posted on 01 April 2016
Written by Steven Hansen
The ISM Manufacturing survey is now in expansion after 5 months in contraction. The key internals were positive. The PMI manufacturing Index, also released today, is in expansion.
The ISM Manufacturing survey index (PMI) marginally imiproved from 49.5 to 51.8 (50 separates manufacturing contraction and expansion). This was at expectations which were 48.5 to 54.0 (consensus 50.5).
Earlier today, the PMI Manufacturing Index was released - from Bloomberg:
The regional Fed manufacturing surveys indicated some growth in March, and now the ISM indicates manufacturing shows expansion also.
Relatively deep penetration of this index below 50 has normally resulted in a recession.
The noisy Backlog of Orders improved but remains in and is now in expansion. 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:
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. This month new orders remained unchanged but is sightly in expansion.
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
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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