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July 15, 2004

June Economic Numbers Mixed

A "Pause for Breath" in June, But Leading Indicators Show Rebound

The terror-tax on oil worked the miserable magic that had been intended, slowing spending and (as we already knew) hiring.

But...

... a big rise in leading indicators of factory activity supported a general view that the slowing was merely a pause in growth that should pick up in the third quarter. ...

The White House was quick to play down concerns that the economic soft spot would last.

"You have to look at the overall body of evidence in the indicators," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters. "We are seeing a strong, sustained recovery. The economy continues to strengthen."

Analysts agreed.

"June industrial production suggests the economy took a rest in June and the other data suggest this was just a pause for breath," said chief U.S. economist Ian Morris at HSBC Securities in New York.

Output at U.S. factories, mines and utilities fell unexpectedly in June, recording its largest drop in more than a year. Industrial production fell 0.3 percent in June after a downwardly revised 0.9 percent May increase. Wall Street had expected a flat reading.

But separately, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said its index for business conditions in the mid-Atlantic region rose to 36.1 in July from 28.9 in June.

Forecasts had been for a fall to 25.0 and the result bodes well for the third quarter.

"This report looks very good. It supports what we saw from the Empire State survey earlier today. Factory activities are accelerating again after a June lull," said Parul Jain, deputy chief economist at Nomura Securities International.

The New York Fed earlier reported a solid rise in its July Empire Manufacturing Survey, with the business conditions index climbing to 36.5 from a revised 29.9 in June.

The clouds are thick and gray, but through the gloaming, I spy a tiny gleam of polished brass:


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