U.S. production growth eased slightly in January amid a surge in coronavirus cases, while material costs rise.
USA: production slows down again in January
According to data released on Tuesday, the index of manufacturing activity fell to 57.6 points. This is the third consecutive drop and the lowest since November 2020. Only a month earlier, the indicator was at the level of 58.8 points. And yet, according to the standard interpretations of the index, readings above 50 signal an expansion. In addition, the latest data shows that production remains stable.
As a result, more than ten manufacturing industries reported growth in January. The production of clothing and furniture grew the best of all.
Production figures and new orders fell to their lowest level since mid-2020, suggesting that the recent wave of infections due to the Omicron variant could have disrupted the industry.
However, the price factor also puts pressure on enterprises.
Thus, prices for materials used in the production process, already increased against the background of the continuing imbalance of supply and demand associated with the pandemic, jumped by almost 8 points in January. Part of the reason can be considered the irrepressible increase in oil prices. But in the end, it was also the biggest increase since the end of 2020.
"The US manufacturing sector is still in a demand-driven and supply chain-constrained environment, but January was the third consecutive month with signs of improvement in the workforce and supplier productivity," said Timothy Fiore, chairman of the ISM Manufacturing Business Research Committee, sticking to an optimistic point of view.
Perhaps there is a reason for this, since purchasing managers' data show that supply constraints continue to weaken, although they remain constant. Supplier delivery times improved slightly, and the ISM backlog indicator fell to its lowest level since October 2020.
Meanwhile, customers' still very scarce production stocks improved slightly. The ISM index rose to 33, the highest level since January last year.
Supply chains are not expected to normalize for several months as the pandemic continues to prevent U.S. manufacturers from getting adequate products.
"We are facing massive disruptions in our production due to problems with suppliers restricting the production of key raw materials (materials), such as steel cans and chemicals," representatives of the chemical goods group reported.
But the high-tech field this month noted a shortage of skilled labor, while the supply of chips and other components improved somewhat. The transport sector, metal rolling and the automotive industry echo complaints about staff shortages.
The ISM data also showed that factories are looking to increase payroll funds. The employment index rose to a 10-month high. The government's employment report on Friday is forecast to show that manufacturers added almost 25,000 jobs in January.
"Our suppliers are experiencing difficulties with the implementation of planned releases, as their suppliers face delays and shortages, so the lead time and inventory are reduced, which leads to production losses," says a representative of a large food manufacturer.
In general, signs of improvement in the US economy remain relevant, but outbreaks of the Omicron strain are holding back possible growth in all directions. With this in mind, we can predict an excellent growth of indicators already this spring - following the example of the spring of 2021.
However, for now, the indices are likely to be sensitive to such news and will decline slightly in the upcoming US session.