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posted on 03 October 2016

September 2016 ISM Manufacturing Survey Marginally Returns to Expansion

Written by Steven Hansen

The ISM Manufacturing survey marginally crawled out of contraction. The key internals improved and but were mixed. The Markit PMI manufacturing Index, also released today, is in positive territory and marginally declined.

Analyst Opinion of the ISM Manufacturing Survey

ISM manufacturing index movements have correlated with Industrial Production Manufacturing index only half the time in the last 12 months. Based on this survey and the divided district Federal Reserve Surveys (some in expansion, some in contraction), one would expect the Fed's Industrial Production index to be unchanged for September. Overall, surveys do not have a high correlation to the movement of industrial production (manufacturing) since the Great Recession..

There is nothing in the ISM or Markit reports that would leave one to think manufacturing is on the mend.

The ISM Manufacturing survey index (PMI) marginally improved from 49.4 to 51.5 (50 separates manufacturing contraction and expansion). This was slightly above expectations which were 49.0 to 51.0 (consensus 50.2).

Earlier today, the Markit PMI Manufacturing Index was released:

Manufacturing growth slows amid weakest upturn in new orders for nine months

  • Headline PMI drops to three-month low of 51.5 in September
  • Output and new orders expand at a slower pace
  • Subdued input cost pressures continue

z markit_pmi.png

‚ÄčThe regional Fed manufacturing surveys are mixed, and now the ISM indicates manufacturing shows marginal expansion.

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

The noisy Backlog of Orders improved and remans 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 September following one month of contraction in August, and the overall economy grew for the 88th consecutive month, say the nation's supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®.

The September PMI® registered 51.5 percent, an increase of 2.1 percentage points from the August reading of 49.4 percent. The New Orders Index registered 55.1 percent, an increase of 6 percentage points from the August reading of 49.1 percent. The Production Index registered 52.8 percent, 3.2 percentage points higher than the August reading of 49.6 percent. The Employment Index registered 49.7 percent, an increase of 1.4 percentage points from the August reading of 48.3 percent. Inventories of raw materials registered 49.5 percent, an increase of 0.5 percentage point from the August reading of 49 percent. The Prices Index registered 53 percent in September, the same reading as in August, indicating higher raw materials prices for the seventh consecutive month. Manufacturing expanded in September following one month of contraction in August, with nine of the 18 industries reporting an increase in new orders in September (up from six in August), and 10 of the 18 industries reporting an increase in production in September (up from eight in August).

Of the 18 manufacturing industries, seven are reporting growth in September in the following order: Nonmetallic Mineral Products; Furniture & Related Products; Textile Mills; Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; Computer & Electronic Products; Miscellaneous Manufacturing; and Paper Products. The 11 industries reporting contraction in September — listed in order — are: Printing & Related Support Activities; Petroleum & Coal Products; Wood Products; Apparel, Leather & Allied Products; Transportation Equipment; Machinery; Plastics & Rubber Products; Primary Metals; Fabricated Metal Products; Chemical Products; and Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components.

z%20ism_mfg.png

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 significantly improved and is now 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

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 jobs growth.

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



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