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RBC Manufacturing PMI signals slower downturn in business conditions in March

RBC PMI signals slower downturn in business conditions in March

RBC PMI signals slower downturn in business conditions in March.

TORONTO, April 1, 2015 -  the RBC Canadian Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (RBC PMI) indicated a further downturn in business conditions across the Canadian manufacturing sector in March, though the rate of contraction moderated from the survey-record-low in February. Output, new business and employment levels all fell at slower rates than in the previous month. Manufacturers, nonetheless, signalled a solid reduction in work-in-hand (but not yet completed), and inventory levels were reduced again amid concerns about the outlook for client demand.

A monthly survey, conducted in association with Markit, a leading global financial information services company, and the Supply Chain Management Association (SCMA), the RBC PMI offers a comprehensive and early indicator of trends in the Canadian manufacturing sector.

At 48.9 in March, up fractionally from 48.7 in February, the seasonally adjusted RBC Canadian Manufacturing PMI posted below the neutral 50.0 value for the second month running. This represents the first back-to-back deterioration in overall business conditions in the survey’s four-and-a-half year history. Moreover, the average reading for Q1 as a whole (49.5) is the weakest since the survey began in late-2010.

“With a second consecutive reading below 50, the RBC PMI is signalling that Canada’s manufacturing sector continues to face headwinds,” said Craig Wright, senior vice-president and chief economist, RBC. “We remain confident that as the U.S. economy continues to strengthen and the Canadian dollar becomes more competitive, there will be an uptick in exports, a good sign for manufacturers – we need some time to see this materialize.”

The headline RBC PMI reflects changes in output, new orders, employment, inventories and supplier delivery times.

Key findings from the March survey include:

  • Manufacturing PMI picked up slightly from February’s survey-record low...
  • ...helped by slower declines in output and new orders
  • Staffing levels decreased for the third month running

Survey respondents suggested that falling capital spending among clients in the energy sector remained the key factor weighing on new business intakes in March. That said, the latest overall decline in incoming new work was only modest and less marked than that seen in the previous month. Export sales also fell at a slower pace than in February, with some firms commenting on support from exchange rate depreciation and stronger demand from clients in the U.S.

A moderate drop in overall new orders resulted in another decrease in manufacturing production in March. Moreover, the latest survey suggested a lack of pressure on operating capacity, as highlighted by a reduction in backlogs of work for the fourth consecutive month.

Reduced production schedules and falling workloads contributed to more cautious staff hiring patterns in March. Latest data signalled that payroll numbers decreased for the third month running, although the rate of job shedding moderated from February’s survey-record pace.
A number of manufacturers pointed to deliberate stock reduction policies at their plants in response to the uncertain business outlook. Pre-production inventories decreased at the fastest rate since November 2010, while stocks of finished goods were depleted at the most marked pace in just under three years.

Volumes of input buying fell for the second month running in March, reflecting efforts to prevent inventory accumulation across the manufacturing sector. This helped alleviate supply chain pressures in March, with the latest lengthening of vendor lead times the least marked since August 2013.

Average cost burdens increased at a robust pace in March, which survey respondents overwhelmingly attributed to exchange rate depreciation and a corresponding rise in imported raw material costs. That said, the overall rate of input cost inflation moderated since February, while factory gate charges also rose at a weaker pace.

Regional highlights include:

  • Ontario continued to buck the overall deterioration in manufacturing sector business conditions
  • Alberta & British Columbia posted a fresh survey-record downturn in March
  • A sharp drop in manufacturing employment in Alberta & British Columbia contrasted with job creation elsewhere

“Lower energy sector investment spending continues to weigh on the Canadian manufacturing sector” said Cheryl Paradowski, president and chief executive officer, SCMA. “In response to the weaker demand environment, manufacturers are exercising caution in terms of job hiring and inventory levels. However, the speed of the downturn moderated in March, and regional data indicated that the latest reduction in export sales was largely confined to Alberta & British Columbia. As a result, despite a further drop in overall workloads, there are some early signs that the benefits of a weaker exchange rate are starting to feed through to the manufacturing sector.”

The report is available at

For further information, please contact:

Royal Bank of Canada
Elyse Lalonde, Manager, Corporate Communications, Canada,
RBC Capital Markets,
Telephone +001-416-842-5635

Supply Chain Management Association
Cheryl Paradowski, President and CEO
Telephone +001-416-542-9120 Email

Amanda Cormier, Acting Director,
Public Affairs & Communications
Telephone +001-416-542-3860

Tim Moore, Senior Economist
Telephone +44-1491-461-067

Joanna Vickers, Corporate Communications
Telephone +44-207-260-2234

Notes to Editors:
The RBC Canadian Manufacturing PMI Report is based on data compiled from monthly replies to questionnaires sent to purchasing executives in over 400 industrial companies. The panel is stratified geographically and by Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) group, based on industry contribution to Canadian GDP.

Survey responses reflect the change, if any, in the current month compared to the previous month based on data collected mid-month. For each of the indicators the ‘Report’ shows the percentage reporting each response, the net difference between the number of higher/better responses and lower/worse responses, and the ‘diffusion’ index. This index is the sum of the positive responses plus a half of those responding ‘the same’.

Diffusion indexes have the properties of leading indicators and are convenient summary measures showing the prevailing direction of change. An index reading above 50 indicates an overall increase in that variable, below 50 an overall decrease.

The RBC Canadian Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (RBC PMI) is a composite index based on five of the individual indexes with the following weights: New Orders - 0.3, Output - 0.25, Employment - 0.2, Suppliers’ Delivery Times - 0.15, Stock of Items Purchased - 0.1, with the Delivery Times Index inverted so that it moves in a comparable direction.

The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) survey methodology has developed an outstanding reputation for providing the most up-to-date possible indication of what is really happening in the private sector economy by tracking variables such as sales, employment, inventories and prices. The indices are widely used by businesses, governments and economic analysts in financial institutions to help better understand business conditions and guide corporate and investment strategy. In particular, central banks in many countries (including the European Central Bank) use the data to help make interest rate decisions. PMI surveys are the first indicators of economic conditions published each month and are therefore available well ahead of comparable data produced by government bodies.

Markit does not revise underlying survey data after first publication, but seasonal adjustment factors may be revised from time to time as appropriate which will affect the seasonally adjusted data series. Historical data relating to the underlying (unadjusted) numbers, first published seasonally adjusted series and subsequently revised data are available to subscribers from Markit. Please contact

About RBC
Royal Bank of Canada is Canada’s largest bank, and one of the largest banks in the world, based on market capitalization. We are one of North America’s leading diversified financial services companies, and provide personal and commercial banking, wealth management, insurance, investor services and capital markets products and services on a global basis. We employ approximately 78,000 full- and part-time employees who serve more than 16 million personal, business, public sector and institutional clients through offices in Canada, the U.S. and 39 other countries. For more information, please visit

RBC supports a broad range of community initiatives through donations, sponsorships and employee volunteer activities. In 2014, we contributed more than $111 million to causes worldwide, including donations and community investments of more than $76 million and $35 million in sponsorships.

About Supply Chain Management Association
As the leading and largest association in Canada for supply chain management professionals, the Supply Chain Management Association (SCMA) is the national voice for advancing and promoting the profession. SCMA sets the standard of excellence for professional skills, knowledge and integrity and was the first supply chain association in the world to require that all members adhere to a Code of Ethics.

With nearly 8000 members working across the private and public sectors, SCMA is the principal source of supply chain training, education and professional development in the country. Through its 10 Provincial and Territorial Institutes, SCMA grants the Supply Chain Management Professional (SCMP) designation, the highest achievement in the field and the mark of strategic supply chain leadership.

SCMA was formed in 2013 through the amalgamation of the Purchasing Management Association of Canada and Supply Chain and Logistics Association of Canada. With a combined history of more than 140 years, today the association embraces all aspects of strategic supply chain management, including: purchasing/procurement, strategic sourcing, contract management, materials/inventory management, and logistics and transportation. For more information, please visit

About Markit
Markit is a leading global diversified provider of financial information services. We provide products that enhance transparency, reduce risk and improve operational efficiency. Our customers include banks, hedge funds, asset managers, central banks, regulators, auditors, fund administrators and insurance companies. Founded in 2003, we employ over 3,500 people in 10 countries. Markit shares are listed on NASDAQ under the symbol MRKT. For more information, please see

About PMI
Purchasing Managers' Index™ (PMI™) surveys are now available for 32 countries and also for key regions including the Eurozone. They are the most closely-watched business surveys in the world, favoured by central banks, financial markets and business decision makers for their ability to provide up-to-date, accurate and often unique monthly indicators of economic trends. To learn more go to

The intellectual property rights to the RBC Canadian Manufacturing PMI provided herein are owned by or licensed to Markit Economics Limited. Any unauthorised use, including but not limited to copying, distributing, transmitting or otherwise of any data appearing is not permitted without Markit’s prior consent. Markit shall not have any liability, duty or obligation for or relating to the content or information (“data”) contained herein, any errors, inaccuracies, omissions or delays in the data, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. In no event shall Markit be liable for any special, incidental, or consequential damages, arising out of the use of the data. Purchasing Managers’ Index and PMI are either registered trade marks of Markit Economics Limited or are licensed to Markit Economics Limited. RBC uses the above marks under licence. Markit is a registered trade mark of Markit Group Limited.