MINNEAPOLIS — Midwest
manufacturers, including those in Minnesota, are growing, but not as
quickly as the average growth nationwide.
Creighton University’s Mid-America Business Conditions Index — which
tracks monthly factory growth in Minnesota and eight other central
states — slid for a third consecutive month to the slowest rate in
two years. The index was 54.1, down from 54.9 in October. Anything
over 50 signifies growth.
The November results for Mid-America were released Monday, the same
day as the monthly national report by the Institute for Supply
Management. That index jumped to 59.3 in November, up from 57.7.
Minnesota’s index, as measured by Creighton, slid to 53.9 in
November from 54.9 the month before.
November’s regional slow down took place against a backdrop of trade
woes. About 65 percent of surveyed factory heads in the nine-state
region reported that new U.S. trade tariffs and retaliatory action
by trading partners had increased their costs and made it harder to
sell to their traditional international customers.
As an example, Midwest supply managers cited steel prices that rose
by 18.2 percent in 12 months and a consumer price index that rose
2.5 percent in 12 months. In an odd twist, however, the regional
export orders index rose slightly to 51.8 from October’s 51.5 as
some supply managers scurried to stock parts from overseas
Trade tariffs were a hot topic for most Minnesota manufacturers that
reported third quarters earnings in October. 3M, Polaris Industries,
nVent and Pentair all reported significant cost spikes as recent
U.S. trade tariffs disrupted supply chains and inflated prices.
Creighton found that the region’s confidence index fell to 55 in
November from 59.6 the month before and 66.3 in May. The survey was
taken before U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi
Jinping agreed to pause future planned tariffs for 90 days.
One positive reported during the month was the rise in manufacturing
employment for the nine-state territory that includes Minnesota,
Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas,
Oklahoma, and Arkansas.
“The regional economy continues to expand at a healthy pace.
However, as in recent months, shortages of skilled workers remain an
impediment to even stronger growth. Furthermore, supply managers are
reporting mounting negative impacts from tariffs and trade
skirmishes,” Ernie Goss, director of Creighton’s Economic
Forecasting Group, said in a statement Monday.
In the coming months, Goss said he expects the effects of lower oil
prices and slowing growth will “push both wholesale and consumer
inflation lower.” He also expects the Federal Reserve will hike
interest rates one-quarter percent on Dec. 19.
“However, last week the head of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell,
indicated a more dovish approach to 2019 rate hikes,” Goss said.
“Thus, I expect the December rate hike to be the last until the
second quarter of 2019.”
Other analysts, such as Moody’s Senior Vice President David Berge,
said the manufacturing sector is at a key juncture. On Monday,
Moody’s Investor Service downgraded its outlook for the global
manufacturing industry to “stable” from “positive” rating.