Philly Fed Business Outlook Again Beats Forecast

April 17th, 2014

by Doug Short

Note from Doug : Having lived for two wonderful years in Paoli, PA, a suburb west of Philadelphia just south of Valley Forge, I have a special interest in this regional indicator. But, more importantly, it gives a generally reliable clue as to direction of the broader Chicago Fed's National Activity Index.


The Philly Fed's Business Outlook Survey is a monthly report for the Third Federal Reserve District, covers eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and Delaware. The latest gauge of General Activity came in at 16.6, an increase from last month's 9.0. The 3-month moving average came in at 6.4, up from 4.0 last month. Since this is a diffusion index, negative readings indicate contraction, positive ones indicate expansion. However, today's six-month outlook at 26.6 is the lowest in 12 months.

Here is the introduction from the Business Outlook Survey released today:

Manufacturing activity in the region increased in April, according to firms responding to this month’s Business Outlook Survey. The survey’s broadest indicators for general activity, new orders, shipments, and employment all remained positive and increased from their readings in March. Price pressures remain modest. The survey’s indicators of future activity reflected optimism about continued expansion over the next six months, although the indicators have fallen from higher readings in recent months. (Full PDF Report)

Today's 16.6 came in above the 10.0 forecast at Investing.com.

The first chart below gives us a look at this diffusion index since 2000, which shows us how it has behaved in proximity to the two 21st century recessions. The red dots show the indicator itself, which is quite noisy, and the 3-month moving average, which is more useful as an indicator of coincident economic activity. We can see periods of contraction in 2011 and 2012 and a shallower contraction in 2013. The indicator is now off its post-contraction peak in September of last year.

In the next chart we see the complete series, which dates from May 1960. The average absolute monthly change across this data series is 7.4, which shows that the 7.6 point change from last month is typical of the monthly volatility.

The next chart is an overlay starting in 2000 of the General Activity Index and the Future General Activity Index — the outlook six months ahead.

The Philly Fed General Activity Index continues to be a key indicator to watch closely.

Website by the Boston Web Company