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What the Heck Is Happening to US Manufacturing?

What the Heck Is Happening to US Manufacturing?

The worst month in the Southeast since the Financial Crisis.

Despite President Obama’s emphatic assurances in the State of the Union Address that “our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999,” there have recently been some uncomfortable squiggles, so to speak.

The collapse in the prices of oil, natural gas, and natural-gas liquids has started to make its imprint on the largest hydrocarbon producer in the world, namely the US of A. Oilfield layoffs and project cancellations are raining down on the oil patch on a daily basis. Suppliers are hit too. Many energy stocks are in the process of evisceration. Energy junk bonds are in a rout.

But consumers love it – those who aren’t losing their jobs over it – because they spend less on fuel. Consumers are voters. So politicians love it because voters love it. Hence, it’s good for the economy. I get that.

These sorts of squiggles have been worming their way into national numbers. For example, Markit’s Services PMI for December dropped to 53.3, down for the sixth month in a row, after having peaked in June. This was “not just a one-month wobble,” the report said, as the economy “lost significant growth momentum at the close of the year.” But it remained above 50, the dividing line between expansion and contraction. It’s still an expansion, and “growth is merely slowing from an unusually powerful rate rather than stalling.”

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