Interest Rate Roundup

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Chicago PMI, consumer confidence disappoint

Normally, I don't spend much time talking about the regional purchasing managers indices. But the Chicago NAPM index that just hit the tape is noteworthy for its weakness. In fact, it stands out against certain other reports, which appeared to be showing a bit of stabilization and/or pickup in the economy.

The index dropped to 31.4 in March from 34.2 in February. Expectations were for a reading of 34.3. That is the lowest reading for the Chicago index going all the way back to July 1980. The subindex measuring production dipped to 32.7 from 34.7, while the sub-index measuring order backlogs dropped to 21.3 from 29.3. New orders were essentially flat (30.9 vs. 30.6 a month earlier), while employment rose slightly to 28.1 from 25.2.

The other economic report out today was on consumer confidence. The Conference Board's index inched up to 26 in March from a revised 25.3 in February. That was slightly below forecasts for a reading of 28. The present situation index dipped to 21.5 from 22.3, while the expectations index climbed to 28.9 from 27.3.

The percentages of respondents saying they planned to buy cars, homes and major appliances all dipped on the month. In fact, only 2% of those surveyed said they would buy a house, the lowest reading since October 1982 -- when the average 30-year fixed mortgage went for 14.6%.


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