Weaker numbers than many economists had expected; six month outlook weakens
The Empire State Manufacturing Survey indicates that conditions improved modestly in August for New York manufacturers. The general business conditions index rose 2 points from its July level, to 7.1. The new orders and shipments indexes both dipped below zero for the first time in more than a year, indicating that orders and shipments declined on balance; the unfilled orders index was also negative. The indexes for both prices paid and prices received inched down, while employment indexes were positive and higher than last month. The six-month outlook weakened; though future indexes were generally still positive, many fell in August, with the notable exceptions of the future employment and capital expenditures indexes, which climbed after falling last month.
The numbers were lower than many economists had expected. Some surveys indicated the index would rise up to 8. Readings greater than zero signal expansion in the so-called Empire State Index that covers New York, northern New Jersey and southern Connecticut.
In a series of supplementary questions, manufacturers were asked about their capital spending plans. Looking ahead to the next six to twelve months, 37 percent of respondents indicated that they expected to increase capital spending relative to its level in the past six to twelve months, while just 13 percent planned reductions. Of those predicting increased capital spending, 27 percent noted that "a considerable fraction" of the increase reflected investment that had been postponed because of the recession; 41 percent of respondents had given this same response in a similar survey back in January.
Another 46 percent of those surveyed this month attributed "some" of the spending increase to the recession. The most commonly cited factors behind increased investment were high expected growth in sales and a need to replace capital goods other than IT (information technology) equipment. The most widely cited factors behind steady or decreased capital investment in the current survey were low expected sales growth, low capacity utilization, and limited need to replace non-IT capital goods.