US Manufacturing Outlook – Day 2 of Commodity EDGE

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Here we are at Day 2 of Commodity EDGE, and while we conceded the excellent minute-to-minute coverage of the conference to our sister site, Spend Matters, we couldn’t let the first session go uncovered on MetalMiner. (For instantaneous nuggets of conference gold, get on Twitter right now: @metalminer and @spendmatters)

That’s because Bill Strauss, chief economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and “chief spearheader” of the Midwest Manufacturing Index, kicked off the morning with an economic outlook geared toward manufacturers.

Some of Bill’s thoughts on US economic turnaround bring back shades of the Beaulieu Brothers — that the overall economy won’t fully recover from the last Great Recession until the housing market comes back to life to help the consumer-driven sector . (And will it get worse than it gets better, or vice versa? Is the US housing market “like a tennis ball — falling so far down that it will bounce back up,” as Bill said? The bottom line is that consumers have lost faith in housing as a sound investment.)

For manufacturing, however, the tennis ball effect is firmly in place, according to Strauss. Over the past 32 months, manufacturing output has averaged 6.6 percent and has recovered 72.3 percent of the loss during the recession. Keeping in mind: we make very little here in the US of what your typical consumer buys. Primary metals output has been up nearly 60 percent, while fabricated metals products are up 30 percent, between June 2009 and February 2012.

The takeaway? Slow but steady growth expected in industrial manufacturing, above-average auto production and sales numbers, with unemployment rates inching down.

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