October 2018 Market Insight

Economic Indicators

The U.S. economy added 134,000 jobs in September, extending the record run of hiring to eight full years. The unemployment rate fell to 3.7%, the lowest since 1969.

The Federal Reserve raised interest rates and cemented expectations for another hike this year as they reaffirmed that a strong U.S. economy will probably warrant further gradual increases well into 2019. The quarter-point hike boosted the benchmark federal funds rate to a target range of 2%-2.25%.

The Architectural Billings Index score for August was 54.2 compared to the 50.7 reading in July. Any score above 50 represents an increase in billings.

The September Purchasing Managers Index registered at 59.8%, a decrease of 1.5 percentage points from the August reading of 61.3%. The New Orders Index registered 61.8%, a decrease of 3.3 percentage points from the previous month. The Production Index registered 63.9%, a 0.6 percentage point increase compared to the August reading.

Gas prices are creeping up nationally, now pennies a gallon away from their highest level since 2014. Average prices topped $2.90 a gallon for unleaded October 3 for the first time since June, having risen about 6 cents a gallon in the past month. If they rise by about another eight cents, they will be the highest in four years.

Steel Industry News

U.S. service center steel shipments increased 6.7% year-over-year. Aluminum shipments increased 4.1% during the month, compared with August 2017. Total shipments of sheet and plate products were up 4% year-over-year and 4.9% over July.

Aluminum touched its highest price in more than three months on October 4 supported by worries over potential shortages after the world’s biggest producer of alumina announced a shutdown. The gains could be overdone because Norsk Hydro’s closure of the Alunorte alumina refinery in Brazil may be temporary. Gains were stretching into a fifth session after a 4.2% jump in October for its largest one-day gain since April.

Trade

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, European Union Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström, and Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry Hiroshige Seko met to discuss trade policy in late September. After the meeting, the three leaders released a joint statement that outlined efforts to address non-market oriented policies in third world countries, subsidies and state-owned entities, technology transfer, digital trade, and World Trade Organization (WTO) reform. To read more, this article can be found on page 6 of the below October 2018 OFR Insight Guide.

To learn more, view the October 2018 OFR Insight Guide below or contact your local sales representative.

OFR Insight October 2018