Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Chemical Activity Barometer fell 5.5% in April; chief economist says "consistent with a recession"

WASHINGTON (April 28, 2020) – The Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB), a leading economic indicator created by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), fell 5.5 percent in April on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis following a downwardly revised 2.9 percent decline in March. On a year-over-year (Y/Y) basis, the barometer fell 7.3 percent in April.  
The unadjusted data shows a 6.7 percent decline in April following an 8.9 percent decline in March and a 1.0 percent decline in February. The diffusion index slumped from 47 percent to 35 percent in April. The diffusion index marks the number of positive contributors relative to the total number of indicators monitored. The CAB reading for March was revised downward by 1.04 points and that for February was revised upward by 0.07 points. 
“The latest CAB reading is consistent with a recession,” said Kevin Swift, chief economist at ACC. “The declines of April and March are the most pronounced, pervasive and persistent in the post-World War II period.” 
The CAB has four main components, each consisting of a variety of indicators: 1) production; 2) equity prices; 3) product prices; and 4) inventories and other indicators.
Production-related indicators generally declined in April. Trends in construction-related resins, pigments and related performance chemistry were generally negative. Plastic resins used in packaging and for consumer and institutional applications were mixed. Performance chemistry was negative and U.S. exports were weak. Equity prices are improving. Product and input prices were negative. Inventory and other supply chain indicators were negative. 
The CAB is a leading economic indicator derived from a composite index of chemical industry activity. Due to its early position in the supply chain, chemical industry activity has been found to consistently lead the U.S. economy’s business cycle, and this barometer can be used to determine turning points and likely trends in the broader economy. Month-to-month movements can be volatile, so a three-month moving average of the CAB reading is provided. This provides a more consistent and illustrative picture of national economic trends.
Well, that's no good. It will be important to watch the CAB to tell us when the economy comes back on the upswing... (But we'll get the official 1st quarter estimate Wednesday morning, so that will be important confirmaton of what this looks like.) 

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