Thanks to an unexpectedly crowded Friday, I wasn’t able to put out a report on yesterday’s Federal Reserve real manufacturing output figures – for February. Which is really a shame, because they signaled a noteworthy reversal to the recent slowdown in manufacturing output. In addition, the American automotive sector – which had led domestic manufacturing’s strong early recovery from its deep recessionary slide – emerged from its latest technical recession.
Two important caveats, though: First, revisions weren’t great, to say the least, so part of February’s strong performance reflected a January that was even weaker than previously reported. Second, next week, the Fed will be putting out its latest annual revisions, which will give us entirely new numbers dating back to 2016. And sometimes these updated figures change the picture significantly.
But now to the manufacturing highlights of yesterday’s intriguing good news/less good news Federal Reserve industrial production report:
>According to the Federal Reserve, after-inflation U.S. manufacturing output jumped by 1.27 perceet month-to-month in February – its best such performance since October’s 1.29 percent, which was boosted by a bounceback effect from last fall’s hurricanes. Taking October out of the picture, the February monthly rise was the biggest since last April’s 1.37 percent.
>At the same time, January’s meager 0.08 percent sequential uptick was downgraded to a 0.18 percent dip, and although December’s downwardly revised monthly dip is now judged to have been a 0.04 percent advance, November and October growth figures were lowered as well.
>Year-on-year, manufacturing grew in February by 2.57 percent – the fastest annual pace since July, 2014’s 2.82 percent. By contrast, between the previous Februarys, manufacturing’s price-adjusted output increased by only 1.13 percent.
>Due to the monthly revisions, full-year 2017’s real manufacturing output growth fell to 2.33 percent. But that still resulted in industry’s best year by this measure since 2012’s 2.58 percent.
>Moreover, February’s monthly growth was torrid enough to bring domestic industry to within 1.49 percent of its last constant dollar production peak – hit at the end of 2007, on the eve of the Great Recession.
>Manufacturing’s February performance was led by the durable goods super-sector, whose after-inflation production advanced by 1.78 percent on month. This growth was the fastest since February, 2014’s 1.80 percent, which was helped by a harsh winter rebound effect.
>Yet January’s sequential production change number for durable goods received a significant downgrade, too – from a 0.15 percent increase to a 0.38 percent decrease. The cumulative December and November revisions were slightly negative as well.
>Due largely to the downward January revisions, the month’s reported annual durable goods manufacturing increase was reduced from 2.47 percent to 1.74 percent – the lowest such figure since last August’s 0.95 percent.
>But February’s annual durable goods real production increase of 3.46 percent was the best monthly performance since January, 2015’s 3.50 percent – which also stemmed partly from a winter weather bounceback.
>The downward December revisions, moreover, reduced durable goods’ full-year, 2017 inflation-adjusted growth to 2.41 percent – a figure that is still a post-2014 (2.72 percent) high.
>For the smaller non-durable goods super-sector, constant dollar production rose by 0.71 percent on month in February– its best such growth since the 2.34 percent burst in hurricane-affected October.
>Omitting the October performance still shows that February’s after-inflation non-durable goods growth was its strongest since last April’s 0.96 percent.
>Further, in the non-durables sector, revisions were slightly positive.
>On a year-on-year basis, real non-durable goods output improved by 2.18 percent in February. And for full-year, 2017, the positive monthly revisions pushed after-inflation output production up to 2.25 percent – the best such result since 2004’s 3.95 percent.
>The star February performer in manufacturing, was the automotive sector – whose sequential real output shot up by 3.88 percent, to an all-time high.
>That monthly performance was automotive’s best since last April’s 4.16 percent growth jump, and pulled the sector out of a real output technical recession that dates from that month.
>Interestingly, though, automotive’s initially reported 0.58 percent January sequential real output advance was revised down to a 0.22 percent drop, and December’s initially reported 1.13 percent inflation-adjusted production improvement was reduced to a 0.88 percent increase.