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posted on 01 May 2017

April 2017 Manufacturing Survey Growth Marginally Slowed

Written by Steven Hansen

The ISM Manufacturing survey marginally slowed but remained in expansion. The key internals were lower but in expansion. The Markit PMI manufacturing Index, also released today, is in positive territory and also 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 April. 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 declined but remain in positive territory.

From Bloomberg / Econoday:

Consensus Range Consensus Actual
Markit Manufacturing 52.0 to 52.8 52.8 52.8
ISM Manufacturing 55.5 to 57.2 56.5 54.8

From the Markit PMI Manufacturing Index:

Slowest improvement in manufacturing business conditions since September 2016

  • Headline PMI at 52.8 in April, down from 53.3 in March
  • Weaker rates of output and new order growth
  • Input prices rise at fastest pace since September 2014
  • April data revealed a sustained upturn in U.S. manufacturing production, but the rate of growth moderated further from the 22-month peak recorded in January. The slower rise in output volumes largely reflected a more subdued pace of new business growth in April. Payroll numbers continued to increase across the manufacturing sector, driven by efforts to boost production capacity.
  • However, latest data indicated that manufacturers sought to reduce their stocks of purchases, which ended a six-month period of inventory building. Meanwhile, cost pressures intensified, with input prices rising at the fastest pace for just over twoand-a-half years.

z markit_pmi.PNG

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

The noisy Backlog of Orders improved and remains 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:

Economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in April, and the overall economy grew for the 95th 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 April PMI® registered 54.8 percent, a decrease of 2.4 percentage points from the March reading of 57.2 percent. The New Orders Index registered 57.5 percent, a decrease of 7 percentage points from the March reading of 64.5 percent. The Production Index registered 58.6 percent, 1 percentage point higher than the March reading of 57.6 percent. The Employment Index registered 52 percent, a decrease of 6.9 percentage points from the March reading of 58.9 percent. Inventories of raw materials registered 51 percent, an increase of 2 percentage points from the March reading of 49 percent. The Prices Index registered 68.5 percent in April, a decrease of 2 percentage points from the March reading of 70.5 percent, indicating higher raw materials prices for the 14th consecutive month, but at a slower rate of increase in April compared with March. Comments from the panel generally reflect stable to growing business conditions; with new orders, production, employment and inventories of raw materials all growing in April over March."

Of the 18 manufacturing industries, 16 reported growth in April in the following order: Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components; Textile Mills; Nonmetallic Mineral Products; Furniture & Related Products; Plastics & Rubber Products; Fabricated Metal Products; Printing & Related Support Activities; Machinery; Paper Products; Chemical Products; Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; Primary Metals; Miscellaneous Manufacturing; Computer & Electronic Products; Petroleum & Coal Products; and Transportation Equipment. The only industry that reported contraction in April compared to March is Apparel, Leather & Allied 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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