Manufacturing activity picked up a bit this month, according to July’s flash estimate of the sector’s purchasing managers’ index (PMI). The sentiment benchmark inched up to 53.8 after June’s 53.6 reading—a 20-month low. Any value above the neutral 50 mark represents growth. Today’s update still shows this cyclically sensitive sector in a relative funk compared with last year’s pace. Yet it’s also clear that the early data for this month suggests that manufacturing remains firmly in an expansion mode, albeit at a subdued rate.
The modestly upbeat July PMI report follows encouraging signals in jobless claims and regional Fed-bank sentiment data for manufacturing in the still-preliminary estimate of this month’s US macro profile. In other words, there’s not much support for arguing that the economy is slipping over the dark side in the opening month of 2015’s third quarter.
“July data pointed to a solid improvement in overall business conditions across the manufacturing sector,” noted Markit Economics in today’s PMI report. “A rebound in overall growth momentum largely reflected stronger rises in output and new business levels in July.” Job creation in manufacturing remains sluggish, Markit advised, but that’s an issue that appears to be sector specific at the moment.
Indeed, yesterday’s weekly update on jobless claims—a leading indicator—fell to the lowest level since 1973! Meanwhile, private payrolls for the US overall continued to post solid gains as of June. In addition, the broad economic trend through last month reflects growth that matches the historical trend rate, according to the three-month moving average of the Chicago Fed National Activity Index.
It’s still early for making definitive conclusions about July’s macro profile, of course. But based on the numbers published to date, the odds look favorable for a positive kick-off to Q3 once all the numbers for this month are published.