US industrial activity dipped last month, falling 0.1% in October vs. forecasts that called for a slight rise. The decline was due mostly to lower ouput in mining and utilities. By contrast, the manufacturing component of industrial production advanced 0.3% in October, a modestly higher pace over September’s 0.1% rise. The fact that growth picked up a bit in the cyclically sensitive manufacturing slice of today’s report suggests that the weaker headline number may be noise in terms of the business cycle implications.
Recent history from the perspective of the monthly numbers doesn’t look impressive, but it doesn’t look obviously threatening either, thanks to the relative strength in manufacturing activity. Keep in mind too that today’s mild pullback in the headline number may be payback after September’s relatively strong gain–the most since February.
In fact, the year-over-year change in industrial production was only marginally lower last month: +3.2% for October 2013, or down slightly from 3.3% in the previous month. The steady pace of annual growth tells us that nothing much has changed in this indicator’s broad trend in today’s data. Even better, the 3.2% annual pace for October is bumping up against the highest rate in recent history. As a result, there’s nothing especially ominous in today’s release as it relates to the business cycle. Even by the pre-Great Recession standards, today’s year-over-year gain looks pretty good.
This piece is cross-posted from The Capital Spectator with permission.