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posted on 01 March 2017

February 2017 ISM Manufacturing Survey Improved

Written by Steven Hansen

The ISM Manufacturing survey improved and remained in expansion. The key internals improved. 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 unusually unified district Federal Reserve Surveys (all in expansion, one would expect the Fed's Industrial Production index to be improved in February. Overall, surveys do not have a high correlation to the movement of industrial production (manufacturing) since the Great Recession..Note that new orders and backlog sub-indicies significantly improved.

The ISM Manufacturing survey index (PMI) marginally improved from 56.0 to 57.7 (50 separates manufacturing contraction and expansion). This was slightly above expectations from Bloomberg / Econoday which were 55.5 to 58.5 (consensus 56.1).

Earlier today, the Markit PMI Manufacturing Index was released:

Strongest manufacturing production growth for almost two years

  • Production growth eases slightly from January's 22-month peak
  • Strong domestic demand offsets subdued export sales in February
  • Factory gate charges continue to rise amid robust cost inflation
  • February data revealed that the U.S. manufacturing sector continued to expand at a robust pace, although the latest upturn was slightly weaker than seen at the beginning of 2017. This largely reflected a moderation in new order growth from January's 28-month peak, alongside a slightly softer increase in output volumes. Meanwhile, manufacturers reported a sustained rise in inventory levels, which was linked to greater production schedules and expected improvements in client demand.
  • The seasonally adjusted Markit final US Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index™ (PMI™) posted 54.2 in February, down only slightly from January's 22-month peak of 55.0. As a result, the average reading for Q1 to date indicates that the manufacturing sector is on course to register its strongest quarterly improvement in business conditions for two years.

z markit_pmi.PNG

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

The noisy Backlog of Orders was unchanged 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 February, and the overall economy grew for the 93rd consecutive month, say the nation's supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®.

The report was issued today by Bradley J. Holcomb, CPSM, CPSD, chair of the Institute for Supply Management® (ISM®) Manufacturing Business Survey Committee: "The February PMI® registered 57.7 percent, an increase of 1.7 percentage points from the January reading of 56 percent. The New Orders Index registered 65.1 percent, an increase of 4.7 percentage points from the January reading of 60.4 percent. The Production Index registered 62.9 percent, 1.5 percentage points higher than the January reading of 61.4 percent. The Employment Index registered 54.2 percent, a decrease of 1.9 percentage points from the January reading of 56.1 percent. Inventories of raw materials registered 51.5 percent, an increase of 3 percentage points from the January reading of 48.5 percent. The Prices Index registered 68 percent in February, a decrease of 1 percentage point from the January reading of 69 percent, indicating higher raw materials prices for the 12th consecutive month. Comments from the panel largely indicate strong sales and demand, and reflect a positive view of business conditions with a watchful eye on commodities and the potential for inflation."

Of the 18 manufacturing industries, 17 reported growth in February in the following order: Textile Mills; Apparel, Leather & Allied Products; Machinery; Computer & Electronic Products; Primary Metals; Plastics & Rubber Products; Nonmetallic Mineral Products; Chemical Products; Paper Products; Fabricated Metal Products; Transportation Equipment; Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; Wood Products; Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components; Printing & Related Support Activities; Petroleum & Coal Products; and Miscellaneous Manufacturing. The only industry reporting contraction in February is Furniture & Related Products.

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.

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).

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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