Written by Steven Hansen
The ISM Manufacturing survey continues to indicate manufacturing growth expansion – however there continues to be a modest decrease in the rate of growth. AND the key internal new orders AGAIN modestly declined (but still remains slightly in expansion). Interestly, backlog of orders improved from contraction to expansion.
The ISM Manufacturing survey index (PMI) declined from 53.5 to 52.9 (50 separates manufacturing contraction and expansion). This was within expectations which were 52.0 to 54.1 (consensus 53.0).
This index had been in a general uptrend since mid 2013, the three month trend is now definitely in decline. This is the 26th month of expansion. Most of the regional Fed manufacturing surveys indicated growth in February, and now the ISM also indicates manufacturing shows expansion.
Relatively deep penetration of this index below 50 has normally resulted in a recession.
The noisy Backlog of Orders improved from 46.0 to 51.5 – and is now returned to 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 February for the 26th consecutive month, and the overall economy grew for the 69th consecutive month, say the nation’s supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®.
“The February PMI® registered 52.9 percent, a decrease of 0.6 percentage point from January’s reading of 53.5 percent. The New Orders Index registered 52.5 percent, a decrease of 0.4 percentage point from the reading of 52.9 percent in January. The Production Index registered 53.7 percent, 2.8 percentage points below the January reading of 56.5 percent. The Employment Index registered 51.4 percent, 2.7 percentage points below the January reading of 54.1 percent. Inventories of raw materials registered 52.5 percent, an increase of 1.5 percentage points above the January reading of 51 percent. The Prices Index registered 35 percent, the same percentage as in January, indicating lower raw materials prices for the fourth consecutive month. Comments from the panel express a growing level of concern over the West Coast dock slowdown, negatively impacting exports and imports and requiring workarounds and added costs.”
Of the 18 manufacturing industries, 12 are reporting growth in February in the following order: Paper Products; Printing & Related Support Activities; Furniture & Related Products; Primary Metals; Nonmetallic Mineral Products; Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; Miscellaneous Manufacturing; Fabricated Metal Products; Machinery; Transportation Equipment; Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components; and Chemical Products. The three industries reporting contraction in February are: Textile Mills; Apparel, Leather & Allied Products; and Computer & Electronic Products.
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.
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
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 jobsgrowth. The graph below shows BLS manufacturing employment month-over-month gains against the ISM Manufacturing employment index.
Indexed to Jan 2000 – Comparison of the ISM Manufacturing Employment Subindex (blue line) to BLS Manufacturing Employment (red line) – all data seasonally adjusted
The ISM employment index appears useful in predicting turning points which can lead the BLS data up to one year.
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