Financials leads strong U.S. performance
All seven monitored sectors saw output growth in excess of their respective 2016 trends. In fact, each sector signalled that the fourth quarter was the strongest of the year, providing reason to be optimistic about growth early in 2017.
Financials was the top performer for the second straight month in December. Despite easing slightly from November’s 27-month record, the expansion of activity was marked overall.
Notably, new business and employment also rose sharply. However, financials was only the second-fastest growing sector over 2016 as a whole. The topranked sector according to yearly averages was consumer goods.
Mirroring trends seen across all seven sectors, consumer goods saw its best performance in the fourth quarter – production growth had hit a 20-month high back in October.
Alongside the upturn in consumer goods, a marked improvement in basic materials performance towards the end of 2016 helped US manufacturing out of a slump in the early part of the year.
Materials production was either falling or barely rising from January until June, contributing to May’s reduction in overall manufacturing output (the first since the financial crisis).
However, growth in basic materials picked up to a 20-month high in November and then remained solid in December amid greater exports.
Technology and industrials firms signalled robust growth in December. They placed third and fourth respectively in the latest rankings, with both having recovered from contractions in the opening quarter.
Consumer services slipped to the foot of the league table in December, but nevertheless noted a pick-up in output growth.
Meanwhile, healthcare was the worst-performing sector of 2016 on average, mainly thanks to an up-and-down performance blighted by falls in activity in February, August and November. ■