January 3, 2008
The decline in U.S. manufacturing deepened in December as demand for such products as cars, appliances and furniture reached the lowest level since at least 1948, signaling further cutbacks in factory jobs and production this year.
The Institute for Supply Management’s factory index fell to 32.4, below economists’ forecasts and the lowest level since 1980, from 36.2 the prior month. Readings less than 50 signal contraction. The group’s new-orders measure reached the lowest level on record and prices slid the most since 1949.
“Every component suggests that the weakness is going to carry over into 2009,” Mark Vitner, a senior economist at Wachovia Corp. in Charlotte, North Carolina, said in a Bloomberg Television interview. “There’s just not a whole lot of new business coming in,” and companies will have a “painful adjustment” as consumers shun spending.
Today’s figures underscore that, with private demand collapsing, manufacturers’ best hope for new business this year may be President-elect Barack Obama’s plans for an unprecedented stimulus package. Obama has pledged an investment program in roads, schools and the U.S. energy network akin to the 1950s-era interstate highway construction boom.
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