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Although the media remains far from catching on, with the release this morning of the Federal Reserve’s latest manufacturing production figures (for August), it should no longer be news to report that President Trump’s metals tariffs show absolutely no sign of harming U.S. industry overall or sectors that use significant amounts of steel and aluminum – where the levies have been imposed. The real metals tariff-related news will come if and when such damage actually does turn up in any official data.

Here’s how major metals-using industries have done in terms of generating real growth between July and August (according to this morning’s preliminary data) – along with the numbers for manufacturing as a whole, and durable goods as a whole (the super-category in which the heaviest metals users tend to be found):

overall manufacturing: +0.28 percent

durable goods:   +1.01 percent

fabricated metal products:  +0.22 percent

machinery:  +1.07 percent

automotive:  +4.02 percent

small appliances:  +0.81 percent

major appliances:  -2.76 percent

In general, the metals-using sectors have clearly performed quite well. Moreover, major appliance makers – the top exception – have of course, have been hit not only with the metals tariffs, but with safeguard tariffs on one of their products – large residential laundry machines.

But since a single month does not a trend make, let’s examine the inflation-adjusted output data since the advent of the first metals tariffs – in late March. Once again, the big takeaway is that the metals-using sectors in general have at least held their own. In fact, except for the major appliances category, their price-adjusted production has begun to accelerate.

                                                  old thru July   new thru July    new thru Aug

overall manufacturing                     +0.25                +0.26                 +0.54

durables manufacturing                    +0.48               -0.09                  +0.94

fabricated metals products               +0.79               +0.62                 +0.84

machinery                                        +0.09                +0.69                  +1.77

automotive                                        -0.63                -3.38                   +0.49

small appliances                               -5.33                -4.11                     -3.34

major appliances                              -5.25                -2.87                     -5.55

Finally, the metals tariffs now appear to be resulting in notable after-inflation production increases in the protected metals sectors, too. In August, constant dollar primary metals production grew on month by three percent – its best such performance since March, 2010 (3.43 percent), when the current economy-wide recovery was in its very early stages. In addition, since the first steel and aluminum tariffs went into effect, real primary metals production is up 1.15 percent – which compares very favorably with the output performance of manufacturing in general, the durable goods super-sector, and the metals-using industries.

In other words, rather than sitting on their hands and just enjoying the higher profits enabled by the tariffs, it seems that the steel and aluminum industries are indeed ramping up production. So in a world where trade-related news was reported accurately, reports on the new industrial production numbers would specify that the levies so far are a win-win for the economy – working as intended for the metals makers and leaving metals users unscathed. Let’s see if this winds up as an accurate description of this world.