ISM Manufacturing Index: First Contraction In 36 Months

manufacturing growthJill Mislinski:  Today the Institute for Supply Management published its monthly Manufacturing Report for October. The latest headline PMI was 48.6 percent, a decrease of 1.5% from the previous month and below the Investing.com forecast of 50.5. This was the first month of contraction in 36.

Here is the key analysis from the report:

“The November PMI® registered 48.6 percent, a decrease of 1.5 percentage points from the October reading of 50.1 percent. The New Orders Index registered 48.9 percent, a decrease of 4 percentage points from the reading of 52.9 percent in October. The Production Index registered 49.2 percent, 3.7 percentage points below the October reading of 52.9 percent. The Employment Index registered 51.3 percent, 3.7 percentage points above the October reading of 47.6 percent. The Prices Index registered 35.5 percent, a decrease of 3.5 percentage points from the October reading of 39 percent, indicating lower raw materials prices for the 13th consecutive month. The New Export Orders Index registered 47.5 percent, unchanged from October, and the Imports Index registered 49 percent, up 2 percentage points from the October reading of 47 percent. Ten out of 18 manufacturing industries reported contraction in November, with lower new orders, production and raw materials inventories accounting for the overall softness in November.”

Here is the table of PMI components.

The ISM Manufacturing Index should be viewed with a bit of skepticism for for various reasons, which are essentially captured in Briefing.com’s Big Picture comment on this economic indicator.

This [the ISM Manufacturing Index] is a highly overrated index. It is merely a survey of purchasing managers. It is a diffusion index, which means that it reflects the number of people saying conditions are better compared to the number saying conditions are worse. It does not weight for size of the firm, or for the degree of better/worse. It can therefore underestimate conditions if there is a great deal of strength in a few firms. The data have thus not been either a good forecasting tool or a good read on current conditions during this business cycle. It must be recognized that the index is not hard data of any kind, but simply a survey that provides broad indications of trends.

The chart below shows the Manufacturing Composite series, which stretches back to 1948. The eleven recessions during this time frame are indicated along with the index value the month before the recession starts.

ISM Manufacturing

For a diffusion index, the latest reading of 48.6 indicates contraction. What sort of correlation does that have with the months before the start of recessions? Check out the red dots in the chart above.

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