May 2014 ISM Services Index On the High Side of Expectations
Written by Steven Hansen
The May 2014 ISM non-manufacturing (aka services) index continues its growth cycle, and improved from 55.2 to 56.3 (above 50 signals expansion). Important internals were even stronger.
This was in the high range of market forecasts of 54.5 to 57.5 (consensus 55.3).
There are two sub-indexes in the NMI which have good correlations to the economy – the Business Activity Index and the New Orders Index – and both have good track records in spotting an incipient recession. The Business Activity Index strengthened and the New Orders Index also improved – with both remaining in expansion territory.
This index and its associated sub-indices are fairly volatile – and one needs to step back from the data and view this index over longer periods than a single month.
The Business Activity sub-index gained 1.2 points and now is at 62.1.
ISM Services – Business Activity Sub-Index
The New Orders Index gained 2.3 and is currently at 60.5.
ISM Services – New Orders Sub-Index
The complete ISM manufacturing and non-manufacturing survey table is below.
Econintersect does give serious consideration to this survey as the service sector accounts for 80% of the economy and 90% of employment. However, this an opinion survey and is not hard data.
From the ISM report:
Economic activity in the non-manufacturing sector grew in May for the 52nd consecutive month, say the nation's purchasing and supply executives in the latest Non-Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®.
The NMI® registered 56.3 percent in May, 1.1 percentage points higher than April are reading of 55.2 percent. This represents continued growth at a faster rate in the Non-Manufacturing sector and is the highest reading for the index since August 2013, when the index registered 57.9 percent. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index increased to 62.1 percent, which is 1.2 percentage points higher than the April reading of 60.9 percent, reflecting growth for the 58th consecutive month at a faster rate. The New Orders Index registered 60.5 percent, 2.3 percentage points higher than the reading of 58.2 percent registered in April. The Employment Index increased 1.1 percentage points to 52.4 percent from the April reading of 51.3 percent and indicates growth for the third consecutive month and at a faster rate. The Prices Index increased 0.6 percentage point from the April reading of 60.8 percent to 61.4 percent, indicating prices increased at a faster rate in May when compared to April. According to the NMI®, 17 non-manufacturing industries reported growth in May. The majority of respondents' comments indicate that that there is steady incremental growth and project a positive outlook on business conditions.
INDUSTRY PERFORMANCE – The 17 non-manufacturing industries reporting growth in May — listed in order — are: Construction; Wholesale Trade; Management of Companies & Support Services; Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting; Public Administration; Finance & Insurance; Educational Services; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; Real Estate, Rental & Leasing; Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; Health Care & Social Assistance; Information; Other Services; Utilities; Retail Trade; Transportation & Warehousing; and Accommodation & Food Services. The only industry reporting contraction in May is Mining.
Caveats on the use of ISM Non-Manufacturing Index:
This is a survey, a quantification of opinion. However, as pointed out above, certain elements of this survey have good to excellent correlation to the economy for as long as it has been in existence. Surveys lead hard data by weeks to months, and can provide early insight into changing conditions.
The main ISM non-manufacturing index (NMI) is so new that it does not have enough data history to have reliable certainty about how it correlates to the economy. Again, two sub-indices (business activity and new orders) do have good correlation for the limited history available.
No survey is accurate in projecting employment – and the ISM Non-Manufacturing Employment Index is no exception. Although there are some general correlation in trends if you stand far enough back from this graph, month-to-month movements have not correlated well with the BLS Service Sector Employment data.
ISM Services Employment Sub-Index vs BLS Non-Farm Services Employment
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