Not your father’s ISM survey

February 1, 2012

Manufacturing activity picked up in January, an encouraging sign for U.S. growth prospects. Right? Perhaps not as much as it used to be. The shrinking role of factory production in the U.S. economy – now just over a tenth of the nation’s output – means the Institute for Supply Management’s closely watched survey is a less sturdy predictor of broader trends.

Revving down

January 23, 2012

It used to be the low-end stuff like shoes, clothes and furniture that displaced American manufacturing, then cars and consumer electronics.  A new report by Alan Tonelson, a researcher at the U.S. Business and Industry Council which represents 1,500 American companies, now shows that high-end U.S. industry is facing ever tougher foreign competition in its own backyard.

Looking past schism in the ISM

November 1, 2011

U.S. manufacturing activity slowed to a crawl in October, according to the latest figures from the Institute for Supply Management. Still, a measure of new orders picked up steam, suggesting some prospect for an improvement in demand.

GDP: Lagging indicator of itself

July 22, 2011

Excluding the monthly employment report, gross domestic product is the Big Kahuna of economic indicators. For better or worse — and to the chagrin of its creator Simon Kuznets — GDP has become  the scorecard of a country’s economic performance.

Of beige shoots and broken branches

April 15, 2009

Ben Bernanke has taken some flack for his argument that “green shoots” of economic activity might lurk around the corner. In one such swipe, Justin Fox of Time Magazine argued that the metaphor is flawed because what we’re really talking about is a moderation of contraction, not growth.

Germany, Japan hit by global consumer thrift

February 10, 2009

The world’s second largest economy, Japan, and Europe’s largest, Germany, all of a sudden have a lot in common.