Manufacturing in U.S. expands at slowest pace since May

Less Inventory

The inventory gauge decreased to 44 in January, the lowest since December 2012, from 47 the month before, while the index of customer stockpiles also fell to 44 from 47.5. Figures less than 50 means manufacturers are paring stockpiles

Manufacturing growth across the globe was mixed last month. A Chinese manufacturing index dropped to a six-month low, adding to signs that government efforts to rein in excessive credit will slow growth in the economy. The Purchasing Managers’ Index was at 50.5, the National Bureau of Statistics and China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said Feb. 1 in Beijing.

In the U.K., factory activity grew at a slower pace than economists projected. A measure of factory activity declined to 56.7 last month from 57.2 in December, Markit Economics said in a report today in London. The median forecast of 32 economists was for a reading of 57.3.

Euro-area manufacturing, boosted by factories in Germany and France, expanded faster than initially estimated last month. A Markit index increased to 54 from 52.7 in December. The group’s initial estimate was 53.9 for January.

Colder January

Two areas that have been sources of strength for the U.S. economy may be showing signs of fading as colder temperatures gripped much of the country in December and January.

Extreme weather affected January sales in the Midwest, Southeast and East for Ford Motor Co. and caused some disruptions in production, said Joe Hinrichs, president of the Americas, in a Jan. 30 interview with Bloomberg. He declined to provide a forecast of Ford’s U.S. sales for the month.

Still, the maker of the top-selling pickups in the U.S. plans to increase production by 15% at one of its factories building F-Series Super Duty trucks as demand continues to grow. Ford will boost annual capacity by about 55,000 vehicles at its Kentucky truck plant starting April 1, a sign of the “underlying the strength of the economy,” Hinrichs said.

The housing market has also been affected by inclement conditions. A gauge of pending home sales slumped 8.7% in December from the month before, the biggest plunge since May 2010, as higher borrowing costs and bad weather held back sales.

Fewer home purchases may also translate into reduced consumption of furniture and appliances.

Among recently reported regional indexes, the Institute for Supply Management-Chicago Inc.’s business barometer decreased to 59.6 in January from 60.8 in December, the group said last week. Readings greater than 50 signal growth.

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