The NY Empire State manufacturing index rose unexpectedly in November. The headline index increased from -6.16 to -5.22, the second consecutive monthly rise, while the consensus was looking for a decline to -8.00. The details show a mixed picture with an impressive gain in shipments (14.59 from -6.40) and a strong gain in new orders (3.08 from -8.97), while unfilled orders (-11.24 from -18.28) and delivery time ( -1.12 from -4.3) picked up too. Number of employees, on the contrary, weakened sharply (-14.61 from -1.08) and also inventories (-12.36 from -2.15) and average workweek (-7.87 from -4.30) deteriorated. Prices paid (14.61 from 17.20) eased, while prices received (5.62 from 4.30) accelerated slightly. The forward-looking indicator weakened further in November, from 19.42 to 12.88. Apparently, Sandy had little effect on business confidence in the NY region, but probably part of the drop in employment could have been related to the storm. Overall however manufacturing activity continues to struggle as the index remains in negative territory, but there are significant regional differences.
Contrary to the NY Fed index, the Philadelphia Fed index worsened sharply in November, as the Tropical Storm Sandy had an influence on the data. The headline index fell from 5.7 to -10.7, reaching its lowest level since July. The breakdown is more mixed as new orders (-4.6 from -0.6) and shipments (-6.7 from -0.2) weakened, while a sharp drop was seen in inventories (-12.5 from 2.1). Unfilled orders, delivery time, number of employees and average workweek picked up slightly. A special question was asked about the impact of Sandy and indicated that the average length of time that businesses were either shut down or severely crippled was 1.3 days. It is difficult to interpret the data as they were distorted by Sandy. We expect however that the impact might be short-lived and a rebound could follow in the next month(s).
After a drop in the week ending Nov 3, when Tropical Storm Sandy hit the US East Coast, US initial jobless claims surged higher in the week ending Nov 10. Initial jobless claims rose by 78 000, from an upwardly revised 361 000 to 439 000, reaching their highest level since April last year. The four-week moving average edged up from 372 000 to 383 750. The Labour Department said that increases were mostly based in Mid-, North-Atlantic following Super storm Sandy. It will still some time before the claims return back to more reliable levels after the Storm, so it is now difficult to draw firm conclusions from the data. Continuing claims, which are reported with an extra week lag, surprised on the upside too, rising from 3 163 000 to 3 334 000.