Businesses in Chicago region grow at fastest pace in 4.5 years, survey shows

Bloomberg News/Landov Businesses in the Chicago region grew rapidly in November, but executives are worried about tariffs.

The numbers: A survey of business conditions in the Chicago region that’s often a bellwether for the broader U.S. economy surged in November to a four-and-a-half year high despite worries about U.S. tariffs.

The MNI Chicago business barometer jumped 8 points to 66.4, ending a streak of three straight declines. The increase easily exceeded Wall Street’s expectation for a small decline.

Any reading over 50 points to an improving economy and numbers over 60 are exceptional.

What happened: New orders soared in November to the highest level since mid-2014. Companies raised production and either hired more workers or asked current employees to work longer to meet the demand.

The Chicago survey gives a good idea of what’s happening with American manufacturers and other large companies, including many with global operations. It’s viewed as leading indicator of how well the U.S. and even global economies are performing.

Big picture: The U.S. grew rapidly in the spring and summer, aided by strong consumer spending and business investment. Households are still spending at a healthy clip and companies are producing plenty of goods and services, but they have scaled back investment owing to rising interest rates and ongoing trade tensions.

That could lead to somewhat slower growth in the fourth quarter — and beyond. Weaker growth around the globe isn’t helping, either.

What they are saying: The “Chicago Business Barometer clipped a run of three consecutive declines in emphatic style in November, boosted primarily by resurgent orders — stronger than typically seen at this time of year and enough to push the barometer to its best level since December,” said Jamie Satchi, economist at MNI Indicators.

“However, many firms reported seeing the effects of higher

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