Written by Steven Hansen
The August 2014 ISM non-manufacturing (aka services) index continues its growth cycle, and improved from 58.7 to 59.6 (above 50 signals expansion). Important internals were strong.
This was above the range of market forecasts of 53.2 to 59.8 (consensus 57.5).
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. The Business Activity Index strengthened and the New Orders Index marginally declined – but both strongly in expansion territory.
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 gained 2.6 points and now is at 65.0.
ISM Services – Business Activity Sub-Index
The New Orders Index lost 1.1 and is currently at 63.8.
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 August for the 55th consecutive month, say the nation’s purchasing and supply executives in the latest Non-Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®.
The NMI® registered 59.6 percent in August, 0.9 percentage point higher than the July reading of 58.7 percent. This represents continued growth in the Non-Manufacturing sector. The August reading of 59.6 percent is the highest for the composite index since its inception in January 2008. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index increased to 65 percent, which is 2.6 percentage points higher than the July reading of 62.4 percent, reflecting growth for the 61st consecutive month at a faster rate. This is the highest reading for the index since December of 2004 when the index also registered 65 percent. The New Orders Index registered 63.8 percent, 1.1 percentage points lower than the reading of 64.9 percent registered in July. The Employment Index increased 1.1 percentage points to 57.1 percent from the July reading of 56 percent and indicates growth for the sixth consecutive month. The Prices Index decreased 3.2 percentage points from the July reading of 60.9 percent to 57.7 percent, indicating prices increased at a slower rate in August when compared to July. According to the NMI®, 15 non-manufacturing industries reported growth in August. Respondents’ comments vary by business and industry. The majority of the comments reflect continued optimism in regards to business conditions. Some respondents indicate that there may be some tapering off in the recent strong rate of growth in the non-manufacturing sector.
INDUSTRY PERFORMANCE – The 15 non-manufacturing industries reporting growth in August — listed in order — are: Construction; Retail Trade; Management of Companies & Support Services; Educational Services; Transportation & Warehousing; Wholesale Trade; Information; Public Administration; Other Services; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; Health Care & Social Assistance; Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting; Finance & Insurance; Accommodation & Food Services; and Real Estate, Rental & Leasing. The two industries reporting contraction in August are: Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; 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
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