A measure of business conditions published on Friday indicates that business conditions have improved from 42.9 to 49 in February. While the measure has increased, any reading below 50 indicates contraction, and the Chicago PMI has now contracted for six months in a row.
- Chicago PMI rose from 42.9 to 49 vs. 45.9 expected, hitting the highest point since August.
- The previous figure of 42.9 was the lowest reading since December 2015.
- Manufacturing is still suffering the effects of the trade war between the US and China.
5 components in the Chicago PMI rose in February. Prices paid rose at a slower pace than the month before, indicating expansion. New orders, employment, and inventories all fell at a slower pace, pointing to contraction. Supply deliveries rose at a faster pace, and production rose. Order backlogs, however, fell at a slower pace. The 3-month average of the entire PMI rose from 45.9 to 46.7.
Manufacturing and business conditions have suffered under the ongoing trade war with China for over a year now, although the tensions between both countries are deescalating following the signing of a preliminary trade agreement earlier this year. However, this agreement was followed swiftly by the outbreak of the highly contagious coronavirus, which has killed over 2,000 people to date and placed over half a billion people under quarantine.
The impact of the virus on the global economy and international supply chains is a major concern to market analysts at the moment, with market fear reflected in the ongoing selloff in the equities markets. Manufacturing is one of the industries that stands to bear the burden of the virus impact, although it’s not clear whether the coronavirus has had a serious impact on the US economy or its industries yet.
Despite the selloff in the stock markets, gold prices have seen heavy selling pressure in today’s session. Spot gold last traded at $1,582.61/oz, down -3.46% with a high of $1,648.86/oz and a low of $1,582.61/oz. The geopolitical threat of the coronavirus and accompanying risk-averse sentiment would typically bolster gold prices further, and it’s possible that the selloff in precious metals was triggered by traders seeking to realize gains made in the last few days where gold saw strong upward momentum.