In this July 13, 2020 file photo, a For Rent sign hangs on a closed shop during the coronavirus pandemic in Miami Beach, Fla. Having endured what was surely a record-shattering slump last quarter, the U.S. economy faces a dim outlook as a resurgent coronavirus intensifies doubts about the likelihood of any sustained recovery the rest of the year. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. industrial production fell 0.6% in September, the weakest showing since spring and a sign that the economy’s recovery from the pandemic recession may be faltering just as confirmed viral infections are resurging in much of the country.
The Federal Reserve reported Friday that industrial production suffered its first decline since a 12.7% drop in April during the spring lockdowns of businesses that paralyzed the economy. The key category that reflects manufacturing output fell 0.3%. At the same time, mining output, which includes oil and gas exploration, fell 5.6%. Production at utilities rose 1.7%.
Last month’s reading on industrial production followed four straight increases that began in May after sharp declines in March and April. Industrial production has recovered more than half of its spring declines but remains 7.1% below its pre-pandemic level in February.
“Industrial output came in well below expectations, one of the first real signs that the recovery is losing momentum under the weight of the ongoing health crisis and fading support from fiscal relief,” Oxford Economics said in a research note.
Production of motor vehicles and parts fell for a second straight month, dropping 4% after a 4.3% decline in August which had followed big increases after auto plants re-opened.
The weaker-than-expected September showing may signal a slowdown in manufacturing, which had been a rare bright spot in the economy, that could hinder overall growth in coming months.
“Rising virus outbreaks that can interrupt activity remain a threat going forward,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.
In September, industry operated at 71.5% of capacity, down from a reading of 77.4% of capacity a year ago.
7 Stocks That Will Help You Forget About the Fed
Normally when the Federal Reserve (i.e. the Fed) makes an announcement, the market reacts predictably. That’s due, in large part, to the nature of what the Fed normally announces. Will interest rates go up, down, or remain unchanged? And for their part, the markets have a pretty good idea what the Fed will do before they do it.
But the Fed’s announcement of August 26 was a little different. They talked briefly about interest rates (they’re staying really low for a long time). But they were more concerned about inflation. Well, the Fed is always concerned about inflation, but this time they really mean it. Basic economics says that low-interest rates should spur inflation.
However, the market has been defying conventional wisdom and the Fed is not getting the inflation they want. So the Fed has basically said that they’re letting inflation go rogue. If it goes above their target 2% rate, so be it. The Fed is done trying to hit a target.
At first, the markets cheered the news. Not only was the Fed not taking away the punch bowl, but they were also going to keep the low rate liquidity going for a long time!
But after a little while to digest things, investors are realizing they have to be grown-ups about this. And now investors are considering how to rebalance their portfolios for the remainder of 2020.
I don’t know about them, but if I were you I would target companies that have a high free cash flow (FCF). Whether it’s your personal finances or in evaluating a stock, cash flow is your friend.
When a corporation has high FCF, they have more strong growth in good markets and more flexibility during when the economy is weaker.
As institutional investors come back into the market, it’s time for you to reposition your portfolio for whatever comes next.
View the “7 Stocks That Will Help You Forget About the Fed”.