The US Empire State manufacturing index failed to improve in October and stayed unchanged around one-year lows. The headline index improved only marginally, from -8.82 to -8.48, while the consensus was looking for an increase to -4.00. But the details show a more encouraging picture. New orders (0.16 from -8.00), shipments (5.33 from -12.88) and number of employees (3.37 from -5.43), three important subindices, improved significantly. Also inventories (-8.99 from -11.96) and unfilled orders (-4.49 from -7.61) improved somewhat, while delivery time (-1.12 from -1.09) stayed broadly unchanged. Only average workweek weakened in October, falling from -2.17 to -4.49. Upward price pressures eased too as both prices paid (22.47 from 32.61) and prices received (4.49 from 8.70) eased somewhat in October. The forward, six months from now, index weakened from 13.04 to 6.74. While the headline index stayed broadly unchanged around the cyclical lows, the details are more encouraging as they show an improvement in almost all sub indices. However, we would like to wait for the Philly Fed survey results on Thursday before drawing some early conclusions on the fate of the cyclical manufacturing sector in October, following a small improvement in September. Remember that outcomes below zero still point to a contracting activity in the sector.
In September, US industrial production showed a slight increase, in line with expectations. Industrial production rose by 0.2% M/M, while the previous figure was downwardly revised from 0.2% M/M to 0.0% M/M. The details show that a moderate increase in the manufacturing sector (0.4% M/M) and a decent jump in mining (0.8% M/M) were limited by a decline in utilities (-0.8% M/M). Within the manufacturing sector, strength was based in production of motor vehicles and parts (0.7% M/M) and computers and electronics (1.0% M/M), while machinery production showed a more moderate increase. Capacity utilization picked up from a downwardly revised 77.3% to 77.4%, while an increase to 77.5% was expected. While production softened somewhat compared to last year, it was strong in the third quarter, keeping the economy out of recession led by strength in motor vehicle output.