The Chemical Activity Barometer, a leading economic indicator created by the American Chemistry Council, rose 0.1% in March on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis.
This repreesents the first gain in five months, but as the ACC points out, on a year-over-year (Y/Y) basis, the barometer is down 0.3% (3MMA).
“The CAB continues to indicate gains in U.S. commercial and industrial activity through mid-2019, but at a markedly slower rate of growth, as measured by year-earlier comparisons,” observes Kevin Swift, chief economist at ACC. The unadjusted measure of the CAB rose 0.3% in March following six months of shrinking activity. It declined 0.1% in February and was flat in January.
The diffusion index rebounded to 65% in March, up from 57% in February. A year earlier, it was 71%. The diffusion index marks the number of positive contributors relative to the total number of indicators monitored.
The CAB has four primary components, each consisting of a variety of indicators: production; equity prices; product prices; and inventories and other indicators.
Production-related indicators in March were mixed. Trends in construction-related resins, pigments and related performance chemistry were mixed and suggest further slowing in housing activity.
Plastic resins used in packaging and in consumer and institutional applications were slightly positive. Performance chemistry and U.S. exports were mixed. Equity prices slumped, while product and input prices rose. Inventory and other indicators were positive.
In a separate report, ACC says the U.S. Chemical Production Regional Index fell by 0.4% in February, following a revised 0.2% gain in January and a 0.5% gain in December. During February, chemical output fell across all regions, with the largest declines in the Gulf Coast and Ohio Valley.