The bank's Empire State Manufacturing Survey for March revealed that, unlike February's sharply higher numbers, progress is slowing. New orders and shipments are still above the zero mark but slightly lower than February's figures. Input prices continue to increase steadily while selling prices are flat. The sector's employment levels were little changed as was the length of the average workweek.
The new results mark the second month in a row that the survey's general business conditions index is in positive territory, though it dipped slightly to 9.2 points above zero following February's strong rise to 10. Both months are well above January's pessimistic minus 7.8 mark.
Firms indicated that they expect to take on more debt and anticipated decreases in cash holdings in the year ahead -- for the first time since 2008. On average, manufacturing firms report that they're holding less cash than usual.