Electrical Marketing’s Leading Economic Indicators - Nov. 18, 2016

Nov. 18, 2016
The latest figures on industrial purchasing, Conference Board indicators, rig counts and freight activity show mixed signals about the economy.

Purchasing Managers Index still bullish. October’s Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) hit 51.9%, an increase of +0.4%  from the September reading of 51.5% percent, according to the Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) Manufacturing Business Survey Committee.

Leading Indicators looking at moderate growth in 2017. The Conference Board Leading Economic Index (LEI) for the U.S. increased 0.2% in September to 124.4 (2010 = 100), following a 0.2% decline in August, and a 0.5% increase in July. “The U.S. LEI increased in September, reversing its August decline, which together with the pickup in the six-month growth rate suggests that the economy should continue expanding at a moderate pace through early 2017,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, director of business cycles and growth research at The Conference Board.

Rig count showing short-term progress but still down year-over-year. The average U.S. rig count for October 2016 was 544, up 35 from the 509 counted in September 2016, and down 247 from the 791 counted in October 2015 by Baker Hughes Inc., Houston. The worldwide rig count for Oct. 2016 was 1,620, up 36 from the 1,584 counted in Sept. 2016, and down 466 from the 2,086 counted in October 2015.

Freight activity on railroads still down compared to 2015.  The amount of freight carried by the nation’s railroads is considered to be a dependable indicator of the health of the U.S. economy. According to data from the Association of American Railroads (AAR), Washington, D.C., year-to-date rail traffic is down compared to last year, but one of AAR’s short-term indicators looked marginally better for the week ending Nov. 5.

For the first 44 weeks of 2016, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 11,075,472 carloads, down 9.8% from the same point last year; and 11,431,547 intermodal units, down 2.9% from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 44 weeks of 2016 was 22,507,019 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 6.4% compared to last year. Total  U.S. weekly rail traffic for the first week of November was 543,377 carloads and intermodal units, up 0.7% compared with the same week last year.