September 2013 ISM Services Index Softens

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The September 2013 ISM non-manufacturing (aka services) index continues its growth cycle – albeit less good – declining from 58.6  to 54.4 (above 50 signals expansion) – and the internals were also soft.

This was well below the range of market forecasts of 57.2 to 58.0.

There are two sub-indexes in the NMI which have good correlations to the economy – the Business Activity Index and the New Orders Index – and both have good track records in spotting an incipient recession. Both are inside expansion territory – however, both declined but still have a higher value than the main non-manufacturing index.

This index and its associated sub-indices are fairly volatile – and one needs to step back from the data and view this index over longer periods than a single month.

The Business Activity sub-index declined 7.1 points and now is at 55.1.

ISM Services – Business Activity Sub-Index

The New Orders Index declined 0.9 and is currently at 59.6.

ISM Services – New Orders Sub-Index

The complete ISM manufacturing and non-manufacturing survey table is below.

Econintersect does give serious consideration to this survey as the service sector accounts for 80% of the economy and 90% of employment. However, this an opinion survey and is not hard data.

From the ISM report:

Economic activity in the non-manufacturing sector grew in September for the 45th consecutive month, say the nation’s purchasing and supply executives in the latest Non-Manufacturing ISM Report On Business®.

“The NMI™ registered 54.4 percent in September, 4.2 percentage points lower than August’s reading of 58.6 percent. This indicates continued growth at a slower rate in the non-manufacturing sector. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index decreased to 55.1 percent, which is 7.1 percentage points lower than the 62.2 percent reported in August, reflecting growth for the 50th consecutive month but at a significantly slower rate. The New Orders Index decreased by 0.9 percentage point to 59.6 percent, and the Employment Index decreased 4.3 percentage points to 52.7 percent, indicating growth in employment for the 14th consecutive month. The Prices Index increased 3.8 percentage points to 57.2 percent, indicating prices increased at a faster rate in September when compared to August. According to the NMI™, 11 non-manufacturing industries reported growth in September. The majority of the respondents’ comments continue to be positive; however, there is an increase in the degree of uncertainty regarding the future business climate and the direction of the economy.”

INDUSTRY PERFORMANCE – The 11 non-manufacturing industries reporting growth in September — listed in order — are: Retail Trade; Management of Companies & Support Services; Transportation & Warehousing; Construction; Utilities; Information; Finance & Insurance; Other Services; Wholesale Trade; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; and Public Administration. The four industries reporting contraction in September are: Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; Educational Services; Health Care & Social Assistance; and Mining.

Caveats on the use of ISM Non-Manufacturing Index:

This is a survey, a quantification of opinion. However, as pointed out above, certain elements of this survey have good to excellent correlation to the economy for as long as it has been in existence. Surveys lead hard data by weeks to months, and can provide early insight into changing conditions.

The main ISM non-manufacturing index (NMI) is so new that it does not have enough data history to have reliable certainty about how it correlates to the economy. Again, two sub-indices (business activity and new orders) do have good correlation for the limited history available.

No survey is accurate in projecting employment – and the ISM Non-Manufacturing Employment Index is no exception. Although there are some general correlation in trends if you stand far enough back from this graph, month-to-month movements have not correlated well with the BLS Service Sector Employment data.

ISM Services Employment Sub-Index vs BLS Non-Farm Services Employment

Related Articles

All Articles on Institute of Supply Management Surveys

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