The Richmond Fed manufacturing PMI rose from -2 to 2 in March, seeing low volatility despite the coronavirus impact on global supply chains. Shipments and new orders saw increases in March, while employment ticked downward.
- Manufacturers reported weakening local business conditions in March
- The future outlook was pessimistic, with a further drop in shipments and new orders expected
- The shortage of skilled workers in the industry was ongoing when last measured in March
Employment dropped in March, but this was not necessarily due to layoffs, but rather a lack of skilled workers available. The labor market has seen an ongoing shortage of skilled workers for the last year or so, a situation now changing amid the virus outbreak. Jobless claims surged by 70,000 last week, with services and other industries shutting down businesses nationwide. An estimed 1 million people will have lost their jobs by the end of the month.
— Whetstone Analysis LLC (@AnalysisLlc) March 24, 2020
Prices paid and prices received saw decelerated growth last month, with growth in prices paid outpacing prices received. This ran contradictory to the expectation that both rates would increase. Shipments rose from 1 to 13 in March vs. 29 in January. New orders rose from -10 to 0 in March vs. 13 in January. The order backlog ticked downward from -6 to -8, and local business conditions fell from 6 to -15. Capital expenditures rose from 6 to 9. The number of employees index dropped from 8 to -7. Wages ticked downward from 26 to 20. The average workweek rose from -4 to 3.
While the Richmond Fed manufacturing index boasts the closest correlation with the ISM manufacturing index compared to other central district bank surveys, the future outlook is poor, and the uptick seen in March runs contrary to the market-wide indications of a slowdown in the manufacturing sector. The US Markit manufacturing survey, released early on Tuesday, outperformed expectations but still posted a drop, and manufacturing stands to suffer further disruption as the coronavirus outbreak continues to escalate severely in the US.
Gold prices have seen exceptionally strong growth in today’s session. Spot gold last traded at $1,628.28/oz, up 3.95% with a high of $1,633.05/oz and a low of $1,620.37/oz. Amid widespread economic uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus outbreak and dire news from many international PMI reports released earlier today, gold is increasingly seen as a safe haven asset among risk-off traders.