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Chemical Activity Barometer Accelerated Again
May 24, 2016
3 Min Read
The Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB), a leading economic indicator created by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), expanded 1 percent in May following a revised 0.8 percent increase in April and 0.1 percent increase in March.
All data is measured on a three-month moving average (3MMA). Accounting for adjustments, the CAB remains up 2.3 percent over this time last year, a marked deceleration of activity from one year ago when the barometer logged a 2.7 percent year-over-year gain from 2014. On an unadjusted basis the CAB jumped 0.3 percent in May, following a solid 1.7 percent gain in April.
In May, all four categories for the CAB improved for the second month in a row. Production-related indicators were positive, with improvement in plastic resins used in packaging and trends in construction-related resins, pigments and related performance chemistry still hinting at an ongoing strengthening of the housing sector. Equity prices further rebounded in May, joined by a firming in product prices. Inventories and other downstream indicators were positive. Trends suggest increased business activity into the fourth quarter.
The CAB has four primary components, each consisting of a variety of indicators: 1) production; 2) equity prices; 3) product prices; and 4) inventories and other indicators.
The CAB is a leading economic indicator derived from a composite index of chemical industry activity. The chemical industry has been found to consistently lead the U.S. economy's business cycle given its early position in the supply chain, and this barometer can be used to determine turning points and likely trends in the wider economy. Month-to-month movements can be volatile so a three-month moving average of the barometer is provided. This provides a more consistent and illustrative picture of national economic trends.
Applying the CAB back to 1919, it has been shown to provide a lead of two to 14 months, with an average lead of eight months at cycle peaks as determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The median lead was also eight months. At business cycle troughs, the CAB leads by one to seven months, with an average lead of four months. The median lead was three months. The CAB is rebased to the average lead (in months) of an average 100 in the base year (the year 2012 was used) of a reference time series. The latter is the Federal Reserve's Industrial Production Index.
The CAB comprises indicators relating to the production of chlorine and other alkalies, pigments, plastic resins and other selected basic industrial chemicals; chemical company stock data; hours worked in chemicals; publicly sourced, chemical price information; end-use (or customer) industry sales-to-inventories; and several broader leading economic measures (building permits and new orders). Each month, ACC provides a barometer number, which reflects activity data for the current month, as well as a three-month moving average. The CAB was developed by the economics department at the ACC.
The next CAB is currently planned for June 21, 2016.
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