Of the five Federal Reserve districts which have released their March surveys, four are forecasting growth and one is forecasting contraction. A complete summary follows.
Texas factory activity increased for the eleventh month in a row in March, according to business executives responding to the Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey. The production index, a key measure of state manufacturing conditions, rose from 10.8 to 17.1, indicating output grew at a stronger pace than in February.
Other measures of current manufacturing activity also reflected more robust growth. The new orders index rose to a nine-month high of 14.7, with nearly a third of manufacturers noting an increase in demand and less than a fifth noting a decrease. The shipments index rose from 13.3 to 19.5, posting its strongest reading in nearly four years. The capacity utilization index rose as well, climbing four points to 13.1.
Perceptions of broader business conditions were more optimistic in March. The general business activity index moved up to a six-month high of 4.9 after slipping to zero last month. The company outlook index also rebounded, rising six points to 9.1 after falling sharply in February.
Labor market indicators reflected stronger employment growth and longer workweeks. The March employment index rose markedly to a 21-month high of 15. Nearly a quarter of firms reported net hiring compared with 9 percent reporting net layoffs. The hours worked index fell from 12 to 5.3 but remained positive for the third month in a row.
Upward pressure on prices and wages continued in March. The raw materials price index edged up to 23.1, staying well above the level seen for most of 2013. The finished goods price index edged back to single digits, coming in at 7.3. Looking ahead, 38 percent of respondents anticipate further increases in raw materials prices over the next six months, while 33 percent expect higher finished goods prices. The wages and benefits index remained elevated but fell from 25.8 to 20.8, suggesting compensation costs increased but at a slightly weaker pace than in February.
Expectations regarding future business conditions remained optimistic in March. The index of future general business activity edged up to 17.6, and the index of future company outlook rose 7 points to 27.4. Indexes for future manufacturing activity showed mixed movements but remained in solidly positive territory.
Source: Dallas Fed
Summary of all Federal Reserve Districts Manufacturing:
Richmond Fed (hyperlink to reports):
Kansas Fed (hyperlink to reports):
Dallas Fed (hyperlink to reports):
Philly Fed (hyperlink to reports):
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New York Fed (hyperlink to reports):
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 Dallas Fed survey (light blue bar).
Comparing Surveys to Hard Data
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.