Texas factory activity, as measured by the production index, rose in December at a faster rate than in November, according to the monthly business activity survey conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, released Monday.

The general business activity index improved to positive 6.8 in December from negative 2.8 in November.

The production index gained to 2.7 from 1.7, while capacity use reversed to positive 1.8 from negative 1.3, the Fed reported. Volume of new orders slumped to negative 0.9 from positive 0.4, while growth rate of orders index declined to negative 3.7 from positive 2.3.

Unfilled orders widened to negative 6.8 from negative 5.3 in the prior survey, while the volume of shipments increased to 11.3 from 0.9, and delivery times slid to negative 6.6 from negative 3.9. The materials inventory index narrowed to negative 1.2 from positive 4.1, the finished goods inventory dropped to negative 5.5 from negative 11.9. Prices paid for raw materials slipped to 23.7 from 30.2, while prices received for finished goods declined to negative 0.2 from positive 9.0. Wages and benefits held at 15.1, while the employment index slid to negative 1.0 from positive 6.7, and the hours worked index jumped to positive 1.0 from negative 7.1, and the capital expenditures index grew to 12.6 from 6.1.

As for future outlook (six months from now), the general business conditions index rose to positive 7.9 from negative 5.3 last month, the production index increased to 23.8 from 22.5, while capacity use slipped to 21.1 from 23.6, the Fed reported. Volume of new orders rose to 29.8 from 21.8, while growth rate of orders index increased to 13.3 from 10.0.

Unfilled orders reversed to positive 4.6 from negative 5.1, while the volume of shipments gained to 24.8 from 18.1, and delivery times improved to zero from negative 9.0. Materials inventories increased to positive 5.7 from negative 4.0, and the finished goods inventory rose to zero from negative 6.1.

Prices paid for raw materials climbed to 38.6 from 38.0, while prices received for finished goods dropped to 17.3 from 28.0. Wages and benefits grew to 32.9 from 30.7, the employment index soared to 22.7 from 2.0, while the hours worked index dipped to 5.0 from 7.1, and the capital expenditures index fell to 20.5 from 23.2.

The Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey is a monthly anecdotal survey of manufacturers in Texas. Roughly 80 manufacturers regularly participate in the Dallas Fed survey, which began collecting data in May 2004.

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