Seeking Alpha

Empire State Manufacturing Survey: Activity Grew In October

by: Doug Short

By Jill Mislinski

On Monday morning, we got the latest Empire State Manufacturing Survey. The diffusion index for General Business Conditions at 30.2 was an increase of 5.8 from the previous month's 24.4.

The forecast was for a reading of 20.7.

The Empire State Manufacturing Index rates the relative level of general business conditions in New York state. A level above 0.0 indicates improving conditions, below indicates worsening conditions. The reading is compiled from a survey of about 200 manufacturers in New York state.

Here is the opening paragraph from the report:

Business activity grew at a robust pace in New York State, according to firms responding to the October 2017 Empire State Manufacturing Survey. The headline general business conditions index climbed six points to 30.2, its highest level in three years. The new orders index came in at 18.0 and the shipments index rose eleven points to 27.5-readings that pointed to ongoing solid gains in orders and shipments. Delivery times were slightly longer, and inventory levels decreased. Labor market indicators reflected a strong increase in employment and little change in hours worked. Both input prices and selling prices rose at a somewhat slower pace than last month. Indexes assessing the six-month outlook suggested that firms remained optimistic about future conditions. [Source]

Here is a chart of the current conditions and its three-month moving average, which helps clarify the trend for this extremely volatile indicator:

Click this link to access a PDF set of charts of the individual components over the past 12 months.

Since this survey only goes back to July of 2001, we only have one complete business cycle with which to evaluate its usefulness as an indicator for the broader economy. Following the Great Recession, the index has slipped into contraction multiple times as the general trend slowed. 2015 saw a gradual decline that picked up in 2016.

Here is an overlay of the current and future conditions (a six-month outlook). The future conditions index is still optimistic over nine months into the new administration.

Meanwhile, here's another look at the latest ISM Manufacturing Business Activity Index.

Let's compare all five Regional Manufacturing indicators. Here is a three-month moving average overlay of each since 2001 (for those with data).

Here is the same chart including the average of the five. Readers will notice the range in expansion and contraction between all regions.

Let's keep a close eye on some of the regional manufacturing indicators in the months ahead.