March economic survey report points to slow growth ahead for Midwest, Plains



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OMAHA, Nebraska — Slow economic growth likely lies ahead for nine Midwestern and Plains states, according to a monthly survey report issued Wednesday.

The overall Mid-America Business Conditions Index dropped to 51.4 in March from 57 in February, the report said. The January figure was 54.8.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey of supply managers in the nine-state region, said manufacturers of nondurable goods reported that sales, production and employment have weakened over the past several months.

"On the other hand, while our surveys are detecting weaker growth for firms tied to oil production, the surveys have yet to record substantial negative outcomes for North Dakota and Oklahoma, two states with sizable oil industry investment," Goss said.

The survey results are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests economic growth, while a score below that suggests decline. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

Economic optimism, as reflected by last month's business confidence index, decreased to 55.7 from February's 58.4.

"Improving economic expectations, resulting from lower energy prices, more than offset economic pessimism stemming from weakness in energy investment among energy and energy-linked businesses," Goss said.

The index for new export orders rose to 56.4 last month from 54.4 in February, and the import index rose to 53.5 from February's 52.7.

The value of the U.S. dollar has risen dramatically against the currencies of the nation's chief trading partners, Goss said.

"This movement has made U.S. goods less competitively priced abroad and foreign goods more cheaply priced in the U.S. Despite this, the new export orders index stood at a solid level for February and increased in March," he said.


Online:

Creighton University economic reports: http://business.creighton.edu/economicoutlook

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