Economic Data Show a Soft Start to 2015

WASHINGTON (McClatchy Washington Bureau/TNS) —

The first economic indicators released in 2015 were soft ones, with key gauges of manufacturing activity and construction spending registering below expectations Friday.

Mainstream economic forecasters had expected a stronger showing of the ISM manufacturing index, which came in at 55.5 for December, down from 58.7 in November. The new orders index also moderated in December, dipping to 58.8 from 64.4. On a brighter note, the employment index rose to 56.8 from 54.9 in November.

“In evaluating a report, it is important to distinguish between weaker than expectations and a weak report,” wrote forecasters at RDQ Economics in New York. “The very strong performance of manufacturing in recent months had boosted expectations — including our own — and December fell short. However, 55.5 is still a strong reading on activity and the employment index firmed.”

Construction spending also fell short of expectations in the latest reading, released by the Commerce Department on Friday.

After rising by 1.2 percent in October, construction spending moderated in November, falling 0.3 percent, below the consensus expectations of mainstream economic forecasters. Over a 12-month period ending in November, construction spending rose by a modest 2.4 percent, a tad faster than the rate of inflation.

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