Let's start with the ISM manufacturing survey. Here is the relevant graph:
Click for a larger image
Notice the index as dropped off a cliff over the last two months. Consider the following from the report:
PERFORMANCE BY INDUSTRY
The two industries reporting growth in November — listed in order — are: Apparel, Leather & Allied Products; and Paper Products. The industries reporting contraction in November are: Nonmetallic Mineral Products; Fabricated Metal Products; Textile Mills; Printing & Related Support Activities; Machinery; Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components; Primary Metals; Transportation Equipment; Furniture & Related Products; Plastics & Rubber Products; Computer & Electronic Products; Chemical Products; Petroleum & Coal Products; Miscellaneous Manufacturing; Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; and Wood Products.
WHAT RESPONDENTS ARE SAYING ...
* "The only positive thing of late is that the U.S. dollar has strengthened significantly against other currencies. We import the majority of our materials so this will have the effect of lowering our COGS." (Transportation Equipment)
* "Steel industry is our main customer, and they have had a real slowdown." (Computer & Electronic Products)
* "Criteria for projects is significantly higher with very short ROI periods." (Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products)
* "We have revised downward our top-line sales estimates for CY2009 by 8 percent due to the continued softness we see in the housing sector." (Machinery)
* "Suppliers are trying to hold onto pricing, but petrochemical and commodity prices are dropping like a rock." (Plastics & Rubber Products)
And consider the historic nature of the problem:
The contraction underway in the manufacturing sector is of historic proportions, the results of November's ISM manufacturing report that shows a headline index of 36.2, down nearly 3 points in the month. The reading is the lowest since 1980 recession. Key components in the survey show greater weakness than the headline index including a 31.5 level for the production index that matches the record low in May 1980. New orders at 27.9 is at its lowest since the early 80s while, in perhaps the most stunning reading of all, prices paid is at 25.5, down 11.5 points in the month for the lowest reading since early data in 1949 -- a critical indication that demand is falling and falling very sharply.
Notice that only two industries expanded whereas 16 contracted. Sales reports are being downgraded and the criteria for projects is increasing. Simply put -- things are bad. Also note we are at lows not seen since the 1980s. That is not a comparison anyone wants to make.
Overall industrial production is also down. From the Federal Reserve:
Industrial production decreased 0.6 percent in November with declines widespread across industries. The drop in output in September was revised down, and the rebound in October was revised up, in large part because both the decrease due to the September hurricanes and the subsequent partial recovery in October were larger than previously reported.
Manufacturing production dropped 1.4 percent in November despite the resumption of activity in the commercial aircraft industry after the resolution of a strike early in the month. The output of mines advanced 2.5 percent, primarily as a result of a further post-hurricane recovery in crude oil and natural gas operations in the Gulf of Mexico. Taken together, the rebounds after the strike and the hurricanes added almost 1 percentage point to the change in industrial production. The output of utilities rose 1.6 percent.
At 106.1 percent of its 2002 average, total industrial production in November was 5.5 percent below its level of a year earlier. The capacity utilization rate for total industry fell to 75.4 percent, a level 5.6 percentage points below its average level from 1972 to 2007.
Here are the relevant graphs:
Click for larger images
The year over year number is a big concern. Also note that capacity utilization is leveling at a lower level than the level we've had for the last few years. The bottom line is we're slowing down.
The New York area's manufacturing index is also in very bad shape:
The Empire State Manufacturing Survey indicates that conditions for New York manufacturers deteriorated significantly in December. The general business conditions index, at -25.8, held near the record low set in November. The new orders and shipments indexes also remained near their recent record lows, and the unfilled orders index dropped to a new low. The indexes for prices paid and prices received fell below zero, and employment indexes remained deep in negative territory. Future indexes remained subdued, with the capital spending and technology spending indexes remaining well below zero.
The graph shows the severity of the slowdown:
Click for a larger image
Again -- this is a significant decline which happened quickly. In indicates the slowdown is extreme, sharp and very sudden.
Finally there is the Philadelphia survey:
Conditions in the region's manufacturing sector continued to deteriorate this month, according to firms polled for the December Business Outlook Survey. All of the survey's broad indicators remained negative this month and at relatively low levels. Firms reported declines in input prices and the prices for their own manufactured goods this month. Consistent with the weakness in current activity, most of the survey's indicators of future activity slid further into negative territory, suggesting that the region's manufacturing executives expect continued declines over the next six months.
Here is the relevant graph:
There is no good news in any of these releases. Simply put, manufacturing is in terrible shape.