Over recent weeks, we’ve been concerned about seepage of European contagion and American consumer constraint infecting the American manufacturing sector. The trend of the latest flow of regional manufacturing measures seems to concur. The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) was reported down in April. The survey of business managers fell to a 29-week low reading of 56.2, down relatively sharply from March’s level of 62.2. The details show that production, new orders and inventories were lower. Employment improved but the segment is a lagging economic indicator.
Our founder earned clients a 23% average annual return over five years as a stock analyst on Wall Street. "The Greek" has written for institutional newsletters, Businessweek, Real Money, Seeking Alpha and others, while also appearing across TV and radio. While writing for Wall Street Greek, Mr. Kaminis presciently warned of the financial crisis. Industrial SoftnessMeanwhile, the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank reported its Manufacturing Survey Monday. Manufacturing activity slowed in the important state of Texas, which accounts for 9% of U.S. manufacturing production. The relative production index declined to +5.6 from +11.1 previously. Capacity utilization dropped dramatically, with a quarter of all respondents reporting decreases. New orders and shipments were both flat, reflecting the malaise seen in the Midwest measure. The regional Business Activity Index fell into negative territory in April, and surveyed managers mostly reported a deteriorated outlook.
Tuesday offers the latest Manufacturing Index Report from the Institute for Supply Management. The national measure of manufacturing was disappointing from my perspective last month. This month has economists’ expectations set low, with the Business Activity Index seen marking 53.0, which would be a decrease from March’s 53.4 reading. The range of expectations extends from 52.0 to 54.4, and the trend seems to reflect at best a flattening, stagnant environment, and at worst, the precipice of a cliff’s edge.
Other regional indices have mirrored the morose message conveyed today. Last week, the Kansas City Fed published its manufacturing index, which produced a decline to a reading of 3, down from 9 in March and 13 in February. The bank of Richmond produced an improvement in April, with its regional measure rising to 14 from 7 the month before. However, the more widely followed Philadelphia and New York measures marked declines the week before. Philadelphia’s measure fell to 8.5 from 12.5, and New York dropped to 6.6 from 20 the month before. Each of these continues to reflect economic expansion, but it is generally seen at a slower pace. Most of the indexes are benefiting from rising employment, though this is a lagging economic indicator.
Recent declines in data out of Europe and China have many questioning the support of the global environment, which has been important in times of domestic question. Stocks are down on today’s data, following a market ride set forward by Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) last week. At the close of trading, the SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average (NYSE: DIA), SPDR S&P 500 (NYSE: SPY) and the PowerShares QQQ (Nasdaq: QQQ) were each in the red. The Industrial Select Sector SPDR (NYSE: XLI) was off even more, down about 0.9% on the day. Given the trend developing and indicated by the regional manufacturing reports, I think the industrials are lower for good reason, and we advised against them about a month ago. The top ten holdings of the XLI were down big Monday, with General Electric (NYSE: GE) cut 1.0%, United Parcel Service (NYSE: UPS) lower by 0.4%, United Technologies (NYSE: UTX) down 0.4%, Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT) off 1.7%, 3M (NYSE: MMM) ending flat, Boeing (NYSE: BA) down 0.6%, Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP) down 1.3%, Honeywell (NYSE: HON) short 1.0%, Cummins (NYSE: CMI) dropped 2.1% and Emerson Electric (NYSE: EMR) down 0.3%.
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