Since July of last year, the Empire Fed manufacturing index has only beaten expectations once as March data once again fell below consensus (5.61 vs 6.5 est.) - hardly confirming the weakness is weather-driven. The underlying sub-indices were ugly with the most worrisome being the outlook - despite some optimism for capex, the general business conditions 6-months ahead fell by the most since Oct 2011 to its lowest since July 2013 - which once again suggest this weakness is anything but weather-driven. The number of employees fell as inventories rose but the margin-compressing divide between prices paid and prices received is concerning.
And hope is fading:
Preices Received plunged back in line with Prices Received - suggesting hope for margin expansion is long gone...