The IHS Markit US Manufacturing PMI came in at 53.8 in December 2018, little-changed from a preliminary estimate of 53.9 and below November's final 55.3. The latest reading pointed to the weakest pace of expansion in the manufacturing sector since September 2017.
Production growth remained solid in December, and at a rate that matched that seen in November. The rise in output was attributed to greater new order volumes. That said, the upturn was nonethless the joint-weakest in 15 months.
Following a slight pick up in November, new order growth eased in December. Though strong, the pace of expansion was the weakest since September 2017. Although some firms stated that the upturn was driven by new order inflows from newly acquired clients, others cited concerns surrounding a drop in client demand compared to earlier in the year.
Conversely, new export business grew at an accelerated pace in December. New orders from abroad increased for the fifth successive month and at the fastest rate since January amid stronger foreign client demand.
That said, a weaker overall rise in new orders led to a drop in business confidence among manufacturing firms in December. The degree of optimism was strong, but well below the long-run series average. Positive sentiment was dampened by concerns surrounding the longevity of new business growth. Moreover, future output expectations were at their lowest since October 2016.
Despite a moderate rise in backlogs in December, the rate of job creation softened to an 18-month low. Although firms noted an increase in workforce numbers following greater production requirements, others suggested that low rates of employee retention had weighed on growth.
Meanwhile, rates of both input price and output charge inflation eased in December. Greater cost burdens were reportedly due to raw material stockpiling among manufacturers, shortages of electronics components and the ongoing impact of tariffs. That said, the rate of inflation dipped to an 11-month low. Factory gate prices meanwhile rose at the weakest rate in 2018.
1/2/2019 3:09:53 PM