Check out some of this week's top headlines from across Manufacturing.net, from Chinese villagers attacking a factory to the Volkswagen incentives being threatened by the UAW. Also, a judge allows a lawsuit over cancer in children against Whirlpool, and a slowdown in China will be felt around the world.
While 2013 as a whole marks the second consecutive annual decline, deal activity in the second half of the year increased with 83 deals worth $35.7 billion versus 69 deals for $24 billion in the first half. The fourth quarter of 2013 recorded 40 transactions worth $50 million or more.
Republicans' new acquiescence to letting the government pile up more debt with no strings attached paid double political dividends: It spared the GOP another politically debilitating showdown with President Barack Obama and also forced Democrats to cast votes that rivals immediately used against them in this year's midterm elections.
U.S. businesses restocked their shelves and warehouses at a faster pace in December, but sales slowed, a cautionary sign for the economy. The Commerce Department says inventories rose 0.5 percent after a 0.4 percent increase in November. Sales growth fell to just 0.1 percent, from 0.7 percent in November.
Low U.S. electricity prices in natural-gas-fired plants, for example, are already encouraging investment in energy-intensive industries such as steel and glass. Not yet visible are the advantages that makers of intermediate products, such as plastic-resin pellets, and makers of finished goods, such as plastic toys and plastic auto parts, will reap from cheaper inputs.
Cold weather across much of the nation contributed to a drop in retail sales in January. Americans spent less on autos and clothing and at restaurants — a decline that suggests that momentum from consumer spending at the end of 2013 has tailed off.
The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits rose 8,000 last week to 339,000, evidence that layoffs ticked up. Still, the increase wasn't enough to suggest the job market is worsening. The Labor Department says the four week average of applications, a less volatile measure, increased 3,500 to a seasonally adjusted 336,750.
Washington suspended the benefits last June, two months after the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building in Dhaka that killed 1,129 people. The disaster put a grim spotlight on low wages and lax safety in the impoverished nation's lucrative apparel business that exports nearly $5 billion annually to the U.S.
U.S. employers posted fewer job openings in December and hiring slowed, adding to evidence that the job market weakened that month. November's total was the first time that available jobs had topped 4 million since March 2008.
U.S. wholesale businesses increased their stockpiles in December at the slowest pace since last summer, another sign that the economy lost some momentum at the end of 2013. The Commerce Department says wholesalers boosted stockpiles by 0.3 percent in December from November, smallest gain since July.
December U.S. manufacturing technology orders totaled $491.89 million according to AMT - The Association For Manufacturing Technology. This total, as reported by companies participating in the USMTO program, was up 9.9 percent from November and up 11.8 percent when compared with the total of $439.90 million reported for December 2012.
Growth has marched steadily downward over the past two years as Beijing clamped down on a spending boom that analysts worry has pushed debt to dangerous levels. That has meant less Chinese demand for imported goods from copper and cement to factory machinery and earth movers.
Communist Party leaders pledged in November to open state-dominated industries wider to private competition and ease limits on foreign investment in what could be China's most significant economic overhaul in at least two decades.
The city of Detroit says it will file a plan to emerge from bankruptcy next week, just days before a March 1 deadline. Detroit filed for bankruptcy last summer, claiming $18 billion in long-term debt. It recently shared a reorganization plan with creditors, although that plan is subject to change while negotiations occur in private.
Two straight weak job reports have raised doubts about economists' predictions of breakout growth in 2014. The global economy is showing signs of slowing — again. Manufacturing has slumped. Fewer people are signing contracts to buy homes. Global stock markets have sunk as anxiety has gripped developing nations.
The new cap on borrowing is expected to be about $17.2 trillion. It means Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew will have to employ bookkeeping maneuvers to keep the government functioning until Congress further raises the borrowing limit.
The Labor Department says employers added 113,000 jobs, less than the average monthly gain of 194,000 in 2013. This follows December's tepid increase of just 75,000. Job gains have averaged only 154,000 the past three months, down from 201,000 in the preceding three months.
Republicans have blocked legislation from advancing in the Senate to restore benefits for the long-term unemployed. It's the second time this year that Democrats have sought to move the bill along, and they say they will try again.
The National Retail Federation's cautiously optimistic forecast on Thursday comes as stores are still reeling from a difficult holiday season where they had to discount heavily to get shoppers to buy. That weakness has continued through January as retailers have had to deal with a series of winter storms that have kept shoppers at home.
The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits declined 20,000 last week to 331,000, suggesting that Americans are facing fewer layoffs and better job prospects. The Labor Department said the four-week average, a less volatile measure, ticked up 250 to 334,000.
Productivity grew at an annual rate of 3.2 percent in the October-December period, down slightly from a 3.6 percent growth rate in the third quarter, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Labor costs fell at a 1.6 percent rate in the fourth quarter after an even bigger 2 percent rate of decline in the third quarter.
Analysts said the larger-than-expected trade deficit for December would likely reduce estimates of growth in the October-December quarter. The government had initially estimated fourth-quarter growth at a 3.2 percent annual rate.
Economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in January for the eighth consecutive month, and the overall economy grew for the 56th consecutive month, say the nation’s supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM Report On Business.
Payroll processor ADP says companies added 175,000 jobs last month. That's down from 227,000 in December, which was revised lower. But it was much better than the government's official figure of just 74,000 new jobs in December.
SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association, which represents the nation’s third largest manufacturing industry, supports President Obama’s efforts to create jobs and strengthen the middle class by expanding the economy and negotiating sensible trade agreements.