Manufacturing in the New York region contracted in January for the sixth straight month as the industry continued to face the effects of fiscal uncertainty in the U.S. and lackluster demand overseas.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s general economic index fell to minus 7.8 from a revised minus 7.3 in December. The median forecast of 54 economists in a Bloomberg survey called for a reading of zero, which signals no change in conditions. Readings of less than zero signal contraction in New York, northern New Jersey and southern Connecticut.
Weakness in manufacturing is holding back the economic expansion, damping the effects of advances in housing and household spending that are contributing to growth. On Jan. 1, Congress and President Barack Obama reached an agreement on taxes and spending after a protracted standoff that had caused some companies to hold back on investment. The pact calmed some so-called fiscal cliff worries even as it triggered a higher tax bill for American workers and left policy makers with more budget cutting to do.
“The manufacturing sector in general has been stuck in neutral for several months now,” said Thomas Simons, an economist with Jefferies Group Inc. in New York, who had forecast an improvement in the Empire index to minus 2. “It still hasn’t shown any progress. We’re still stuck in the mud here.”
Consumer Confidence Index in U.S. Fell to 80.3 in July
Confidence among U.S. consumers declined in July from a five-year high as higher borrowing costs and gasoline prices tempered Americans’ outlook for the economy, even as their assessment of current conditions improved.
The Conference Board’s index decreased to 80.3, the second-highest level since January 2008, from a revised 82.1 the prior month, the New York-based private research group said today. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a reading of 81.3. Another report showed home prices rose in May by the most in more than seven years.
While consumers’ outlook dimmed, a measure of their views of current conditions rose to a five-year high as employers stepped up hiring, and more Americans said they planned to buy homes, cars and appliances.
“If you ask someone how things are right now, they’re all saying it’s better to an extent they haven’t in quite some time,” said Neil Dutta, head of U.S. economics at Renaissance Macro Research LLC in New York, whose forecast of 80.5 was closest in the Bloomberg survey. “The labor situation is improving and consumers have more intentions to buy major things like homes and autos. To me, that’s good news.”
Economy in U.S. Grew Less Than Projected in First Quarter
Growth in the world’s largest economy was less than originally estimated in the first quarter as an increase in the U.S. payroll tax took a bigger bite out of consumer spending than previously calculated.
Gross domestic product grew at a 1.8 percent annualized rate from January through March, down from a prior reading of 2.4 percent, Commerce Department data showed today in Washington. Household purchases were trimmed to a 2.6 percent advance -- still the fastest in two years -- from the 3.4 percent gain estimated last month.
Americans cut back on services from vacations to legal advice as the two percentage-point increase in the payroll tax caused incomes to drop by the most in more than four years. At the same time, an improving labor market and rising home prices are underpinning consumer confidence, one reason economists project growth will pick up in the second half of the year.
“You’re not seeing a big pullback in consumer spending, it is just weaker than previously estimated,” said Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York. “The housing recovery will continue to push forward. Overall growth is going to be stronger in the second half.”
Stocks and Treasury securities rallied on speculation the weaker-than-projected growth reading will prompt Federal Reserve policy makers to delay reducing bond purchases. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 1 percent to 1,603.26 at the close in New York. The yield on the benchmark 10-year note fell to 2.54 percent from 2.61 percent late yesterday.
Consumer Spending in U.S. Unexpectedly Declined in April
Consumer spending in the U.S. unexpectedly declined in April for the first time in almost a year as incomes stagnated, indicating that the largest part of the economy will struggle to pick up without bigger job gains.
Purchases fell 0.2 percent after a 0.1 percent gain in March that was smaller than previously estimated, a Commerce Department report showed today in Washington. Incomes (PITLCHNG) were unchanged and prices dropped by the most in more than four years. Other reports showed consumer confidence and business activity jumped in May.
The figures point to a cooling in growth this quarter as higher U.S. payroll taxes and budget cuts restrain the world’s largest economy, giving Federal Reserve policy makers reason to keep pumping money into financial markets. At the same time, record-low inflation combined with rebounds in home and stock prices are shoring up confidence, which will help prevent an extended pullback in demand.
“Spending growth is going to be soft,” said Gus Faucher, a senior economist at PNC Financial Services Group Inc. in Pittsburgh, who correctly projected the drop in spending. “Inflation is too low from the Fed’s perspective, so they are going to be cautious about tapering” bond purchases intended to boost the economy, he said. “We will see better growth toward the end of the year.”
Stocks fell, paring the seventh monthly gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, as investors weighed today’s economic data. The S&P 500 dropped 1.4 percent to 1,630.74 at the close in New York.
Economy in U.S. Grew at 2.4% Rate, Less Than First Estimated
The U.S. economy expanded less than previously estimated in the first quarter as slower inventory building and cutbacks in government spending overshadowed the biggest gain in consumer purchases since the end of 2010.
Gross domestic product rose at a 2.4 percent annualized rate, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for no revision from the 2.5 percent pace initially reported.
The boost to household wealth from rising home values and stock prices is allowing Americans to weather higher payroll taxes and sustain purchases, the biggest part of the economy. Resilient consumer spending, further housing market progress and job gains will help the expansion strengthen in the second half of the year as the fallout from federal budget cuts dissipates.
“The economic outlook is still favorable,” said Millan Mulraine, an economist at TD Securities USA LLC in New York, who correctly forecast GDP. “It’s still fairly robust growth driven by consumer spending. We expect an acceleration in the second half as the economy moves beyond the current soft patch.”
Another report today showed more Americans filed claims for unemployment insurance payments last week as holiday closures kept five states from completing a full count. Applications for jobless benefits increased by 10,000 to 354,000 in the week ended May 25, the Labor Department said.
Manufacturing in Philadelphia Fed Area Unexpectedly Contracts
Manufacturing in the Philadelphia region unexpectedly contracted in May for the first time in three months as new orders retreated and factories cut back on employment and hours.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s general economic index declined to minus 5.2 from 1.3 the prior month. Readings greater than zero signal expansion in the area covering eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a gain to 2.
The data corroborate other figures this week showing manufacturing in the New York Fed region unexpectedly contracted as factories received fewer orders and sales stagnated. Another report from the Federal Reserve indicated output at factories, mines and utilities declined in April by the most in eight months, reflecting broad-based cutbacks at producers.
Economists monitor the Fed’s regional surveys for clues about the Institute for Supply Management national figures on manufacturing. The next ISM report is due June 3. Manufacturing makes up about 12 percent of the economy.
Estimates of 57 economists in the Bloomberg survey before the Philadelphia Fed’s factory index ranged from minus 5 to 5.
The Philadelphia Fed’s new orders measure slumped to minus 7.9, the weakest since June, from minus 1 in April, while shipments decreased to minus 8.5, the poorest reading since September, from 9.1. A measure of employment dropped to minus 8.7, the worst since September 2009, from minus 6.8.
A gauge of the factory workweek decreased to minus 12.4 in May from minus 2.1.
The gauge of prices paid climbed to 6.9 in May after 3.1 a month earlier. An index of prices received rose to minus 3.3 from minus 7.5.
Jobless Claims in U.S. Jump to Highest Level in Six Weeks
More Americans than projected filed claims for jobless benefits last week and manufacturing in the Philadelphia region unexpectedly shrank in May, signs the slowdown in growth is rippling through the U.S. economy.
The number of applications for unemployment insurance payments jumped by 32,000 to 360,000 in the week ended May 11, the most since the end of March, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s general economic index fell to minus 5.2 from 1.3 in April.
Concern the automatic federal budget cuts that took effect in March will hurt sales may be prompting employers to trim staff and factories to pull back. At the same time, another report showing inflation is retreating as gasoline costs drop means households have extra cash to buy other goods and services, which will help underpin consumer spending.
“We are seeing things like the sequester and budget cuts act as a restraining factor,” said Julia Coronado, chief economist for North America at BNP Paribas in New York. “Second-quarter growth is going to be slower than the first quarter, and we haven’t yet broken out of this pattern of strong quarters followed by weak quarters.”
Housing Starts in U.S. Fell in April to Five-Month Low
Starts of new U.S. homes fell more than forecast in April to a five-month low, indicating a pause in the industry’s progress as builders slowed work on apartments. Building permits surged to an almost five-year high.
Housing starts slumped 16.5 percent, the most since February 2011, to an 853,000 annualized rate after a revised 1.02 million pace in March, the Commerce Department reported today in Washington. The median estimate of 81 economists surveyed by Bloomberg was for a 970,000 rate.
Building applications that are higher than the level of starts signal residential construction will rebound as near record-low mortgage rates and improving job opportunities draw buyers. A limited supply of land is a hurdle for housing even as recent strength in real estate extends beyond builders to boost lenders and suppliers of construction materials.
“The housing sector has had a bit of a pause recently but the permits data suggests the momentum will resume,” said David Sloan, a senior economist at 4Cast Inc. in New York and the top forecaster for housing starts in the past two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. “Starts are very weak and permits are very strong. It seems to have been exaggerated by the volatile multifamily sector.”
Factory Orders in U.S. Decreased More Than Forecast in March
Orders placed with U.S. factories fell more than forecast in March as a cooling economy slowed demand for metals, mining equipment and military goods.
The 4 percent drop in bookings was the biggest since August and followed a revised 1.9 percent gain the prior month that was smaller than previously estimated, the Commerce Department reported today in Washington. The median forecast of 58 economists in a Bloomberg survey predicted orders would fall by 2.9 percent.
Companies are feeling the effects of slowing growth in Europe, Asia and the U.S., where higher taxes and across-the- board federal budget cuts, known as sequestration, have restrained consumer spending. Orders could pick up as manufacturers prepare for improved demand expected in the second half of the year as employment strengthens.
“We do expect manufacturing to bounce back in the second half as the fiscal headwinds fade and global demand starts to regain its footing,” Bricklin Dwyer, an economist at BNP Paribas in New York, said before the report. “It’s a soft patch reflecting the impact of fiscal tightening and weak overseas markets.”
Estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from a drop of 4.5 percent to a 0.2 percent gain. The Commerce Department revised February’s figure from a previously reported 3 percent increase.
Employment picked up more than forecast in April and the jobless rate unexpectedly declined to a four-year low of 7.5 percent, figures from the Labor Department also showed today.
Service Industries in U.S. Expand at Slowest Pace Since July
Service industries in the U.S. expanded in April at the slowest pace in nine months, adding to signs that the world’s largest economy is cooling.
The Institute for Supply Management’s non-manufacturing index declined to 53.1 last month from 54.4 in March, a report from the Tempe, Arizona-based group showed today. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for a decline to 54. A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the industries that make up almost 90 percent of the economy.
The report, following the group’s factory index that showed less growth among manufacturers, indicates federal budget cuts and higher payroll taxes are filtering through the economy. At the same time, a rebounding housing market remains a source of strength and is helping keep the expansion from faltering.
“We are starting to see some of the drag from fiscal tightening,” Robert Dye, chief economist at Comerica Inc. in Dallas, said before the report. The figure is “consistent with an expanding service sector, but not robustly expanding.”
Estimates of the 71 economists in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 52 to 55.1 for the index, which accounts for almost 90 percent of the economy and includes industries from utilities and retail to health care, housing and finance. Before today, the gauge averaged 53.6 since the recession ended in June 2009.
Another report today showed employers added more workers in April than projected. The 165,000 increase in payrolls followed a revised 138,000 gain in March that was bigger than initially forecast.
Manufacturing in U.S. Expands at Slowest Pace This Year
Manufacturing expanded in April at the slowest pace this year and companies took on the fewest workers in seven months, adding to evidence of a slowdown in the world’s largest economy
The Institute for Supply Management’s factory index fell to 50.7 from the prior period’s 51.3, the Tempe, Arizona-based group said today. Fifty is the dividing line between growth and contraction. The ADP Research Institute said private payrolls rose 119,000 last month, the least since September, while another report showed construction outlays slumped in March.
Factories are pulling back as the need to rebuild inventories wanes, across-the-board federal budget cuts take hold and higher payroll taxes restrain consumer spending. Federal Reserve policy makers said today at the conclusion of their two-day meeting that they will continue to pursue record stimulus in an attempt to bolster the economy and job market.
“Manufacturing is stalling a bit,” said Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics Ltd. in Valhalla, New York, who was the best forecaster of ISM manufacturing over the past two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. “Hiring has probably slowed a little. For the Fed, it’s going to be full speed ahead.”