News Column

Mixed Signals for Economy; Auto Sales Strong

June 3, 2013

Staff Reports --

Auto assembly line

The U.S. economy continues to show mixed signals Monday, with manufacturing declining for the first time since last fall while the major automotive manufacturers reported their best sales in years.

The Institute for Supply Management reported that its index declined in May to 49 percent from 50.7 percent in April. It's the first decline in manufacturing since November 2012 and the lowest reading in more than three years, according to the report.

Manufacturers are reporting a sluggish economy and said that while there has been an uptick in overall business, it hasn't been substantial. Other manufacturers indicated that the economic downturn in the Chinese and European markets combined with cuts in government spending have slowed manufacturing.

The monthly index is compiled by surveying manufacturing supply managers and provides a general outlook of the nation's economy.

The report comes on the same day that automakers General Motors, Ford and Chrysler reported their best sales in recent years.

-- General Motors' auto sales rose 3.1 percent in May, led by the Cadillac brand. GM reported it sold nearly 253,000 vehicles in May, nearly 7,000 more vehicles than it sold during the same period in 2012. Investor reacted to the positive news by pushing up shares 2 percent in trading on Monday.

-- Chrysler Group LLC today reported U.S. sales of 166,596 units, an 11 percent increase compared with sales in May 2012 (150,041 units), and the group's best May sales since 2007. The Jeep, Dodge, Ram Truck and Fiat brands each posted year-over-year sales gains in May compared with the same month a year ago.

The Ram Truck brand's 24 percent increase was the largest sales gain of any Chrysler brand in May. Chrysler extended its streak of year-over-year sales gains to 38 consecutive months in May.

-- Ford's sales were up 14 percent in May, the best month since 2005. Sales among all of its brands were consistently strong, with F-series pickup truck sales up 31 percent and the small SUV Escape having its best month in 13 years.

Ford raised its third-quarter production by 10 percent to meet the growing demand for its vehicles, officials said.

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