In September, the US Empire State manufacturing index failed to rebound. The headline index deteriorated even further, falling from -7.72 to -8.82, while the consensus was looking for an increase to -4.00. And the details confirm the bleak picture. Shipments (-12.88 from 3.01), number of employees (-5.43 from 3.26) and inventories (-11.96 from -7.61) dropped sharply while new orders (-8 from -7.82), delivery time (-1.09 from 0.00) and average workweek (unchanged at -2.17) stayed broadly unchanged. Only unfilled orders improved somewhat, from -15.22 to -7.61 and both prices paid (32.61 from 28.26) and prices received (8.70 from 2.17) picked up in September. Somewhat more encouraging was the Philadelphia Fed index, which rebounded from -30.7 to -17.5 after an awful August month. The outcome was marginally below expectations. Looking at the breakdown, new orders (-11.3 from - 26.8), unfilled orders (-10.4 from -20.9-), delivery time (-7.0 from -18.1), inventories (10.2 from -9.8) and number of employees (5.8 from -5.2) improved significantly. Shipments, on the contrary, deteriorated from -13.9 to -22.8 and average workweek broadly stabilized. Also the forward looking index rebounded sharply from 1.4 to 21.4. The rebound in the Philadelphia Fed index indicates that last month’s decline was exaggerated due to the rating downgrade and tensions on financial markets. Both the NY and Philly Fed indices are still at depressed levels though, indicating that the manufacturing sector is contracting.
In August, US CPI inflation surprised on the upside of expectations, rising from 3.6% Y/Y to 3.8% Y/Y, while an unchanged figure was expected. CPI inflation is at the highest level since the summer of 2008. On a monthly basis, inflation rose by 0.4% M/M led by higher prices for energy (1.2% M/M), apparel (1.1% M/M), transportation (0.7% M/M), food & beverages (0.5% M/M) and housing (0.2% M/M). Only prices of personal computers dropped in August, falling by 2.7% M/M. Also core CPI, which excludes food and energy, surprised on the upside of expectations rising from 1.8% Y/Y to 2.0% Y/Y, while a more moderate increase was expected. The continued steep uptrend in both headline and core CPI is surprising especially as activity is cooling down and might pose a dilemma for the Fed as inflation is ever moving higher, while the labour market conditions are very weak.
In the week ended the 10th of September, US initial jobless claims continued to surprise on the upside of expectations. Initial claims rose from an upwardly revised 417 000 to 428 000, while the consensus was looking for a decline to 411 000. The less volatile four-week moving average jumped higher too, from 415 500 to 419 500. The week under review included the Labour Day holiday which might have distorted figures and also the hurricane Irene might have had an impact on the data. Continuing claims, which are reported with an extra week lag, surprised on the upside too. In the week ended September the 3rd, continuing claims rose by 12 000 to 3 726 000.