US Manufacturing Renaissance Turns Into The Dark Ages

November 9, 2015

The October ISM Manufacturing Index, which has been the official barometer of the US manufacturing sector since 1915, came in with a reading of just 50.1. This was a level barely above contraction.

Of the 18 industries surveyed in the Regional Manufacturing Survey, 9 reported contraction in October: Apparel, Leather & Allied Products; Primary Metals; Petroleum & Coal Products; Plastics & Rubber Products; Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components; Machinery; Transportation Equipment; Wood Products; and Computer & Electronic Products.

And of those nine, the energy market in particular continues to struggle the most. One respondent in the survey noted that the effects of the weak energy market are now beginning to bleed into other areas of the economy.

In addition to this, new orders for U.S. factory goods fell for a second straight month in September (down 1.0 %), confirming the manufacturing sector in the United States has hit a downturn. In fact, U.S. Factory Orders have fallen y/y for 11 of last 14 months; and contracted 6.9% from September 2014.

Furthermore, demand for durable goods fell 1.2% in September. While demand for nondurable goods (goods not expected to last more than three years) fell 0.8%. This placed downward pressure on GDP in the third quarter leading to a disappointing 1.5% GDP read.

During the month of September a majority of U.S. states reported jobs losses, as the slowing manufacturing sector weighed on hiring nationwide. The Labor Department recently announced that 27 states actually lost jobs in the month of September. This data belies the rosy headline 271k Non-Farm Payroll report issued for October: the Labor Department releases individual state data a month in arrears.

All this bad news begs the question: Has the former manufacturing renaissance in the United States officially turned back into the dark ages?

Despite huge kudo’s to U.S. ingenuity for inventing fracking and horizontal drilling technologies, the viability of these innovations depends upon an unsustainable bubble in oil prices. Fracking is just one example of the misallocation of capital resulting from faulty price signals derived from central banks’ manipulation of interest rates.

And this failure isn’t limited to our Federal Reserve. The strategies of central banks all over the world are failing.

The European Central Bank (ECB) to date is in the process of printing the equivalent of $67 billion of QE per month, which will amount to a total of $1.2 trillion (or 1.1 trillion euros) by the time Mario Draghi’s QE program is slated to end in September of 2016.

Considering all that money printing, GDP in the Eurozone was only a pathetic 1.2% larger than it was one year ago.

Once the star of the Eurozone economy, German GDP disappointed with growth of 0.4% for the second quarter instead of the 0.5% analysts had been expecting. The French figure came in completely flat, and Italy, the Eurozone’s third biggest economy, disappointed with growth of just 0.2%.

Italy’s unemployment rate managed to fall in September, even as its economy lost 36,000 jobs during the month. This was because more discouraged workers left the workforce. As growth rates languish and economies lose jobs, central banks are getting more and more desperate to create inflation, which they like to masquerade as growth.

But the sad truth is even with over a trillion Euros of new money printed, governments are not achieving the inflation rates or the GDP growth they are seeking.

And then we have Japan, which is entering into its 3rd recession since the Abenomics regime took control in December 2012. The BOJ has been in the habit of printing 80 trillion yen each year! Nevertheless, its debt to GDP is approaching 250%, and annual deficits are 8% of GDP. The BOJ is buying 90% of all the bonds issued, and now owns half of all Japanese ETF’s. Yet despite a train wreck of an economy and horrific debt and deficits the 10 year note—in a perfect example of a central bank distorting economic reality--is yielding just 0.3%.

Our Fed has printed $3.5 trillion since 2008 in a futile attempt to get the economy growing at what Keynesians term as escape velocity. However, we have only averaged 2% growth since 2010. And growth in 2015 appears to be even less, as the all-important manufacturing sector is now clearly in a recession, and is now dragging down the rest of the economy.

Today, there are no free markets left anywhere in the world. Governments control the fixed income, equity and real estate sectors; and therefore control the entire economy. And what was once touted as the U.S. manufacturing renaissance has morphed into another example of how government’s abrogation of free markets will ultimately result in economic chaos and entropy.


Michael Pento produces the weekly podcast “The Mid-week Reality Check”, is the President and Founder of Pento Portfolio Strategies and Author of the book “The Coming Bond Market Collapse.”

US silver mining began on a large scale with the discovery of the Comstock Lode in Nevada in 1858.