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Survey suggests slower economic growth in Midwest, Plains

August 1, 2019

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Economic growth is expected to slow over the next three to six months in nine Midwestern and Plains states, according to a report released Thursday from a July survey of business supply managers.

The Mid-America Business Conditions index dropped to 52.0 in July, from 55.4 in June, the report said. It’s the lowest figure in more than three years.

“The regional economy expanded at a slower pace than the rest of the nation for the first half of 2019,” said Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey.

“Weak farm income, produced partially by tariffs and flooding, pulled regional growth below that of the nation. Even so, based on our manufacturing survey over the past several months, I expect overall growth to remain on a positive but slower path,” he said.

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

The regional trade numbers were down again. The index for new export orders sank to 44.7, from June’s 48.3, and the import index slumped to 43.8 in July, from 50.0 in June.

More than half of the supply managers who responded indicated that tariffs were making it more difficult to buy internationally. The figure was unchanged, however, from when the same question was asked in January.

Economic optimism, as captured by the business confidence index, plunged to 51.4 in July, from June’s 59.1. The July figure was the lowest confidence reading since October 2016.

“I expect business confidence to depend heavily on trade talks with China and the Federal Reserve’s interest rate actions in the weeks and months ahead,” Goss said.

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