Business activity in the Chicago area rose in March, a leading survey of purchasing managers in the Chicago Federal Reserve Region said Friday, but not as much as analysts expected in a sign that the recovery may be losing steam.
The Chicago Purchasing Managers' business barometer, commonly known as the Chicago PMI, for March dropped to 62.2, down from 64.0 in February and below analyst expectations of 63.6 as compiled by MarketWatch.
Still, the above-60 reading, the fifth consecutively one, continues to signal recovery from the contractions experienced during the global financial crisis. However, some businesses have become worried about oil.
It and similar regional surveys, such as the ones for Philadelphia and New York, point to continued expansion but the pace of gains have moderated, said Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at institutional trading firm Miller Tabak.
Five of the eight business activity indexes of the Chicago report saw increases. For example, prices paid hit the highest level since March 2011 and inventories recorded the largest gain since December 2010.
Three of the eight business activity indexes posted declines. Employment expansion, however, slowed from the previous month but remained in positive territory, as did new orders.
Our business isn't bad but we are not booming, said one business surveyed for the report.
The last few weeks our orders are up compared to previous months, hope this is a good sign for months to come, stated another.
Some businesses, however, have become worried about rising oil prices, one of the thorniest issues currently facing the U.S. economy.
High oil prices are having a negative impact on most chemicals and on freight costs. Major commodities are costing more because of higher fuel prices, said one business.
Tipping point for oil pricing and impact on raw materials and Total Cost of Operations (TCO) is fast approaching, reported another.