Philly Fed Manufacturing Index: Continued Expansion in November

The Philly Fed's Manufacturing 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 the direction of the broader Chicago Fed's National Activity Index.

The latest Manufacturing Index came in at 22.7, down from last month's 27.9 and has been positive for sixteen consecutive months. The 3-month moving average came in at24.8, up from 23.5 last month. Since this is a diffusion index, negative readings indicate contraction, positive ones indicate expansion. The Six-Month Outlook came in at 50.1, an increase from the previous month's 46.4.

Today's 22.7 headline number came in below the 25.0 forecast at Investing.com.

Here is the introduction from the survey released today:

Regional manufacturing activity continued to expand in November, according to results from this month’s Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey. The indexes for general activity and shipments fell from their October readings but remained positive, while the survey’s index for new orders rose. The employment index fell but remained elevated. Almost all of the future indicators rose, and firms continue to expect growth in both activity and employment 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, 2012 and 2015, and a shallower contraction in 2013. 2016 saw an improvement only to detract in the second half of 2017.

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.