at Investing.com.

Here is the introduction from the Business Outlook Survey released today:

Manufacturing activity in the region increased in August, according to firms responding to this month’s Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey. The indicators for general activity are holding fairly steady and suggest modest growth. While firms reported increased shipments compared with the prior month, the current indicators for new orders and employment suggest steady conditions. The survey’s indicators of future activity predict a continuation of growth in the region’s manufacturing sector over the next six months. (Full Report)

The first chart below gives us a look at this diffusion index since 2000, which shows us how it has behaved in proximity to the two 21st century recessions. The red dots show the indicator itself, which is quite noisy, and the 3-month moving average, which is more useful as an indicator of coincident economic activity. We can see periods of contraction in 2011 and 2012 and a shallower contraction in 2013. The indicator is now above its post-contraction peak in September of last year.

In the next chart we see the complete series, which dates from May 1960. For proof of the high volatility of the headline indicator, note that the average absolute monthly change across this data series is 7.7.

The next chart is an overlay of the General Activity Index and the Future General Activity Index — the outlook six months ahead.

For comparison, here is the latest ISM Manufacturing survey.

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.

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

Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey (TMOS)

Kansas City Manufacturing Survey

Empire State Manufacturing Survey

Fifth District Manufacturing Survey (Richmond)

Regional Fed Overview