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MNI Chicago Report Anemic

August’s MNI Chicago Report showed the Chicago Business Barometer at 53.0 after seasonal adjustment, little changed from the prior three months. It marked the 35th consecutive month of expansion. The 0.7 slowing from July placed it three-tenths above May after bouncing in a relatively narrow range since then.

Three of the five subsidiary Business Activity Indexes from which the Barometer is derived – Production, New Orders and Employment -- showed modest acceleration, nearly offsetting a large outright decline into contraction for Order Backlogs and a very slight drop below 50 for Supplier Deliveries. New Orders trailed Production for the third month.

The Barometer’s fifth deceleration in eight months was comprised on the negative side of an 11.1-point decline in Order Backlogs, deep into negative territory, at its lowest level since September 2009, and a 3.4-point slippage in Supplier Deliveries to its lowest since July 2009. On the positive side, Production rose 2.9 points, close to its levels in April and June, to 57.4. New Orders sustained its strength with a 1.9-point rise to 54.8.

Employment was up 3.8 points to 57.1, close to its levels in April and May, having recovered more than half of July’s slowdown.

Elsewhere in the report, Inventories slipped 1.4 points to 51.2, and Prices Paid rose 2.3 points to 57.0. As with all the indices, including the Barometer, 50 is breakeven, with values less than 50 indicating contraction and values above 50 showing expansion.

Two out of three Buying Policy indices declined in August, with Production Materiel purchasing lead time down to 29.6 days from July’s 40.3 days. M.R.O. Supplies slipped by two days to 9.4 days. Faster deliveries can signal a slower economy. Capital Equipment ordering lead time rose 8.7 days to 121.3, the highest level in a year.

Although still in expansion in August, the MNI Chicago Report’s Business Barometer and the seven accompanying Business Activity Indices generally reflected the same trend of becalmed stability evident since the spring.

THE AUGUST NUMBERS

BUSINESS ACTIVITY: BUYING POLICY:

53.0 Chicago Business Barometer 29.6 Production Materiel

57.0 Prices Paid 9.4 MRO Supplies

54.8 New Orders 121.3 Capital Equipment

57.1 Employment

51.2 Inventories

49.9 Supplier Deliveries

57.4 Production

41.7 Order Backlogs