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posted on 20 August 2015

August 2015 Philly Fed Manufacturing Growth Rate Modestly Improves. Internals Mixed.

Written by Steven Hansen

The Philly Fed Business Outlook Survey growth improved modestly - and remained in expansion. Key elements are mixed.

This is a very noisy index which readers should be reminded is sentiment based. The Philly Fed historically is one of the more negative of all the Fed manufacturing surveys but has been more positive then the others recently.

The index improved from 5.7 to 8.3. Positive numbers indicate market expansion, negative numbers indicate contraction. The market expected (from Bloomberg) 5.0 to 10.5 (consensus 7.5).

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.

Firms Report Slight Growth

The survey's broadest measure of manufacturing conditions, the diffusion index of current activity, increased from 5.7 in July to 8.3 in August. This index has hovered in a low range since the beginning of the current year, far below the highs of late 2014 (see Chart). The demand for manufactured goods, as measured by the survey's current new orders index, remains low as well, falling slightly more than 1 point to 5.8 in August. However, the current shipments index rebounded 12 points to 16.7.

Firms' responses suggest steady conditions in the regional labor market. The percentage of firms reporting an increase in employees in August (21 percent) exceeded the percentage reporting a decrease (16 percent), and the corresponding diffusion index for current employment increased 6 points, to 5.3. Firms reported modest increases in the workweek: The percentage of firms reporting a longer workweek (16 percent) was greater than the percentage reporting a shorter workweek (7 percent).

z philly fed1.PNG

Econintersect believes the important elements of this survey are new orders and unfilled orders . Unfilled orders improved but remains in contraction, while new order sontinued to expand but at a slower rate.

This index has many false recession warnings.

Summary of all Federal Reserve Districts Manufacturing:

Richmond Fed (hyperlink to reports):

z richmond_man.PNG

Kansas Fed (hyperlink to reports):

z kansas_man.PNG

Dallas Fed (hyperlink to reports):

z dallas_man.PNG

Philly Fed (hyperlink to reports):

z philly fed1.PNG

New York Fed (hyperlink to reports):

z empire1.PNG

Federal Reserve Industrial Production - Actual Data (hyperlink to report):

Holding this and other survey's Econintersect follows accountable for their predictions, the following graph compares the hard data from Industrial Products manufacturing subindex (dark blue bar) and US Census manufacturing shipments (lighter blue bar) to the Philly Fed survey (yellow bar).

Comparing Surveys to Hard Data:

z survey1.png

In the above graphic, hard data is the long bars, and surveys are the short bars. The arrows on the left side are the key to growth or contraction.

Caveats on the use of Philly Fed Business Outlook Survey:

This is a survey, a quantification of opinion - not facts and data. Surveys lead hard data by weeks to months, and can provide early insight into changing conditions. Econintersect finds they do not necessarily end up being consistent compared to hard economic data that comes later, and can miss economic turning points.

This survey is very noisy - and recently showed recessionary conditions. And it is understood from 3Q2011 GDP that the economy was expanding even though this index was in contraction territory. On the positive side, it hit the start and finish of the 2007 recession exactly.

No survey is accurate in projecting employment - and the Philly Fed Business Outlook Survey is no exception. Although there are some general correlation in trends, month-to-month movements have not correlated with the BLS Service Sector Employment data.

Over time, there is a general correlation with real business data - but month-to-month conflicts are frequent.

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