Off a Cliff: Falling natural gas prices are making U.S. manufacturers more competitive.
From today's WSJ article "The Great Reversal: Playing the U.S. Manufacturing Boom":
"Investors who have favored emerging markets like China in recent years should pay attention to another growing manufacturing center. It boasts plenty of skilled workers; cheap and abundant energy; stable institutions; and a large middle class that likes to shop. It is the U.S., where a long industrial decline might be in reverse.
In March, manufacturing expanded for the 32nd straight month, and contributed 37,000 of the 120,000 U.S. jobs added, the government reported (see related CD post). That's partly because of the ongoing recovery from the Great Recession. But the economy is also changing.
Three trends suggest America's "manufacturing renaissance" is just getting started, says Neil Dutta, U.S. economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
1. The cost advantages of outsourcing factory work are narrowing. Emerging market wages, while still much lower than U.S. wages, are rising, and high oil prices have made shipping more expensive. That is expanding the range of goods U.S. factories can produce at competitive prices (think sophisticated machines, not toys).
2. A weakening dollar makes U.S. goods more attractive to foreign buyers. The dollar has fallen by nearly one-third over the past decade against a basket of currencies including the euro, British pound and yen.
3. Energy production is booming in the U.S., and domestic natural-gas prices have recently plunged. That gives an edge to U.S. producers of fabricated steel, transportation equipment, machinery and chemicals, which use natural gas extensively, according to a recent report from Citigroup."
HT: Robert Kuehl