NEW EXPORT ORDERS
Adjusted for seasonal factors, the New Export Orders Index signalled only a marginal increase in new business from abroad in January. New export orders rose for the sixth successive month, but at the slowest rate since last October. Despite reports of stronger foreign client demand, a number of survey respondents noted that export demand was becoming increasingly sporadic and irregular.
BACKLOGS OF WORK
The level of outstanding business at U.S. manufacturing firms continued to increase in January. Anecdotal evidence suggested that strain was placed on capacity following a sustained rise in new orders. Although the rate of backlog accumulation was below those seen in the latter half of 2018, it was above the series long-run trend.
STOCKS OF FINISHED GOODS
Post-production inventories fell for the second successive month in January, albeit at only a fractional rate. Nonetheless, stocks have now declined in four of the past five months. Panellists suggested that the fast shipment of finished goods led to the decrease in stock levels.
Employment growth picked up in January, with manufacturers registering a strong rise in workforce numbers. The accelerated rate of job creation was linked to increased new work. The upturn in staffing numbers was faster than the series trend.
Average prices charged by manufacturers increased further at the start of 2019. The rise in output charges was strong and the quickest since last October. A number of survey respondents attributed higher factory gate prices to the pass-through of larger cost burdens, especially for metal products.
The rate of input price inflation remained historically sharp in January, despite dipping to a 12-month low. Panellists continued to state that tariffs on steel and aluminium were driving prices higher, whilst others noted that strong demand for inputs pushed cost burdens up.
SUPPLIERS’ DELIVERY TIMES
Supplier delivery times continued to lengthen in January, extending the current trend of deterioration in vendor performance that began in January 2017. Panellists stated that pressure on supplier capacity led to longer lead times. That said, the deterioration in supplier performance was the least marked since December 2017.
QUANTITY OF PURCHASES
The seasonally adjusted Quantity of Purchases Index signalled a further rise in buying activity across the U.S. manufacturing sector. The upturn in input purchasing was the fastest for three months and strong overall. Anecdotal evidence suggested that larger new order volumes and efforts to restock were behind the latest rise in buying activity.
STOCKS OF PURCHASES
Adjusted for seasonal factors, the Stocks of Purchases Index indicated a further increase in pre-production inventories. Though modest, the rate of stock accumulation was the fastest since last September. A number of firms expanded their inventories to accommodate the sustained rise in new business.
Business expectations regarding the year ahead remained optimistic in January. Manufacturing firms registered the highest degree of confidence since last October amid new client acquisitions and further anticipated new order growth. That said, the level of positive sentiment remained below the series trend.
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Chris Williamson, +44-20-7260-2329
Chief Business Economist
Siân Jones, +44-1491-461-017
Joanna Vickers, +44-207-260-2234