Southeast Activity Softens in the second quarter; Outlook Remains Cautious
July 2013 - Overall activity in the Southeast softened throughout the second quarter but has stabilized from a longer-term perspective as employment and housing data continue to show slow and steady improvements. End-market strength in automotive continues to be one of the main contributors to relatively stable economic activity in the region.
Overall manufacturing new orders and production remained positive as auto and light truck assemblies averaged a 10.59 seasonally adjusted annual rate through May versus a 9.92 figure for the same period in 2012. Although the oil and gas industry was on solid footing last year, trailing 12-week rig counts have fallen more than 11 percent year over year throughout the region. Rig counts have been weak because the rise in natural gas prices has made coal equivalent prices throughout select basins in the United States economical again.
Although overall activity has been uneven, housing has been a bright spot. On average, total housing permits were up nearly 29 percent year over year, driven by a rise in multifamily dwellings. Stronger housing data continue to be supported by falling unemployment rates and a pick up in manufacturing employment.
After a late 2012 and early 2013 rally, industrial metal prices are 16 percent off their annual highs. Global economic indicators continue to paint a mixed picture as U.S. data has been somewhat bright while Chinese PMI data continues to paint the picture of an uneven recovery. In Europe, activity levels still remain depressed and business confidence remains low.
Going forward, the push and pull between real improvements in the economy and those engineered by global central banks likely will continue to foster uncertainty. Consensus forecasts project industrial metal prices to remain largely unchanged as we look out toward the end of the year. Although metal prices have weakened recently, the seasonally strong period for demand is still upon us, a notion that could lend support to new orders and provide buyers with an opportunity to replenish inventories, albeit at a tempered pace.
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Data provided by Bloomberg.
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