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posted on 02 February 2015

January 2015 ISM Manufacturing Survey Declines - Key Internals Are Mixed and the Survey Looks Weak

Written by Steven Hansen

The ISM Manufacturing survey continues to indicate manufacturing growth expansion - however there was AGAIN a modest decrease in the rate of growth. AND the key internal new orders AGAIN significantly declined (but still remains slightly in expansion).

The ISM Manufacturing survey index (PMI) declined from 55.1 to 53.5 (50 separates manufacturing contraction and expansion). This was within expectations which were 53.5 to 56.5 (consensus 54.5).

This index had been in a general uptrend since mid 2013, the three month trend is now definitely in decline. This is the 20th month of expansion. The regional Fed manufacturing surveys all indicated growth in January, and now the ISM indicates manufacturing shows expansion in January also.

Relatively deep penetration of this index below 50 has normally resulted in a recession.

The noisy Backlog of Orders declined from 52.5 to 46.0 - and is now in contraction. Backlog growth should be an indicator of improving conditions; a number below 50 indicates contraction. Backlog accuracy does not have a high correlation against actual data.

Excepts from the ISM release:

Economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in January for the 20th consecutive month, and the overall economy grew for the 68th consecutive month, say the nation's supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®.

The January PMI® registered 53.5 percent, a decrease of 1.6 percentage points from December's seasonally adjusted reading of 55.1 percent. The New Orders Index registered 52.9 percent, a decrease of 4.9 percentage points from the seasonally adjusted reading of 57.8 percent in December. The Production Index registered 56.5 percent, 1.2 percentage points below the seasonally adjusted December reading of 57.7 percent. The Employment Index registered 54.1 percent, a decrease of 1.9 percentage points below the seasonally adjusted December reading of 56 percent. Inventories of raw materials registered 51 percent, an increase of 5.5 percentage points above the December reading of 45.5 percent. The Prices Index registered 35 percent, down 3.5 percentage points from the December reading of 38.5 percent, indicating lower raw materials prices in January relative to December. Comments from the panel indicate that most industries, but not all, are experiencing strong demand as 2015 kicks off. The West Coast dock slowdown continues to be a problem, negatively impacting both exports and imports as well as inventories.

Of the 18 manufacturing industries, 14 are reporting growth in January in the following order: Primary Metals; Wood Products; Printing & Related Support Activities; Miscellaneous Manufacturing; Fabricated Metal Products; Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components; Petroleum & Coal Products; Paper Products; Transportation Equipment; Chemical Products; Machinery; Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; Computer & Electronic Products; and Furniture & Related Products. The two industries reporting contraction in January are: Textile Mills; and Nonmetallic Mineral Products.

It is interesting to note that ISM Manufacturing represents less than 10% of USA employment, and approximately 20% of the business economy. Historically, it could be argued that the production portion of ISM Manufacturing leads the Fed's Industrial Production index - however the correlation is not strong when looking at trends.

New orders have direct economic consequences. Expanding new orders is a relatively reliable sign a recession is NOT imminent. However, New Orders contraction have given false recession warnings twice since 2000.

However, holding this and other survey's Econintersect follows accountable for their predictions, the following graph compares the hard data from Industrial Products manufacturing subindex (blue bar) and US Census manufacturing shipments (red bar) to the ISM Manufacturing Survey (purple bar).

Comparing Surveys to Hard Data

z survey1.png

Caveats on the use of ISM Manufacturing Index:

This is a survey, a quantification of opinion - not facts and data. However, as pointed out above, certain elements of this survey have good to excellent correlation to the economy. Surveys lead hard data by weeks to months, and can provide early insight into changing conditions.

Many use ISM manufacturing for guidance in estimating manufacturing employment growth. Econintersect has run correlation coefficients for the ISM manufacturing employment and the BLS manufacturing employment data series above going back to 1988, using quarterly data. The coincident correlations are actually negative, but poor (r = -0.2 to -0.4 for various time periods examined). See here for definitions.

Before 2000 the ISM employment data had a weak positive correlation to the BLS data 4 to 7 quarters later (r values above 0.6). Since 2000 the correlations for ISM manufacturing employment as a leading indicator for the BLS manufacturing employment have been between 0 and 0.3 for r (correlation coefficient). These values define correlations as none to poor.

In other words, ISM employment index is not useful in understanding manufacturing jobsgrowth. The graph below shows BLS manufacturing employment month-over-month gains against the ISM Manufacturing employment index.

Indexed to Jan 2000 - Comparison of the ISM Manufacturing Employment Subindex (blue line) to BLS Manufacturing Employment (red line) - all data seasonally adjusted

The ISM employment index appears useful in predicting turning points which can lead the BLS data up to one year.

Related Posts:

Old Analysis Blog

New Analysis Blog

Institute of Supply Management Surveys Institute of Supply Management Surveys

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