In March, US CPI inflation rose from 2.1% Y/Y to 2.7% Y/Y, slightly above expectations and the highest level since December 2009. On a monthly basis, consumer prices rose by 0.5% M/M led by energy (5.1% M/M), transportation (2.2% M/M), commodities (1.2% M/M) and food & beverages (0.7% M/M). Prices of personal computers (-1.6% M/M) and apparel (-0.5% M/M) fell in March. Core CPI, which excludes food & energy, rose from 1.1% Y/Y to 1.2% Y/Y, significantly above the trough of 0.6% Y/Y reached in October last year, but markets focussed on the core measures that increased 0.1% M/M, which was below the 0.2% M/M expected. US consumer prices are now significantly above the implicit Fed target while also core CPI is rebounding significantly, providing further evidence that higher prices for oil and commodities are feeding through to other products.
The NY Empire State manufacturing index unexpectedly improved in April, reaching the highest level since one year. The headline index rose from 17.50 to 21.70, while also the underlying picture improved. The important new orders (22.34 from 5.81), shipments (28.29 from 1.62) and number of employees (23.08 from 9.09) subindices jumped sharply higher, while delivery time (-1.28 from -1.30) and unfilled orders (2.56 from 2.60) broadly stabilized. Inventories (-1.28 from 3.90) and average workweek (10.26 from 15.58) deteriorated, while prices continued to rise. Prices paid increased from 53.25 to 57.69 and prices received rose from 20.78 to 26.92, indicating that firms are slowly gaining pricing power. Business confidence in the NY region improved for the fifth consecutive month with employment expanding at the fastest pace since 2004, providing further evidence of strong momentum in the sector.
Industrial production in the US rose for the fifth consecutive month in March and gathered pace from the previous two months. On a monthly basis, production rose by 0.8% M/M, beating markets expectations. The details show that strength was broad based as utilities unexpectedly picked up (1.7% M/M), while also manufacturing (0.7% M/M) and mining (0.6% M/M) production accelerated from the previous month. Within the manufacturing sector, production was led by motor vehicles and parts (3.0% M/M), while also production of machinery and computers and electronics rose in March. Capacity utilization rose from 76.9% to 77.4% in line with expectations.
In April, industrial production might weaken somewhat as the automobile industry faced shortages of parts due to the earthquake in Japan.