Regional Manufacturing Outlook
Tuesday | 04 October, 2011 | 1:25 pm


By Bloomberg

Southeast moderates into April and May

July 2011 - Overall activity levels in the Southeast moderated into the second quarter as manufacturing and housing markets slowed and overall employment trends remained flat. Despite a sharp deceleration in April's durable goods new orders (5.5 percent year over year vs. March 2011 at 14.2 percent year over year and April 2010 at 21.3 percent year over year), the index remained in positive territory for the 16th straight month.

Overall manufacturing new orders and production remained positive despite auto producers and parts suppliers experiencing input limitations because of the Japanese earthquake. It should be noted that most producers were planning on making up lost volumes later in the year as supply chain functionality normalizes. Manufacturing employment ticked higher in states like Texas and Oklahoma as rig counts showed year over year percent growth rates of 24.7 percent and 44.6 percent, respectively.

Housing markets continued to remain weak as total permits and single-unit permits for the Southeast decreased 1 percent and rose 2.7 percent, respectively. Growth rates for total permits were the strongest in Louisiana, Oklahoma and Alabama as builders reported repairs and rebuilding from the April tornadoes were underway.

Industrial metals prices have cooled recently, providing some alleviation for buyers and end-users, as underlying demand trends have continued to weaken in markets like China. Global inventories for most industrial metals, such as copper and aluminum, remain plentiful, and global steel inventories remain sufficient in most markets despite a heavy drawdown in flat products in China during the past two months.

Going forward, we believe metal buyers should be concerned about how China will handle its currency, inflation issues and interest rates, all which ultimately have resounding impacts on global metal prices. A further softening and consolidation period in metal prices could be on the horizon as global demand experiences weak seasonality trends as well as restrictive monetary and fiscal policy in emerging markets.

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