ISM Non-Manufacturing: PMI Slows Dramatically in August

The Institute of Supply Management (ISM) has now released the August Non-Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), also known as the ISM Services PMI. The headline Composite Index is at 51.4 percent, a rather dramatic 4.1 percent drop from last month's seasonally adjusted 55.5 percent. Today's number came in well below the Investing.com forecast of 55.0 percent. It is at the lowest level since February 2010.

Here is the report summary:

"The NMI® registered 51.4 percent in August, 4.1 percentage points lower than the July reading of 55.5 percent. This represents continued growth in the non-manufacturing sector at a slower rate. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index decreased substantially to 51.8 percent, 7.5 percentage points lower than the July reading of 59.3 percent, reflecting growth for the 85th consecutive month, at a notably slower rate in August. The New Orders Index registered 51.4 percent, 8.9 percentage points lower than the reading of 60.3 percent in July. The Employment Index decreased 0.7 percentage point in August to 50.7 percent from the July reading of 51.4 percent. The Prices Index decreased 0.1 percentage point from the July reading of 51.9 percent to 51.8 percent, indicating prices increased in August for the fifth consecutive month. According to the NMI®, 11 non-manufacturing industries reported growth in August. The majority of the respondents’ comments indicate that there has been a slowing in the level of business for their respective companies." [Source]

Unlike its much older kin, the ISM Manufacturing Series, there is relatively little history for ISM's Non-Manufacturing data, especially for the headline Composite Index, which dates from 2008. The chart below shows Non-Manufacturing Composite. We have only a single recession to gauge is behavior as a business cycle indicator.

The more interesting and useful subcomponent is the Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index. The latest data point at 51.8 percent is down 7.5 from a seasonally adjusted 59.3 the previous month and the lewest reading since January 2010.

ISM Non-Manufacturing

For a diffusion index, this can be an extremely volatile indicator, hence the addition of a six-month moving average to help us visualizing the short-term trends.

Theoretically, this indicator should become more useful as the timeframe of its coverage expands. Manufacturing may be a more sensitive barometer than Non-Manufacturing activity, but we are increasingly a services-oriented economy, which explains our intention to keep this series on the radar.

Here is a table showing trend in the underlying components.

Here is a link to our coverage of the latest ISM Manufacturing report.