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Economy in Brief

Chicago Purchasing Managers' "Business Barometer" Holds Up; Prices Accelerate to 26-Year High
by Carol Stone November 30, 2005

The Chicago Purchasing Managers Business Barometer was 61.7 for November, down slightly from October's 62.7, but firmer than forecasts of about 60.0. This was the third straight reading above 60, a favorable performance after about six months of saw tooth behavior.

The new orders index, however, kept up the seesaw pattern, as it fell back 11.0 points to 61.6 after October's 9.2-point increase; the October advance, notably, was corroborated in yesterday's report of a 3.4% surge in the value of national durable goods orders in October. The Chicago production index eased 4.5 points, partially reversing its October gain. Employment fell by a point to 50.3, indicating a marginal expansion of factory jobs in the Chicago region.

While the components describing real manufacturing activity portray a fairly optimistic picture, the index of prices paid may cause some worry. It rose once again, reaching 94.1, the highest since August 1979, when inflation in general was pretty rapid. This comparison, however, calls our attention to an important distinction in the Chicago and other Purchasing Manager surveys: these surveys count the number of firms reporting moves in a specific direction, not the magnitude of the move. Thus, many firms paid higher prices and fewer firms paid lower prices, but we have no idea how much those prices changed. Also note that the run-up in the overall index in fact resulted partially from a reduction in the number of firms paying lower prices, from 6% to 3%; as recently as August, this deflationary factor was 11% and 16% in May. The number of firms paying higher prices represents 67% of the total, a high figure, but not so dramatic as in earlier inflation periods and not even as high as several readings last year in the mid-70s.

Chicago Purchasing Managers Index, SA Nov Oct  Oct '04 2004 2003 2002
Business Barometer 61.7 62.9 67.7 62.9 54.6 52.8
  New Orders 61.6 72.6 79.7 67.0 58.0 56.2
Prices Paid 94.1 79.6 84.7 80.1 55.8 56.9
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