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Moderate Manufacturing Activity Reported in August, Gold Price Rises

The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond reported moderate manufacturing activity in August in the Fifth District, according to their most recent survey. The composite index rose 13 points from negative territory in July to 1 in August.

Key Takeaways

  • The composite index rose from -12 to 1 in August, driven by increases in shipments and new orders
  • Employment saw a drop as the number of employees sunk further from -3 to -6.
  • The six-month outlook from respondents was reported as positive overall.

Employment declined in August even as the average workweek rose, with respondents reporting persistent wage growth but a lack of skilled workers to fill roles. The drop in employment can be seen as a natural tightening of the labor market, which continues to perform well throughout many industries.

Survey respondents to the Richmond Fed manufacturing index expected the skilled labor shortages to continue in the coming months, along with further wage increases, which may pose issues for employers.

Shipments rose from -13 to 5, new orders rose from -18 to 2, vendor lead time rose from 1 to 6, and most other components also saw growth. Components that saw continued growth from positive territory in July include capital expenditures, equipment and software, and finished goods inventories. Raw materials fell slightly from 22 to 21, and services expenditures saw no growth at a flat reading of 2.

Prices paid dropped slightly from 3.04 to 2.69, and prices received saw a more significant drop from 2.49 to 1.66. The expectation is that prices will continue to drop in both categories, but at a reduced rate. It is expected that prices paid will continue to outpace prices received for the coming months.

Market Reaction

Gold prices have risen following the release of the manufacturing data, continuing an upward trend started earlier in today’s session. Spot gold last traded at $1,534.51/oz, up 0.54% with a high of $1,534.66/oz and a low of $1,526.69/oz.

Trading near daily highs, spot gold prices are likely being influenced by US-China trade uncertainty which has also led to a weakened US dollar on the day, as well as sub-expectation housing market performance which may have offset any bearish effects of the moderate strength reported moderate strength in manufacturing as well as reported increase in consumer confidence.

Lynn Franco, senior director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board, stated that “While other parts of the economy may show some weakening, consumers have remained confident and willing to spend.”

Franco concurred with other market analysts and pundits today to state that the trade war uncertainty continues to pose a threat to stability.

“If the recent escalation in trade and tariff tensions persists, it could potentially dampen consumers’ optimism regarding the short-term economic outlook,” Franco added.