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The July figures for after-inflation U.S. manufacturing production came in this morning from the Federal Reserve, and they further debunk widespread reports that President Trump’s tariff-heavy trade policies – and particular his levies on steel and aluminum imports – are backfiring badly by decimating metals-using manufacturing sectors that dwarf the steel and aluminum makers.

Let’s first look at the monthly numbers, and compare the (preliminary) real growth of major metals-using sectors and manufacturing overall from June to July:

overall manufacturing:  +0.31 percent

durable goods:   +0.39 percent

fab metals:  -0.03 percent

machinery:  +0.56 percent

automotive:  +0.94 percent

small appliances:  -1.41 percent

major appliances:  -4.56 percent

Clearly, most metals-using sectors actually outperformed overall, with the top exceptions being appliance makers. Those in the major appliance category, of course, have been hit not only with the metals tariffs, but with safeguard tariffs on one of their actual products – large residential laundry machines.

Moreover, the output data since the advent of the first metals tariffs – in late March – show that the metals-using sectors in general have at least held their own. Here are the inflation-adjusted output percentage changes since April; they include the initially reported numbers through June (released by the Fed last month), and the revised June and initial July figures (released this morning).

                                                       old thru June   new thru June    new thru July

overall manufacturing                     – 0.21                +0.06                 +0.25

durables manufacturing                    -0.05               +0.09                  +0.48

fabricated metals products               +0.90               +0.82                 +0.79

machinery                                         -0.75                -0.47                  +0.09

automotive                                        -0.68                -1.56                   -0.63

small appliances                               -3.31                -3.98                   -5.33

major appliances                              -3.16                -0.73                    -5.25

Although the results for the very large machinery and automotive sectors look worse than the overall manufacturing numbers at first glance, they’ve each been undermined by some one-off developments.

In machinery, as reported here last month, the subpar post-April constant dollar growth clearly reflects some giveback from a big production jump between March and April. This increase was initially reported as a 2.27 percent surge, and it was estimated this morning at a still impressive 2.21 percent.

In automotive, production is still recovering from the effects of a fire in early May at a factory that produced parts for a popular Ford pickup truck, and which depressed after-inflation output that month by a huge 8.52 percent.

The post-April numbers confirm that both appliance sectors continue to be the big tariff losers, but the rest of the data show that they’ve been the exceptions, not the rule.

As usual with data, “past performance does not guarantee future results.” But the new Fed figures (along with comparable employment figures I’ve reported) also make clear that, so far, claims of major tariff-induced losses for domestic metals-using manufacturing belong in the realm of speculation, not of facts.

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