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posted on 01 December 2015

November 2015 ISM Manufacturing Survey In Contraction For First Time in 36 Months

Written by Steven Hansen

The ISM Manufacturing survey is now in contraction. The key internals were in contraction. Nothing much good in this report.

The ISM Manufacturing survey index (PMI) marginally declined from 51.0 to 48.6 (50 separates manufacturing contraction and expansion). This was below expectations which were 49.7 to 51.0 (consensus 50.5).

Earlier today, the PMI Manufacturing Index was released - from Bloomberg:

Released On 12/1/2015 9:45:00 AM For Nov, 2015
Prior Consensus Consensus Range Actual
Level 54.1 52.6 52.5 to 54.5 52.8

Highlights
Markit's U.S. manufacturing sample, which has been reporting much stronger levels of activity than others, reports slower rates of growth in November. The final index for the month is 52.8 for a 2 tenths improvement from the flash but down a tangible 1.3 points from October.

Softness in new orders, rising at their slowest pace in just over two years, is the chief reason for the dip. Export orders are in contraction, once again the result of weak foreign demand made weaker for U.S. goods by the strength of the dollar. Weakness in new orders is compounded by the first contraction in backlog orders since November last year. With orders down, output moderated in the month and manufacturers cut back inventories of finished goods.

Hiring is slowing and supply deliveries are improving, both indicative of weakness. Price readings remain mute.

Though levels in this report are still pointing to growth, their weakness relative to prior months points perhaps to contraction in November for the factory sector which, however, bounced back in October, at least based on the industrial production and factory order reports. Watch for the ISM report coming up at 10:00 a.m. ET.

The regional Fed manufacturing surveys indicated little growth or contraction in November, and now the ISM indicates manufacturing shows contraction.

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

The noisy Backlog of Orders contraction improved. 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 contracted in November for the first time in 36 months, since November 2012, while the overall economy grew for the 78th consecutive month, say the nation's supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®.

The November PMI® registered 48.6 percent, a decrease of 1.5 percentage points from the October reading of 50.1 percent. The New Orders Index registered 48.9 percent, a decrease of 4 percentage points from the reading of 52.9 percent in October. The Production Index registered 49.2 percent, 3.7 percentage points below the October reading of 52.9 percent. The Employment Index registered 51.3 percent, 3.7 percentage points above the October reading of 47.6 percent. The Prices Index registered 35.5 percent, a decrease of 3.5 percentage points from the October reading of 39 percent, indicating lower raw materials prices for the 13th consecutive month. The New Export Orders Index registered 47.5 percent, unchanged from October, and the Imports Index registered 49 percent, up 2 percentage points from the October reading of 47 percent. Ten out of 18 manufacturing industries reported contraction in November, with lower new orders, production and raw materials inventories accounting for the overall softness in November.

Of the 18 manufacturing industries, five are reporting growth in November in the following order: Printing & Related Support Activities; Nonmetallic Mineral Products; Miscellaneous Manufacturing; Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; and Transportation Equipment. The 10 industries reporting contraction in November — listed in order — are: Apparel, Leather & Allied Products; Plastics & Rubber Products; Machinery; Primary Metals; Petroleum & Coal Products; Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components; Computer & Electronic Products; Furniture & Related Products; Fabricated Metal Products; and Chemical 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.



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