U.S. Manufacturing Activity Softens In Central Atlantic Region

Richmond Fed says optimism on the rise, however.

Tuesday brought more mixed news for the U.S. manufacturing sector, this time from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

The bank's latest report on manufacturing showed that activity in the central Atlantic region contracted again in January, but also showed optimism among the manufacturers surveyed.

The seasonally adjusted manufacturing index decreased to -11 from December’s reading of -6, with shipments losing nine points to -13, new orders falling four points to -12, and the jobs index holding steady at -5.

Despite the recent activity declines, manufacturers were generally more optimistic in January, and firms anticipated that their shipments, new orders, and capacity utilization would rise sharply by mid-year.

Both raw materials and finished goods prices grew at a more measured pace in January. Looking forward, respondents expected raw materials prices to rise faster over the next six months.

Other indicators were mostly flat, the Richmond Fed said. The orders backlog indicator was unchanged at -16, while the capacity utilization index slipped two points to finish at -13.

Manufacturers’ intentions to expand employment were also more bullish in January. The expected manufacturing employment index picked up six points to 13 and the average workweek increased eleven points to finish at 19. In addition, the expected wage index posted an eleven-point gain to 48.

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