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May Industrial Production Recovering Slower Than Expected, Gold Softens

Industrial production in May rose 1.4% vs. 3% expected as the manufacturing industry struggles to get back on track amid ongoing lockdown procedures worldwide. The slight increase follows a record drop of -12.5%, revised lower from -11.2%. The drop in April was the worst since 1919.

Key Takeaways

  • Excluding cars and parts, industrial production came in at 0.0% vs. -9.8% decline the month before.
  • Manufacturing output came in at 3.8% vs. 4.6% expected.
  • The figures lie in sharp contrast to the 17.7% gains seen in retail sales for May, fueled by stimulus money and the reopening of stores around the US.

Industrial production rose with factories resuming operations throughout May amid loosening lockdown procedures. Capacity utilization came in at 64.8%, slightly below expectations of 66.8%. The overall 1.4% gain came in quite a bit below the expected gain of 3%.

The disappointing gain was due to a 120.8% increase in motor vehicle and parts production. Machinery fell a further 1.2%, computer and electronics dropped 0.3%, utilities fell 2.3%, and mining sunk 6.8%. Overall, the figures do not paint a positive picture for industrial recovery so far, despite laxer coronavirus containment procedures. Manufacturing output rose 3.8%, below expectations and 16.9% below the pre-pandemic level seen in February.

Industrial production had fallen in four out of five months before the latest reading, with the nationwide lockdown interrupting production along with disruption to global supply chains. The markets are now reacting to the reports that the US government may be rolling out a $1 trillion infrastructure package to breathe new life into the struggling economy.

Market Reaction

Gold prices saw mild downward pressure throughout today’s session following a record increase in retail sales revealed earlier today. Spot gold last traded at $1,725.62/oz, down 0.11% with a high of $1,732.66/oz and a low of $1,718.43/oz. The gold market has not seen a noticeable reaction to the industrial production data, trading in the middle of the range set out by the retail report released earlier in the day.

However, the retail sales figures may not indicate strong sales throughout the year. Sales are still down 8% annually, and the record bump is possibly due to pent-up demand with consumers fed up of the lockdown and eager to treat themselves as shops reopened.

Andrew Grantham, senior economist at CIBC, said “While those factors could support another strong gain in sales in June, thereafter the recovery will get slower and more uneven.”